Halloween Scene 2019: Return Of The Living Dead 3 (1993)

Let’s! Get! Into It! I decided to kick off this year’s Halloween Scene towards the beginning of September because, why not?! If you want to get an idea of what I’m focusing on when it comes to comics and books, read this real quick. For movies, I’m trying something somewhat complicated. I want to alternate between movies I’ve seen and those I haven’t, while also following some kind of connection between films! To start with, I perused the incredibly dangerous corner of my office with shelves of old Wizards bolted about an organized pile of DVDs and Blu-rays to watch. There I spied the Vestron Blu of Return Of The Living Dead 3 and decided to give it a go! Continue reading Halloween Scene 2019: Return Of The Living Dead 3 (1993)

Halloween Scene: Fear No Evil (1981)

fear_no_evilWhen my buddy Rickey recommends I check out a movie, I do it. He also loved Housebound and also recommended I check out the excellent The Shortcut among many, many others over the years. So when he handed me a stack of horror DVDs, I decided to start immediately with Frank LaLoggia’s Fear No Evil.

I’d never heard of this film before, but it’s got elements of The Omen, Carrie, Night Of The Living Dead and even Grease. That might sound like rip-off-central, but the end result is a strangely unique, dark and creepy movie featuring the reincarnation of Lucifer as a high school nerd who raises the dead to help in his evil mission with a soundtrack featuring The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Talking Heads!

I went in knowing absolutely nothing about this film and unfamiliar with just about everyone involved, but was surprised by this tale of biblical epic that also marks LaLoggia’s very first directorial effort. I watched a DVD, but I can easily imagine a Blu-ray version that would look absolutely stunning (assuming there’s a good print bopping around somewhere).

Overall, there were just so many elements that I enjoyed about this film, that I’m just going to go through them for your reading pleasure. The main kid who plays Andrew-Lucifer (Stefan Arngrim) is just perfect in this part. He’s super weird and disconcerting, maybe a bit over-the-top, but we all knew a kid like that in high school. Speaking of the setting, it feels a little Grease-y (the main guy wears a leather jacket, his girlfriend an orange Pink Lady-esque shiny jacket). In fact, the boyfriend is a real piece of complicated work, with a macho pose, but an incredibly androgynous look. He even kisses Andrew in the shower in front of all of his friend at one point in one of the more surprising moments that could be unpacked for days. Oh, and again later after Andrew makes him grow breasts.

Other scenes that were surprising, but not in an exploitative way, include one where a baby starts bleeding during baptism, the use of a dog for an evil spell and the most bonkers dodge ball scene of all time. I’m not getting too far into the details of the film because I don’t quite remember everything, but I am very excited about it and want the world to get in on this train. Do yourself a favor and go check Fear No Evil out as soon as possible (or wait until a dark and stormy night).

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Living Dead (1990)

night of the living dead 1990 poster Towards the end of last week I was looking through my Netflix Instant queue and realized that a whole bunch of movies I wanted to watch were going to leave the streaming service on July 1st. That day has come and gone and I got to watch three out of 20 films, which is just about what I expected to get done.

One of those movies was Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. I realized as I was cueing the movie up that this was actually my first foray into the world of Romero’s films (even if tangentially) and very well might have been my first straight-ahead zombie film. I remember getting the movie from my beloved Family Video and taking it over to my buddy Andy’s house for an overnight movie marathon. I didn’t remember too much, but that scene where Johnnie gets tackled into the grave stone has stuck with me forever because it came out of nowhere and looked so damn real.

This time around I might have been able to see some of the movie magic involved in that particular scene, I was actually much more taken with the plot of this film. I’m not saying that the remake will ever take the place of the original in my heart, but there is a whole lot to like in this version which goes a few different places the original doesn’t. Those differences are important and, as far as I’m concerned, the only reason to do a remake. You’ve got to have something new to say or do, otherwise, what’s the point?

The set-up of this film is the same as the original in that Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and her brother Johnnie (Bill Moseley) heading way out in the middle of nowhere to put flowers on their mom’s grave. While there they encounter their first zombie. Barbara escapes and runs to a farm house where she meets fellow survivor Ben (Tony Todd), basement dwellers Harry (Tom Towles), Helen (McKee Anderson) and Sarah Cooper (Heather Mazur) and young couple Tom (William Butler) and Judy Rose (Katie Finneran).The group must not only deal with the oncoming hordes of the undead, but their differing opinions on how to stay alive.

