Night of the Living Dead (1968)


They're coming to get you, Barbara!

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

(1968) Horror Action (Walter Reade Organization) Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon, Charles Craig, Bill Hinzman, George Kosana, Russell Streiner, Frank Doak, Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, A.C. McDonald, Samuel R. Solito, Mark Ricci, Lee Hartman, Jack Givens, Paula Richards, Vince Suvinski. Directed by George A. Romero

6 Days of Darkness 2013

Less is often more, particularly when it comes to excellent filmmaking. In fact, in the world of independent films, less is often all you get. For some classic films, that turns out to be serendipity of the most wonderful kind.

Barbara (O’Dea) and her brother Johnny (Streiner) are at the cemetery one somewhat chilly spring day to visit their father’s grave on the anniversary of his death. Barbara is a bit discomfited and Johnny teases her that “they’re coming to get you Barbara” in a not-bad Boris Karloff impression. Then indeed, they are coming to get her as a reanimated corpse (Hinzman) attacks her. Johnny saves her but accidentally falls during the struggle, hits his head on a gravestone and is instantly killed.

Panicking, Barbara runs to an old farm house with a gas pump outside it. She is followed by dozens of the ghouls (the word “zombies” is never uttered during the film) and runs inside, only to find a woman’s mangled corpse. Once again panicking, she runs outside only to be stopped by Ben (Jones) who pulls up in his car which is running out of gas. He ushers her back inside and fights the walking dead off, barricading the doors and windows.

In the cellar they find Harry (Hardman) and Helen (Eastman) Cooper and their daughter Karen (Schon). They are hiding there after their car was overturned by a horde of the undead. Karen is gravely ill, having been bitten on the arm by one of them. Also in the cellar is teenage couple Tom (Wayne) and Judy (Ridley) who sought shelter after hearing an Emergency Broadcast urging people to get inside.

Immediately a struggle for power ensues between Ben and Harry. Harry wants everyone in the cellar but Ben knows it’s a deathtrap – there’s only one way in or out and once down there, they are committed to a last stand. The group hears reports of an infestation of the dead rising throughout the eastern half of the United States. Shelters have been set up throughout the state of Pennsylvania in the greater Pittsburgh area. Tom and Ben know their only chance is to get to one but Ben’s truck doesn’t have enough gas to make it. Meanwhile the dead outside have grown into a horde surrounding the farmhouse.

This is as DIY a movie as you are ever likely to find. Romero, who had begun his career shooting commercials and local TV programs including several vignettes for the popular children’s show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood knew little about making a feature film but went at it with the gusto of youth. Enlisting local actors and friends to play zombies, the movie has an unparalleled creep factor and was unlike any horror movie seen before and in some ways, since.

This was one of the first movies to show zombies eating people. The distinctive shuffling gait of the walking dead was first seen here. Many of the conventions of modern zombie movies were established by this one. While it is fairly tame by modern standards in terms of gore, in its time it was truly shocking.

Another shocking element was having an African-American as the heroic lead. That was rarely done in the movies outside of Sidney Poitier and never in a horror movie. Jones, an erudite scholar who studied at the Sorbonne and acted professionally in New York City, made for a good one – strong and iron-willed. When he slapped a hysterical Barbara across the face, audiences surely must have recoiled in amazement – a black man hitting a white woman? Positively indecent! Ironically enough, the movie was released a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, to give you a sense of the timeline involved.

Sure, by today’s standards the movie is pretty crude but the storytelling is not. In fact, the movie is even now pretty gripping, particularly if you haven’t seen it before (and if you haven’t, what kind of rock have you been hiding under?) and for those who have, it never fails to keep one on the edge of their seat.

The film famously fell into public domain nearly immediately upon release because the filmmakers naively didn’t know to put the copyright statement at the film’s conclusion, so Romero and his partners saw little profit from the movie which has generated tens and maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, mainly for other people. A documentary on the film, Year of the Living Dead screened this past April at the Florida Film Festival and gives some insight into the making of the film and its impact on popular culture.

