The Classics of Horror #6 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This is a very sad week for the world of arts and entertainment.

Two highly inspiring figures have passed away: Chester Bennington, frontman of Linkin Park, committed suicide last night and George Romero, father of the zombie sub-genre in cinema, had died in last Sunday.

I can’t stress enough how much the sudden death of a singer who accompanied me with his melodies throughout my whole life shocked me. However, I’m not entitled to talk about it in this blog, although I wish I could express my grief in a better way.

Instead, I hope to make the brilliant director justice by reviewing, unbiasedly, the film that made him famous and gave us the basis for each single zombie movie that came out from 1968 to this day.

Night of the Living Dead is one of the first independent horror flicks, which grossed more than $30 million world-wide on a budget of only £114.000.

Last black and white entrance on this list, Night of the Living Dead tells the story of a small group of people gathered in an abandoned house trying to survive the return to life of the dead. This supernatural occurrence has been caused by radiation leaks that turn on the brains of corpses, basically resuscitating and turning them into flesh eaters.

Night of 2As this brief plot summary might suggest, the flick establishes the rules for each and every zombie movie (especially those involving slow ghouls): they feed upon human and animal flesh, they can’t be killed unless their head gets smashed, their bite is contagious and so on.

Romero has set the rules basing them on centuries of literature, dark fairy tales and bonfire stories, creating a fertile ground for one of the most successful sub-genres in cinema history.

With a small budget to his disposal, the director has also been able to confine the story within a narrow location – although news reports keep showing, throughout the movie, the consequences of the phenomenon on a larger scale, the focus of action is a small house with thin walls and, virtually, a few chances of survival.

Night of 1Even though today Night of the Living Dead wouldn’t scare a child, when I came out it’s been perceived as gory and unsettling. For example, the scene where the zombies eat the flesh of their victims must have been a massive shock for the 60s audience.

The film wasn’t ballsy only in terms of gore and violence, though. It’s then-daring employment of an African-American hero as the lead and its ubiquitous availability on television and video thanks to a lack of copyright all played roles in Night’s success. The racial component was, indeed, more shocking than the bloody sequences: “Everyone was sort of noticing the film was talking about the racial issue”, Romero said in a recent interview. “To us, it wasn’t a racial message at all”, he added, “in fact, when we cast Duane Jones (as the lead) – when Duane Jones agreed to do it – we didn’t change the script” to make it more suitable for a black character.

Night of 4.jpgNevertheless, the director himself claimed his flick to be more than just a zombie movie: “Our point was more the disintegration of society, the inability to communicate, the disintegration of the family unit. That’s the stuff that we were interested in”.

However, the social commentary doesn’t quite emerge in the film.

In my honest opinion, Night of the Living Dead is a rather weak film. Regardless its historic impact and influence, the movie lacks a sense of urgency and inevitability, which is what should emerge in a good zombie flick.

Furthermore, with the exception of Jones, every cast member gives an amateur performance, often over-the-top and laughable when it’s trying to be dramatic.

Night of 3Some of them are plainly annoying, for instance the girl who loses her brother in the first sequence involving the living dead. She’s so pathetic and nerve-wracking throughout the all movie and her contribution to the survival attempts is below nil.

Overall, the main issue with Night of the Living Dead is that it doesn’t hold up anymore.

It’s probably the least watchable out of Romero’s film and, also, in comparison to Rosemary’s Baby – which was released the same year – it looks extremely dated.

In all fairness, I wouldn’t suggest to watch Night of the Living Dead, unless you are a die-hard Romero’s fan or particularly interested in the zombie sub-genre. Instead, I recommend Dawn of the Dead (1978) and The Dark Half (1993) by George Romero, because in my opinion they are its best works. Cheers!

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28 Days Later meets Let Me In. The Girl with All the Gifts – review

The Girl with All the Gifts (2017) is an English horror-drama directed by the Scottish filmmaker Colm McCarthy and starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close and Sennia Nanua in the leading role of Melanie.

The young Melanie is part of an experiment which consists of testing the various skills of a small group of new-generation ‘hungries’, meanwhile they are being used as human guinea pigs to discover a cure for a disease which has caused the humanity to come close to extinction.

