Archive for the Horror Category

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. II)

Posted in Events, Fantasy, Horror with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

After the success of the morning sessions, and finishing with a nice lunch time at a Jap restaurant outdoors, my friends suggested I could try to find tickets for this film. They were available , so were for the last Livide projection, thus I bought tickets for the two of them. I felt really pleased for this unexpected possibility of extending my festival experience. Unfortunately marathons for the day after were sold out.

After a couple of carajillos and a beer this is what we swallowed.

THE DAY HE ARRIVES, Book chon ban hyang (2011)

Asian cinema is a still pending subject for me. I’ve enjoyed some of these already modern but already  horror movies, even their western remakes, from The Ring to The Audition, Zatoichi, Dolls or Battle Royale

Regarding classics, I’ve seen some of Kurosawa’s but it wasn’t the right time. The slow rhythm of the stories require me to be in the mood, and I wasn’t, in fact I was imposed to see some of them, thus I didn’t get to enjoy them.

I’m an objective and positive person, otherwise, after the experience lived with The Day He Arrives, I’d give up on Asian films.

During the projection I passed though all kind of mental states. From concentration and interest, to astonishment, flipping with part of the audience passionately clapping, and eventually wondering whether I’m so stupid I didn’t get the message. Well, apparently I’m not, two of my friends took a nap, and I was exchanging glances with another friend who was in same state as I was. Total disaster, poor people, they even apologized for such crap.

A film teacher and temporarily retired filmmaker, Sang-Joon, is spending few days in Seoul, mainly to enjoy his old friend and mentor, Young-Ho. Basically the film recovers his encounters with students who recognize him and try to approach him, and the nights plenty of booze and deep thinking conversations with his friend, and a close acquaintance of his, all this put aside when the beautiful owner of one of the taverns turns up into scene.

Somehow it reminds me of the brilliant Groundhog Day, in the sense that each day Sang-Joon spends in Seoul is a repetition, with slight changes. High spirits get low, the barmaid and he get close up to physical contact, and everybody around him seems to get tired of him. Apart from that, nothing else happens.

Thus, there I was, flipping for around 80 minutes, without understanding much, giggling due to extreme zooms, weird takes, and uncomfortable silence. Really, it was a waste of time, and my feelings were awkward. If you get to see this film, and understand something else, please, let me know.

LIVIDE (LIVID), Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (2011)

After such crap, the group divided, some attending the remake of The Thing premiere, and we heading to shit in our pants with a dose of French horror.

After the wild A L’Interieur, commented a couple of years ago in this blog, the expectations were quite high. Truth is we didn’t get disappointed, but Livide doesn’t reach that level of insane brutality. Still, it was worth seeing.

In a French town by the sea, lately disturbed by the increasing rate of children disappearances, today’s Lucie’s first day as social worker trainee. Her boss, madame  Wilson, a rough woman, guides her in the route to follow, introducing her to the old people barely able to take care of themselves, she’ll have to take care on a daily basis. Basically her duties are visiting the patients and supply them with medicine.  But she’s asked to wait outside in one of the stops, at a very old mansion almost in ruins. Wilson comments Lucie is still not ready for such challenge, immediately awakening the young girl’s curiosity, who will cross the fence and get into the house, to discover the horrible picture of a very old woman, Mrs Jessel, in a deep coma.

Wilson explains Lucie, Madame Jessel used to be a very established and strict ballet teacher who amassed a vast fortune hidden somewhere in the mansion.

When telling her boyfriend about this shocking experience to her boyfriend, frustrated for working as a fisherman and sick of his boring life, he quickly convinces her and another friend of breaking in the house and look for a treasure which will allow them to have the good life they deserve.

As you can imagine, the apparent static house will immediately react against the breakage, with surprising and horrible consequences for the three of them.

I did like Livide, although many people got really disappointed. It’s easy to set comparisons with A L’Interieur considering both are tagged as horror films, however they are completely opposed. The greatness of the first one was perhaps the fact that the crazy and brutal story was focused on an act of revenge by an insane woman, but keeping close to what we could call reality. I mean, not likely, but something like that could ever happen. We all know world is falling apart and everything can be possible.

Livide is totally different. A haunted house and its hidden secrets are the main protagonists in this story, opening a door to a series of brutal and supernatural events. We’ve seen many stories of haunted houses, and evil powers acting against people unlucky to be there at that time. It’s a repeated pattern, and probably that’s why great part of the audience got upset.

In such way, I must admit Livide is not so original, and the fantastic element is a bit forced. There are still some details I’d rather not reveal, which I still don’t comprehend, and in my opinion, are completely unnecessary.

