George Romero: Remembering a Great

It has disappointingly been revealed that the ‘godfather of zombies’, the great George Romero, has passed away; and with that news the horror genre feels slightly darker…darker than usual of course.

George Romero has always been a staple in horror cinema, ever since he cemented his place there with 1968s Night of the Living Dead. Although Romero did have other work to his name around the same time as the aforementioned film, it was this picture that really defined him as a household name.

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Made on a shoe-string budget of $100,000 Romero created Night of the Living Dead, a film that would influence countless other zombie films in the decades to follow, and began his iconic Dead trilogy. Trapped inside a farmhouse with a stranger named Ben, Barbara must band together with other survivors of the apocalypse in an attempt to fight off hoards of the undead. The film was praised for its character development in such a small setting and its use of practical effects, especially on the extras who were playing the ravenous creatures.

Before Romero brought his legion of reanimated corpses to the silver screen, his most frequently used antagonists were depicted fairly differently by his peers. They were portrayed by other film makers more as ‘voodoo’ inspired zombies that were being controlled by a witch-doctor or dramatic Hammer Horror villain; as seen in films such as White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie. It was Romero who truly defined the monsters we know and love today, with their infectious bites and lust for human flesh.

After the success of his first film Romero began work on a second, one that would go down in history as arguably the greatest zombie movie of all time… that film was 1978s Dawn of the Dead. This time set in a mall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the story follows four survivors as they clear out the undead from said mall, block off the doors and await their impending doom. This second edition to Romero’s Dead trilogy saw everything from the first film being cranked up a notch, with the characters, setting, story-arc and make-up effects all coming together in this horror masterpiece. The latter was largely due to horror special-effects maestro Tom Savini, famous for his work on Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, whose artwork added an extra touch of realism to the film.

Other than spawning movies that shaped the horror genre, Romero has also been commended for touching on issues such as racism, sexism and consumerism throughout his work; something which was rarely focused on in early horror cinema. Some of the ways that he challenged these social norms of 20th century media was by writing strong female characters, often in lead positions and casting ethnic minorities as his heroes. In that respect he was giving a glimpse into the future of a more representative Hollywood that we benefit from today. As Romero said himself, “I always thought of the zombies as being about revolution, one generation consuming the next.”

Romero’s final film in his Dead trilogy was 1985s Day of the Dead. Some fans see this as the weakest of the trio, but it still ranked highly with critics and holds its own as an enjoyable zombie romp. This time adding an element of science fiction to the mix, a group of soldiers and scientists attempt to figure out the cause of the plague, and whether the undead’s humanity can be returned. The film ended the Dead series on an optimistic note, as one of the most famous characters of the trilogy (Bub the zombie) appears to have gained some of his humanity back.

Romero’s dabble with the undead did not end there, however. Throughout the years he continued to create more movies with the ‘…of the dead’ moniker attached to their title, such as Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead, although not to the critical acclaim of their earlier counterparts.

As well as heading other horror classics such as The Crazies, Creepshow and Martin, he also dipped his hand into producing comic books with the release of Empire of the Dead; a series written by Romero and published by Marvel. This venture also saw the introduction of vampires to his universe.

With the announcement of yet another Day of the Dead remake it is abundantly clear that the influence of the masterful George Romero lives on through film makers and fans alike.

One can only hope he takes a cue from his own flesh-eating creations and rises from the grave to walk amongst us once more.

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Shocking Saturday: Insensibles (Painless)

Juan Carlos Medina’s French-Spanish mystery-horror takes the audience on a journey through history, with two stories that are both just as sorrowful as they are gripping.

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Insensibles begins with scenes on the brink of the Spanish civil war, various children who are unable to feel pain are rounded up and locked away in Catalonia for the safety of the people and also of themselves. Although incarcerated everyday, the children still show signs of intellect as a professor, Dr. Holzmann, attempts to teach them what pain is so that they do not have to spend the rest of their days locked up. At the same time we are shown a depiction of modern-day, and David, a brilliant neurosurgeon, has just survived a horrific car crash, unfortunately his wife did not. However that is not the worst of his problems as when he is checked over in the emergency room doctors find that he has cancer; and the only way to save his life is to have a bodily donation from one of his birth parents. When it turns out that David was adopted he goes on a mission to find out who his real parents were, various leads explain how they knew his father throughout history and what he became. David may find the answers he is looking for, but will he be happy with them and how do the painless children intertwine into his past.

The crossover storyline really weaves together very well as we dart back and forth between modern-day and the early 20th century. As the film plays out, the part of the plot which is set back in time shows the different war eras of Catalonia, firstly in the Spanish civil war, then in Hitler’s invasion in World War Two and through to the ’60s, we see how the painless children have to cope with these situations; it sort of gave off a darker Forrest Gump feeling with the travelling through history.