There is really no underestimating the role of this little movie from Pittsburgh has had on horror films and popular culture in general. In many ways, the modern independent film industry sprang from pioneers like Romero. Watching the movie now, we see that it is certainly a product of its times not just technologically speaking but also in terms of the movie itself; whether consciously or not, it examines racial tensions of its time and nuclear fears as well. It’s surprisingly well-written and if there are some areas where the script dates itself, it nonetheless remains a timeless classic. Anyone who loves horror movies needs to see this one and not just once – regular viewings are recommended and I’m not talking about the Rifftrax abomination that showed recently in theaters but the original. This is the ultimate zombie movie and should be treated with the reverence as such.

WHY RENT THIS: A classic that essentially re-defined the zombie film. Startlingly poignant and intelligent.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Crude by modern standards.

FAMILY VALUES:  Violence, disturbing images, adult themes and some brief nudity. Even 45 years on this is still not for the kiddies.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: As was common with black and white films, Bosco chocolate syrup was used as blood.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: Because the movie fell into the public domain, there are myriad home video versions out there, mostly made from inferior prints and with few or no extras so for our purposes we’ll concentrate on the higher end home video releases. The 1999 Special Collector’s Edition has a comedic short Night of the Living Bread as well as examples of Romero’s early commercial and TV work for Image Ten. The 2002 Millennium Edition however remains to date the standard – in addition to what was mentioned, there are liner notes from Stephen King, clips from lost Romero films The Derlick and There’s Always Vanilla, the original treatment and script for the film, an audio interview with the late Duane Jones and scrapbook photos from cast and crew members. To my knowledge, no credible Blu-Ray version exists of the film to date but hopefully as we approach the 50th anniversary of the film someone will make an effort to do it justice.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $5.8M on an unknown production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Blair Witch Project

FINAL RATING: 9/10

NEXT: The Transporter

Advertisements

Year of the Living Dead


The secret to creating an iconic horror film is not found in a cartoon.

The secret to creating an iconic horror film is not found in a cartoon.

(2012) Documentary (Self-Released) George A. Romero, Larry Fessenden, Gale Anne Hurd, Elvis Mitchell, Sam Pollard, Mark Harris, Jason Zinoman, Chris Schultz. Directed by Rob Kuhns   

Florida Film Festival 2013

 

There is no doubt that circa 2012, zombies are the new cool. The success of the comic turned basic cable TV hit The Walking Dead has contributed mightily to that but there is nobody with any sort of historical perspective at all who won’t admit that without Night at the Living Dead, zombies would be relegated to a kind of horror film B-movie ghetto.

Romero was a young college dropout in Pittsburgh back in 1968 when he decided to make a movie on his own. He, like many other Pittsburgh-based filmmakers, worked on the children’s television program Mister Rogers Neighborhood (one of Romero’s vignettes, Mr. Roger Gets a Tonsillectomy is shown and I kid you not, it is one of the most terrifying things you will ever see) as well as local advertisements.

The movie was largely shot on a wing and a prayer with investors and local TV personalities appearing as actors, zombies and occasionally as technicians. It was shot on the fly and with an almost non-existent budget. It got little or no positive press mainly because it broke so many taboos – an African-American hero whose race is never commented upon in the film, children murdering and eating their parents, zombies chowing down on living, screaming victims.

Largely over time, the movie has grown from cult status into a cultural touchstone. Within the context of its time when race riots were running rampant, the counterculture was protesting the war in Vietnam with increasingly violent repression from the government in reprisal and a general distrust of the American dream of their parents by an entire generation of young people, Night of the Living Dead was almost inevitable – if Romero hadn’t made it, someone else might well have made something like it. It’s unlikely however that anyone else would have blown off Hollywood movie conventions as easily as Romero did; while he essentially claims he didn’t know any better, I honestly believe that his innovations were done deliberately.

This documentary examines the film and it’s time, largely through interviews of critics, writers, academics and filmmakers (including Hurd, producer of The Walking Dead). There are also some nifty illustrated/animated sequences drawn by Gary Pullin that give the audience an insight into the production itself.

