The other day I rented the 2006 indie zombie film Night of the Dead. It was far beyond terrible.
But I hate giving bad reviews, so instead of just enumerating upon the ways in which it was lousy, poorly directed, and ham-acted (which were divers and ample), I’m going to talk about one of the greatest horror films (featuring zombies) of all time: Lars von Trier’s masterpiece, The Kingdom. Here’s why: Both Night of the Dead and The Kingdom are like cakes baked from the exact same ingredients, and yet one is yucky and boring while the other is delicious and amazing.
For example, the “ingredients” both directors had to work with included:
- An empty hospital
- A cast of unknown actors
- A second-rate (or maybe third-rate) special effects shop
- Third-rate cameras and microphones
- Limited time and budget
So I don’t feel like it’s an excuse for the director of Night of the Dead (which I hesitate even to dignify with italics) to say: “All I had to work with was an empty hospital, some unknown actors, and a little stage blood.” Sorry pal, but I’ve seen The Kingdom. That was “all” von Trier had to work with too, and the result was breathtaking genius.
The Kingdom (and its sequel, The Kingdom II) is about the doctors and patients in a haunted Danish hospital, and their days spent conniving, flirting, and (in some cases) trying to solve the mystery of why the hospital is haunted. It features zombies (the Haiti kind), but also ghosts, curses, and other cool stuff. Some of the doctors are more sinister than any of the otherwordly elements of the film. In addition to being effectively scary on a small budget, the comedy in The Kingdom is just wonderful. You could almost call it a “horror/comedy.” Almost.
The Kingdom is totally worth checking out if you haven’t seen it, and is one of the better horror films shot on a low effects budget. (Session 9 is another one that springs to mind–no pricey effects sequences, but absolutely scary as heck!) Von Trier’s more recent projects (like Dogville and Manderlay–shot on an empty soundstage with houses and roads indicated with chalk) get him labled as one of the most decadent filmmakers alive. Whatever your feelings about his current work, The Kingdom should silence all doubt as to his ability to deliver a great, conventionally-staged film… when he’s in the mood to. Thankfully, at least a couple of times back in the 1990’s, he was.