This is a film with some rather beautiful scenes at times which do not fail to dazzle, and as we follow David on his journey to discover who his birth parents were, the mood never changes to a dull one. The audience wants to unravel the mystery just as much as David does, and there are twists and turns around every corner that eventually end up with a conclusion. However it is these twists and turns which become the films downfall, they do entertain and make a more interesting story, but in parts it seems the script tries to be too clever in having the characters recite indecipherable messages which can not always be understood. Insensibles will definitely have you watching until the very end, it just needed more of an ending. Sometimes in films questions should be left open for the viewer to interpret themselves, but it is hard to make your own assessment when there seems to be information missing.

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In Insensibles Juan Carlos Medina delivers a violent tale of sorrow which is only let down in its confusing twists and ending.

Tag Line: Pain Is Their Remedy.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆☆

Ash vs. The Evil Dead

That’s right, Bruce Campbell, arguably the greatest B-Movie star, is set to reprise his role as Ash Williams and fend off the evil deadites in a battle for earth in a TV series. The Evil Dead first graced our screens in 1981 and went on to spawn two sequels, all of which have become cult favourites. What it was about the films that enticed audiences in was not only the gruesome special effects and that infamous tree scene, but also the main protagonist; the chainsaw-weilding, boom-stick using king of one-liners Ash.

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Thankfully the 10 part series is going to feature Bruce Campbell as the lead role, any other choice probably would have come under fire from fans, and it will show Ash at his boring day-to-day job, telling customers to shop smart at S-Mart. After ignoring his heroic abilities for a while, he decides that it is time he takes on the forces of the necronomicon once again as they threaten to take over the world.

The series is set for a 2015 release and appears to be in good hands as Evil Dead director Sam Raimi is helming the first episode of the series.

Groovy.

Shocking Saturday: Kairo (Pulse)

Japan is well-known for its creepy supernatural horror films, and one in particular that will have you running for the safety of your bed in the dark is the 2001 film Kairo.

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Kairo follows two different stories from the perspectives of citizens in Tokyo, whose lives begin to get entangled with a website that asks if you want to meet a ghost.
First we have three people whose friend has just committed suicide; they are anxious to find out the truth behind his sudden death, and a picture of him standing in his lounge with a ghostlike face in his computer screen only raises more questions.
Then we have Ryosuke who has recently bought a computer, for a reason which he really doesn’t know, and is introduced to the website unknowingly, which depicts people creepily standing, rolling and staring in front of their computers. His new friend Hurue is intrigued by it and asks to view it at his home – it all just seems like a harmless website until mass suicides begin to happen all over the city, figures appear to be there but really aren’t, black masses which whisper “help me” are stained to walls and why are there so many rooms being red taped shut all of a sudden?
The answer is much sinister than you could ever imagine. The ghouls are at work, and they have a plan for all of us.

The Japanese are well-known for their ghostly horror films such as Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge; they always seem to bring a feeling of unease with them, which has you squirming in your seat at the thought of watching any more of the movie. Kairo is no exception. Although it begins rather slowly, and the acting appears slightly amateurish at times, as the film progresses it sucks you in when you start to discover more about the mysterious occurrences.
At one point, when you first see a spectre, all seems fine, and then suddenly the light lowers and a spine-tingling high-pitched woman’s voice begins to sing over the top of the low-bass pulsing. It not only has the characters screaming on-screen, but also you screaming at them to get out of the room. The music is not the only aspect which creates an uncomfortable atmosphere; the ominous colour scheme that is used makes the audience feel just as dreary as the characters do, and the simple yet scary way that the ghosts are presented, with disturbing movements, adds another layer of discomfort to us.

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Although the main story line is that spirits are crossing back over into our world through means that we would never expect and are subjecting us to a torture worse than death, there is also a secondary storyline throughout film; Kairo tries to teach its audience about the dangers of being lost in technology, and it touches on the themes of being alienated and isolated due to the internet, and that we are never really connecting with each other through using it.

The 2006 American remake called Pulse and starring Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder, did bring the simple premise to the screen, however it was simply a horror film rather than one to make you question your time with technological devices.

Through Kairo director Kiyoshi Kurosawa brings a whole new terrifying concept to our thoughts about the afterlife.

Tag Line: Do You Want To Meet A Ghost?

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

5 Great Horror Films To Watch On Halloween: Part 2

Seeing as it is Halloween soon I thought that it would be fitting to give another list of, what I consider, to be great horror films. Watch these on your Halloween night and it is sure to be an enjoyable, yet terrifying one. This list compiles horror films from a wide range in the genre, so it is likely that it will contain something that will give your spine a shiver.

