carriers dvdCarriers, directed by Àlex and David Pastor, 2009

There's a reason why most people have probably never heard of Carriers. As our own Scott Weinberg previously reported, the film was the victim of a botched theatrical release (less than 100 screens nationwide!). It's a shame, because Carriers is a very engaging dramatic thriller with good performances and an intriguing relationship between the two central characters.

Chris Pine is clearly having a blast playing the lead role of Brian, an immature bad boy struggling to keep his brother and friends alive following a viral pandemic. The supporting cast members – Lou Taylor Pucci, Piper Perabu, Emily VanCamp, and Chris Meloni – are all solid, especially for a small, almost straight-to-DVD genre flick. There aren't many scary scenes, and the gore content is pretty low here. Instead, Carriers focuses on the devastating compromises the characters are forced to make to stay alive. It's not the most original thing – certain scenes and lines recall Zombieland, 28 Days Later and a million other similar movies – but it's a lean and entertaining end-of-the-world tale worth checking out. I'm looking forward to more films from Spanish directors Àlex and David Pastor.

a nightmare on elm street dvdA Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven, 1984

Freddy Krueger scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. What can I say? Before A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, the scariest movie I'd ever seen was Flight of the Navigator (yep, a Disney flick.). Watching ol' Freddy turn teens into roach monsters and slice their limbs off was enough to send me shivering out the theater door. I didn't return to the Elm Street franchise until high school, when I dismissed the entire series as campy and commercial. But I never watched the one that started it all until recently.

Wes Craven's 1984 classic is a sparse and quiet chiller that relies on suspense and creativity rather than the special effects and gimmickry of the later sequels. The supernatural death scenes, especially the early kill of blonde sexpot Tina (Amanda Wyss), are dark and disturbing. Craven knows exactly when to hold back and when to splatter the screen with blood. Robert Englund's Freddy actually feels like a real threat here. I didn't even mind Heather Langenkamp's high school play-worthy performance. It just works. And Johnny Depp is appropriately blank as a lazy teen who bites it in the final act. (Want more on Freddy before you head out to see the new remake? Check out part one of Jacob's insane A Nightmare on Elm Street Retrospective experiment.)

diary of teh dead dvdDiary of the Dead, George Romero, 2007

Wow. This is a miserable little movie full of unlikable characters spouting poorly-written dialogue and doing very stupid things. But its the strained attempt to comment on the rise and role of viral video that really sinks Romero's 2007 zombie flick.

The story follows a group of college kids trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. The movie is presented as a documentary edited together by one of the characters from raw footage and news reports.

This thing could've been a blast, but the voiceover narration often plays like it was adapted from a dim college student's media studies term paper. The "surprise" zombie attacks feel tired and dull when they should feel fun and scary. There are a few fun scenes here, but I can't recommend Diary of the Dead to anyone except die-hard fans of the genre who feel compelled to see everything. I can't say that I'm looking forward to Romero's Survival of the Dead after watching this.