At the same time, the remaining military forces are trying to survive to the hungries – zombie-like creatures – and protect the scientists who are working on the vaccine.

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-film-set-in-birminghamAs a consequence, tons of ethical issues are raised, since the guinea pigs are semi-human children who prove themselves intelligent and capable of feelings. Especially Melanie, who creates a strong connection with Gemma Arterton character, Helen Justineau. Nevertheless, Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close) and Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) are deaf to all the moral issues and, with different motivations, ruthlessly treat the kids as if they were monsters.

However, when a horde of zombies breaks into their stronghold, in the middle of the English countryside, the four main characters – and a couple of supporting soldiers – have to team up to survive.

locarno-festival_the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_publicity_still_h_2016Let’s talk about the pros of this movie. The characters are well-portrayed and developed throughout the runtime, their arc is explored in a compelling way and the two ‘villains’ – Caldwell and Parks – are driven by understandable motivations. In fact, every character is set into a grey area, which makes them interesting. Probably Sennia Nanua is the weakest part of the movie in regards to acting and sometimes she doesn’t keep up with the other stars, although I shouldn’t be too harsh to her, since she is only 14 years old young.

Also, the cinematography, the locations and the practical effects are well-crafted, even though they took a bit too much inspiration from 28 Days Later. Above all, the sequences filmed in the ‘abandoned London’ are placed into a successfully realised cinematic environment.

Yet, the fast-paced hungries are quite scary – even though zombie movies are little frightening by definition, at least to me – and their makeup is pretty convincing.

The problems, though, come towards the ending. In all fairness, the concept behind it, is provocative and self-conscious, which is an absolute merit. However, the execution turns out to be silly and unconvincing, especially because a couple of cathartic scenes are clearly made solely to complete the arcs of the characters.

All in all, The Girl with All the Gifts is an unconventional horror film, filled with the latest British cinema features – and this is a compliment – but it doesn’t reach the same level of 28 Days Later, which it clearly tried to imitate. And the ending, while being interesting due to the social commentary, is mostly disappointing and cheesy. Still worth checking out. Cheers!

 

It finally came to an end. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – review

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, stars his wife Milla Jovovich and is the last instalment of the long-lasting franchise inspired by the videogames of the same name.

 

Now, notoriously movies from videogames are not good and Anderson’s direction is worth shit. We also know that, for some – to me inexplicable – reason, all of the six films (yes, we have six of these!) of the Resident Evil saga made a huge profit, despite being panned by critics and hated by mature audiences.

 

However, people keep going to watch them, increasing the bad reputation of horror cinema as a source for cheap entertainment, while this genre should be treated and respected with the same dignity as the others.

 

I apologise, I went out of track for a while, but I figured it was necessary to remind you what the Resident Evil movies are about, before tackling the Final Chapter (thanks God!).

 

Nicolas%20Cage%20Laugh.gifThis movie starts as it was a TV series that came out in the middle 90s, with a seven-minute recap of what happened in the previous instalments, in case we missed them. I wish I did, though. Then, there are tons of fight scenes between Alice – Jovovich – and many zombie-like creatures, a zombie dragon (yes, it’s in the movie), her main antagonist played by Iain Gland.

 

trailer68374Seriously, there’s nothing else to say about this… thing. The best part of The Final Chapter is by far Milla Jovovich as Alice and this is saying something.

 

Other than that, shaky cam, horrible CGI effects 90s-like and meaningless dialogues between paper-like characters are the only features the viewer should expect from this atrocity.

 

f1cb3213249c849827956a72442401f6Let me just jump right into the final act of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. As you might guess – in fact everyone sees it coming – at the end of the flick there is the big, final face-off between Jovovich and Gland. And you know what happens? Their fight, beyond being realised with one of the most chopped editing I have seen in a movie, is continuously interrupted by flash-forwards, which show on screen (!!) the percentages of success the fighters may have if they do this move or this other trick.

 

I have no words to describe Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. So far, it’s the worst movie of 2017, there is nothing interesting or worth mentioning about it. Also, the action/fight scenes that could have made this movie an average Sci-fi flick to watch at 3am with friends and some boost are washed out and poorly executed.

