Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Document of the Dead (1985)

If you are a George Romero fan, a zombie fan, or a film student, then Document of the Dead will give you a rare glimpse into the process of film-making as seen through the eyes of George Romero during the shooting of his zombie classic Dawn of the Dead. It's low-tech in its approach but provides tons of fun facts and insights.

For me, it was a rare treat to watch Romero do his thing as a screenwriter, director, producer and editor, a feat few can pull off with as much grace as Romero does. Document also talks in depth about Romero's editing style and explores what makes his vision unique among horror directors.

Romero was not only a visionary director. Those who have worked with him have always said he was a generous and kind human being as well. This film definitely lets that side of Romero shine brightly. Nicely done. You can find this one on YouTube.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Season of the Witch [a.k.a. Hungry Wives] {1972)

What's a frustrated, middle-aged 70's housewife to do? Why, take up the practice of witchcraft, of course! Season of the Witch is one of the lesser known and highly underrated films of the godfather of zombie movies, George Romero. The fact that it was made for $90,000 is downright miraculous. I have seen films with much bigger budgets from the same era that don't come close to what Season of the Witch accomplishes. It does a lot with very little which is a tribute to Romero.

Categorizing this film is a little difficult. It's part Valley of the Dolls psychedelia, part women's lib melodrama, and part supernatural/occult. The opening scene is flat out bizarre, but it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It made me feel like I didn't know what the hell was going on and I think this is right where Romero wants his viewing audience to be.

Jan White is great as Joan Mitchell, the housewife in question. Her strong eyes convey tons of emotion, even when she isn't speaking. She also gave her character just the right amount of cray-cray when needed. The rest of the cast fill in nicely but this is definitely Ms. White's show.

The only thing I take issue with in the film is some of its portrayal of witchcraft. The modern witches I know personally do not believe in Satan and see him as a Christian invention. Furthermore much of their spell-casting involves working with elemental spirits, ancestors, and the Lord and Lady which represent the Divine masculine and feminine. Working with evil/demonic entities is not really a part of what they practice so I found all this a bit distracting as I watched it. That being said, the general viewer will not notice any of this and will probably enjoy this exploration of the dark side of things.

So definitely give this one a try. If you search hard enough you can find a copy of it on YouTube but this is not always the case.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (DOD) may well be one of the best zombie films ever. At least it’s one of my all-time favorites! DOD is the third zombie offering from the one and only George Romero who basically invented the modern zombie genre single-handedly with Night of the Living Dead (1968). DOD take place sometime after Dawn of the Dead (1978). The story line involves a group of military personnel and scientist who are living in an underground bunker while the world around them is overrun with zombies. The setting is perfect because it creates a claustrophobic feeling which Romero exploits to its fullest effect. Most of the humans are one step short or a nervous break down and sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the greater menace: the zombies or the humans! Brilliant!

The scientists in this film are experimenting on the zombies, trying to figure out what makes them tick with the hope they can rehabilitate them. The star of this show is Sherman Howard who plays a zombie named Bub. His performance in this film is astonishing. He is, in my opinion, the BEST ZOMBIE EVER! The way he embodies the character is nearly flawless. He makes the audience care for Bub in a way that makes us want to shoot some of the humans and save the zombie!

The human cast is a bit cliched but they serve their purpose. The exception to this is Lori Cardille, the daughter of Bill Cardille who hosted a weekly double feature monster fest in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Lori’s character, Sarah, brings lots of emotional depth to the table and helps carry some of the other actors in the film. As a bit of trivia, make-up effects guru Greg Nicotero [The Walking Dead] makes his acting debut in DOD. He was also an apprentice of Tom Savini who did the effects work on DOD.

Speaking of effects, Tom Savini upped his game big time since Dawn of the Dead and gives the audience some brilliant blood-spaltter effects and classic zombie make-up. His work is a feast for the eyes and his influence on Nicotero cannot be denied.

John Harrison also gives DOD a wonderful soundtrack which always cranks up when the zombies appear. It reminds me a bit of the work Goblin did on a number of Dario Argento’s films. It sets the perfect mood in the scenes it’s employed.