Because of the focus on a single film, Kuhns is able to drill down and really examine the movie’s historical, political and cinematic influence and the implications it has had on modern society and movies, not to mention it’s continuing influence on American culture. Romero is a delightful interview whose engaging personality is such that you wouldn’t mind watching two hours of talking head interviews with the man. Between the Romero interview and the illustrations as well as extensive footage from the movie itself and some archival footage of events of the day, the documentary is anything but dry. While those who don’t like the original movie might find this dull, if they are into history and social studies at all they will still find this fascinating. While the focus is definitely on Night of the Living Dead, you don’t have to be an obsessive fanboy to appreciate Year of the Living Dead. If you are, however, you may just want to demand your local art house get a copy of the movie so that you can spend your nights wrapped up in this well-made and thoughtful analysis of one of the great movies of all time.

REASONS TO GO: Romero is an engaging storyteller. Filmmakers really drill down and don’t just get backstage anecdotes but place the movie within the context of its time.

REASONS TO STAY: Those who aren’t fans of Night of the Living Dead will find this dull.

FAMILY VALUES:  A few disturbing horror images and a bit of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The interviews for the film were conducted between 2006-2011.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/13/13: Rotten Tomatoes: no score yet. Metacritic: no score yet; the movie has made a few appearances on the festival circuit.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Room 237

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: First Comes Love and more coverage of the 2013 Florida Film Festival!

Florida Film Festival 2013


Florida Film Festival 2013

The Florida Film Festival will be returning from April 5 through April 14. As in years past, Cinema365 is proud to cover our local film festival and this year will be bigger and better than any year before, with 173 features and short films taking up screen time. Voted one of the 50 best film festivals in the world, it’s different than the industry shmoozefests that are Sundance, Tribeca and TIFF. Those are places where filmmakers go to make a deal. FFF is where they go to mingle with the audience. There is an intimate feel that is missing from some film festivals where there is so much going on that you’re exhausted from day one. There is a more leisurely pace here but even so by the 14th you may well be reaching your limit.

The guest of honor this year is legendary Hollywood actress Tippi Hedren who will be honored with a screening of her classic film The Birds. She’ll be on hand to answer qustions, some of which hopefully will be about her new film Free Samples which will also be playing at the festival. These events always sell out so you won’t want to wait too long before getting your ticket. Also attending the festival will be renowned stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell who will be on hand for a screening of Deathproof, the Quentin Tarantino-directed half of Grindhouse.  She’s done some of the most amazing stunts of the past decade so you won’t want to miss that either. Finally for those of a more romantic bent, the Festival will have Sunday brunch on the 14th with a screening of one of my all-time favorites The Princess Bride with star Cary Elwes in attendence. This promises to be an unforgettable event and, like the other celebrity appearances, is likely to sell out early.

But a film festival is all about, well, films and as usual there are a plethora of exciting entries at this year’s festival. While I’m not going to preview them all here, I will give you some films that I think are worth looking out for. The opening night slot is always a big deal at any film festival and the FFF is no different. This year the honor goes to Twenty Feet from Stardom, an acclaimed documentary that drew raves at Sundance earlier this year. For those who love classic rock and roll, the film focuses on the backup singers who share the stage and recording studio with some of the biggest stars and on the biggest hits of all time. It’s an amazing get up and dance kind of movie that is bound to have opening nighters boogaloo-ing in the aisles. Opening night is another event that sells out early so you’ll want to order your ticets as soon as you can.

Unfinished Song stars Terrence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave in a film that reminds me a little bit of Young @ Heart, about a grumpy senior whose life is transformed by singing in a chorus. Lore takes place at the end of World War II in occupied Germany when a group of children whose parents were arrested as Nazis try to make their way across the country to their grandmother’s. Renoir is the story of the love triangle between the great Impressionist, his son and his model slash muse. It looks achingly beautiful. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey , Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepard in a thriller about a couple of kids who befriend a man on the run from the law, who is haunted by the woman who may have inspired him to do wrong.