As a horror movie, it’s pretty enjoyable, anyway. Plenty of disgusting and brutal moments for your pleasure.

The roughness and spontaneity is lost in Livide, on behalf of a more twisted story, combining horror with fantasy, but not being totally consistent nor shocking as A L’Interieur.

I dig it, honestly, but sometimes when your starting register is so powerful and remarkable, audience will become very demanding, and reaching such level is not something easy.

THE FOG, John Carpenter (1980)

Posted in Directors, Horror with tags , , , , on November 2, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Fall season and Halloween knocking at the door have caused the need to swallow Carpenter’s classics again, and together with Cronenberg’s, I’m trying to gather all his films.

No doubt he’s one of the top masters in horror/sci-fi genres, and personally I’d include him in my top 5 of directors.

The Fog was created during his golden decade, and although wasn’t as shocking as Halloween or The Thing, nor so genuine as Escape from New York or They Live, this horror tale is equally enjoyable.

About midnight, April 21st, in Antonio Bay, in California. People from this nice fishing town by the sea are hosting the centennial  of its foundation.

During the witching hours lots of weird incidents occur all along the town. Empty cars horning, TV sets switching on, glasses breaking… during that crazy hour, in the church Father Malone discovers a hidden diary written by his own grandfather. The real terrible history of the town is depicted on those pages. The disgust caused by the upcoming leper colony close to the town led by a rich man named Blake, and the seek for the gold these people were shipping, forced the founders  to sink their vessel, Elisabeth Dane, by crashing it, with all the crew dying hopeless.

During the celebration night, a glowing deadly thick fog, bringing out nonhuman creatures resembling pirates, seeds panic and death over the town. Blake and his subordinates are back for revenge.

The owner of the local radio station settled at the old Lighthouse, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), on one hand, and another neighbor, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), on the other, will soon realize something threatening and evil comes with the weird glow, and will put all their efforts  to protect the town.

After the huge success of Halloween, John Carpenter decided to continue working on some horror theme title.

The Fog wasn’t generously budgeted wither, but the director managed this wasn’t an obstacle for delivering a story in which supernatural powers were involved.

Truth is that, probably for this reason, we are not standing on front of a slasher, gore film. Executions are not super obvious and lack of blood unfortunately lessens the impact these could have caused.

Same with Blake and the foggy creatures. When I commented on Assault on Precinct 13th, I was supporting and cheering the fact that none of the gang members was highlighted. Faces weren’t important, the plague-like effect of all of them creeping and moving incredibly fast around the police station as an unnatural threaten was the point. However in this case, these weird creatures are already non human. Their terrible appearance should have been more exploited in my opinion.

One of the features of this film I like most, apparently was added after filming and editing. Carpenter didn’t find the story catchy enough and decided to add the initial scene. Kids gathering around a bonfire close to midnight, and this old fisherman, Mr. Machen, telling about the story of a clipper vessel, crashing to the rocks, due a thick fog, and a deceiving light caused by fire, and warning the kids that if such fog returns, the men at the bottom of the sea, will accompany it to Antonio Bay.

This scary tale tone provided since the very beginning, introducing the audience to the events about to happen, is simply brilliant.

I’m wondering the loyalty and boundaries among Carpenter and the cast. Many actors participate in several of his titles. You see Nancy Loomis in Assault, Halloween and The Fog, for instance, or Tom Atkins and Adrienne Barbeau.

I really love Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, working together under Carpenter’s command. Two actresses, whose roles in horror, made them legend. Excellent!

Never seen the remake released in 2005 and don’t feel like watching it. A cast billing tv series gorgeous actors and actresses, I really don’t find much appeal.

The Fog might be more innocent than Carpenter’s previous work, dealing with the unnatural is not easy and as commented, possibilities seemed to be reduced due to low budget, still, it’s a funny horror movie, perfect for a cold dark Sunday, with the lights turned off.

HAUTE TENSION (HIGH TENSION/SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE), Alexandre Aja (2003)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

It’s been sometime since I haven’t written any post. Several events and the fact that I’m revisiting The Sopranos at insane speed have made me feel a bit lazy. Hope it doesn’t take so long next time. I actually have a list for future updates which I don’t want to grow too much, now that I have memories and thoughts still fresh in my mind.

Let’s get started once again.

Despite all the Hollywood monopoly on film business, horror is not exclusive, in fact I’d dare to say, most their products delivered, focused on huge money profit, lack of the true essence of the genre, and scripts are often poor.

This powerful empire is the British Museum in movie business. As soon as they smell brand new success and potential in directors or writers, these immediately are abducted by the monster.

