Tag Archives: george romero

Zombie – Review

6 Aug

Italian horror offers some of the most popular and beloved films of the genre. With names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci, there’s plenty of content to choose from, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever movie you find will be violent and equally gory. But, hey, that’s what people come to expect in horror movies, right? For this review, we’re going to be looking at arguably the most famous film by the Maestro of Gore, himself, Lucio Fulci. Zombie may just be an unofficial  sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and an attempt to cash in on the zombie craze, but this film actually stands alone as one of the greatest zombie films ever to be made.

Zombie_Flesh_eaters

 

When Dr. Bowles (Ugo Bologna) goes missing and his boat carrying a rather large zombie shows up in New York Harbor, his daughter Anne (Tisa Farrow) is brought in for questioning. While investigating the boat herself, she meets Peter West (Ian McCulloch), a journalist with the same questions she has. Their inquiries lead them to the Virgin Islands, where they hope the find the mysterious island of Matool. Along the way, they enlist the help of Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and his wife Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay), a seafaring couple who are more than willing to give them a ride on their boat. When the group gets to Matool, they find the island ravaged by zombies, whose numbers are increasing more and more each day. Their only chance for survival may lie with Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), a scientist working to solve the mystery of these zombies who was also a close friend to Anne’s father.

First, I’d like to give you a little history on this movie since it’s a bit out of the ordinary. It all starts in 1978 when George Romero released Dawn of the Dead, which was the sequel to his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. Internationally, this film was known as Zombi. Now, in order to cash in on the massive success Romero’s film, the Italians decided to make an unofficial sequel, this being Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, now known as Zombie in the United States. This film has absolutely no connection to any of Romero’s movies, other than the fact that there are lots of zombies in it. Strangely enough, from this film, even more sequels were released. That gets a bit too confusing so I’m just going to stick with Fulci’s cult classic.

b36dc18685dacd5e80880c203f333912

 

Now let’s look at the movie itself. This is without a doubt one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. In a time when zombies have become a subject of parody, even within its own genre, it’s so satisfying to see a movie that takes its subject matter seriously. Let’s just say that when this movie was first released, it was banned in the UK for being too obscene, and as a fun gimmick, the theaters handed out barf bags. Sure, the whole barf bag thing is all in good fun, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some really sick scenes in this movie. Some are so gross that they have become iconic. The most famous scene has to do with someone slowly getting their eye pierced by a sharp piece of wood. This isn’t done offscreen either. Oh no. We see it in all its gory detail. Think Un Chien Andalou, but with zombies.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Zombie is more than just a festival of gore. In fact, it’s still a pretty cool movie in its own right. Think of it as if The Serpent and the Rainbow and Cannibal Holocaust had a baby. There’s a lot of cool voodoo type stuff going on and the gore just kind of adds to how cool everything else is. The pacing moves very slowly, especially the scene with the boat pulling into the harbor. It adds a great sense of suspense and dread that overtakes the entire movie. To top it all off, that late 70s Italian synth soundtrack just makes the movie all the better. It definitely feels like a movie from the 1970s, but it feels like a great one.

No matter how you look at it, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie is a classic of the horror genre. It’s fill of suspense, gore, violence, and fantastic makeup and effects. Zombie movies have become something of a cliche recently, and that’s a shame because they used to reign as some of the greatest horror stories in film. This film may not be for the squeamish of feint of heart, nor is it a movie for people who treasure their eyeballs, but it is an important part of film history as one of the landmarks of horror, and also as a film that has earned its title of a cult classic.

Advertisements

Creepshow and Creepshow 2 – Review

30 Dec

Doesn’t it seem almost too good to be true to have a movie exist that was written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero? It almost sounds unreal, but this is not the case. In 1982, a movie called Creepshow, a movie made up of five different stories, was released. This proved to be a huge success, which is unsurprising, and it’s also unsurprising that a sequel would be released five years later, Creepshow 2. While the first film is a really solid horror comedy that has become a classic, the sequel only provides the least amount of entertainment needed to keep and audience’s attention.

creepshow_poster_01

Like I said before, this movie is broken up into five different short films written by Stephen King. A sadistic, deceased father (Jon Lormer) returns from the dead to get revenge on his murderous family and also enjoy his father’s day cake that he loves so much. A dim witted farmer (Stephen King himself) discovers a meteorite and is exposed to its chemicals that makes bushes and grass grow all over him and his property. A vengeful husband (Leslie Nielsen) gets revenge on his wife (Gaylen Ross) and her lover (Ted Danson), but soon gets more than he bargained for. A mysterious crate is found in a college that contains a bloodthirsty and hungry beast. Finally, a man (E.G. Marshall) who is deathly afraid of bugs and germs must defend himself from a swarm of thousands of cockroaches during a power outage.