What more need to be said? Day of the Dead is essential viewing for those who love all things zombie. A remake of Day of the Dead was done 2008 with Steve Miner [Friday the 13th, Part II, Halloween: H2O] in the director’s chair. The zombies in the remake are the fast-moving viral kind which I find annoying, especially when they violate the laws of physics! The remake has its good points but it simply doesn’t compare to the original.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" So goes the famous line from the mother of all modern zombie movies, Night of the Living Dead. George Romero, who hails from my hometown of Pittsburgh, is the godfather of all that is zombie. [My pastor performed his wedding.  How cool is that?] Yes, there were zombie films before his but most of these involved living people whose minds are controlled through voodoo or some sort of black magic. What separates George Romero's work from everything that came before it is a number of things: 1.) His zombies are always the dead come back to life, except in the remakes.  2.) Romero adds a subversive layer of social commentary and dark humor to his films. The issue of racism runs all through Night of the Living Dead.  3.) He also ups the sense of terror and utter hopelessness in fighting "the machine" that is zombies. [There are many scholarly commentaries on Romero's films that are available online if you want to read more.]

The basic plot of Night of the Living Dead is simple. A sister [Barbara] and brother [Johnny] visit the grave of their father when they are attacked by zombies. Johnny is killed but Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse where she meets up with others who are trying to survive. The rest of the movie is a classic study in human nature and how life-threatening situations bring out the best in some of us and the worst in others. Even though I've seen this film a million times, I still find the ending shocking and subversive. It's a stroke of pure genius. You don't see it coming.

Night of the Living Dead has been remade twice. First in 1990 with special effects guru Tom Savini as director and George Romero doing the rewrite. It is one of the best remakes of a horror film I've ever seen although the soundtrack is filled with cheesy synthesizers and the ending is reworked in a way that I think is less powerful than the original. The second remake is entitled Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006) and totally rewrites the original story until it is virtually unrecognizable. It is most definitely the worst of the three versions.

The best copy of this film I’ve seen is the Millennium Edition by Elite Entertainment. It has the blessing of George Romero and was made from the original 35mm negatives. Skip the 30th Anniversary Edition [a recut version of the film] which everyone agrees is a piece of crap. I would also stay away from the 40th Anniversary "No B.S." Edition which I paid too much for, only to discover that cheaper editions I’ve owned had a clearer picture. Rats! You can also download a nice copy from Archive.org and burn your own DVD. 

I'm also excited that MOMA did a complete 4K restoration from the original film negative in 2016. It's slated to hit select theaters in 2017 and, no doubt, will be available at some point as a Blu-ray disc. This version has the blessing of Geoerge Romero who said it was the closest thing  to what he intended viewers to see. With George's passing a few days ago, I'm fairly certain that this version will be made available to the general public.

Night of the Living Dead is a must see in whatever form you can get your hands on. I still think the original is one of the creepiest films of all time. Love you, George!

RATING: Excellent.
Download a copy of the film from Archive.org
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Zombie: Dawn of the Dead [Dario Argento's Cut] (1979)

Seeral years ago I hit the holy grail of zombie horror in the used DVD section of my local mall. If you're a zombie aficionado you are well aware that Dario Argento did the European Cut of George Romero's zombie classic Dawn of the Dead. I had heard about Argento's version for years but never had the opportunity to view it….until then!
How does it stack up to Romero's cut? Well, if you're looking for an exhaustive critique of the subject click HERE. But if you've read my blog before you know I like my reviews short and sweet. Argento's cut is fantastic. It's lean, mean, dark and full of action. While I love Romero's sense of humor and character development which appears in his cut, Argento skips the lighter moments in favor of a much more sinister and gorier film. It works beautifully. If you don't squirm in your seat or wince a time or two while watching Argento's cut then there may be something seriously wrong with you. He really brings out the horror in Romero's film.
Argento's cut is also greatly aided by a different musical score that was composed by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. It really adds a great deal to the feel of the film and is a total home run.   
Some people enjoy getting into arguments about which version is better. What's the point? Both versions show the vision of two great directors who know how to edit horror. If you can get your fingers on a copy of this one, it's definitely well worth your time.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Monday, July 17, 2017

R.I.P. George Romero

Like everyone else who loves horror, I was saddened to learn of the death of George Romero. I grew up in Pittsburgh so I have always felt a kinship with George. He is much beloved in my hometown and elsewhere. The first time I saw Night of the Living Dead it scared the shit out of me but I loved it. I was in Middle School at the time. When Dawn of the Dead premiered I actually saw it at the Monroeville Mall where it was filmed. Walking out into the mall and parking lot scared the shit out of me again! I have always found his films to be thought-provoking with lots of social commentary to be found in the midst of gut-munching and zombie kills. George, you were one-of-a-kind. A great human being and a visionary filmmaker. You will me missed by this zombie-loving fan!