Film Type: Creepy Classic

Psycho 1960

Where would horror be today if Alfred Hitchcock had not decided to take on directorial duties? Thankfully we don’t have ponder that question, as he created many masterpieces in his time; including the film which will have inspired many horror directors after him, Psycho. Anthony Perkins takes on the role of the infamous Norman Bates, a lonely motel owner who is slightly too attached to his eerie mother. When beautiful women check into Bates’ motel, they don’t usually check out. Perkins gives a stellar performance here, as he convinces the audience that underneath that shy persona a psychopathic mentality lurks, just waiting to strike at his next available victim. Psycho is a complete classic all round, will probably be in most horror fans film collections and contains one of the most famous shower scenes in cinema history. Janet Leigh never saw that knife coming.

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Film Type: Uncanny Undead

Dawn of the Dead 1978

The second in the Godfather of Gore, George A. Romero’s, dead trilogy; and predecessor to the film which shaped zombie films today, Night of the Living Dead. Where the first in the trilogy introduced us to these flesh-eating ghouls, Dawn of the Dead was much more character driven and the make-up effects were just spectacular, even though most of the undead did appear blue. Zombies have already risen and two soldiers, with a helicopter pilot and his girlfriend team up to secure a mall to wait out the on coming hoards. From beginning to end this film is enjoyable, not only does it have great a story, characters and make-up but it also brings that creepy 70s vintage film vibe that adds a lot to the atmosphere.

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Film Type: Sinister Supernatural

The Evil Dead1981

The demonic low-budget horror film which, along with its two sequels, has become one of the biggest films in the cult arena. B-Movie superstar Bruce Campbell stars as Ashley ‘Ash’ Williams, as he, his girlfriend and their three friends travel to a cabin in the woods for a night of debauchery. Unfortunately the festivities are cut short as one of the members of the group reads from the Necronomicon; an ancient evil book that is bound in human flesh and written in human blood. From that moment on a demonic force is released and goes on to take control of the various members of the group, forcing them to try to kill their friends. Buckets of blood, amazing make-up that will turn your stomach and cheesy one-liners make this a film one that you will never forget. Oh, and there’s the tree scene, no explanation needed…just watch it.

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Film Type: Eerie Extraterrestrials

The Thing1982
Master of horror John Carpenter has given us some amazing flicks over the years; such as Halloween in 1978 and The Fog in 1980. However, there is one film from this director that was leaps and bounds above what anyone expected it to be – The Thing. Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr., the plot is that a crew working out in Antarctica find an odd frozen creature at a Norwegian outpost, after they take it back with them and it thaws out it takes the form of any person it can come into contact with. The audience, along with the characters, never know who truly is the alien and who isn’t; you find out quite suddenly though when it starts attacking you as its body morph into all kinds of nasty creatures. The Thing is praised for having effects which were way ahead of its time, and also one of the most suspenseful blood testing scenes ever.

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Film Type: Macabre Monsters

The Descent2005

This British horror from Neil Marshall really gives you that feeling of claustrophobia, as six women decide to take a trip caving and get trapped underground. What they don’t know is that this particular cave just so happens to house flesh-eating humanoids; creatures who have adapted to the dark and will tear at and eat any fresh meat they can find. The Descent plays on the creepy vibe so well, firstly by making you feel trapped in the caves with the characters, but even before the cave-in as it casually shows you the creatures lurking in the distance. The scene that makes this one of my favourites though is after the girls realise the trouble they are in, in the dark one of the group puts on the night-vision camera, and as we look through it a scare happens which I have never forgotten; no matter how many times I’ve watched it.

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Happy Halloween.

Shocking Saturday: Apocalyptic

Before watching Apocalyptic I was rather excited. Mainly because when reading about it, viewers had said that it was very similar to, arguably, the best segment in the entire V/H/S film franchise: ‘Safe Haven’, wherein a camera crew enter the temple of an Indonesian cult, and instead of filming an intriguing documentary they are left fighting for their lives. The idea of that story being made into a film, in my opinion, was such a great concept.

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The Australian film directed by Glenn Triggs starts off well, although it is yet another hand-held camera movie – the actors aren’t trying too hard to make it look realistic. It instead comes across, at the beginning, as a documentary about individuals trying to cope with their drug and alcohol problems.

This is where the story begins, as our protagonists Jodie and Kevin are allowed to record inside a help group meeting where they meet Bradley, a man who claims to have been living with a dangerous cult who follows the mysterious Michael Godson. Of course the idea of a cult living in the Australian Bush is a much more gripping story for this reporter and her cameraman, so they decide to follow the directions from their only lead.

Upon arriving at their destination they are greeted by two of the group’s members, a woman and a child, who lead them to their secret home in the woods. Although there is an eerie vibe surrounding the group, mainly because of the group’s creepy leader Michael Godson and the fact that there are no other men present, they don’t seem threatening. As the days go by, the group’s characteristics never falter, but various pieces of information about their overall plan is beginning to come to light, as things are discovered in the woods and the women talk about their plans for the approaching apocalypse.