This is not a critic towards Hollywood, well it is in a way, but it’s like horror genre has eventually proved to be successful, followed by many devoted fans, thus, it has to be submitted to the mainstream chain.

Think about the classics, from Hammer films to Carpenter’s, Cronenberg’s, Romero’s early works. Their narrow budget films shocked the world and turned into icons and legends.

In my opinion, the case of Alexandre Aja is quite an example of what I mean. This cult movie discovered his potential, and immediately he was summoned to the American film empire, to get involved into, first, a remake of Wes Craven’s Hills Have Eyes, and then Mirrors, a good story, but weakening in the end, to finally work on another remake. Aaah! I think it’s a pity considering, in my opinion, of course, with Haute Tension, he delivered one of the best horror films in the past decade.

Once this said, and trying not to ruin your possible future viewing, let’s get focused.

First I got to remind you Haute Tension is a French film, and I’ve never seen it dubbed into a different language, thus make sure you get a copy with subtitles. Truth is, dialogue is not one of its most important features.

In order to stay away from any kind of distraction, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) invites Marie (Cécile de France) to spend the weekend at her parents’ countryside cottage, so they can relax and study hard without being bothered. As you can imagine the house is in the middle of nowhere, and you depend on a car to move to the nearest town.

They arrive quite late, and Alex barely talks to her parents and her little brother. The girls are exhausted after partying the night before, thus Alex shows Marie her room upstairs, give her few tips for making herself comfortable, and goes to sleep.

Laid on the bed and listening to music, somehow Marie notices a threatening visit of a stranger. Alerted, she starts peeping realizing something wrong is going on.

A man dressed in greasy overalls and face hidden by a cap, gets in the house brutally killing Alex father, to continue stabbing the mother with a shaving knife. It’s apparent to Marie, he wants to rape Alex and take her with him against his will, so she will try to save her best friend by all means.

The relationship among the two friends is a bit peculiar. Feedback is not much provided. They seem to be friends from college, but not for long time. Marie has never met Alex’ family before, however there’s a picture of them together in the house.

Despite the standard and even innocent appearance of Alex, according to some conversation, her sexual life is quite active, and she’s inclined towards engaged guys, a fact that pisses Marie off quite much. On the other hand, her friend is not interested in men at all, and the sex issue is a topic of discussion she doesn’t feel much comfortable with.

There’s no further explanation of such matter, she’s in love with Alex. It’s like this teenage thing, when you like someone but is out of reach, in order to get closer you become friends, so hopefully sooner or later that person will realize how wonderful you are and eventually, will have a crush… Not only Marie’s condition is evident due to her protective and jealous attitude towards her friend, but also her physical appearance implies something.

What would you do if you were staying as a guest in a house that is suddenly assaulted, you’re placed in the most isolated room in the house, and initially nobody but the inhabitants knows you’re there? Let’s not pretend to be heroes here. If you weren’t putting yourself at risk of course you’d try to help, but if that wasn’t the case, and you could get away, believe me, you would run as fuck and hide wherever.

Marie’s cold movements are simply amazing, and for some time you think of her as a heroine with all the typical features: she’s strong and well built, she’s smart, quick, silent, brave and almost a professional in improvising. Too perfect!

She passes one obstacle after another successfully, but all the same the viewer starts developing an uneasy feeling of something that doesn’t fit in the puzzle. This is the greatness of this movie, you know there’s something rotten behind the scenes, but it will take you 80 minutes to discover what really is (I’m not going to tell you).

Just want to mention a moment that , let’s say, alerted and caused me starting to question what I was watching. You know in dynamic films, like these epic sagas such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings… the weird ability of characters to overcome tragedy in just few seconds. Let me put you an example. When Obi Wan allows Vader to defeat him just for the sake of the rebels (Leia, Han and Luke), the Jedi apprentice is morally down and depressed for just 30 seconds, until they have to defend themselves from the attack of the Empire when escaping from the Death Star on board of the Millenium Falcon. You might think I’m crazy, but there’s a scene in Haute Tension,  when Marie releases Alex from the chains, inside the van, she’s so joyful as if this was the end of an adventure, as if ignoring her friend’s family were brutally massacred, and she had been raped and humiliated for many hours, captive by a psycho. It’s like, how can you be so happy and not concerned about what has been happening that night?

If you seek for blood, violence and brutal scenes this is your movie. I’ve seen it many times and still feel the knot in my stomach, and feel uneasy.

This is one of these movies, first time you see it is no doubt the best, still, reviewing it from time to time is very enjoyable. As commented earlier, it’s last decade personal favorite in the genre. If you are a horror lover, this is a MUST.