V/H/S 2 is the sequel to the hit indie horror anthology and should be packing them in at midnight showings. So too should Cockneys vs. Zombies, a East End-set zombie flick that looks to be a worthy successor to Shaun of the Dead with a wicked sense of humor that had preview audiences laughing til they screamed. Starbuck is a French-Canadian film about a man who is ready to be a father of his girlfriend’s child although she is none too certain about his paternal skills. Matters aren’t helped when it is discovered that as a repeated sperm donor back in the day he had wound up fathering over 500 children. I’m sure his tie collection will be legendary.

SOMM is a food documentary chronicling the difficult process of becoming certified as a master sommelier. In the music realm Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me and AKA Doc Pomus look back at legendary figures in classic rock and roll while Bad Brains: A Band in DC looks at one of the most influential punk bands of all time.

The narrative competition films have some real promising entries this year, with The Forgotten Kingdom following a young man’s journey to reconnect with his family in Leostho, Putzel which is a different kind of romantic comedy (I know a lot of rom-coms claim that but this one really looks like the real deal), The History of Future Folk which has the daft premise of an alien invasion which goes awry when the aliens decide to become folksingers, All the Light in the Sky in the meantime follows an aging actress who is watching her indie career dwindle as younger actresses nab the roles that once went to her. Nancy, Please is a terrifying thriller about the roommate from Hell who goes to extreme lengths to reclaim the book she left behind and Be Good which observes new parents adopting to their changing roles.

The documentary competition is equally impressive with Year of the Living Dead which looks back on the lasting impact of George A. Romero’s legendary Night of the Living Dead while Magical Universe explores the bizaare world of artist Al Carbee’s Barbie-centric art. Shepard and Dark explores the unique and moving friendship (mostly expressed through correspondence) between actor/playwright Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark who was at one time married to the mother of Shepard’s wife. Informant traces the path of Brandon Darby from respected activist to FBI informant while Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story traces the career of revolutionary children’s book illustrator Tomi Ungerer.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Films like 8 1/2, Sleeper, The Sting and Pulp Fiction will also be screened as well as a plethora of foreign films, short films, documentaries, narrative features, family films and animated shorts. Individual tickets will go on sale on March 17th (this Sunday) although you can still buy passes and packages of five, ten and twenty vouchers which can be redeemed for individual films right now. For more details on the festival, ticket purchase information and directions to the festival venues, click on the logo above which will take you right to the Festival website. That same logo will appear on all festival film reviews even after the festival is over.

It should be noted that nearly every year since I started attending this event my number one movie on the year-end countdown has played at the Festival. Some of the films that have played here have gone on to commercial success (The Blair Witch Project) or Oscar nominations (Winter’s Bone). While there are no guarantees, I can tell you that this is one of the best-curated festivals that I’m aware of and the overall quality of the films that play it are nothing short of spectacular.

Enzian president Henry Maldonado liked the Festival to a gathering of friends, not unlike a reunion and he’s right. The atmosphere at the Festival is like none other I’ve experienced. Part of that is due to the bucolic scenery at the Enzian itself (although the atmosphere at the neighboring Regal multiplex in Winter Park Village where many of the screenings take place is no less idyllic) but most of the credit goes to the staff, volunteers and the attendees themselves. This is the kind of thing that loses something in the translation but once experienced for yourself will hook you for life. Even if I were to move out of the Orlando area, I’d come back every year for the FFF. I hope I’ll see some of my Orlando-area readers at the Festival; those who can travel to come see it should make the effort to do so. This is no theme park but if you’re a movie buff, this is so much better.

George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead


George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead

Hellllllllloooooooooo handsome!

(2009) Horror (Magnet) Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Stefano Colacitti, Athena Karkanis, Steano DiMatteo, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Josh Pearce, Michelle Morgan. Directed by George A. Romero

And in the end of days, the dead shall rise and walk the Earth. We just didn’t think that was meant literally. However, George A. Romero took it one step further yet.

Eight days after the dead begin to walk, the army quickly realizes they are fighting a losing battle. There are far more dead than living and the living may be turned dead not just by dying but by getting bitten. One company led by Sarge Nicotine Crockett (van Sprang) sees that this is a hopeless cause and determines to head somewhere remote where the people are few and the dead are fewer. Fewer people means fewer reanimated corpses to kill…again.

