Mfume's 'It Lives' shows promise until killing starts

February 01, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Michael Mfume, the Morgan State student who wrote, produced, directed and appears in "The Weekend It Lives," has told a Sun reporter that it isn't "Citizen Kane."

And it isn't.

So let's begin with the good news. The good news is that at least for a while, the movie is engaging. A somewhat crude tracing of a somewhat crude original (Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead"), it follows as a group of college students head off to a house in the country for a weekend of partying and then are assaulted by a large zombie fellow with a machete and an ax.

Chop chop, snap snap, and the group is reduced by half. In quarters. And thirds. And tenths.

But at least at first "The Weekend It Lives" has some charm. Mfume's best trick is the rapport he has with his actors: The kids all seem fresh and alive and completely unaware that they are in a bad horror movie. Evidently improvising their lines to suggestions outlined by the director, they're able to deftly create a number of vivid, humorous characterizations, some lively byplay and, more importantly, a sense of community.

There are directors who have worked in Hollywood for decades who don't have that gift of spontaneity, and I wish that the movie had stayed where it started: an intimate portrait of young African Americans getting to know each other over a long weekend.

Enter the Zombie. Exit the movie.

The backstory is ugly: In this very house 14 years earlier, a madman had supposedly killed his family (graphically portrayed) and then himself. But his retarded son's body was never found. Guess who's coming for dinner?

Once the killings begin, the movie ceases to generate much interest. The special effects are primitive, and occasionally the action is overcranked for "comic" effect. Moreover, the actors lose contact with their characters and simply run around shouting and acting like George Bush doing "anger" for the bitter citizens of New Hampshire. It's loud, but it isn't pretty.

'The Weekend It Lives'

Starring Joe Clark and Maria Cooper.

Directed by Michael Mfume.

Released by Nubian Prince.

Rated R.

... **

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