Dastardly Double Feature Episode 4 – The First Three Romero Zombie Films

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Mr. Dastardly and I mix it up with George A. Romero’s amazing Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead, a true trilogy of terror.

Listen here, if you dare!

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Halloween Scene: My Halloween Watch List

Goodness gracious! I was looking through my unpublished drafts and found this post about the rest of the horror movies I watched during October. There’s some good stuff in here, so let’s jump back in time a few months and think scary thoughts!

dawn of the dead originalAfter a super busy September and October, I’m still catching up on all of the movies I watched for work and fun. After focusing on new films early on in the season, I decided to go through my movie collection and Netflix to make a list of films I wanted to watch leading up to Halloween. The list had a total of 26 films, though I wound up removing five. All told, I watched 13 plus the seven films making up the original Halloween franchise. I’m saving a few of them for another post, but I did want to throw out a few thoughts about what turned out to be a major rewatch experience.

As it turned out, zombies were a huge part of this year’s list. Dawn and Day Of The Dead easily made the list along with Dance Of The Dead, the Dawn remake and World War Z. I didn’t get to those last two, but I keep seeing more and more things in those two Romero movies that I love. I’ve been seeing a lot of people dump on the zombie genre lately. To them I say, watch those two movies. They are amazing films, not just horror flicks. Meanwhile, I still have a great time with Dance which is just super impressive when you take into account it’s a low budget film that doesn’t look it. This is easily one of my favorite zombie movies from the past few decades. Continue reading Halloween Scene: My Halloween Watch List

Halloween Scene: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

George Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies of all time. I’ll go one further and say it’s one of my favorite movies period. There’s so much greatness in there from drama to horror and really everything in between. It’s a great film. I don’t feel the same way about Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, but I still like it. I get why fellow fans of the original would dislike this movie which just takes the basic concept of the original–people take shelter in a mall during a zombie apocalypse–and dumped most other things aside from a few other basics (pregnancy, cops in the mall) and made a whole new movie. But, if you just came out with a mall zombie movie, the outcries about it being a Dawn remake would have been deafening. So, I’m okay with it. The basic idea is cool enough that I would be okay with a new remake every few years as long as whoever worked on it moved enough pieces around to make it interesting.

And that’s why I like this remake, the basics might be the same, but the specifics are so different that I get drawn in. Both flicks have female entry points, but the difference between the two movies and characters is pretty huge. Unlike the original we start off in the woman’s house and really get personal with her, even seeing her last love making session with her husband. Then BANG zombie apocalypse is full on. She’s on the run and winds up catching up with other survivors. I like that Snyder kept the idea of a woman getting pregnant in all this mess, but I’m also glad that he transferred that to another character in order to give Sarah Polley’s Ana the opportunity to do lots of other things in the movie like fall for a fellow survivor and really get into the action. Speaking of which, the whole pregnancy thing gets insane in such an amazing and creepy way that I’m still surprised it’s in a pretty big budget studio horror movie. I just shook a bit thinking about it again. Bleh. But in a good way.

Another change I liked about the film is how it opens up a bit. The wide open claustrophobia of the first film is pretty amazing and complex, but there’s also something to be said about these people being proactive and looking to get the heck out of there. The building up of the trucks might be just a little goofy, but it made enough sense and seemed likely, so I was in. And the chainsaw thing is a GREAT idea, though not for a couple of the characters. Snyder seemed to have a good handle on mixing the “have fun with it” mentality with the “this is serious business” one in a way that really hits for me.

So, yeah, I like this movie and I’m glad I picked it up for a buck at a used book store in New Hampshire a month or so back. It’s cool to have different takes on both the zombie genre and a specific story idea like that of the original Dawn Of The Dead. I will say that I’m surprised exactly how much of this movie was borrowed or straight-up swiped for Dead Rising and its sequel–two video games I wished I loved but really wound up disliking. It might seem strange calling this out for a remake of another movie, but it felt at times like whole scenes from the movie were digitized and dropped into those games. Speaking of video games, I actually played Left 4 Dead 2 with my dad on Xbox Live, and I think the intense feeling of that game has helped put me into zombie movies a little bit better. There are scenes that felt exactly like the game with zombies coming on, the character blasting away and trying to push them away without dying. It’s kind of an interesting way that one medium can alter the way you experience another one. Fun stuff.

Halloween Scene: Dawn Of The Dead (1978) & House On Haunted Hill (1959)

Dawn Of The Dead is one of my absolute favorite movies, not even just horror. There’s something about it that used to draw me to it constantly in college. I bought a VHS of it on accident, thinking it was Day Of The Dead on a trip to a going out of business video store in my college town and watched it over and over. Eventually, I found the four disc set with the theatrical, extended and European versions of the movie as well as a whole disc of extra features. I used to even put the movie on when I was sleepy because there’s all that rad action in the beginning and then it cools down for a little while in the middle. That mix of action, horror, comedy and honest human reactions to extraordinary events make this, in my mind, one of the best all around movies, specifically because it hits all those bases. I love Usual Suspects for a lot of the same reasons, but it doesn’t have heads getting chopped off, now does it?