DO NOT MESS WITH THE KIDS!

Posted in Horror, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Few days ago while Night of the Living Dead, the subject of kids in horror movies came to my mind.

Most of times, kids as “good” characters or even heroes, get on my nerves, because they involve this emotional part totally expendable in the plot. For instance, I don’t know whether you’ve seen 28 Weeks Later…well, let me tell you the kids are two completely assholes, ok, they imply the action starting to develop, but in the end, there’s too much crap which ruins the effect of the film. They just suck!

Kids are cool when they are badasses, because they can be terrible, making you shit on your pants.

The girl in Night of the Living Dead is absolutely gorgeous, but with just few make up, she’s become an icon in horror culture. When affection and innocence vanish, replaced by coldness and evil, children are relentless. Better you step out, otherwise, you’ll be pretty fucked up.

Sure you remember some characters, apparently harmless, which have made you feel uneasy. Wanna feel like creating a list? Here are my top 10 kids I would run away from if I was unlucky to find them by chance:

THE VAMPIRE KID – SALEM’S LOT

I’ve discovered many people in my age got traumatized by this ugly little bastard, scratching at the window with that deadly smile. Most of us watched this chapter hidden from our parents’ sight and then we used to have lots of nightmares. Nowadays you can see the strings holding the vampire, yet those scenes give me the creeps.

THE MUTANT CLONE  BLONDE GIRLS – THE BROOD

With those winter suits covering their ugly faces, those bitches were ruining everything and killing everyone their crazy mother thought were an obstacle.

MALACHAI AND ISAAC – CHILDREN OF THE CORN

Adult people must die! Isaac as a kind of preacher, and Malachai, his closest dog, applying this philosophy and submitting all the kids in town to the worship of “He who walks behind the rows”.

REGAN – THE EXORCIST

No comments needed. It took me many years to get the courage enough to see this film. Everything related to the occult, spirits, the Devil and everything unseen, scares me to death. And this bitch throwing up and twisting her neck 360º makes me sweat…a lot!

THE GRADY TWINS – THE SHINING

Oh my God! With those blue dresses I also used to wear, holding hands, just standing in front of poor Danny Torrance…and that half smile seeming to say: you’re done!

MELANIE ROBERTS AND THE CHILDREN – VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

These blonde children ready to rule the world, numb and super cold, were capable of terrorizing a whole town, controlling their parents and having psychic powers were too difficult to beat.

DAMIEN – THE OMEN

A classic! Since born, he was a pain in the ass for those obstacles in his race to rule the world. His personal entourage was interesting too…

KAREN COOPER – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

As already commented, this girl is absolutely gorgeous, but in motion and seeking for living flesh, delivers an image you cannot forget ever. Needless to say, she’s THE  icon of the zombie world.

SADAKO YAMAMURA – THE RING

Beware with videotapes you see…Sadako was right not having her long black hair cut, because she’s so ugly it’s not necessary she does anything else for you to have a heart attack. And her eyes…ufff!

TODD BOWDEN – APT PUPIL

Not to be considered a horror movie, Apt Pupils features Todd Bowden, a teenager decided to blackmail and ruin an old Nazi’s hidden retirement.

What do you say? Any kid this list is missing? Sure! Hope you share them with me ASAP!

ROSEMARY’S BABY, Roman Polanski (1968)

Posted in Classic, Horror with tags , , , on July 6, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Rosemary’s Baby is one of these films impossible to recall how many times I’ve seen, and still haven’t got tired of.

Today I’m having a very relaxing day, taking it really easy, being listening to music in the morning, I’ve switched on the TV thinking I’d find the standard crap, but surprisingly the initial credits of the film were rolling and although I hate watching movies on TV due to ads cuts, today it was fine to go on watching.

Still remember one of my best friends saying, when he was a kid, got so much traumatized by the film, he hasn’t the balls to review any more. I love it, though.

I wouldn’t consider it a horror film, although the whole story can make you feel uneasy, and the more I watch it, the more I think Polanski has a twisted mind.

This young couple moves to a new flat in Manhattan, it’s funny is located in Dakota building, which became famous because of  the assesination of John Lennon. Truth is that when I saw it in my first visit to Manhattan, the building impressed me for both its beauty, and for something sinister and menacing in the air. Probably I was suggested by the background it had, but definitely made an impact.

Anyway, Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) move to this new and beautiful apartment in a bad reputed building with a record of mysterious past events. Soon, their weird and eccentric neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castevet, will welcome them and force a close friendly relationship with the young couple. Against all odds, Guy  starts spending much time with them, especially with Roman, a fact that Rosemary somehow does not understand nor accept too well, plus he turns moody and kind of awkward to his wife.

