the grudge (+). longtime readers will recall that 2002's the ring gave me deep and abiding fears of japanese filmmakers, television sets, and people with long hair. this movie, then, was an inoculation: i reasoned that seeing asian horror in a weakened state - the grudge's reviews have been tepid - would beef up my filmgoing antibodies. it wasn't a bad theory, as substantial plot gaps and sarah michelle gellar's wooden reaction shots (i loved her as buffy the vampire slayer, but i acknowledge that she's a fairly bad actress) weakened key scenes' genuine spookiness. that said, the shower and my black cat are much more intimidating this morning.

dawn of the dead (2004) (+1/2). cheers to director zach snyder et al. for their soundtrack decisions: johnny cash's "the man comes around" is a solid zombie movie introduction, and richard cheese's lounge cover of "the sickness" in the 'how we learned to live in the mall' sequence supplies more than enough irony to salute george romero's original effort. genuine scares were few and far between, but i appreciated the filmmakers' recognition that power is frequently a question of who is and isn't allowed to pee.

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