Tag Archives: george romero

Romero’s “Dead” Series – Night of the Living Dead

9 Aug

I’m a huge fan of zombie movies and I think it’s about time I pay my respects to the master of zombie horror: George A. Romero. Romero has made other films besides zombie movies such as the vampire film Martin and the original Crazies, but I think his greatest accomplishments lie in his Dead series. So, what better place to start than his 1968 debut film, Night of the Living Dead.

 

Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) are visiting their father’s grave when suddenly a strange man (Bill Hinzman) comes out of nowhere and attacks them. Judith manages to escape to a farmhouse where she meets Ben (Duane Jones), who is also on the run from these creatures, Harry (Karl Hardman) and Helen Cooper (Marilyn Eastman), Tom (Keith Wayne), and Judy (Judith Ridley). These strangers are now forced to stand together to defend themselves against the horde of undead outside and possibly get to safety.

This film was made on a shoestring budget of$114,000. In terms of film making, that’s practically nothing at all. The fact that it’s not only still terrifying in certain respects, went on to become a cult classic, and pretty much single handedly redefined the horror genre is pretty incredible. Even if you’re not a fan of this movie, you have to admit that it is important. I am not one of these people. I’ve loved and appreciated Night of the Living Dead since the first time I saw it.

While this is a zombie movie, it does have a unique social commentary that was quite important for the time and is still today. Made during the Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X era, there are subtle and not so subtle racial issues. This plays well in this movie and never feels like it is overpowering the zombie horror aspect of the story.

Watching this movie with a critical eye may cheapen the experience a bit since the acting and a lot of the editing is less than spectacular. This is understandable due to the budget and available talent at Romero’s disposal. The editing, however, can be so choppy at times that it’s almost laughable. In one shot, a character will be sitting a certain way going through a motion, and in the next shot this is totally ignored and the character is sitting different or doing something else.

Where Night of the Living Dead really shines is in its third act. After all the set up and planning, the action and horror really begins. For a movie that was released in 1968, the violence and gore must have really cause a ruckus. I read an article written by film critic Roger Ebert in which he talked about the silence that blanketed the theater. There was even a girl in the row next to his that was crying. Even today, with all of the other great zombie films, Night of the Living Dead still strikes me with a horrific feeling every time I watch it.

This is an old film, but a great film. It’s cheap, gritty, violent, and gory. Everything a zombie movie should be. This is the movie that launched George Romero’s career, changed the face of horror, and created a set of rules for the zombie genre that are still in play today. Night of the Living Dead isn’t just an important movie, it’s also a great movie.

I’m excited for my next review. Very excited. I’ll be continuing my reviews of Romero’s Dead franchise with the greatest zombie movie ever made… Dawn of the Dead.

 

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The Crazies – Review

11 May

To me, modern American horror is not the strongest of genres. It seems that most of these movies that call themselves “horror” resort to using jump scares that are accentuated with loud musical cords. That isn’t horror; merely a startling scene. The Crazies is definitely guilty of this and other horror movie clichés, but with the help of adequate performances and some genuinely scary scenes this movie pushes itself up above the typical American horror film without ever achieving greatness.

In the small town of Ogden Marsh, Sheriff David (Timothy Olyphant) and his deputy, Russell Clank (Joe Anderson), are enjoying the new spring weather at the first town baseball game of the season when one of the townspeople walks onto the field with a shotgun. David handles the situation appropriately, but soon discovers along with his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell), that many of the residents aren’t just acting strangely, but also savagely violent. The military soon intervenes to contain this mysterious “infection” in their own twisted way leaving David, Judy, Russell, and local teenager, Becca (Danielle Panabaker) to escape the town.

The faults of this film are glaring when they are exposed. There were multiple times during The Crazies where a scene got strangely quiet, and I knew exactly what was going to happen and when. This could be just from years of watching horror films, or it could be that they have gotten so generic recently that it’s just easy to catch on to what the film makers are going to do next. This is unfortunate for this film, because in other respects it strived to break through the realm of mediocrity.

The Crazies is at its scariest and most memorable when it deviates from this pattern. There are brutally satisfying scenes that gore freaks will go crazy for, but there are also very subtle moments of terror when we catch a glimpse of something in the background that the character does not see. These scenes sent chills down my spine and some even made me uncomfortable, which is good for a horror movie.

The story itself is pretty generic. This is a remake of a 1973 film of the same name by horror master George Romero, and for the time when the original was released, the story wasn’t so over told. Pretty much, there’s a virus in a small, nice town that demands evil military intervention. We’ve seen this before. It was even satirized in Slither, which I would actually choose over this movie.

By this point in my review, it probably appears that I didn’t like this movie. That’s not true. For what it was, it was enjoyable, and definitely  better than a lot of horror films. The characters all had depth and I cared for each one in their own unique ways, especially Deputy Russell, who had a great character arc. The acting was all good without ever going into anything above what was needed, and a lot of the scenes (especially one concerning a Crazy and a pitchfork) were actually scary.

The main issue that I have with this movie is that it falls into generic territory way too much.  If I saw another scene of a character arriving just in time to save the day, I would….well I don’t know what I would do, but I saw a lot of that. The film makers really tried with this one, and for the most part, The Crazies is a successful horror film. It’s not something I would strongly recommend, but for the people whole love films like 28 Days Later, than I would say this might be a worthwhile escape for just a couple of hours.