Forgot to remark Guy is a not very successful actor, and the releasing punching ball for his frustration is obviously Rosemary.

When the situation among the couple is suffocating and almost unbearable, Guy, all of a sudden, accepts, even encourages his wife, to have a baby, something Rosemary has wanted badly for long time. In a traditional romantic attitude, he arranges the perfect night for the baby being conceived, and Rosemary is completely charmed. However something strange happens after dinner, and she falls unconscious.

During her deep sleep, she has hallucinations, in which her neighbors are present, and an evil creature rapes her.

Curiously, she gets pregnant. This is the perfect excuse for her neighbors to take active part in their lives, suggesting doctors, taking care of her…but something seems wrong, very wrong.

Although a gorgeous girl when young, I’ve never been devoted to Mia Farrow. The truth is that, despite Polanski’s determination to cover the role of Rosemary Woodhouse with a strong woman, such as his own wife Sharon Tate, the final decision of Farrow as the lead role is simply perfect. The actress combines this innocent appearance with her thin and small body highlighting frailty, fitting the pregnancy process during which poor Rosemary’s energy is sucked to dry up to the point, such decline threatens her life.

If you think about it, Guy Woodhouse visually hasn’t much importance in the film. I mean, all the plot and most of scenes are clearly focused on his wife, and he stands aside, or seems to. Right at the end of the film, when all makes sense, you get the clear picture that all the events have happened due to his appetite for success. As a selfish and frustrated actor whose only wish is to become established, famous and respected, he comes to a point in which he chooses to deal with the Devil rather than keep on struggling for himself, in order to achieve his goals, at any cost. And sells his wife…sad and pathetic.

Can you imagine? The person you love and trust most, not only gives up on you, but also betrays you on his/her own behalf, and you don’t even get the chance to decide whether you accept or not. In Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski deals with Satan himself, but this is an ordinary issue in real life.

Focusing on the film story, a secret society of powerful people looking for the heir of the king of darkness, and this poor girl, Rosemary, for no apparent reason ends up being the mother of the Evil. The dichotomy here is, would you assume that role and care for the little monster or end up putting a bullet in your head? Boundaries and love between mother and son are said to be the strongest, but imagine the scene…terrible.

Whenever I think of Rosemary’s Baby and these circumstances, The Omen also comes to my mind. You see? There’s a limit trespassed the parents cannot endure any longer and try to put the kid in a coffin, once they get acquainted with the situation and the meaning of his existence. However Polanski just focuses on the conception of the evil and leaves the door open to many possibilities.

Polanski’s taste for the twisted and the dark, had already been manifested in Repulsion, for instance, but I’d love to go back to the past and peep the reaction of the audience at the cinemas while watching the film. Sure I’d be plenty of fun people in shock.

Rosemary’s Baby is a classic, a benchmark in films related to the occult, any fan of horror should watch to understand what came next.

You don’t need blood splatter or guts, or amazing special effects to create horror films, you just need good ideas, be able to play with the minds of the audience and create uneasy situations, playing with fiction and reality, highlighting the unknown, to create fear and and a feel of lack of safety. I reckon that’s the key for delivering a good horror film, and Polanski really knew about it.

VIDEODROME, David Cronenberg (1983)

Posted in Directors, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , on May 15, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

I’ve just realized it’s been too long since I last reviewed a film of Cronenberg for this blog, one year and a half. Can’t believe time goes so fast.  Been checking and lots of good titles need to be commented, so I’ll have to fill the gaps ASAP.

Few weeks ago felt in the mood of watching Videodrome. It was no longer available in my collection because the criterion edition was my ex’s, thus I found it quite cheap and bought it. I want to have  all his films, the Canadian director is one of my favorites, and love most of his works, thus, little by little, I’ll be investing  few bucks in completing the collection. Right now I think I already have four or five. I’m not in a hurry either.

Videodrome is not an easy film. It took me at least 3 times to start enjoying it, and guess at the 5th time I realized I loved it. With this film, the typical Cronenberg’s couple of fiction and reality, is exploited at its most, really putting the viewer on a tense situation of not being able to identify at which point the film is. That’s why I honestly recommend, before making a final judgment on the film, to give it more than just one chance, in order to get a clearer picture of the story.

Don’t panic! My words might sound a bit discouraging, but I can tell you now, I love Videodrome, and the story is terrific, my intention is to advise you properly, so you don’t miss anything.

