Posts Tagged George Romero

Dead Time Stories Vol.1

Well, Romero’s latest project, Dead Time Stories Vol. 1 has recently hit the VOD market, and it doesn’t exactly have me dying for Vol.2. For the most part, Romero has has left the direction up to Savini, et al, but his MO kind wafts from each vignette, and perhaps its just the segmented short films format that reminds me of Creepshow, however parallels to Romeros other fiction keep surfacing like old zombie hands.

The initial “Really?”-moment that has the piece off and running like a three legged horse is Romero establishing himself as the Crypt Keeper-esque narrator, which ends up turning out like someone’s pedophile Uncle Chester trying to act like a friendly harmless adult. While most fans that know Romero will realize that George is just being George and isn’t really trying to act it’s still too hokey to watch. The segments themselves have an interesting off-beat style, but most of the stories and characters are pretty forgettable. While I don’t think I’ll ever forget Steven King’s portrayal of  the newly “fertile” hick named Jordy Verill, the cockroach plagued Entomophobic Upson Pratt, or Adrian Barbeau’s Shrewish “Billy” I couldn’t name a single character in any of the “Deadtime” stories I just watched yesterday.

With that said, the three segments do all have some redeeming quality. The opener is about a determined woman trying to discover the fate of her husband in a jungle with hostile natives, which has an interesting twist on the fate of the narrator, but is peppered with too much cartoonish gore. Its follow-up has the creepiest portrayal of a mermaid since Daryl Hanna got cosmetic surgery, however the tone is a little too reminiscent of  Creepshow’s “Something to Tide You Over” vignette. Then again, how many ways can vengeance from the sea be pulled off? The final piece is a vampire tale directed by Savini that reminded me of Romero’s old vampire tale Martin, but maintained its own unique dark direction and utilized it setting, a turn of the century peasantry naivety, to execute its narrative seamlessly.

Perhaps I’m doing Deadtime Stories Volume 1 an injustice by comparing it to Creepshow, which paired King and Romero both in the prime of their careers, but on its own merit it does have seem to be missing something. Still, the tales are enjoyable for what they are if you’re in the mood for this format. Or if you need a good laugh a you can just watch the transition segments when Romero does his best work as the over the top narrator. Either way, it’s not a terrible watch. Let’s call it a B- and hope for Vol 2 to wow us.

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Blu-Dawn… of the Dead?

Last night, I finally got around to watching Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in its new glowing Blu-Ray format and found mixed emotions swarming into me like zombies into “one of those NEW indoor shopping malls.” If that quote shows how “dated” the film has become then try it through the crystal clear lens of Blu-Ray. Since my sixteen-year-old self plopped down 99 cents to rent the VHS from my local drug store, I have purchased Dawn four times: the clunky 138 minute cut on VHS, then DVD, a re-mastered theatrical cut that released a week before the remake hit theaters, and the Blu-Ray. While each addition has moved a little further from the grainy classic I remember seeing as a kid, the clarity of Blu-Ray is leaps beyond any other format shift. Is this a problem or am I just a nostalgic nerd?

Well, watch Dawn’s second act, the chopper escape, which epitomized the somber mood of Romero’s wasted world: a desensitized hell under cloudy skies. The muted colors of the vignettes: the militia army having a field day-massacre out in the sticks, the now-formulaic re-fueling scene, and the gunning down of zombie children once presented an excellent foil to the upcoming third act’s “dream world sanctuary” with its surreal displays and glamorous mannequins. Now, the entire film is eye straining neon lights, turning the gray overcast skies to “Blu,” and the softening the atmosphere for the worse, almost raising the dead by resetting the zombie’s complexion to a much more life-like hue.

What we gain in return is a bizarre almost comic book experience accentuated by the vibrant tones of the Monroeville Mall being splattered by Savini’s ridiculously bright blood – that looked like Kool-Aid colored paint even back on 78′s VHS – and the vibrant blues of the SWAT uniforms have this old grainy classic looking like a stylistic Tide commercial.  For those of us that have practically memorized every frame, seeing the movie in this bright new world does provide a new layer of detail and images that have gone previously unnoticed, making the film feel fresh, but the shift also takes the classic out of its element and strips a little piece of charm away. Gone is that beautiful grainy touch, a fog laden film where zombies lurked out of their holes in back rooms of tenement houses, into abandoned hangers and elevator shafts. The isolation and hopelessness doesn’t quite translate into a dramatic arch when everything is painted with a big top circus colors.

