Sophomore and aspiring film critic Joshua Hock gives his QuickTakes on two very different films playing in the District this weekend.


AMC Loews Georgetown – (Comedy, Horror; R)

It is not usually the intention of the best horror films to merely horrify the viewer. It is also to humor, philosophize and even eroticize.

Consider George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” This 1978 picture served up blood and gore aplenty, but what makes it one of the best horror movies ever made is a generous dose of social satire that targets, among other things, mass consumerism and racial tension. “Dawn” offered its viewers a little more (like, for instance, a point) than the more recent blockbusters like “The Strangers” or “Saw V” – two of the top-grossing scary movies for 2008.

“Zombieland” represents a divergence from this trend of horror for the simple-minded. Though ostensibly advertised as a comedic parody, the film is actually one of the best examples of the horror genre to be produced in a long time.

The film couples its terror with satire and also explores themes of loneliness, family life and coming-of-age challenges. “It’s tough growing up in Zombieland,” remarks one character. “It’s tough growing up,” retorts another.

No, the audience will probably not be changed, inspired or moved by the film’s reflections, but at least the movie makes an effort to engage people. Of course, the film still has plenty of stimulating, zombie-killing action.

“Zombieland” is recommended to those who enjoy “Night of the Living Dead,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “Grindhouse.”

“Betty Blue”

E Street Cinema – (Romance, Drama, Comedy; Not Rated)

It’s hard to find a romantic flick that appeals to both genders, but the 1986 film “Betty Blue” somehow transcends whatever differences divide the sexes.

Emotion is its premise. The plot follows the relationship between a man and his mentally unstable lover. It is at once a story that is extremely disconcerting and yet satisfying, as it explores a violent divergence from reality and unconditional love.

The film is raw, gratuitous and grainy, but necessarily so; the protagonists are so carefully developed that the film is sometimes more of a study than a story. Everything is made intensely personal, as the film invites the audience to places where it may not be inclined to go – but it is worth it.

At nearly three hours the film feels rather long. Unless fluent in French, the viewer has to read subtitles the whole time.

Still, “Betty Blue” is one of those movies that turns an evening at the cinema into an experience at the cinema.

“Betty Blue” is a film most appreciated by fans of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Mad Love.”

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