The movie, of course, is not perfect though. Director George Romero claims he wanted a comic book feel to the movie, which explains the bright red blood and pastel-to-neon complexioned zombies. None of that bothers me. What DOES bother me, though, is the sound effects. When one of our heroes punches someone, it sounds like something out of a Streets of Rage game for Sega Genesis.

Aside from that though, I think I’m firmly in love with this movie. We could talk about different aspects that someone might not like (it’s long, it goes back to that whole “humans are the real bad guys” motif that Romero and other zombie movie makers seems obsessed with), but I don’t think anyone could sway my opinion and, if I’m being honest, I’d probably think a little less of you for not liking the movie.

Speaking of those two potentially negative aspects of the film. This is one of the few slow burn type movies I really like. All those scenes of them playing in the arcade and going through the bank could be cut as far as the action goes, but all those little moments help to tell the emotional story. These are people living in a world that’s completely flipped the script on them. The dead don’t stay dead anymore. Can you imagine how that would change the way you think? Roger tries to ignore it, letting his bravado get in the way of his safety and he pays for it. Francine lets it overwhelm her at times, but she’s also a planner who’s smart enough to learn how to defend herself and more importantly fly the helicopter out there. All of them finding a refuge inside a mall isolates them for the shit going on in the rest of the world and gives them a place they could theoretically stay until things get better, they die or someone comes to save them. Once save inside their cocoon, they try to live the lives they’ve always wanted to live with every material thing they could ever want just a short walk away. But they’re not really happy. Without getting into it too heavy handedly, Romero deals with isolation and–corny as it sounds–the idea that money and objects don’t really make you happy. There’s a lot more going on here than simply “man is the real evil!”

I could talk about this movie all day and considering I still need to write up the next movie, I should probably move on. Oh, one last thing, I think Roger might be one of the most tragic characters in horror. He’s got a Madam Bovary vibe to him, though he romanticizes heroics instead of, well, romance.

I believe that House On Haunted Hill was not only the first Vincent Price movie I ever watched, but also one of the first old horror movies. We weren’t exactly early adopters in my house growing up, so it took a little while for us to get a DVD player, but once we did, I hopped on eBay and spent some of that glorious teenaged disposable income on DVDs. I got a four pack that included two double sided discs. This one has Hill and Satan’s School For Girls, which isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds. I don’t remember what’s on the other disc because, for whatever reason, I left it at home when I consolidated my DVD collection into a binder before moving out to New York. I know there was some Christmas-themed movie with a bunch of people in a house being hunted by a deranged man on the holiday. I think he used to live there and escaped from an asylum.

Anyway, I really loved this movie the first time I saw it and still do. Price’s character is just so wonderfully manic and kind of an asshole. He’s in most of the scenes, which is exactly how I like my Vincent Price movies. The story behind the movie is basically the exact plot of every ghost investigations show: a bunch of people get locked inside a supposedly haunted house and get scared by things. In this case, however, the people have a chance to win some big money if they last the night. Oh, also, there’s a murder plot a foot.

The movie has lots of twists and turns and not a few still-good scares. The old woman popping up out of nowhere looking like Nosferatu’s uglier, older sister gets me every time. The skeleton rising up at the very end really stayed with me too, for some reason from my first viewing, though I guess that’s because I didn’t already know the story.

SPOILER TIME. The house isn’t really haunted, though it is pretty damn creepy. Most of the things we’ve seen that give us the willies are either staged acts (the hanged woman) or just strange occurrences (the creepy old lady, she’s just creepy, not a monster). I’m still not 100% on the plot because I was doing some work while watching today, but the murder plot as a double and then, I believe, triple cross in there with Price walking away on top in the end. I like this movie even in spite of it having two traits I don’t really like: the haunted house and the “everything you knew is wrong” themes. As it turns out the house isn’t haunted, but even if it was, they’re still trapped in a big old house and go through this stuff in a short period of time, so they’re not staying in a place they could easily leave for months on end (which is what I hate about modern haunted house movies). The “what you thought is wrong” aspect is done in more of a Usual Suspects way than a High Tension way, which means you didn’t just waste your time watching something that doesn’t matter, but that you were being tricked along with the people in the movie, which I actually think is pretty rad. I should give this one another view in the near future to see how it plays with the twists fresh in my head.

These two movies aren’t really related other than the fact that they’ve both been remade. I’ve definitely seen the Dawn remake and don’t really remember it much, but would definitely see it again (love zombies movies AND Zack Snyder). I don’t think I’ve seen the Hill remake, though I always get it confused with The Haunting which I believe is a remake of the very similar sounding The Haunting Of Hill House. The real reason I paired them together is that they’re favorite horror films of mine, though very different that I wanted to give another look at and write down some thoughts. Hope you guys enjoyed it and let me know what you think in the comments section.