Max Renn (James Woods), the president of Civic TV, a trashy station in Toronto, focused on porn and softcore, is seeking desperately for new fresh stuff to offer the audience and increase viewing rates. Definitely new product must be shocking, better if extreme, as to catch people attention.

The answer to his prayers is discovered by Harlan, a sort of IT guy in the company, who also runs an illegal station equipped with a satellite able to intercept signals of broadcasts. He’s found out something Renn is definitely going to love: Videodrome. The show doesn’t follow a plot line and is based on extreme torture and death, recorded in a red-orange horror chamber, seems so realistic, Renn can’t stop looking for more of this amazing material, very addictive.

When participating as a guest on a talk show, Renn meets an attractive psychiatrist specialized in S/M named Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry). Sexual attraction among them appears immediately and eventually they’ll start dating. By chance, Nicki finds out about Videodrome and really the tapes get her really hot, putting into practice her knowledge on S/M with  Renn.

On the other hand, when looking for more information regarding the extreme tapes, Marsha, a long term collaborator and well connected in the porn world, advising him first to forget about Videodrome, addresses him to Professor Brian O’Blivion, the only person able to enlighten on the subject.

The more Renn deepens into Videodrome dark secrets, the more he suffers hallucinations, up to a point he’ll barely recognize reality from delirium.

No doubt the plot is genuine, in fact it’s difficult to summarize the film briefly, there are too many events  and concepts bringing out, impossible to refer to all of them without spoiling.

What it’s compulsory when watching Videodrome is you to stay focused, otherwise it’ll be Greek to you.

Cronenberg deals here, with all his typical resources. Loves playing with insanity and reality, the scientific part is also included, and the bizarre is very important feature here. The combination is a bomb, not so clear at the first glance.

And there’s also the subject of brain manipulation by means of images, something not so far from reality nowadays. We’re slaves to images, we’re bombed with so much information, in order to create an impact on us, more shocking stuff is unconsciously demanded. We get used to everything, we swallow and bear cruelty, roughness, and eventually we reach a point where that doesn’t mean anything, therefore, in order to catch our attention, media is constantly innovating and offering new shit so we get shocked.

Remember the innocence of 50’s horror movies? I remember once, a friend of mine started questioning whether people in those years were treated as idiots, and couldn’t believe audiences were impressed or scared by poor disguised monsters. She thought them to be ridiculous. It was a matter of ignorance and innocence, something I don’t find to laugh so much at. People weren’t familiar to certain contents, and didn’t have as much info as we receive now.

Radically opposite is the current situation. We see blood, murder and execution on a daily basis, we’re not so impressed by bombs, blood or death, it’s just normal. Media tends to focus on morbid contents so we can feel moved or disgusted.

And there it goes the issue of  morality and respect. These concepts have been manipulated and they’re actually vanishing. A corpse is just a corpse, a thing, a piece of chunk yet interesting to fill gaps on the news. I find this sick and disgusting.

Cronenberg creates a sci-fi story, yet he’s able to develop some kind of critic. Dichotomies are in constant movement in Videodrome, and at the end, what’s the conclusion?

LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH

 

TRILOGY OF THE DEAD, George A. Romero (1968-1985)

Posted in Directors, Horror with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

If you love horror and zombies, then you love George A. Romero, therefore you’ve seen the TRILOGY OF THE DEAD, and if not you should, because all the zombie philosophy and evolution come from these.

Life after death has always been an obsession for the human being. Death is something that really scares and disturbs us, so we’re constantly trying to figure out, in one hand, how to reach eternity, and on the other, how to revive a dead body. Religions appeared due to this obsession, in order to give people some hope, to make us think our lives have a meaning and are worth. I’m not going to focus on this, because my aim is not to start an eternal discussion which never reaches any conclusion. Everyone is free to feel and think as they please.

Anyway, literature has also echoed this human concern, apart from religious propaganda, of course. Particularly, focused on our topic of discussion, and completely subjectively speaking, I find necessary to mention two classic works to be considered essential pillars for the birth of the zombie world:

–          FRANKENSTEIN; OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS – Mary Shelley (1818)

–          HERBERT WEST – REANIMATOR – H.P. Lovecraft (1921-1922)

The conclusion, at the end of the day, is that, you cannot defy the forces of Nature, and if you get to trick it, sooner or later, everything will turn against you, as you are reviving flesh, but not the soul. Surviving instinct prevails and is stronger than any feeling.

You might find a complete waste of time people analyzing zombies movies, or more exactly, the zombie evolution and development through Romero’s eyes, but to tell the truth, the creatures evolve, as the world also keeps changing, not only special effects are better, but also human minds are not so innocent, therefore, zombies instinctive reflections/reflexes improve.

