Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Director: George Romero

Starring: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reininger

Run time: 2:19

Rant: The year is now 1978. Ten years have passed since the release of the classic Night of the Living Dead. In those ten years George Romero directs a romantic comedy, a witchcraft movie, a virus movie (The Crazies, remade in 2010) and a movie about a vampire called Martin. In Martin, Romero teams up with long-time collaborator and fellow Pittsburgher Tom Savini for the very first time. At this point in time, Savini had only done two movies: Deathdream (1972) and Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile (1974), both directed by Bob Clark. Martin was he and Romero's first collaboration, but it would be Dawn of the Dead that would make Tom Savini a special effects superstar.

Night of the Living Dead was supposed to be a nice little horror film that was only intended to scare the viewer. When it was shown it was interpreted in many ways. Romero realized this and really went for it in Dawn of the Dead. This time his point of view really smacks you in the face. Those scenes are great. Watching these idiot zombies walk around a mall almost identical to the way you see living idiots walk around a mall. It's perfect.

There's an enormous sense of of fun throughout this movie. You can see why there are so many video games about killing zombies. There are four main characters. Stephen and Francine work for a television station while Peter and Roger are SWAT team members. The four escape their respective surroundings and take a helicopter to the roof of a shopping mall. They block all the entrances and kill all the zombies inside, getting the entire mall to themselves. They figure they'll stay there a while until it's time to leave but one of the SWAT guys gets bitten and a bunch of rowdy bikers come and fucking everything up.

The character progression is incredible. Roger seems like a genuinely nice guy and ends up losing his mind. Francine goes from a scared, innocent woman to an agitated bitch. Stephen seems like a really naive idiot who you don't like at all but eventually come to like and Peter mostly stays a cool, level headed leader. 

What surprised me the most with Dawn of the Dead is the action sequences involving the SWAT team. It's only at the beginning of the movie but it's done incredibly well. Obviously the effects are fantastic. The real gory gore doesn't happen until the last half hour of the movie. These people are absolutely shredded. Up until then its mostly dudes and zombies being shot. Night of the Living Dead started the zombie genre but Dawn of the Dead perfected it. This is an essential awful horror movie.

Fun Fact: Tom Savini intended for the zombie's skin to be grey, because Night of the Living Dead was in black and white and he wasn't sure what color a zombie's skin would be. After seeing the movie he didn't like it because on film some of them looked blue.

Total Kill Count:
Rod (7:31) Shot in the head.
Bad Guy (7:48) Shot in the chest.
Bad Guy (7:58) Shot in the chest.
Bad Guy (8:01) Shot in the chest.
Bad Guy (8:20) Shot in the chest.
Wooley (9:41) Shot in the back.
Random Lady (11:35) Bit by zombie.
Swat Guy (11:53) Shoots himself in the head off-camera.
Roger (1:39:46) Dies of previous zombie bites.
Savini the Motorcycle Raider (2:04:58) Shot off of a balcony.
Motorcycle Raider (2:05:23) Shot off of a motorcycle.
Motorcycle Raider (2:06:09) Eaten by zombies.
Motorcycle Raider (2:06:15) Eaten by zombies.
Motorcycle Raider (2:06:22) Eaten by zombies.

Stephen (2:07:54) Eaten by zombies.

             Horror Film: 8
             Entertainment: 9.5
             Gore: 9
             Overall: 8.6

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director: George A. Romero

Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Harman

Run time: 1:36

Rant: Here it is. The black and white, low-budget classic that not only started George Romero's legendary "Dead" series of movies but created the zombie genre we know and love today. If you've ever purchased a 20 or 50 HORROR MOVIE collection or anything like that, this is usually the only good flick of the bunch. Another thing this movie is famous for is having a black man play the lead role, as it was uncommon in the 60s.  Also a really depressing ending that was interpreted as a social commentary. Romero has stated the ending was in the original script before anyone was cast, saying it was simply a case of "mistaken identity." The movie took on a life of it's own, not only as an important awful horror movie but an important movie in film history.

But fuck all that bullshit. Does this son of a bitch hold up? Yes and no. Of course you have to look at it through an eye of the times and realize this is a legendary director's first movie. That being said, some things are inexcusable. Judith O'Dea plays Barbara. She's fucking garbage. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing Ben punch that white bitch in the face. With the exception of her I'd say the acting is solid overall. Karl Hardman does a great job playing the annoying fuck Harry, and Duane Jones is terrific as the hero Ben. As great as they are their fight scene is horrendous.

What I love about Night of the Living Dead is there's no fucking around. 5 minutes into the movie shit goes crazy and you're not even given a chance to know what the fuck is going on. Why are the dead rising? Why must they feast on human flesh?! Who gives a shit? You don't ask these questions. It all happens so fast you don't give a fuck. This movie is about survival and how these characters interact with each other during a crisis. That blended with a simple but excellent story makes for great horror. Night of the Living Dead is no doubt a classic and one of the most important awful horror movies of all time.

Terrible Lines: "Stop it! You're ignorant!"

Total Kill Count:
Johnny (7:10) Hits his head on a tombstone.
Tom and Judy (1:11:58) Blown up in a car.
Harry Cooper (1:23:13) Shot by Ben.
Helen Cooper (1:25:08) Stabbed to death with a trowel.
Barbara (1:26:09) Killed by zombies off-screen.

Ben (1:33:36) Shot in the head.

             Horror Film: 8
             Entertainment: 8
             Gore: 6
             Overall: 7.5