I won’t get into all the differences between the films because, honestly, my memory isn’t solid enough to do that without watching the original right after the remake and I had Death Wish sequels to watch, so that’s not happening. Plus, since I saw this one first, the details stick in my head more than the original even though I’ve seen that one far more times. But, the main difference that makes me think this remake has its own value comes in the form of Barbara. While the original version of the character is a screaming mess throughout most of the film, this new version goes through a fantastic metamorphosis that starts where the original character began and changes her into an incredibly capable, bad ass character.

I noticed while watching this time that her evolution can be documented by the clothing changes she makes throughout the film. In the beginning she’s wearing a dress. Not long after she meets Ben, she’s putting on socks and boots. Later she pulls pants on under her dress and eventually she ditches that garment altogether and rolls with just a white tank top. With each wardrobe change, you get the feeling that she’s adapting more and more to this crazy new world she’s a part of. Some people might read this as a kind of “man-ification,” but I saw the changes are coming from a place of pure practicality, but then again, I hate gender-based labels.

So, if you’re a Romero fan who shies away from the many (MANY) remakes of his films or just someone who missed out on this 1990 offering, I’d say give it a shot. Maybe wait until the original isn’t so fresh in your mind, but try to go in with an open mind and look for the good changes within.  Plus, this being a Savini joint, it’s got some rad gore effects and actually looks really great all around. I wonder why he doesn’t direct more.

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

night_of_the_living_dead Sometimes you think so highly of a film that you just assume you’ve blogged about it already. That was the case with Night Of The Living Dead, a movie I love, but apparently not enough to spend time writing about on UM.com. As you probably know George A. Romero’s classic film finds a group of survivors holing up in a country house as the dead start roaming the earth. The film itself never uses the Z word, but this style of creature soon became synonymous with a kind of monster that still dominates the genre to this day.

We start off with Barbra and her brother Johnny who have traveled several hours to this remote town in order to place flowers on their father’s grave. While there, they encounter a man who seems normal at first, but winds up attacking both siblings and killing Johnny. Barbra goes on the run and eventually finds the house. Soon enough she’s joined by Ben, a very proactive man looking to turn this place into a fortress. After fortifying the main floor, they come to realize that five people have been hiding out in the basement: a married couple with an injured daughter and a pair of teenaged kids who are dating. Conflicts instantly start brewing between the upstairs and downstairs factions, thanks to Harry, a head strong guy who wants them all to hole up in the basement where his zombie-bitten daughter happens to be slowly turning over to the side of flesh loving baddies.

The beauty of a Romero zombie movie is that he’s not just trying to scare people, he’s also trying to hold an undead mirror up to society to show off its uglier side. Some of these elements are overt while other sneak on by. I think the conveyed message can also change a bit as society changes and the film stays the same. For instance, there’s a lot of race elements being explored thanks to Ben being such a strong character who spends most of the film bossing white people around with most of them listening.

But you can also read into the presented ideas of womanhood. The movie gets some flack because Barbra spends so much of it in a catatonic state, which is understandable. However, I don’t think that’s a commentary on all women, but just the presentation of one particular character. Just look at the other two women presented in the movie. Harry’s wife Helen and even Judy the young lady from the basement are pretty strong and cool-headed.

I also think there’s something being said — or conveyed — about how city life makes people less prepared for these kinds of disastrous events. Barbra and Johnny make a big deal about how they had to drive out to the middle of nowhere which made me assume they lived in the city. I also assumed that Ben was from more of a small town scenario, but he later says he’s not from the small farm town, so my theory might actually be blown to hell.

Whatever the case may be, Romero created a film that not only had something to say, but presents itself in such a way that you can keep finding new aspects in the work that make you think. Speaking of emotions, seeing how the zombified kid takes out her mom — with a gardening shovel instead of her teeth — totally bummed me out as a parent. I used to think, “Once they turn, just blast them away!” But not only are they in a world that’s never seen a zombie like this, but it’s also you’re freaking kid. Also, the ending of this movie is so freaking depressing and I kind of love that.