Sarge and his guys Tomboy (Karkanis), Kenny (Wolfe) and Francisco (Colacitti) as well as young Boy (Bostick) make their way to a dock which, Boy informs them, has a boat that can take them to Plum Island, just off the coast of Delaware. This land is inhabited by two families only – the Muldoons and the O’Flynns who have been feuding ever since anybody could remember. These days it’s about how to deal with the zombies. The O’Flynns think the zombies should be destroyed, since their animating spirits are departed. The Muldoons believe the dead are merely diseased and should be treated with compassion and chained someplace meaningful so they can go through their lives…er, afterlives with some sort of comfort until a cure can be found.

In the middle are caught Sarge and his crew and it won’t be long before the crossfire starts creating more problems than it solves; after all, every new corpse creates another zombie for them to deal with.

Romero is one of those directors who is legendary among the demographic he serves – to wit, zombie lovers. Most of the mythology of zombies in general in modern literature both graphic and traditional was evolved by Romero in Night of the Living Dead and its succeeding films. Romero’s contribution to the horror genre in particular and film in general cannot be understated.

This is not Romero at the top of his game. The story is pedestrian and a bit disjointed. Romero is known for making social commentary thinly veiled as a horror film and this could easily be construed as a parody of the two party system. However, the characterizations are so cliché and the plot so thin and quite frankly, the acting so uninspiring that if Romero’s name wasn’t on this you might easily be persuaded to give up on the movie early on.

But this being Romero, he knows how to kill zombies and the zombie kills are at least interesting but at this stage of the game you really need more. It is kind of sad that the real innovating in the zombie genre is being done on cable (although Zombieland introduced a nice comedy element into it).

Still, it’s George Romero and watching even the weakest work by a master of that magnitude beats the best days of thousand of lesser talents out there. This isn’t his most entertaining work by any stretch of the imagination and there are plenty of zombie films that are better than this one. There are also better films to start with if you are unfamiliar with Mr. Romero’s talents. While the score it’s getting is poor, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watching – it’s just you probably won’t want to give it any more than that. And that is not normal for the film catalogue of George Romero.

WHY RENT THIS: It’s George. Effin. Romero.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: It simply doesn’t measure up to his previous work.

FAMILY VALUES: It is a George Romero zombie film, so it comes as no surprise that there’s a surfeit of gore. There’s also no shortage of bad words, a smattering of sexuality and yes, all the violent zombie goodness that only Romero can deliver.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first film that Romero has used major characters from a preceding film as leading characters.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are a couple of interviews with Romero as well as a fascinating featurette on how to create your own zombie bites on a reasonable budget.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $143,191 on a $4M production budget; a certain box office disappointment.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: “The Walking Dead”

FINAL RATING: 4.5/10

NEXT: Day 2 of the Six Days of Darkness 2012

The Crazies (2010)


The Crazies (2010)

Radha Mitchell finds that working in a horror remake is a scream.

(2010) Horror (Overture) Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, John Aylward, Preston Bailey, Joe Reegan, Glenn Morshower, Larry Cedar, Mike Hickman. Directed by Breck Eisner

It is one thing to live in the perfect small town. It is another to live in a small town full of homicidal maniacs. It is absolutely unsettling to watch one turn into the other.

Ogden Marsh, Iowa is one such perfect small town. Its springtime, the first day of the baseball season and the local team is playing one from a neighboring town. In the stands cheering away are Sheriff David Dutten (Olyphant) and his trusted right hand man Deputy Russell Clank (Anderson). What could be a better situation than that?

That’s when Rory Hamill (Hickman), the town drunk, steps onto the playing field with a loaded shotgun. Rory has never been a particularly violent man so it is something of a surprise. Then when he brings it up to bear, Sheriff Dutten is forced to shoot Rory dead.

Things go from bad to worse. Other people in town are beginning to show signs of strange behavior. Sheriff Dave’s wife Judy (Mitchell), the town doctor, can’t find anything wrong with anybody, they’re just acting robotic. Then they go crazy – violently crazy. One of her patients, Bill Farnum (Rickaby) sets his own house on fire – with his wife and son locked inside of it.