Now, a lot of these stories sound cheesy and that’s because they are deliberately cheesy to the point of being comical. The style of Creepshow is heavily influenced by the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s which were full of violence, sex, and dark comedy all of which combined to form a parent’s worst nightmare. That being said, a lot of this movie feels like it’s straight from a comic book with crazy color designs and dialogue boxes that seemed to be ripped right off the page. The gore and brutality of this movie is also appropriately tuned down, especially compared to Romero’s other works, like certain scenes in Day of the Dead.

The horror, the comedy, and King’s knack for clever stories all come together perfectly in Creepshow. This movie may not have hit the same level of success of other horror movies of the ’80s, but it certainly holds a very special place in the hearts of horror aficionados everywhere. It’s stylistic, creepy, and hilarious with a cast to really DIE FOR!! Wow, I’m hilarious.

In 1987, Creepshow 2 was released, but things were different. Instead of five stories, there are only three, Stephen King wrote the stories, but George Romero wrote the screenplay, and Michael Gornick, the cinematographer of the first film, was in the director’s chair.

Creepshow-2

After the owners of a small shop in the middle of nowhere are murdered during a robbery, the wooden statue of a Native American goes on a rampage to get revenge on the people that ran the store and took care of him. Four college students head to the middle of the woods to relax on a raft in the middle of the lake, only to start being devoured by a blob that swims on the surface of the water. The last story tells of an adulterous woman (Lois Chiles), who while rushing home to meet her husband hits a hitchhiker and flees, only to be haunted by his corpse and reminded of what she’s done.

Remember how I was say Creepshow was the perfect combination of horror and comedy? Well Creepshow 2 sort of is…kind of…maybe. There’s something seriously lacking in this movie. For one, the clever comic book references are gone, and instead cliche horror tropes are added. The first one is pretty much a slasher, and so is the second for that matter. There’s nothing really special in these ones, except the effects of the statue and the blob. The last one with the murdered hitchhiker is the only one that really holds up with the standards of the first. That one was not only creepy, but also really funny in a twisted kind of way. Also, the talents from the first like Leslie Nielsen and Hal Holbrook are nowhere to be found.

Don’t get me wrong, Creepshow 2 isn’t horrible, it just is ok. The first film is a special piece in the history of horror where two titans of the genre combined forces to make something awesome. The second film is just a failed rehashing of what already was, but without the style, cleverness, and scares of the original.

So, there’s a quick look at the Creepshow movies. Anyone who claims to be a fan of horror movies are pretty much required to watch both of these movies, just for the history alone. There’s also an unofficial third movie that Romero and King had nothing to do with, so forget all about that, but don’t miss out on the other two.

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Survival of the Dead

16 Aug

What was so refreshing about Diary of the Dead was the intriguing new style that George Romero took his “Dead” series. With the series heading in this direction, I was actually excited to see what he had up his sleeves for Survival of the Dead. Half way through the movie I realized that there was nothing in this movie was going to shock, wow, impress, or thrill me. Five out of six ain’t bad though, right?

 

While Diary of the Dead take place during the events of Night of the Living Dead, this film takes place around the time that Dawn of the Dead takes place. Plum Island, a small island off the coast of Delaware, is the home of the warring O’Flynn and Muldoon families. After being banished from the island, Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), returns with a group of national guardsmen led by Sgt. Crockett (Alan van Sprang). Crockett and his men have a hard time figuring out who the real enemy is once on the island, the Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) or the undead.