Watching this movie lead into a re-watch of Dawn Of The Dead, which is still one of my favorite movies regardless of genre. Seeing the films together in such a short period made me notice a few things. First, these movies are like Nirvana songs going from loud to quiet to expertly. Second, while these films obviously both feature undead monsters, they’re more about human beings trying to intellectually deal with the fact that the world they once knew has been completely turned upside down. Can you imagine what it would really be like if people stopped dying in the traditional sense? I don’t think I can. And third, these movies all feature characters who can do things very well. That’s why we’re following Ben and the crew in the mall instead of some other randos, they’re survivors. They’re the ones that can survive in this environment…for a time. Eventually, they all screw up one way or anything and the mindless zombies win out against the smart humans. There’s a poetry there that I don’t think I can parse, but love experiencing. Now I really want to give Day Of The Dead and the 1990 Night remake another watch to see whether they continue those themes.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

amazing spider-man xbox 360 I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record here, but Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 is still one of my all time favorite video games. It did the open world/mission-based thing incredibly well while also offering all kinds of Spidey-based add-on powers and moves to keep things interesting as you swung through NYC, stopping occasionally to kick a criminal’s teeth in. There was a connection to the movie of the same name, of course, but not a huge one, which is great for me because I think the middle of that movie stinks

As I mentioned when I talked about the trailer for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions — which I erroneously referred to as Dark Dimensions for some reason — I really wanted to like Ultimate Spider-Man which took many of its cues from Spidey 2, but also seemed to dumb things down more than I liked. Since then I’ve kind of shied away from the franchise after not hearing great things about games like Friend Or Foe and Web Of Shadows. But, when some of my friends who are far more into video games than I started telling me that Amazing Spider-Man — based on the film reboot I still haven’t seen — might just be the next Spidey 2, I was definitely interested and actually got a copy of the game for Christmas. 

And it’s close, but it didn’t really hit all the same notes for me. In fact this game, while a lot of fun and challenging at times, really didn’t seem to offer much in the way of new gameplay experience. I’m far from an unbiased voice in this conversation, but the game itself really just felt like an updated version of a game that’s nearly a decade old. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I was really hoping for something that would take a great game, update it for a new console and also add a lof of new goodness on to it. I mean, the open world style of games have been around for a long time and yet this one didn’t seem to add much to the sandbox. 

And yet, I still had fun with the game. I’ve mentioned plenty of times here and there that my daughter Lucy actually really got excited about this game. For a few weeks she liked watching the old 60s Spider-Man cartoon, but then lost interest but still liked the character. She saw me playing Amazing Spidey and really dug it. In fact, one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to finish this game is that I basically stopped playing it when the kid wasn’t awake. Also, not for nothing, but when a toddler is yelling at you to play a game, it can take away some of the fun. 

So there was an added level of doing something cool with my daughter that she dug while also going through a game that I liked for the most part. Again, it’s not a bad game by any means, but I was just hoping for more. Even though it didn’t do everything I wanted, I still had a great time web-swinging around a digital New York City, trying to figure out where I’ve been and where I can throw down with some bad guys. I even enjoyed the main storyline which does a cool job of mixing a zombie outbreak story and some crazy big mech robot stuff. That’s all aces in my book. 

I’ve already moved on to my next video game which actually happens to be Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions which is much more of a straight-ahead action game than an open world sandbox. I think I’m getting the hang of it and it’s a lot of fun to mash buttons while kicking bad guy butt and also hopping from timeline to timeline while experiencing one cohesive story. Fun stuff so far. I’ll probably review it when I finish, which might be another five months, we’ll see! 

Casting Internets

I wrote a piece about the Walking Dead Board Game for CBR.

I’ve talked to Todd McFarlane a few times and he’s always a pleasure. This time was about Haunt for CBR.

I also did a fun list for Topless Robot about the best comic book watering holes.

I’m also the main toy guy for Wizard World, go check out what I wrote in #15 and 16.

My friend Sam made these awesome R2-D2-themed wings. They are awesome, as I said.

Kevin Huizenga showed off the cover to Ganges #4 last week. That should be a great comic.

Drawn & Quarterly‘s having a sale, go pick out something pretty.

Brian Moylan’s Gawker post about the most recent episode of Real Housewives of New York is amazing. Need proof? “She’s just reaching into that Jonathan Taylor Thomas Trapper Keeper brain of hers and pulling out these crazy things to say that make no sense. They’re about as appropriate to the situation as a light dusting of glitter, which is what Kelly would like to sprinkle over everything—and then give it a slap bracelet.” Boom. I’m jealous both at how funny Moylan is and the fact that he gets paid to be that snarky.

