I know this is a late post, but of I couldn’t let Halloween pass by without blogging about it. Unlike some folks who’ve gone out and went to the cemetery on November 1 to pay their respects to their dearly beloved, I was cooped at home as we had earlier visited the grave of our lola on the last week of October coinciding it with her death anniversary.
So what’s the most interesting thing to do on a two day snoozefest? But of course, watch as much horror movies as I can! (As if reading The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty hasn’t brought enough nightmares yet, sheesh.) So Gentle Readers, here are some of the movies I got wind of and my two cents on them:
Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romero (1968)
Yes, I managed to find the original black and white seminal zombie movie by the zombie-movie-pioneer/director George A. Romero. For it’s the time Night is too graphic yet a groundbreaking movie on its own right. What are my initial impressions of the film? First, the monsters in this film are not animals made grisly by accidental exposure to nuclear chemicals or aliens from outer space, the monsters are us, humans who’ve risen from the grave to feed on live human flesh. Second, its brave casting of an African-American in a lead role portrayed with such conviction by Duane Jones as Ben. And third, it’s tragic uncompromising ending. As with any zombie movies I’ve seen, this one induced too much claustrophobia in me, not only from the cramped farm house where the protagonists barricade themselves in, but also from the surge of zombies who keeps on coming, lying in wait for their victims like a cat to a mouse trapped in a corner.
The film didn’t specifically address just how vast this zombie infestation has spread. We don’t find out, and I believe that’s because it’s inconsequential. Romero made this film expecting us to accept the world as it’s presented. The primary question he’s asking is, “What would you do if presented by this type of adversity?” It’s a fascinating topic as much as fanciful as it may sound, but it’s one that becomes more and more interesting as different scenarios are presented throughout the film and the succeeding sequels it has spawned.
Dawn of the Dead directed by George Romero (1978)
In its initial release in 1978, critics rave mad how good a horror movie Dawn of the Dead was. Well, who am I to disagree? Romero’s excellent, multi-layered story combines high-adventure heroics, three-dimensional characters and explicit gore (by the noted special effects make-up artist Tom Savini) making it one of the best zombie movie ever made. The subtext comparing the glassy-eyed behavior patterns of the ghouls to those of American consumers is clear, but not overdone: “It’s some kind of instinct,” one character comments, observing the zombies’ attraction to the mall; “This was an important place in their lives.” The anti-consumerist critique of the second film seems to have even more resonance today.
Despite the glimmer of hope offered by the film’s closing scene, the outlook for humankind is grim. Perhaps, this question posed by one of the protagonists best express Dawn’s outlook for humanity: “We’re not gonna make it, are we?”
Day of the Dead directed by George Romero (1985)
The third installment in Romero’s Living Dead series about a small group of military officers and scientists who took refuge in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies. What’s fascinating about Romero’s zombie flicks is that it doesn’t only make our hairs stand on end or throw up our last dinner by its graphic scenes, but also functions as a social commentary as well. Sure thing, Day of the Dead isn’t as action-packed as the previous two films; rather, the story is dialogue driven which some attributed to be the reason to some of its viewers’ disappointment and with others claiming as the weakest of the lot. But I say this one deserves a second look, man.
As the zombies evolve, so does the story. In this film Romero starts to explore the idea that zombies can be domesticated instead of finding a cure for the spreading zombie disease since, apparently, killing all of God knows how many of them is an arduous if not a tedious task. For me it’s a pretty interesting and nifty idea — that this last resort of saving humanity means making radical, compassionate and perhaps somewhat idealistic leaps of faith. Here, a pessimistic Romero dares to tackle the very essence of man’s inhumanity to man, that the humans were by and large indistinguishable from their flesh-eating nemeses. Day of the Dead offers a frightening glimpse at humanity’s instinctual proclivity to destroy itself and in the end is every bit as compelling and unsettling as its more lauded predecessors.
Return of the Living Dead directed by Dan O’Bannon (1985)
Of course, a horror movie list wouldn’t be complete without a campy and funny film in it. Blending the comedic with a sense of dread, Return of the Living Dead gives an alternate view on what could’ve happened after the events in Night of the Living Dead. O’Bannon showed us of yet another reinvention (resurrection?) of zombies as seen on the screen. The zombies of Return don’t act like the sluggish, groaning creatures we’ve got used to; rather, they’re agile, can talk, have the ability to organize and have an insatiable craving for human brain — and if ever you’re wondering what’s the reason for this the movie might have the credible answer straight from the horse’s…err…the zombie’s mouth.
Right at your Door directed by Chris Gorak (2005)
Lexi and Brad is a couple who struggle to survive when a dirty bomb explodes in Los Angeles. Chris Gorak’s film draws heavily on the post 9/11 paranoia that has beset the world, creating a compelling thriller on a meager budget. Gorak’s direction is tense and slick, and his cast delivers fine performances that enhance that unnerving experience.
Dark City directed by Alex Proyas (1998)
Upon awaking with a start in an icy bathtub in a strange room — with a dead woman’s body inconveniently nearby — John Murdoch can’t remember how he got there. With a police hot on his trail and a psychiatrist skulking around, Murdoch discovers the key to this mystery is the presence of extraterrestrial creatures called The Strangers who are experimenting with the memories of the human in his city—from which there may be no escape.
One of the best films I’ve seen this week is… wait for it… a SCIENCE FICTION! I know this a horror film list but I can’t forgo this chance of saying how effin’ awesome this movie is — if only for just a few words. Dark City is an ambitious sci-fi noir, with rich production design and a Kafkaesque concept. It deals with some of the hefty themes I’ve recently got fond of such as memory, thought control, human will, and the altering of reality (hullo Inception!), engaging mostly in the degree to which it creates and sustains a visually startling alternate universe. Proyas’s skill as a visually gifted director is the film’s strongest suit, so even when the story gets too confusing, there is generally something lively going on visually to hold the interest.
There is no doubt that Dark City is as entertainingly bizarre a film as you’ll find, a story that finds a strange, psychological surrealism in a nightmarish world of perpetual night. It’s grim, fascinating, always absorbing, wildly imaginative, and . . . not a little scary.
The Exorcist directed by William Friedkin (1973)
As you can see I’ve save the best for last. The Exorcist remains, up to this day, the scariest film EVER! The movie tells the now-famous story of a girl’s demonic possession, and the gripping fight between good and evil. Linda Blair (in her most iconic portrayal) plays the young girl, Regan, who starts exhibiting strange, arcane behavior. Her mother calls upon a priest, Father Karras to investigate.
By standards of 1973, the visual effects were impressive with a rendered realistic feel to it. Audiences were scared upon seeing Linda Blair’s head spin 360 degrees, spew green pea soup at the priests and the gravity-acrobatic-defying spider walk. Much of the creepy scares came from the sound system, which earned an Oscar Award. Reading the novel (which I‘ll be reviewing here soon) intensely enhanced my viewing experience and appreciation of the film. Blatty’s adaptation of his book to script (which also won an Oscar) was spot on and that the book and the movie oddly and yet perfectly complements each other. William Friedkin’s horror film delivered a cultural and cinematic impact that is still felt today, shocking and enthralling audiences, who had never seen anything like it.
And so here we come to the end of the line, but is it really? Well, not certainly since Halloween is a month-long affair for me. Besides, there’s this guy named Stephen King whose books lie in wait to be read … and maybe I’ll get to see some of its movie adaptations soon and maybe, just maybe, make yet another list just for the hell of it.
The spookfest continues…
Dark nights and creepy wonders.