Perhaps I should start with what I liked about the movie because I can cover this rather quickly. I like how the story line of this movie follows that of a character who appeared in Diary of the Dead briefly. Sgt. Crockett and his team robs the film making group from the previous film, and it was really cool to make this almost a direct sequel to that movie. I think this idea is especially cool because Sgt. Crockett was such a minor character in Diary of the Dead.

 

Now what I didn’t like about it. Well, pretty much everything else. The thing that bothered me the most was that there was nothing new or interesting brought to the table. I like to think that the movies in this series are very discernible from each other. When I think Dawn of the Dead, I think of a mall and satire on consumerism. When I think Land of the Dead, I think of a wasteland with jabs at capitalism. There is nothing here that makes it stand out from the rest. The satire is almost non existent, and what is there is the same. Pretty much that humans are as, if not more, dangerous than the zombies. Big surprise.

The acting and the characters are pretty laughable. I understand having a movie with unlikable characters as long as they are properly developed and three dimensional. The characters here are just obnoxious and cold hearted for no reason that I can find that seems concrete enough. There are two characters in the movie that I felt were developed and used properly. Not a very good amount at all.

 

Finally, the setting. Everything looks nice and it’s a very pretty environment, but I never felt danger. Everything was wide open with lots of room to maneuver and escape. What made Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead so good was the tight spaces that forced the characters to really have to dodge the undead in order to survive. Also, there are scenes that say they take place in Philadelphia, as do most movies in this series. As a person who lives in Philadelphia, I really think they could have done a better job at scouting locations, because the Canadian area they used looks absolutely nothing like Philadelphia.

I really wish I could say that every movie in this series was good, but Survival of the Dead had to ruin Romero’s winning streak. It seems to be about time for the master of the undead to find something else to work on. Still five out of six movies isn’t bad, just don’t be concerned if you miss Survival of the Dead.

I really enjoyed taking a look at these movies again so I could review them. This is one of my favorite film series to be released, especially as someone who is in love with the horror genre. They were groundbreaking, satirical, and smart. Hats off to you, Mr. Romero.

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Diary of the Dead

15 Aug

This is kind of a bizarre entry in the “Dead” series because it takes place during the same time as Night of the Living Dead, just in a modern setting. That being said, it appears George Romero threw out all realistic concepts of his timeline for Diary of the Dead. This entry is also unique for the in-movie camera style that is similar to films like Cloverfield and [REC.].

 

As I said before, this film takes place during the events of Night of the Living Dead. A group of film students are making a low budget horror movie in the woods when they hear about the undead rising and consuming human flesh. Determined to document the events, Jason Creed (Joshua Close) continues to film the horrors that the group encounter while on the road to Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this movie because of the weird timeline changes and the synopsis. Well, I really learned my lesson because Diary of the Dead is a refreshing entry into the “Dead ” series. I’m not sure how many times a film maker can pump out movies in a series that follow the same basic premise and keep it interesting without changing it up a bit. Also, I have a soft spot in my movie loving heart for this kind of hand held, in-movie camera style.

 

This movie has some of the best suspense and shocking violent moments in the entire series. From an Amish man throwing dynamite into a group of zombies to acid burning through a zombies skull, Romero delivers awesome scenes one after another. Compared to Land of the Dead, however, Diary of the Dead might seem a little tame. I use the word “tame” just to say it isn’t quite as gory or violent as the previous entry, but there isn’t really a “tame” Romero movie, especially in this series.

Like the first three entries in this series, this film didn’t have that large of a budget and the actors were mainly unknown. Romero once again proves that you don’t need an astronomical budget and Brad Pitt to make a good movie. This is a movie that has characters that I found strangely relatable, especially since I am a film student living in Pennsylvania, and the continuing satire that has become a trademark in this series.

 

This time the satire deals with mainstream media and the negative effects that it has on people when it comes to information. Instead, Romero favors the more independent thinkers who are crusading for the truth, like the characters in this movie. This is a timeless notion that I think is very important presently with all of the violence in the Middle East and even on our own soil that is covered up or warped by the media for ratings or to maintain a certain agenda. There isn’t a zombie apocalypse happening now, but what if there was? If the media handles it anyway like they did in this movie, what hope would we have?