A new Aerosmith record being recorded? I’ll believe it when I see it. (via Rolling Stone)Phil Noto‘s Thundarr the Barbarian artwork makes me wish that someone was making comics of old cartoons like these.

Wired‘s piece about The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Paul McCartney’s long-time interest in electronic music is pretty fascinating.

I’m definitely curious about Esquire‘s recipe for the Arnold Palmer martini. Now I just need a spare liter of vodka and a half cup of black tea…
This “Plastic Villains” T-shirt I saw in Shirtoid is pretty awesome.

I don’t want to get too excited this far out, but I like the sound of the American Gods TV series being six seasons with a huge budget. Let’s hope it does well enough to not only make it to TV but also last longer than the two to three seasons HBO tends to give things. (via /Film)Ulises Farinas‘ Doctor Strange commission makes me wish there was a really good Dr. Strange comic out there.

Finally, Robot 6er Michael May has a really interesting piece about comic companies perpetuating this myth that there’s a huge plan in place for their universes. The more embedded you become in the industry the more you realize this is true. The fact that he based the piece on a How I Met Your Mother bit makes it all the better.

Late To The Xbox Live Party: Prototype (2009)

Much like the last game I finished–Red Faction Guerrilla–and the next game I just started–Crackdown 2Prototype is an open world sandbox game that allows you to run around doing side missions while also taking care of the more important missions when you want. Once again, I didn’t pay attention to any of the cut scenes, so I don’t really know what was going on with the story, but you’re a dude named Alex who gets different morphing abilities as the game progresses. You run around NYC fighting increasingly hard to kill monsters and military people because some virus has been unleashed and you have a version of it, but you’re also trying to stop it. Your different abilities include super strength, a huge blade hand and a whip-like stretchy arm among others. You can also glide, jump really high and not get too damaged if you fall from a great height. Combine that with the fact that Alex is running around none other than New York City and it becomes pretty clear that Prototype is, essentially, an updated version of Spider-Man 2, another game that Activision created back in 2004. On one hand, I’m cool with that because I like these kinds of games, but on the other hand, it feels like it should have been bigger and possibly more open than it was, like the game engine could use not just a face lift but a reconstruction.

As I mentioned, in addition to doing the main missions which usually pit you against the military, some crazy zombified citizens or both, Prototype lets you do all kinds of side missions. These vary from vehicle-based and destruction based to foot races and a jumping game where you need to land as close to the bullseye as possible. Fun stuff, though I certainly liked the last two kinds more than the others. Had I been more interested in some of these side challenges, I probably would have earned more points which would have in turn made me fight better. Ah well, I’m not that invested in these things.

I wish I could say that I loved the game, but I didn’t. I had a somewhat deja vu feeling as I traversed places in the game that I remember visiting as Spider-Man and some places in real life. Another negative I found was that the controls weren’t very crisp. You can select a variety of different offensive and defensive abilities using the D-pad, but I can’t tell you how many times I went to select one and another popped up for no reason. I could reasonably blame my less-than-dexterous thumbs for that, but what makes it all the worse is when I went to hit that button to turn said power off, it would continue on. Not sure what the deal was, but precision wasn’t the name of the game. Speaking of which, the aiming function was pretty annoying. If you were facing one enemy or a group of the same kind, it worked great, but if you’re trying to fight one very powerful villain in a crowd with the less-powerful, the targeting got wonky. You’d think it would zero in on the most powerful and dangerous (especially in the final boss battle) but nope. I’d be in the middle of a pretty heated battle, grab something heavy to throw at the big bad guy and all of a sudden would be aiming taking out some chump with a gun by way of thrown helicopter. Wah wah. There were other control or focus problems, but I would generalize them as being part of a game that wasn’t completely hashed out by the time it was released.

However, I think I liked the game overall. I didn’t pay too much for it used and considering the sandbox format is a favorite, I had a good time running and jumping my way around NYC. I think it nailed the parkour aspects better than something like Mirror’s Edge (which I quit). Maybe the developers just tried to put too much into the game and certain things suffered. While the city searching was great, the vehicle stuff just seemed tedious (but that could be because I don’t like driving in games). The combat was pretty good, but the aiming wasn’t. The powers were fun to play with, but I got the feeling that one or two were better than the others. So, while the game was no where near perfect, I think it’s a good enough example of this kind of game that will be worth your while if you’re a fan of such things.