Monday, October 24, 2005

Halloween Viewing Essentials: Part I (BRAINS!!!!)

In honor of the season - and my favorite holiday - I’ve put together some thoughts on my favorite horror movies. I’ve decided to group my favorites differently than most other favorite movie lists you may have seen. Quite frankly, it would be entirely too hard for me to list a top ten list. In fact, I suspect it’d be nigh impossible. So, to make life easy on myself, I’ve grouped them by horror genre…

Today's Genre - - Zombie Movies!
1) Night of the Living Dead – The classic. It was 1968 and this movie was groundbreaking. It showed the dead coming back to life and EATING the living. It showed a black man as the hero and a white man as the bad guy - - only a few years after the civil rights movement. This is the benchmark. My friend BJ’s parents saw this in a drive in in the late sixties. So did a lot of people for that matter, but how many can say it was in Evansville, less than a couple miles from the cemetary and farm where Romero’s masterpiece was originally filmed? How cool is that?
2) Dawn of the Dead (1979) – Romero’s follow up, besides the reeeeallly bad makeup effects (can we say blue corpse makeup and dayglo pink blood?) This movie is a wry social commentary wrapped in cold, dead, lipsmacking tastiness.
3) Day of the Dead – Captain Rhodes’ immortal line “I’m running this monkey farm now, Frankenstein…and I want to know what the FUCK you’re doing with my time!” Need I say more?
4) Shaun of the Dead – A slice of fried gold! A big budget homage to Romero’s films - - a movie by fans for the fans. British comedy, romance, heroism, and shambling undead. It does’t get any better than this.
5) Reanimator – Stuart Gordon’s classic reworking of one of HP Lovecraft’s better works, this is on the list because it has reanimated corpses, but not in the RomZom sense. Contains quite possibly one of the most disturbing scenes of all time. Only a movie with Jeffery Combs could combine rape, necrophilia, and incest into one squirm-inducing scene. Brilliant.
6) 28 Days Later – I know, I know! Not a true zombie flick. Yes, I know it was an infection and the infected weren’t, in fact, dead. But I’ve included this film because it was marketed by Danny Boyle as a zombie flick, and it was the first movie - - in years! – to actually get that Romero zombie feel. I remember watching it and getting that same feeling I used to get years earlier when I first watched the Romero classics. It was also responsible for the resurgence in recent years of other zombie flicks. So, credit is due!
7) Return of the Living Dead – Punk zombies that throw Romero’s rules out the window (a head shot DOESN’T kill the Zombies. Chop ‘em into pieces and the pieces come after you!) make this classic. Who can forget the swoosh, thwock, and subsequent screams when Freddy, Frank, and Burt drive the pickaxe into the reanimated corpse’s head? I still get shivers thinking about it.

As is obvious, this is the good Doctor’s favorite genre. I consider myself a zombie purist, but not in the strictest sense. Obviously, the RomZom movies are the highwater mark that all subsequent zombie flicks must be judged by, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bear any change to Romero’s Holy Trinity (you’ll notice I assidously left out Land of the Dead there. I’m not saying it was terrible, but I’d really rather see the uncut version before passing judgement. It had too much of a big budget feel and smacked too much of Hollywood suit involvement. It lacked the visceral punch of Romero’s earlier works. Blasphemous as that may be.) More thoughts on the purity of the genre. I dig what Dawn Of the Dead 2004 did. I like the idea of running zombies. And this crap about it not being realistic is just that. Crap. If you can suspend disbelief enough to believe that the dead are rising from their graves to consume human flesh, you can fucking buy that they run. Running zombies is a whole hell of a lot scarier than shambling zombies. It adds to the scare and doesn’t detract, so I say it’s a cool idea. Look at it this way -- when the zombie apocalypse does come, which would YOU prefer having to deal with? Running or shambling? Think about it that way.

I didn’t include Argento’s flicks, because they were really just reworkings of Romero’s works and, frankly, not that good.

Also missing from the list are the Return of the Living Dead sequels. That’s for good reason. ROTLD II, quite plainly, sucked. ROTLD III was awesome (Mmmm… hot zombie chick…), but not worth inclusion on the list. And I just Tivo’d and watched the subsequent abortions that were recently aired on Sci-fi channels (ROTLD: Necropolis and ROTLD: Rave to the Grave). Gods, how these movies sucked. Let me say that again – and in no uncertain terms – Gods how these movies sucked! One minute, the vapid teen main characters can only kill zombies with a head shot, but then, later, they mow them down with very badly done chest shots. Look, ignore the rules or follow the rules. Don’t change them to suit the plot or your budget. I’ve seen independent high school fan films with better dialogue and acting. And yes, I get that it’s cheaper to film your movies in former Eastern Block European countries. But for god’s sake, ship American actors over. I’m so damn tired of everybody but the one or two principles having thick accents. It all just makes me want to scream inarticulately.

Anyway, I‘m off to rob some graves.

Stay tuned for more Halloween goodness!

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