 

Don’t see this movie guys, save your money for other stuff; don’t allow Anderson to make further profit; don’t underwhelm the horror cinema by watching this cash-grabbing awful thing. Cheers!

 

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #6 Rob Zombie’s Halloween

*Skip the premise to jump directly to the post if you’ve read it in my previous articles*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget  and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not  just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.


Halloween (2007) is the Rob Zombie’s remake – or I’d better call it a re-imagination – of the 1978’s movie directed by the mastermind of John Carpenter, who brought on screen for the first time the famous and unbeatable villain known as Michael freaking Myers.

I’ve talked about the controversy surrounding Rob Zombie in my previous post about The Lords of Salem. So, part of the mistrust towards this movie is due to people’s hatred to Zombie. At the same time, most of the viewers dislike this remake to be way to different from the original. First of all, I have to say that I don’t mind this different approach at all. Secondly, and I know a lot of people will disagree on that, I think the original Halloween is the weakest Carpenter’s product.

Let’s now drive into the movie itself. The plot, set in the fictional Midwestern town of Haddonfield in Illinois, is rather simple. On Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers inexplicably murders his sister and is committed to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Fifteen years later, he escapes and returns home to kill again, all the while eluding his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, who suspects Michael’s intentions, following him back to Haddonfield.

However, the first twist Mr. Zombie executes for this movie consists of setting a long and detailed background for the reason why the young and creepy Michael became the cold-blooded psychopath mask-wearing Myers. Through this storytelling, the director is able to give depth to his main villain, something that Carpenter didn’t even try to do. Sheri Moon Zombie – who’s in this film as well, of course – plays Michael’s mother and she gave a performance less awful than the majority of people think. She’s not excellent either, but her ‘dislikeability’ is useful to explain why her son turned into a monster.

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The rest of the movie is quite loyal to the original, even though the acting and the all look and feel are a little bit better for me. Furthermore, Zombie pays the due respect towards Carpenter’s Halloween by reproducing the same cult scenes and using the same dialogue’s expressions.

The movie still has flaws: Zombie didn’t intervene on the shaky-cam to make the action sequences better, some dialogues are very poorly written, the main characters are well portrayed – especially Dr. Loomis, played by the one and only Malcolm McDowell – but substantially dumb.

Still, the movie flows well throughout the 110 minutes runtime and there is a lot of entertainment too. This is especially due to the funny cameos – named Danielle Harris, Udo Kier, Brad Dourif, Danny Trejo and the duo Sid Haig-Bill Mosely coming directly from Zombie’s The house of 1000 corpses and The Devil’s rejects.

In conclusion, this movie isn’t flawless, but it’s still watchable, entertaining, with a good cinematography and a dreadful atmosphere. Above all, Zombie’s Halloween has refreshed the Halloween franchise, which to me needed an invigoration. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #5 The Lords of Salem

*Skip the premise to jump directly to the post if you’ve read my previous articles*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

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The Lords of Salem (2012) is an independent horror movie written, produced and directed by the controversial Rob Zombie.

It’s fair to say that Rob Zombie is one of the most divisive directors working today, not only in the horror industry. To be honest, he’s one of my favourites, even though he’s not immune to criticism, since his previous movies weren’t perfect at all. Still, to me they are way better than a lot of people seem to think.

Unfortunately, the negative opinion surrounding the guy and his works is shared by the Hollywood majors, which decided not to release both The Lords of Salem and 31 (2016), the latest Zombie’s Flick.

Enough with the general contest. The Lords of Salem, starring Sheri Moon Zombie – Rob’s wife, who appears in every single movie of her hubby – tells the story of an alternative radio host who comes across a coursed disc, which has the power to give people visions and blow their mind apart – metaphorically. Of course, Heidi – Sheri Moon – decides to play it during her program and weird things start to happen in and around Salem, Massachusetts.

The premise sounds kind of corny, I know. But it is original enough and the tone set from the very beginning makes quite easy for the audience to empathise with the situation and Heidi, who is probably the most successful character portrayed by Sheri Moon in her career. Hey, I ain’t complaining watching her on screen, but she had to prove herself as a decent actress beyond a smoking hot chick. And she eventually did in this movie.