Sheriff Dave calls for help and gets it, but not the kind he expects. The army comes in and cordons off the town. Nobody can enter or leave. Those that attempt to escape are shot dead. Those inside the town who exhibit signs of a fever (as Judy does since she’s pregnant) are separated from the rest of the population. The fevered few all start to go crazy. Dave and Russell, both feeling fine, affect a rescue of Judy just as crazed townspeople storm the gates. In amidst the chaos and frenzy of crazed townspeople killing one another, Dave and Russell free Judy and her receptionist Becca (Panabaker) and try to find a way out of the stricken town – while outside, the military makes its own ominous plans.

This is based on a 1973 movie by horror legend George A. Romero. That movie was much less slick, much sparer in its design and in many ways, much more disturbing. The new one is chock full of scares and works more as a traditional horror movie while the original was a bit of an allegory about Vietnam war-era paranoia and general distrust of anything that resembled what we think of as normal. Romero was all about sticking it to “The Man.”

Eisner, whose last film was the box office bomb Sahara, shows a surprisingly deft hand here, keeping the horror coming at a breathtaking speed once things really get out of hand. Much of the horror doesn’t derive from the gore and the vein-y faces of the infected but from the situations where parents kill children, children kills parents and everyone hates the doctor.

Olyphant is one of those leading men who always seems like he should be getting much better roles than he does but for whatever reason hasn’t connected with an audience quite yet. This probably isn’t the role for him to break out with – the character is a by-the-numbers horror hero who in most regards doesn’t have a whole lot that’s special about him. Veteran genre performer Mitchell (Pitch Black) does solidly in her role as the town doctor but Anderson plays the twitchy Russell very memorably. He is the character that you’ll most likely remember with the most clarity.

This is a solid horror movie with nice scares delivered well. Eisner, who seemed over his head for much of Sahara, seems much more comfortable here. To my way of thinking, this is one of the better horror remakes of the recent rash of them to date and if Eisner wants to do more along this vein, I say let him. He’s certainly got the right touch for it.

WHY RENT THIS: Nice build-up and some really disturbing images. Olyphant, Mitchell and Anderson all do bang-up jobs.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: There are a few too many horror clichés here and could have used a little more attention to character.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of violence, plenty of love and appropriately foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Lynn Lowery, who co-starred in the 1973 version, cameos as an infected local riding a bicycle through the deserted center of town.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a motion comic summarizing events prior to the movie, as well as a nice little feature on George A. Romero, director of the 1973 version, and his effect on movie horror.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $54.6M on a $20M production budget; the movie was profitable.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Sorority Row

New Releases for the Week of February 26, 2010


February 26, 2010

Tracy Morgan or Gary Coleman? You decide.

COP OUT

(Warner Brothers) Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Adam Brody, Ana de la Reguera, Kevin Pollak, Jason Lee. Directed by Kevin Smith

Willis and Morgan pay a couple of misfit cops who do things by the book…unfortunately, the book is a biography of the Keystone Kops. They are on the trail of a missing rare baseball card that is the only hope that one of them has to pay for his daughter’s wedding, while the other obsesses on his wife’s alleged infidelity. Director Kevin Smith, known for his View Askew comedies (i.e. Mallrats, Clerks and Chasing Amy) takes on a change of pace.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity)

The Crazies

(Overture) Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson. A small town sheriff in idyllic Ogden Marsh finds himself with more problems than he bargained for when the townsfolk begin to turn violently insane. To make matters worse, government troops have quarantined the town, using deadly force to keep everyone inside, even the uninfected. A group of four survivors must somehow survive the anarchy and find a way to escape in this remake of a George A. Romero classic horror film.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for bloody violence and language)

The Last Station

(Sony Classics) Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti. A young starry-eyed clerk who has just become the assistant to Leo Tolstoy, his idol, becomes enmeshed in a war of wills between the famous author, his noble wife the Countess Sophia and Tolstoy’s unprincipled friend Chertkov over Tolstoy’s estate. Further complicating matters is the clerk’s infatuation with a disciple of Tolstoy who advocates some rather ahead of her time ideas about love and sex. Plummer and Mirren have both been nominated for Oscars for their performances here.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for a scene of sexuality/nudity)

I Am the Walking Dead


I don’t know why I’m still here. I remember dying, vividly. It wasn’t a good death.