Still, at the end of the day its a mixed experience. There will most likely never be another definitive zombie film, so it’s nice to see Dawn again, for the first time, in a new fresh format but there’s just something missing without the muted tones and dark atmosphere. However, I’m sure I’ll be back to bitch when I buy my fifth copy of Dawn on “Hologram-Ray” ten years from now.

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SOZ Review #5: Night of the Comet

If The Breakfast Club had zombies then each of the eighties stereotyped characters would probably have been armed with Uzis instead of wise cracks, and the final cut of the film would have been pretty close to Night of the Comet (1984). Being born in 80′, I’ve heard the title tossed around hundreds of times, but somehow I never sat down and watched it. Doing so twenty-six years separated made this film more hilarious than it ever was intended to be. 80s culture is hard to believe as a reality even after having lived through them.

NOTC has the quality of Laser Tag: fun but clearly entertainment from another age much like the graphically challenged Tempest arcade game that our typical 80s tom-boy  heroine protagonist “Reggie” is trying to land the high score on when the film begins. Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) is an employee at the local movie theater where she often has romps in the attic of the theater with her projectionist boyfriend. The movie begins on one such evening where instead of going to see the passing the comet she stays at work and sleeps with her boyfriend. Before doing so, she calls her little sister to provide her “evil step mother” with an excuse.

Her big-haired blond ditsy cheerleader sister, clad in leg warmers and workout spandex, has a big altercation with their evil step mom over the issue and ends up on the losing the end of a slap boxing match, which encourages her to sleep outside in the tool shed. Everyone else in town stays out to party and watch the comet fly past. Morning comes and all seems well until Reggie ventures out side and finds that everyone is either been turned to dust or zombified. Reggie hurries home to find her sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney)  has also somehow survived and they use their superior valley girl intellects to figure out some crazy plot point about both sleeping the night in structures made of steel being the factor that saved their lives…it really doesn’t matter.

From here on out,  a mix of post-apocalyptic fun unfolds, but other than the initial scene outside here Reggie discovers her boyfriend being eaten by a zombie–and a talking zombie at that– this isn’t really a zombie film. Well to be fair, Sam is attacked by three cop zombies but only in back to back “false scare” dream sequences and those three zombies inhabiting the nightmare make up half of the whopping grand total of six zombies in this film.  However, the creatures are talked about as if they are everywhere. When Reggie and Sam discover another survivor, Hector (Robert Beltran), at the radio station, he tells the girls a group of zombies ate the girl that he drove into the city with.

Don't Worry Its only a Dream... Again

With mostly  Zombies being only talked about, the remainder of the film is basically filled with the usual post apocalyptic conventions, evil government organizations with dark plots, strange cults that hide in malls, public target practice with automatic weapons, and even an 80′s verison of the Dawn of the Dead 78‘ shopping Montague, but this one is set to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Did I mention this movie was made in the 80s?

After the Montague ends, the girls lose a gun battle to the weird mall cult and end up chained up in the basement and forced to play Russian Roulette only to  be saved by the evil government group that also wishes them harm. Hector, before the montage, headed home to find out the fate of his family. Instead, he encounters “ONE” zombie child who he escapes from by getting back in his truck and heading back to LA to reunite with the girls.

The climax involves a big show down at a shady HQ military base where hopefully Hector will arrive in time to save the day…yada yada…and there’s a couple more  zombies on screen for a few seconds. In typical 80s fashions, the good guys win with a boom and the audience is treated with a witty light-hearted epilogue that delivers a punchline to a joke started in the first five minutes of the flick. Hooray-8os!

Being a child of 1980 and growing up with films like Mannequin, FootLoose, Gremlins, Big Trouble in Little China, and, of course, The Goonies, it is difficult for me not to enjoy an 80s movie that I haven’t seen yet because the nostalgic atmosphere is very overpowering. NOTC is overflowing with eighties conventions and enjoyable for nostalgic value but fails as miserably as a zombie film. Far from the 80′s Shaun of the Dead, NOTC should just be an 80′s post-apocalyptic spoof movie, but since we we live in a digitally sub-divided film rental world this one is always going to find its way into Zombie horror.  Thus, allow me to educate: its a far stretch to be called a zombie film, but if you  like 80s foolishness and zombies than it should please.