The tall, strange leader appears to have such an influence over his followers that they will follow his every word. This at first does not seem so terrible, but steadily the group start to harm each other in horrific ways. As the final night approaches and Michael’s plans for his group are revealed, will the crew give in like the others or attempt to right the wrong which is being done here?

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Horror and thriller films which centre around cults are a great love of mine, mainly because it combines two of my greatest fears together; cults and small spaces. What films such as this do is create a feeling of claustrophobia within the audience, as we are, usually, taken into a compound that is cut off from the rest of the world and are surrounded by people who will do anything that their leader tells them. Therefore you feel trapped in this place, unable to leave, and just waiting for the followers to close in on you. Apocalyptic creates this feeling due to the film being set in the Australian woodland; the characters are cut off from the rest of the world, and the only people who can lead them to safety are the cult members.

While I am glad that I watched this film, it did slightly disappoint. It was not an awful film, but after being compared to Safe Haven of V/H/S 2 it seemed like it was missing so much. Maybe because it was compared with that film I had such high hopes, and when these were not met the film felt like it was lacking something. The plot was great, the characters kept you gripped, but then came the ending. It is an ending that seems to have really destroyed the found-footage horror genre; an unsatisfying one. I for one love this style of film, but over the past few years these types of film (Paranormal Activity/The Last Exorcism/The Devil Inside) have consistently created great build ups to displeasing conclusions, and you are left with quite a few questions that need answering.

Apocalyptic is no exception; throughout the film it draws you in to the mystery of what is really going on with this group, and then just when the horror kicks off it finishes, leaving lots of loose ends. One of which being why did these people follow Michael Godson – David Macrae gives a great portrayal of the leader, whose distinctive features only add more to this creepy character, however we are never really given a reason to how he has brainwashed his followers, and he does not come across as someone who has such a strong personality to make people believe whatever he comes out with.

This film is worth a watch, however do not go in to it with high hopes as it is more of a film to just pass the time.

Tag Line: Their World Will End.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆

We Interrupt This Programme…

We’ll start off with the bad news and end on a high note with these news pieces.

Skyline Sequel

Anyone who saw the 2010 alien invasion film Skyline will probably have many criticisms of their own to share in a discussion about the movie. I for one actually enjoyed most of the film, although the first half was definitely more enjoyable before we saw the aliens, I didn’t think the second half was a total loss. That was until the ending, that just did it for me, that end scene in itself just destroyed the entire rest of the film. Unless the film makers were on to the idea of a sequel already and thought that the end scene of the main male protagonist being an alien himself would lead on to it, then there doesn’t really need to be that scene included in the film. It just seemed to ruin what wasn’t, to me, an entirely horrible sci-fi film. Well now a second Skyline film is in the works, titled Beyond Skyline, and is to be directed by Liam O’Donnell (who wrote and produced the first film). All we have been given at the moment is a poster that appears to change the colour scheme from blue to orange, and the hint that humans and aliens (or at least some of them) are going to be working together.

Estimated release date: Not Yet Known

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Dracula: Untold

That’s right, there is another film based on one of the most famous monsters in literature and movies, the prince of darkness himself…Dracula. There have been many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s world-famous novel, from Christopher Lee’s portrayal in Hammer Horror’s 1958 version, to Gary Oldman’s take in 1992. However this new creation by Gary Shore is looking to take a different approach to the story, by telling the tale of how the beast was created. The talented Luke Evans (The Raven/The Hobbit/The Great Train Robbery) takes the role of Dracula with Dominic Cooper supporting, and just from the trailer it appears that an entire new story for the monster’s history is going to be created which weaves in the Vlad the Impaler influence, and that is not a bad thing. Whilst the book was incredible, what was really missing from it was a back-story for the creature himself; and Dracula: Untold looks like it is going to give that story. What it really was, other than it being a film about Dracula and starring Luke Evans, that drew me in is that the story seems to show him when he was a good man, and all he wanted to do was protect the ones he loved. However to gain the powers to protect them, he must sacrifice his own soul.

Estimated Release Date: October 3rd

Annabelle

Most horror fans will, at least by now, know the story of the evil Annabelle doll that paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren had to take care of in 1970. Well ever since her appearance in The Conjuring it was said that a spin-off film called ‘Annabelle’ was in the works; and now we have a trailer. Although only a teaser and 2:18 long, it brings back all the creepy vibes which James Wan created in The Conjuring, and although there is a Conjuring sequel in the pipe-line, The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, Annabelle should definitely hold fans over until it is released. The trailer appears to show the doll up to its old tricks with an unsuspecting couple who purchase her, and then learn the hard way the darkness that this doll holds. Annabelle is looking to be one of the best horror releases in 2014.

Estimated Release Date: October 10th