I’d heard the reports of the dead coming back to life and feeding on the living, but like most people I think I didn’t believe them. How crazy is that, right? Stupid, stupid, stupid is what it is! I went to the movies with my girlfriend. We were sitting near the front row because we got there late – girls take goddamned forever to get ready, you know? Anyway I was pretty pissed off. I’d wanted to see the movie, and it put me in a bad mood to be seeing it with my neck craned up the whole time.

I remember hearing screaming from behind me…and it wasn’t a horror movie. My girlfriend turned around to look and then she started screaming, so I turned around too.

There were dozens of them, flesh rotting from their bones, eyes staring straight ahead – those that had eyes – and they were feeding, ripping flesh off of the screaming, gibbering living. “We’ve got to get out of here” I shouted and grabbed my screaming girlfriend by the arm. Most people, idiots, were trying to run up the aisle to the main exit but it was flooded with zombies. There were emergency exits not 20 feet from where we were sitting and it was towards those that I pushed my girlfriend.

The alarm sounded as soon as we opened the door into a back alley that led to Copper Street, the one where the theater was. I think it was Copper Street. It’s hard to think right now, my mind feels sluggish. Anyway, we ran out and fortunately there weren’t any zombies that I could see right away. I could hear the screaming in the theater; it sounded like a horror movie was playing, except the screaming kept on going, wouldn’t stop.  A few other people came out behind us.

I heard a noise behind me, like someone burrowing in a garbage dump. I turned around and there it was, one of the living dead, burrowing in a garbage bin. It looked up and made a snarling noise.

I will say that George Romero, director of the Living Dead movies, got the look pretty much right. The skin was a bluish-red color, the lips red and dripping with gore. There were bruises all over their skin, and the marks of their demise were apparent. However, George missed a few details. For one thing, they didn’t shuffle like they were walking down the aisle at a wedding – they moved like normal humans pretty much. Also, there was the smell, an odor of corruption and decay that was overwhelming. It made you want to vomit.

There was one other thing, the noise. Zombies don’t growl, moan or groan. They scream, they howl. I can tell you from experience that it is the most unnerving thing you’ve ever heard. The sound isn’t quite human, it’s higher pitched like the vocal chords have changed. It’s different than the screams of their victims.

Some poor schlub came out of the emergency exit right at that moment and the zombie pounced. He had ripped open the guy’s jugular before he even knew the zombie was there. Frankly, I didn’t stick around to see what happened next. I yanked my girlfriends arm and started running towards the street, away from the feeding ghoul. As we ran down the alley I saw a 2×4 board leaning up against the wall. I grabbed it without stopping with my free hand. Might as well have a weapon, I figured.

When we got to the street, the scene was nightmarish. There were restaurants and bars aplenty near the theater and they were all filled with screaming zombies chowing down on the hapless patrons inside. It was total chaos; people were trying to get to their cars and zombies were catching up to them while they fumbled for their keys. A few had managed to make it and were weaving in and out of the carnage, trying to get away.

I knew where we were parked – in a lot around the block. The greatest concentration of zombies seemed to be away from where the car was so I turned right onto the street. My girlfriend was sobbing and crying that I was hurting her. Well honey, better hurt than dead…or food for the dead. I heard that distinctive zombie scream close by and saw one angling towards us. As it came close enough I swung the 2×4 at its head and it went down. I didn’t stop, even though the board had split and was really too short to swing again the way I had.

As we rounded the corner another zombie came out and stood directly in our path. I had to let go of my girlfriend’s arm and with both hands rammed the board into the zombie’s chest. It went down and again, I didn’t want to stick around to see if I’d hurt it. I grabbed the girl’s hand again and started running but my hand was slick and hers slipped out of my grip. “Come on!” I remember yelling at her and started running again. There weren’t any zombies that I could see and no people either. The lot was just across the street and I could even see my car.

I didn’t want to make the mistke that the other poor saps had made, so I fished my car keys out of my pocket, now that I wasn’t holding on to my girlfriends arm. I pressed the keyless unlocking button and heard the gratifying beep beep that signified my car was unlocked. All we had to do was get in it, start the engine and drive away to safety.