As a small side note, Diary of the Dead has the most hard hitting, thought provoking, and depressing ending in this entire series. If you aren’t shaken or left wondering at the final image, then there might be something seriously wrong with you.

Diary of the Dead was a pleasant surprise. The style and characters made this movie interesting, but the zombie horror and awesome suspense brought it to the level of “awesome.” There is probably a lot of people who don’t like this movie because it strays away from the others in form, but I found it to be an excellent addition to the series. Definitely worth a viewing.

I’ll be finishing up this series with my next review of Romero’s final zombie film to date, Survival of the Dead.

 

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Land of the Dead

14 Aug

I’ve seen many reviews and discussions on Romero’s “Dead” series that refer to it as a trilogy. This is most certainly not the case as we can see with Romero’s Land of the Dead and the two movies that follow it. I’m going to be honest in saying for awhile I thought it was only a trilogy, but in 2005, Romero released Land of the Dead after over a decade of zombie less films.

Years after the events of the first film, humanity has been almost completely over run by the undead, and even worse, they’re evolving. A large outpost of survivors has been set up in Pittsburgh with the city’s ruler Paul Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) set up a high class refuge called “Fiddler’s Green” where the upper class get to live and the lower class has to rot on the streets. All classes dissolve and become zombie bait when thousands of evolved undead storm the gates of the city with a small group of supply gatherers to help defend the city.

At first, I was very unimpressed by this movie. It just didn’t feel like a Romero zombie movie. It was how it was filmed and the famous actors like Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo instead of B actors and unknowns were kind of distracting. As the movie went on, however, I started getting more and more into the classic Romero satire, awesome gore effects, and the constant barrage of the undead made me smile ear to eat, and next thing I knew,  I was having a blast.

 

This is the best acted of the entire “Dead” series, and for good reason. There is major talent at work here. The legendary Dennis Hopper steals the show as a slimy capitalist businessman who is all about the upper class. John Leguizamo also is good and is definitely the most interesting character of the entire movie, and arguably the entire series. Simon Baker is a good leading man, although there is nothing impressive to speak of. Robert Joy also gives a fine performance as the deformed dim wit with great aim, Charlie.

Romero really just pushes everything to the next level with this movie, without  losing any of the satire. When this film was released, it was the most expensive “Dead” movie in the series. You can expect to see lots of explosions, bigger guns, and lots of gore. This works well, but at the same time I kind of liked the simple look of the other films with the spurts of blood and gore. There’s carnage at every turn in this movie.

 

The satire in this movie is timeless and is on par with the consumerism jabbing in Dawn of the Dead. This time, Land of the Dead focuses on the separation of the upper and lower class and the devastating effects. The rich are the villains in this film and the poor are the victims of their power. While the upper class gets to live in the comfort of Fiddler’s Green, the poor are left to die on the streets. This isn’t at all an exaggeration. The poor are dying on the streets while the rich sit idly by.

Land of the Dead is certainly a step up from Day of the Dead. It is gorier, has better characters, and is more sure of itself in terms of its satire. I was pretty nervous when it first started, but after the first 20 minutes it really picked up and became a pleasant surprise. While it doesn’t quite stand up to Dawn of the Dead, it certainly is a step up from the relatively weak chris installment. Check out Land of the Dead.

We’re not done yet, folks. Stay tuned for my next blog for Romero’s “Dead” series, Diary of the Dead.

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Day of the Dead

12 Aug

Romero’s Dawn of the Dead wasn’t as big of a box office hit as Night of the Living Dead, but both of them have achieved statuses as cult classics. The same can be said of the third film in this series from 1985, Day of the Dead, although it isn’t quite as popular as the other two for clear reasons. Even with some faults, this is still a quality zombie movie that offers the same Romero satirical horror.

 

Months after Dawn of the Dead, the future of the human race has gotten so hopeless that the remaining people are either nowhere to be found or living in underground bunkers. In one particular bunker, Sarah (Lori Cardille) is a scientist working with a group of people to figure out how people can realistically rid the world of zombies. Progress is hardly being made, except in Dr. Logan’s (Richard Liberty) attempts to domesticate a zombie named Bub (Sherman Howard). This lack of progress angers the soldiers who are protecting them, especially Capt. Rhodes (Joseph Pilato). Anger and tension flares as the base erupts into violence pitting the humans not just against zombies, but more against each other.