S.O.Z  RATING 12 of 30— Low score because its classified wrong, but still fun for those who understand and appreciate the 80s

Grainy Value-  3 of  5

Scary –              1  of  5

Atmosphere-  1  of   5

Gore-                1 of  5

Camp Value-    5 of  5

Zombies Kills-  1 of  5

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Romero Goes Remake Crazy

the-craziesWell, we all knew that every chapter of the holy zombie trinity would be remade one day, but a remake of The Crazies (1973) seemed like something that would float around the internet like rumors of Romero directing Resident Evil and never happen, but here we are two weeks away from The Crazies 2010 premiere.  For the past twelve years, whenever anyone asked me what The Crazies was about I was always quick to say, “its one of Romero’s zombies movies without zombies.”  The post apocalyptic environment and snarky commentary about government was still present, but there just didn’t happen to be any walking corpses around.  Still, it created that same world-apart-at-the-seams atmosphere and watching it you expected a zombie to lumber from the tree line at any moment.  Now-a-days, with an expanded definition of zombie horror; I would argue, from what I’ve seen of the trailers, that Mr. Executive Producer Romero has merely added the zombies to market it into a zombie happy film industry (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

However all this talk about trailers and remakes had me thinking about the old one, and how I remember it being kinda hokey… Well, see for yourself.

Man, have trailers come a long way in thirty-seven years.  Guess subtlety wasn’t big in the 70s…I digress, here’s the new one…

Zombie horror or not, as a devoted Romero follower, I’ll be in the theater opening night.

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Night Of The Living Dead: Reanimated Breathes New Life Into A Genre Classic

NOTLDR TEASER POSTERThere seems to be a dearth of new ideas in horror (as Chris recently discussed during his post about endings).  The movie studios are pumping out unimaginative films to satiate general moviegoers who know little about the genre.  The remake machine is showing no signs of fatigue.  It’s all a very depressing statement for horror fans to swallow.  But what reassures me is that the horror community is a tight-knit one, filled with impassioned fans that make it their business to share quality films with each other.  There’s good stuff out there – we just have to find it.  This week, I found one to share with you.

I was fortunate enough to attend a small screening of Night Of The Living Dead: Reanimated at one of my favorite local bars, Clash Bar in Clifton, New Jersey (shameless promotion).  If you haven’t heard of it, NOTLD:Reanimated is a collaborative art/film project that literally animates Romero’s classic.  The film’s “curator”, Mike Schneider, worked with more than 150 artists from around the world who recreated the film from their own perspective.  It uses the original audio track from Night Of The Living Dead and laid on top of it are the artists’ work to illustrate the action.  Because the producers used so many artists, the 2-hour long film spans a vast variety of interpretations – think Barbara talking to Ben in pencil sketching still images one minute and then moving claymation the next.

As I sat in the darkened room with about 20 other attendees, the film’s promoters, Rob Hauschild and Peter Gutierrez, kicked off the screening with a few questions.  “How many of you love Night of the Living Dead,” Gutierrez asked.  My hand promptly rose along with everyone else.  “Now, who loves modern horror remakes,” he said with an air of sarcasm.  A series of grumblings, grunts and groans emanated from the crowd including my brilliant observation that went something like “ehhhh not so much.”

“That’s good,” he told us.  “Night of the Living Dead:Reanimated is the antidote to remakes.”

Picture 6From an artistic perspective, it’s cool to see how the same film can be reinterpreted so many ways and the project netted some strong images, both eerie and comical.  NOTLD:Reanimated isn’t the most frightening interpretation of Romero’s vision but that’s fine with me.  At times, the juxtaposition of audio track and the images on screen are laugh-out-loud funny because the artists choose unexpected ways to portray the action.  My personal favorite was the cast animated as talking animals trying to decide how to survive a zombie apocalypse.  They look out the window and a bunch of zombie cats are marching toward them.  Other highlights include World of Warcraft computer animation, Barbie dolls and sock puppets.