I’d started to cross the street when I heard my girlfriend scream behind me. A couple of zombies had evidently been behind us and one of them had grabbed her. She looked at me with eyes like saucers, and while my memory is fading, getting dimmer, this was one thing that still remains very vivid. “Help me,” she pleaded in a little girls voice. It was already far too late though.

They wrestled her to the ground and the screaming began. One of them ripped a chunk of her face off and another had reached her blouse and yanked it off, then started feeding on her breasts. I guess he liked his meat more tender.

I stood there, watching it for a moment, mouth gaping then I turned away. Dead was dead, and there was nothing I could do for her. I started running for the lot and then I heard a noise, a car horn. I turned towards it to see an SUV barreling down on me and I could see the panic-stricken eyes of the person driving it.

The impact wasn’t as painful as you might think. I remember flying through the air, my limbs flopping around like dead fish. I landed on my skull on the pavement as the driver who had hit me raced onwards, not stopping. Smart guy I remember thinking. It was the last thing I thought as everything went black.

The next thing I know I was standing up and I could see my body on the street. The skull had been caved in and it  looked like one of my legs was broken and my hip was shattered. I’m dead I thought to myself and there was a sense of wonder about it. I looked back and could see five or six zombies crouched down around my girlfriend whose eyes had glazed over. I think she was dead too, or close to it. She had stopped screaming at least.

They say that when you die you see a light. I did, but it wasn’t the pure, white light they talk about. It was spotty, unstable like the power source had been compromised. The light flickered in other words. I went towards it and I got a sense that there were people I loved waiting in it, but I couldn’t make out who. The light really began to flicker and I started running towards it with a sense of urgency. I could feel a deep sorrow emanating from the light and then it went out. I felt this awful pain then, one of the emotional loss of not going where I was supposed to go. The other was physical. I began to scream.

I wasn’t on my feet any longer. I was lying on the pavement where my body had landed after the SUV hit it. I sat up. I could feel my injuries – apparently Romero got that wrong too. My leg was definitely broken but I got up anyway. I had a horrible headache and I was slick with my own blood.  A zombie walked past me and paid me absolutely no attention. The realization hit me – I was one of them. A zombie.

The worst pain was not from my broken leg or my fractured skull. It is the pain of the hunger. If you’ve ever gone more than 24 hours without food, you might have an idea of what it is like, but even then you have no idea. It’s that need, so pressing that your whole body feels it. I guess a heroin addict in withdrawls might feel this bad, but having never used heroin I couldn’t say for sure. I just knew I was hungry.

I didn’t want to eat human flesh but I knew, instinctively that living human tissue was the only thing that could ease my pain. I walked back over to my girlfriend. Some of the zombies had left but there was still meat to be had. Her chest was open and some of her organs were still inside. I grabbed her heart and began to chew on it. Tears were streaming down my face. Oh God, what have I become?

It’s been a few hours since then. I’ve been walking down the street, limping more like. It is getting harder and harder to think. I can feel my humanity draining from me, and it scares me, scares me shitless. In another hour, maybe two at the most, I’m going to be like them, mindless screaming monsters marauding for human flesh. The hunger is beginning again and I know I will not be resisting its call. I am walking towards the suburbs, the development where I lived. I know there are lots of people there, flesh to feast upon. I want to turn and walk away, walk somewhere where there are no people but I know I can’t do it. The need is just too great.

I wonder if it was the same for all of them, the gradual loss of their humanity instead of the sudden change from person to zombie. I can’t say for sure, but I know how it is for me. I just hope the military gets here and figures out a way to kill us permanently. I hope they do it before I feed again. The taste of my girlfriend’s flesh is still in my mouth. It tastes foul and wonderful at the same time.

I can’t remember her name. I can’t remember my name. I’m glad I found this internet cafe so I can post this on my blog. I hope I remember how to do it. Maybe it will help someone to know, to figure out how to stop this. It won’t be me. I can’t stay here anymore. I must go and feed. God help me. God help us all.