Friday, August 9, 2013

Poor Hairstyling of Soldiers in Santa Claus vs. the Zombies

Many genre films -- horror, sci-fi, and especially action films -- feature soldiers or police officers. This means casting actors for those roles. While low-budget filmmakers can't always be choosy about their casts, they should at least make the effort to have their soldiers look like soldiers -- especially if it doesn't cost anything. Like insisting that the actors shave and trim their hair.

Actors playing soldiers -- especially elite special forces troops -- should appear to be lean, trim-haired, and clean-shaven. Why? Duh! Because those are the standards demanded of real-life soldiers. Sure, some scripts can allow for unshaven troops -- say, if they've been fighting in the jungle for a while, or if the story is set in some distant past or future time period -- but otherwise, the rule applies.

Unfortunately, too many low-budget filmmakers ignore this rule, for no apparent reason other than sheer laziness.

Consider Santa Claus vs. The Zombies. This is yet another zombie apocalypse film. Much of it is set in a basement office with the President of the United States and his staff -- both civilian and military -- planning ways to combat the zombies. This being a micro-budget film, one forgives the tiny office and staff. What is unforgivable is the sloppy mise-en-scène -- particularly the hairstyling.

The filmmakers didn't even try to create a sense of realism. The staff comprises only one general and several "elite" special forces troops. Okay, the filmmaker could only afford a small cast. And his elite troops do have cool uniforms and special forces red berets. But ...

Some of these special ops troops have goatees or full beards. One has a long ponytail and is especially fat (see above).

The general is grossly overweight, but even if we can forgive that, we cannot overlook his goatee.

I can understand a filmmaker wanting to cast his fat friends instead of casting lean actors who actually look like special ops troops. But please make an effort. Give these actors military crew cuts and shave their faces.

It seems like a small matter, yet it's telling. It indicates that the filmmaker and friends didn't take this film seriously. The actors may have wanted the parts, but not to the extent of shaving or cutting their hair. (It would take a while to grow it back so long.) And the filmmaker accepted it instead of insisting on a military look for his military characters.

The entire film is low-budget and amateurish, and the above indicates why. It's not just lack of talent or money, but lack of artistic commitment.

No, it doesn't matter that this film is supposed to be a comedy. Even comedies require commitment to the story and characters.


For more about mise-en-scène, see Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear. This blog represents a continuing discussion of my views on horror, picking up from where the book left off.