I heard some guy at the bar before the screening commenting about how he wasn’t sure if he was going to sit through this again because the Schneider’s choices of images didn’t always “capture the dark vibe of the movie.”  While I can understand that, I think he’s missing the point.  This is a completely different take on Romero’s film, one rooted more in homage than strict authenticity.  Just don’t go into this expecting to be frightened.  Still, I found several of the artist images/animations to be unsettling.  Check these out:

Picture 7

Picture 8

Most importantly, NOTLD:Reanimated is something different.  It’s an artistic vision brought to the horror genre just when we need it.  You won’t find anything else out there quite like it.  It’s not for everyone, either and I like that.  It was made primarily for genre fans already intimately familiar with Night of the Living Dead.  I didn’t find the narrative difficult to follow through the images but maybe that’s because I already know it well enough.  But even if you aren’t familiar with the original (if you’re reading this, you probably are) NOTLD:Renamiated may still be interesting.  As one of the film’s producers told the audience, “it’s a good movie if you have Attention Deficit Disorder…it’s like walking into a museum of Night of the Living Dead.”

Check out the official site at http://www.notldr.com for more information.  They’re also selling some pretty cool merchandise if you feel like supporting the artists.  The film is set to be released in March and I highly recommend picking it up.

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Survival of the Dead: A Zombie Western in the Making?

ZombiessmallMost writers when penning a sequel look to surround their narrative around a strong or popular character that audiences want to see more of, but when you’re the king and creator of the modern zombie movie you tend to do  whatever the hell you want. George A Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009) follows the character of “Sarge” (Alan Van Sprang) who had about forty-five seconds of screen time in Diary of the Dead (2007) as an AWOL’ed National Guardsman, leading a band of troops-turned-highwaymen. For whatever reasons George had, Sarge rides on (yes, rumor has it its a western of sorts) into Survival of the Dead where he stumbles upon Plum Island and into the middle of a pissing contest between two feuding Irish families who have artistic difference on what to do with the growing population of “Dead heads”—Romero has this thing about over using the word “Zombie”, but wasn’t that slang for a Grateful Dead fan? I digress…

The premise and choice of main character are definitely head scratchers, but fans who want to make sense of it all can either check out the trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAPABAYczkE) which only supplies some rustic and grainy visuals or watch a cryptic promo monologue by Sarge. (http://www.myspace.com/officialgeorgeromero)  Either way, I’m not that concerned. When Romero gathers hordes of zombies, or “living dead” or “stenches” or “Dead Heads” or whatever, good things happen. Keep’em lumbering our way, George.

Survival of the Dead is currently doing the film festival circuit, details about a wider release will hopefully be forthcoming.

Most writers when penning a sequel look to surround their narrative around a strong or popular character that audience want to see more of, but when you’re the king and creator of the modern zombie movie you tend to do whatever the hell you want. George A Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009) follows the character of “Sarge” (Alan Van Sprang) who had about forty-five seconds of screen time in Diary of the Dead (2007) as an AWOL’ed National Guard solider, leading a band of troops turned highwaymen. For whatever reasons George had, Sarge rides on into Survival of the Dead where he stumbles upon Plum Island and into the middle of a pissing contest between two feuding Irish families that have artistic difference on what to do with the growing population of “Dead heads”—Romero has this thing about over using the word Zombie, but wasn’t that slang for a Grateful Dead fan? I digress…

The premise and choice of the main character are definitely head scratchers, but fans who want to make sense of it all can either check out the trailer which only supplies some rustic and grainy visuals or watch cryptic promo monologues by Sarge. Either way, I’m not that concerned. When Romero gathers hordes of zombies, or “living dead” or “stenches” or “Dead Heads” or whatever, good things happen. Keep’em lumbering our way, George.

Survival of the Dead is currently doing the film festival circuit, details about a wider release will hopefully be forth coming.

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The Crazies Remake Trailer

I admit it – I’m not the best Romero fan.  I’ve seen all of his zombie movies but am severely lacking on his other ventures, save for Martin and Monkey Shines.  Oddly enough, I own most of his films, including The Crazies.  Maybe I should, like, actually watch one of them?  But I digress.  The trailer for The Crazies remake was released this morning and I’m impressed.  It looks to have nice production and effects at least.

I’m a sucker for trailers though.  Seriously, the people who edit them should be given awards.  Often, they’re able to get us to actually pay money to see a crappy movie.  Case in point – Halloween (2007).  This one is a compelling two minutes.  It’s almost an instant win when you set Gary Jules’ Mad World to horror.

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