The majority of Zombie’s critics have argued that he doesn’t realize movies, but feature length musical videos. To me, that’s not even a criticism per se. Zombie pays detailed attention to the visual aspect of his movies and that is what elevates his stories to an higher level. The Lords of Salem is no exception. On the contrary, it’s probably his best visual work. And I’m not exaggerating by saying The Lords of Salem has the same cinematographic and photographic intensity of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies.

lords-of-salem-dogs

I know what you guys are wondering right now. Is it a scary movie? In my humble opinion, the answer is yes. It’s scary, filled with a dreadful atmosphere and a couple of inevitable – but also well-executed – jump-scares. As per usual, the problem with this movie lies on the score. Do you like heavy metal? You’ll probably love the movie’s soundtrack. Do you hate that genre? You’ll probably hate the score. Simple as that.

the-lords-of-salem-5-900x0-c-default

All in all, The Lords of Salem is probably the best Zombie’s film (alongside with the remake of Halloween… guess what’s the next movie on the list?) but at the same time it’s vastly underrated because it wasn’t promoted by Hollywood. And, once again, Mr. Zombie is a fifty-fifty director, whose movies aren’t easy to sell.

I recommend you guys to see The Lords of Salem. It’s a tough experience that requires loads of attention and patience – yes, the pace is not Fury Road-like – but I assure you it’s worth your time. Cheers.

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #3 The Crazies

*Skip the premise if you already read my first posts of the list*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

thecrazies2010

The Crazies (2010) is a zombie-mystery horror film directed by Breck Eisner, whose latest movie is the awesome masterwork broadly known as Vin Diesel’s The Last Witch Hunter. Just kidding, The Last Shit Crapper is one of the worst movies of 2015.

Fortunately for us, The Crazies plays in another league. Basically, it tells the story of sheriff David Dutten (played awesomely by Timothy Olyphant, in one of his career best roles) who lives in a small American Stephen-King-type-of-town.

The movie starts quite abruptly with the main character trying to deal, from the very beginning, with people going bad shit crazy in his home town.

Quite an opening, right? Apart from that though, the movie is not original and it follows the trite stereotype of the zombie contagion that turns everyone into a ravenous douchebag trying to eat brains. Being a remake of the very successful – but flowed by any means – 1973 movie of the same name, the originality factor is discarded per se. Despite of these very little promising hints, the movie itself is quite a surprise.

The fast opening sets the tone for the entire flick, throughout which fast-paced and well-directed scenes follow one another with almost no breaks. The tension is palpable in every moment and the rhythm is faster than the audience should expect. From this point of view as well as from how the zombies are realized, I strongly believe World War Z took inspiration from the Breck Eisner’s film.

Despite the speed of the movie, the characters are compelling and well portrayed by the cast. To me, Mr. Eisner nailed the direction in this movie, first being able to introduce the story with numerous breath-taking sequences and secondly sketching out the protagonists step by step. In particular, there is a scene where Sheriff David, his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and his deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) are left behind and carless in the middle of an highway and they start to argue to blame each other. This scene is filled with minute details of the characters’ thoughts as well as with tension and desperation. Excellent acting and direction.

crazies

Yet, another important feature in this movie is the one element that could have been a deadly flaw for the film itself. And it was something that, as a viewer, I was really afraid of. In fact, the movie is obviously divided in three acts, which take place in different locations though – one in the small town, the second into a military camp, the last along the highway. This variety could have caused a vibe change within the movie, but all in all it gave a plus instead.

In conclusion, The Crazies definitely belongs to the list of those movies that deserve more than they have been given in terms of critiques and general appreciation. It’s beyond the shadow of a doubt an interesting movie that provides the audience with tension, entertainment, good performances and decent practical effects. The ‘rewatchability’ factor is at a good grade in this movie.

In my humble opinion, a couple of scenes even elevate this movie to the level of a must see. On the other hand, the unoriginal plot and the lame finale scale it down to the place it deserves – that of a fun, well made, surprisingly good ride everyone should take a chance to watch. Cheers.