It’s been the first time I’ve seen these movies by myself, and really enjoyed the experience, observing many things blood and guts hadn’t let me noticed before.

Once this said, here I go, explaining my vision and my experience with these marvelous films.

THE ORIGIN – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

It is true people were getting used to the unknown and horrible with previous stuff, such as all those Hammer films factory had delivered, yet I can’t really imagine the reaction of people when sitting at the theaters watching all these creatures walking dumb and slow towards their target: fresh and living human flesh.

Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and her brother Johnny visit their father’s grave at a remote cemetery in Pennsylvania. While he is pissing her off, making fun of her fear of such places, they don’t notice a weird pale guy is approaching them. Barbara manages to escape from his sudden attack, but Johnny’s fate is worse and dies while trying to defend his sister.

During her getaway, the scared girl finds out a farmhouse, where she intends to hide from the creature and others coming. Once here, Ben (Duane Jones), also running away, will try to isolate the house from these ghoulish freaks. Barbra, deep in shock, is unable to understand anything, until he explains what’s going on: the dead are now alive, and their only aim is feeding with human flesh.

At some point, they will discover they’re not alone in the house, as there’s a married couple with their sick daughter, and two teenagers. Unfortunately they won’t come into terms,  and instead of joining strength to find a way to escape, tension will bring out arguments and division: ones deciding to stay downstairs in cellar, others just staying in the house. Chances of surviving are few anyway, and a superior state of mind is essential, but not all can cope with such situation.

Romero’s work here is outstanding. Filmed in black and white, helps to disguise the lack of budget and gets a more impressive effect, just with few shrilling spotlights, and a disturbing soundtrack.

Nowadays I don’t think many people, in their middle age, of course, might feel scared while watching this film, yet positive it’s distressing. Whenever you stand in front of something that you sure know it’s not going to end disastrous, you feel uneasy. Romero is a master creating a suffocating atmosphere, increasing the message that there’s no way out.

Here we’re standing to a kind of introduction to the zombies. We see they’re dumb but constant, just walking in search of food, restless. Here we also learn how to get rid of them for good, by shooting or hitting with some sharp weapon right in their heads. And of course, it’s important to rely on media and something really important that everybody seems to forget: to stay focus and cold, so you can think of strategies.

Seems that the main failure is the inability of people to organize, to join strength and skills for the same purpose: surviving. If by any chance, you end up with people totally different to you, and don’t manage to share same point of view, the end is almost sentenced and you’re doomed to become one of these walking dead.

 

SPREADING AND UPRISING – DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

First thing to say, this is personal favorite, I’ll never get tired of seeing Roger and Peter running crazy by the galleries of the mall, and Flyboy, the dumbest guy I’ve ever seen.

Here we find society in chaos for the major uprising of the zombies. Mass media deeply involved in endless discussions and arguments and Army applying martial law on the streets in a useless attempt to protect people from the infected and at the same time from people themselves.

The dead uprising is present on an apparent global scale, and there’s nothing much to do bt trying to survive.

Again the action takes place in Penn state. On the sets of a local TV station, the pilot of the company, Stephen (David Emge) is determined to escape with his girlfriend Francine (Gaylen Ross) with the help of the TV helicopter.

Roger (Scott Reiniger), a close friend of the couple who works in a SWAT time, will join them together with his mate Peter (Ken Foree).

The idea is to reach a remote place away from the flesh eaters, so Francine can carry a normal pregnancy and deliver their child as peaceful as possible. Unfortunately, zombies have become a plague and have spread throughout the whole country, becoming an almost impossible task to find a final place to crash. Beside, lack of fuel will oblige them to stop and seek for shelter in a huge mall, where they’ll manage to turn into the closest place to a home possible under such circumstances.

Unfortunately, this unreal happiness won’t last forever, due to a motorcycle gang led by Tom Savini (Master!!) discovering their shelter, and chaos will strike back reckless.

Usually people act dumb under extreme situations, but here these four people know what they have in hands, especially Roger and Peter, in good shape, trained and skilled in tactics of assault and defense. Flyboy’s advance is his ability to pilot the helicopter, but Francine is wise enough as to learn how to drive it.

If Barbra was a dumb and scared girl, closest to a flower jar, Francine is the opposite, smart and with a strong personality, constantly ridiculing Flyboy. She acts cold, and stays focused, and quickly gets the respect from the guys. I like that!