While Night of the Living Dead is memorable for its gritty horror and Dawn of the Dead is memorable for its brutal satire and violence, Day of the Dead is memorable for its interesting plot turns that change the way these zombies are looked at. This movie is very scientific, and I use this word loosely, in trying to determine what exactly the zombies are and what is driving them. This is very interesting and made me as a viewer try to understand the undead as they were.

 

For all the gore hounds, like myself, out there, this movie does a fantastic job at showing off some great gore effects. In Dawn of the Dead, a lot of the blood and gore were pretty cheesy, even though there were times that it was appropriately disgusting. The realism and “yuck factor” are greatly enhanced for this one, providing some of the most disgusting scenes this series has seen thus far. The problem is, we have to wait really long to see the cool stuff. There are some great gore shots in the beginning, but then there’s a huge gap before we see any really gross stuff.

Be prepared to have to sit through A LOT of talking. There are a few scenes of dialogue, and one painfully long monologue that made me roll my eyes more than once. I’m not saying that Romero shouldn’t have written in a monologue, but it just went on for way too long, to the point where I wasn’t even listening anymore. Same for the scenes where the scientists and soldiers are meeting to discuss their current situation. They talk for so long that they actually start saying the same exact things, just in slightly different ways.

 

Day of the Dead, despite it’s flaws in writing and pacing, is a great zombie film that brings new light to the way we understand the Romero zombies. Where the first film gave us rules on how to kill them, this film gives the audience ways to understand them, which may sound kind of silly but it’s really creative and interesting. Don’t start this movie expecting something that’s just as good as Dawn of the Dead. Instead, sit back and enjoy it for what it is: a cool zombie movie with good characters, a great villain, awesome gore, and lots of zombies.

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Dawn of the Dead

9 Aug

The surprise success that was Night of the Living Dead kick started Romero’s horror career, but he didn’t return to the zombie scene again until 1978 with his release of Dawn of the Dead. This film is many things: horrific, satirical, and darkly humorous. It also happens to be the ultimate zombie film that still hasn’t been topped.

 

Three weeks after the events of the previous film, the undead epidemic is getting worse and society is rapidly crumbling out of stress and sheer panic. Four survivors decide to escape Philadelphia and make their own way. These people are: traffic reporter Stephen (David Emge) and his executive producer girlfriend Francine (Gaylen Ross), and SWAT members Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree). These four survivors take refuge in a shopping mall where they not only have to deal with the undead onslaught, but also a group of violent bikers and their own sanity.

If one were to show this to people today who have been jaded by films like 28 Days Later and Zombieland (both of which are very good movies, in my opinion) may find this film boring. Sure there is a lot of violence and gore, but it’s nothing too over the top or shocking compared with what is shown today. For the time, however, seeing blood spray all over the wall and limbs being torn off was new and jaw dropping.

 

It’s been debated what this movie is truly about. The racial commentary is still here and arguably more overt than last time. A major theory is that this is about the brainwashing effects of consumerism. The zombies come to the mall in the movie because it is a strong remnant memory of a place that they love and have a desire to be. There are even great scenes of zombies walking around and looking at stuff, which reminds me of how some people look while they are shopping. It’s funny and true at the same time. Other people say that this is looking way too deeply into the movie, and it’s just about zombies. I guess that’s up to you to decide.

This movie is a big step up from Night of the Living Dead in all aspect. The action, acting, script, and pacing all have made great leaps forward. Gone is the choppy editing as well which is a real joy. The make up and gore effects by Tom Savini look fantastic, and I love how the blood has a bright red look to it. Savini wasn’t a fan of it, but Romero said that he liked it because of the “comic book” style of it.

 

Dawn of the Dead is the epitome of zombie films and it’s not going to be very easy to top it. I should mention that i did see Zack Snyder’s remake, and while i did enjoy it for what it was I’m still going to have to stick with Romero’s original. It’s funny, gory, and scary when it comes to the zombies and to society. If you love zombie movies, chances are you’ve seen this, but if not give it a watch.

I’ll be continuing my Romero “Dead” series review with his 1985 film Day of the Dead.