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: Day Of The Dead (1985)

day of the dead scream factory I don’t think I’ve ever really given George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead a fair shot. I’m not quite sure why. Back in my VHS-renting days at my local Family Video, I remember watching both versions of Night, Dawn and Day. Eventually I got one of the cheapo copies of the original movie on DVD and became a huge fan of Dawn to the point where I got that four disc DVD set several years back. But what about Day? Why had I only ever watched that movie once?

One reason might go back to a snafu at a video store in college. I went to school at Ohio Wesleyan in the small town of Delaware. There’s a nice main street that has (had?) a guitar store, a record store, several restaurants and a lot of other little places to check out. While walking around my freshman year, I saw a privately owned video store that was going out of business and therefore selling off its stock. I walked through and picked up a quartet of movies: Mom, Leprechaun In Space, Hot Potato and Day Of The Dead. The first three were just curiosities, but I was excited to own this Romero film. When I got back to my dorm, though, I slid the tape out of the cover and realized it was actually Dawn. I wound up falling even harder in love with that movie, to the point where I would have it on while studying or working on a paper and even fell asleep to it several times.

It’s funny to think of how my favorite horror movie list might look these days had I had easier access to Day. And, thanks to my buddy Rob passing me the recently released Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Day Of The Dead, now I do. Romero’s third zombie film was originally going to be a giant, big-budget, explosion-filled action film, but instead he decided to split up his deal to also make Knightriders and Creepshow. In the excellent documentary included on the disc, Romero says he loves the finished version because he distilled the original script into a smaller, more claustrophobic script that focused on a group of scientists and soldiers in an underground research facility trying to figure out what’s going on with the risen dead.

One of the things I love so much about Dawn is that includes a little bit of everything, but not to the detriment of anything. Day, however, is a much more focused, angry film that focuses on the tensions rising not only from these people living in a world where one of the basic realities of life has been abolished, but also the ones that come from their shared task which includes wrangling zombies for research purposes. It’s not like these survivors are holed up and focused mainly on living like they were in Dawn, they’re constantly staring death in the face, which means they can’t ignore it no matter how many RVs you set up with tropical decorations. There’s a lot of emotion in the works here and it’s amazingly well conveyed by the assembled cast.

day of the dead VHS

And, man, Tom Savini and his crew absolutely murdered the effects in this film. The gore gags are fantastic — made all the more realistic thanks to the use of actual pigs’ blood and entrails — and the zombie make-up and appliances are just insanely good looking. As much as I love Dawn, I like how the zombies in Day look less neon-y. And, of course, the best of the bunch is Bub, the zombie we see learning (or remembering) how to use some common household items. This is a theme Romero wanted to include more of in this film that gets picked up on in Land Of The Dead and probably the next to films Diary Of The Dead and Survival Of The Dead, which I haven’t seen yet. It such a cool theme that I never really thought about before, but why wouldn’t zombies begin to evolve after a fashion the longer they’re around, especially as they become the dominant life form.

If you’re a fan of Day Of The Dead or haven’t ever seen it, I highly recommend checking out the Scream Factory offering. The movie looks fantastic and I had a good time going through a few of the special features. The documentary has just about everyone involved with the film talking about what it was like to make the movie. Since I came to horror so long after this movie came out, I didn’t realize how reviled it was when it debuted in theaters. I’m glad to hear that it’s gone on an upswing in fan popularity over the years because it really is a complex film that says a lot about society without being ham-fisted and still including some of the all time best special effects of all time. What are you waiting for? Go watch it already!

13.5 Quick Movie Reviews

2009-01-17
5:32:32 am

Hey gang, sorry again about my complete lack of posts lately, things have been crazy. I have been keeping myself busy with movies though, so here are 13 short reviews about some flicks I’ve seen lately, plus one movie I didn’t watch.

SIX STRING SAMURAI (1998)

I really liked this post apocalyptic-like road trip movie with a samurai Buddy Holly. The howler-monkey kid got annoying fast, but the action and snappy dialogue kept things moving along at quite a clip. Much better than I thought it would be.

OUR MAN FLINT (1966)

Flint’s a swinging secret agent int he 60s more worried about having a good time than stopping an international incident (at first at least). Great, campy 60s spy fun, that both pokes fun at but also sets itself up in the same universe as James Bond. A lot of fun, can’t wait to check out the sequel.