I love the mall thing. Malls have reached Spain late, comparing to many other countries, and we don’t consider them the heart of our lives yet, although it seems it’s the trend in the future. A mall is just a single place where you can find EVERYTHING. It implies both consumerism and globalization, two concepts really establishing in the period the movie was filmed. It’s funny when the characters are wondering why zombies are there if there’s no food available, and one of them replies the creatures are moved by old routines…

What’s the lesson here? Zombies have some kind of memories and act accordingly in order to keep motion. Also they are sound and flesh sensitive, they immediately detect a real human being close to them, excited by their need to feed, they’ll follow the trail just like dogs.

Regarding living humans, my theory of groups is demonstrated, a well designed plan is required for survival and people organized have more chances. However we find something here. Human being is greedy, no matter extreme circumstances, we want the best regardless, and if someone has it, we want it even more. Instead of joining, motorcycle raiders want to get everything for themselves no matter if they have to kill other people. It’s a shame. How can World survive if we hate and fight each other?

Changing the subject, although budget was still tight, in Dawn of the Dead we see an upper level. With Tom Savini as the special effects and makeup artist, more bowels, blood, and disgusting stuff are highlighted. Zombies, although still blue, are more real, or at least more rotten, and disgusting.

Still, although zombie uprising is the driving plot, human coexistence and survival as well as changes in society are the main subjects Romero wanted to deal with.

THE HUMAN FAILURE – DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

No doubt this is the most pessimist part. Apparently it wasn’t as good received as the previous ones, despite the fact that is the most disgusting and bloodiest at the same time. But its dark and suffocating vision didn’t convince audience so enthusiastically.

Day of the Dead goes far beyond the fall of human rule leaving place to the total zombie invasion. I think Romero tries to explain why, by means of his own world recreation, humans fail in their struggle against the menace of the walking dead, which implies why society would fail when facing a global threat: failure to communicate and incompetence to organize, bringing out chaos and driving society to fatal collapse.

Down in Florida, close to the Everglades, there’s a hidden military bunker, one of those former storage facilities, a huge underground basement inhabited by a series of civilians and soldiers. Dr. Logan aka Dr. Frankenstein (Richard Liberty) is carrying on several experiments with zombies in order not only to record patterns of conduct, but also to re-educate the creatures in human habits style. His main achievement is Bub (Sherman Howard), capable of understanding and performing basic commands.

All the routines at the bunker are suddenly altered due to Major Cooper’s decease. Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) takes command, and he’s not the kind of guy you can reason with, everything must be done in his way, and a tough dictatorship is established under deathly punishment threaten, and hell, he really means it!

Due to these circumstances, the whole group is definitely divided into civilians and doctors on one side, and Army troopers, carrying guns, on the other.

People are under so much stress, overworking shifts catching zombies for their disposal or research, depending on their characteristics, sooner or later lethal mistakes occur, letting chaos get in the bunker, with fatal consequences.

Again, there are many lessons here, regarding zombies behavior. For the first time, we see in Bub, some kind of hope, regarding educative therapy applied on the creatures. Nevertheless this might have side effects, in fact, they happen, a smart zombie can be really dangerous when running free and has access to weapons or any other tools, they bite, but they can also shoot you in the head too. And also, they can develop some kind of emotional attachment.

Human being, in society, can be destructive, no matter the situation we can be involved in. Power is too attractive sometimes you can lose the track, becoming a pain in the ass for the rest, unable to stop you just because you got the right devices they fear you. Eventually, the risk of those oppressed revolt against you can become a reality, and then the game turns into the strongest law, or let’s fight against each other.

Regarding characters, although they’re not as interesting as in Dawn of the Dead, there are some worth mentioning: Captain Rhodes and Sarah.

Rhodes is a sonofabitch of huge dimensions, ready to use the gun against anyone opposing his decisions. He’s in command now, and nobody fucks with him without consequences.

Sarah (Lori Cardille) is the only woman at the bunker, and is constantly humiliated by other soldiers. Lack of basic human needs brings to this, she’s in some way harassed and treated disrespectfully. Still she copes with everything and proves to be the real survivor and a strong character, features we cannot apply to her lover, Miguel, a completely weak asshole.

Romero again uses Savini’s skills together with Gregory Nicotero, for all the special makeup effects, and this time, scenes of butchering are disgusting to the max.

 

There have been more releases of the Dead, by Master Romero, yet never at the same level as the first three. Adjusting to current era at the time of filming, society is always depicted as ruined and chaotic, rich over the poor, everybody annoying each other, and law of strength constantly present in his visions.

Just one thing remains to say: When there’s no more in Hell, the Dead will walk the Earth, and if Romero is right,  please Lord help us, because we’ll be reaaally fucked up.