THE MAJORETTES (1986)

I don’t actually remember too much about this movie other than it involved some maniac hunting down and killing high school cheerleaders. It’s a way lower budget movie and apparently very little of the money went to snag actors who can, you know, act. Skip this one unless you’re a horror completist or you’re looking to cross another movie off in your copy of Creature Feature (like me).

DAY OF THE DEAD (2008)

I was actually pretty impressed with this remake-in-name-mostly of Romero’s Day of the Dead. I’m not a huge fan of the original or anything, but I wasn’t expecting much out of this flick and was surprised. The story moves along the same speeds as the fast Zack Snyder/28 Days Later-like zombies, but my favorite part is seeing actual people I recognize like Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon and Ving Rhames killing and becoming zombies. When was the last time you saw a non genre actor semi-famous person in a horror movie after they became famous? Hopefully it’s a trend that will continue. I’m actually kind of surprised that they didn’t release this movie in theaters. Oh well, a pretty good zombie movie all said and done, though not a classic.

THE SHADOW (1994)

In my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong when you populate a movie about a pulp hero with actors like Alec Baldwin, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, James Hong and Jonathan Winters and luckily The Shadow held up my opinions. I’m not all that familiar with pulp heroes, especially the Shadow, but I like the idea of him having a network of people all over the city (usually people he has saved) who help him out. There’s all kinds of cool stuff like secret labs and ancient forces of good and evil. Oh and for 30 Rock fans, I highly encourage you to think of these as the early days of Jack Donaghy.

LAST MAN STANDING (1996)

A pretty cool story about a gangster-era hitman (Willis) holing up in a ghost town populated by two rival gangs, gets slowed down with a little too much back and forth back stabbing. I definitely don’t remember all the details about this one, but I’m a Willis fan. Michael Imperioli plays pretty much the same role he always does and Walken stars as Willis’ main competition and they fight which is cool. Can you imagine Walken fighting now? Aside from a dance fight I mean. Oh, also Walter Hill of Warriors fame directed LMS, so it’s gotta be pretty good, right?

FOXY BROWN (1974)

So far my experience with blaxploitation films as been hit or miss, but luckily Foxy is enough of a hit. In the plus column, Pam Grier cuts quite the figure, plus she kicks ass. I also like the idea of a group of inner city dwellers taking the law into their own hands and creating their own kind of police force. I’m not a big fan of the sexual assault stuff, but I guess that’s all part of the exploitation riff. Too bad Foxy and Shaft never got together. That would have been a great flick.

LEATHERHEADS (2008)

I’m not sure if I’ve professed my heterosexual man love for George Clooney on the blog before, but I’m a big fan. I think we’d get along smashingly. I do know that I’ve talked about how much I like the American Office, so you probably know I’m a John Krasinski fan. So, Leatherheads was a good flick in my book. It doesn’t make my top 10 sports movies of all time (well, maybe, I’d have to come up with that list actually), but it’s fun and it offered up a look at a period in professional football that I am completely unfamiliar with, so that was cool. Of course, it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure how accurate it was, but who cares? Like I said it was fun. Has similar story elements to League of the their Own (which probably would make my top 10 because I’m a huge softy). Not groundbreaking by any means, but worth a watch.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008)

I liked Leatherheads more than Journey, but it’s not a terrible movie (even if it is very predictable). The special effects bounce back and forth between boderline okay, pretty good and not so great, but the effort is there. I really wish I would have been able to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on the phenomenon in the 80s and have gotten a taste for it by watching Superman Returns (ugh) and Nightmare Before Christmas in lame separate the background from the foreground 3D. I can’t freaking wait to see My Bloody Valentine 3D!!!

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

Holy crap I loved this movie. Rickey got me a subscription to a horror movie mag called Horror Hound that’s not expertly edited, but still offers up tons and tons of horror goodness. One such bit of goodness was a whole feature on Klowns. The movie is just so much freaking over the bigtop fun. I really can’t believe that a studio made this movie. Please, do yourself a favor and check it out. Also of interest on the DVD is the Chiodo brothers’ home movies from when they were making monster movies as kids. Pretty impressive stuff for pre-teens with a 16mm camera.

VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003)

The combination of Hong Kong action and vampires drew me to this flick pretty quickly on Netflix. Heck, it’s even got Jackie Chan in a roll that’s more than him just walking on and being called Jackie (which he is). As with a lot of movies like this that I’ve seen, the special effects and fight scenes are sick, but the story itself is nothing new. I did really like the cool retractable whip/sword weapons they used. I think I designed something very similar what I was younger.

LICENSE TO DRIVE (1988)

If you thought Corey Haim could have been a little bit smoother, though still pretty spazzy in Lost Boys and Corey Fledman from the Burbs could use a little mellowing out, then License to Drive is the perfect 2 Coreys vehicle for you (puns!). Haim fails his driving test, but still tells a young (though still 18 by my math) Heather Graham that he can pick her up. It’s basically like an episode of a sitcom, but stretched to 90 minutes and definitely edgier than your average Saved By The Bell. Good stuff. Next up from the Coreys? Dream a Little Dream (which I have absolutely no knowledge of).

LEGEND (1985)

Legend is one of those movies that I don’t remember at all, but have since come to find that it’s kind of a big deal (to some people). I knew that Tim Curry was in it, but had no idea Tom Cruise was. I thought it might be kind of a funny movie, but when I saw Tom prancing around the forest or whatever I clicked this badboy off and deleted it from my queue. I am no fan of fantasy movies.

JOHNNY BE GOOD (1988)

I’m becoming a pretty big fan of Netflix’s recommendations. I started watching Johnny after digging License and wasn’t disappointed. It’s got an older and more confident Anthony Michael Hall and a completely goofy Robert Downey Jr.. There’s a good deal of goofiness to this movie, which focuses on Hall as a football star getting courted by and visiting different colleges that want him. Downey plays his wacky best friend, but what struck me about the movie is how real it can be at times. Hall and Downey sell their characters like they’re up for an award. Oh, it’s also got Uma Thurman as Hall’s girlfriend and Jennifer Tilly has a quick role. If you’re an 80s movie fan, or just curious to see what Downey might have been like back in the late 80s give Johnny a look.

AUGUST RUSH (2007)

Sometimes you’ve got to add a movie for your lady to the ol’ queue. I was pleasantly surprised with August Rush, not because the story is all the unique (you’ve seen the broad strokes before plenty of times), but because of it’s view of music. The way they show the young boy experiencing music in everyday life, what it means to him and how he’s eventually able to play it in his own unorthodox way really struck me. If you’ve got to watch a chick flick with your girl and you’re a music fan, this is a good choice. Also, Keri Russell is in it and looking good.

KING OF KONG (2007)

If you haven’t seen this documentary about the surprisingly competitive world of classic arcade high score competitions, please stop reading and watch it right now. This one makes it into my top 10 movies of 2007 (should a list ever actually exist). First off, it shows off a world I’ve never seen, which you know I love. Also, that world is full of deceit, greed, cowardice, heroics, villainy, triumph and defeat. The way the story is put together feels like a really well scripted feature film, though the events and the ups and downs are completely real. If you’ve ever liked anything I’ve written about on here, watch this movie.

SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY (2007)

Seeing as how The Death and Return of Superman is the story that got me collecting comics in the first place (and how deeply and utterly I bought into the idea that any of the four subsequent people could be the real Superman), I was very excited when I heard a few years ago that DC/WB was going to make an animated movie about that very event, I was psyched. I figured it probably wouldn’t have EVERYthing that made the comic so cool (Superman turning back to save a family instead of finishing Doomsday off, that very 90s JLA facing off against Doomsday, an eyes-swollen-shut Guy Gardner asking his teammate to aim his fist at Doomsday so he could blast it, not to mention the four other “Supermen”), but that it could offer up a cool new look on the idea. And it’s definitely a different look. I would have preferred them either go straight with the established look and continuity of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini-verse or have a drastically different art direction on the project as little things like Superman’s cheek lines become distracting. I was also distracted by the different voices for these characters that I recognize from a specific other incarnation that looked very similar but sound completely different. Even at 77 minutes it felt kind of slow, but the fight scenes are pretty great (though they don’t hold a candle to JLU). I still hold on to my dream of one day seeing an epic, animated incarnation of the Death and Return of Superman though. A boy can dream, right?