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Posts tagged “Dawn of the Dead

Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

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Francine Parker: They’re still here. 
Stephen: They’re after us. They know we’re still in here. 
Peter: They’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here. 
Francine Parker: What the hell are they? 
Peter: They’re us, that’s all, when there’s no more room in hell. 
Stephen: What? 
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” 

Dawn of the Dead is among many things a very quotable movie. The scene above is probably everyone’s favorite, and for some there are more selective scenes to nibble on. Scientists arguing on what remains of the news broadcast. The SWAT incursion of the Philadelphia apartment building. The refueling scene, the dock scene, the shopping montage. The raiders and ensuing firefight. There are plenty. And if you were to ask me, I can’t really say if I personally have an all-time favorite scene, I mean let’s be honest here, there are so many to choose from. From the very beginning, Dawn of the Dead lures you in and keeps your attention rooted into the story. The pacing couldn’t be more perfect.  Continue Reading

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Fright Fest: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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I love horror movies. I love zombie movies. But more specifically, I love one very specific part.

I love the beginnings of zombie movies.

I love the inherent sense of dread at what we all know is coming. If the sequencing is done right, it’s a thrill to watch, with a few disparate, seemingly unconnected events and soon enough, it’s all going to shit. It’s quick. It’s brutal. It’s total. And best of all, you are never told why it is happening.

Zombies have often been painted as a metaphorical criticism of our own over-consumerism but I think it also functions as a demonstration of our own existential shelf life. That at any given moment, anything can turn on us and bring about a cruel and uncaring demise. The frailty of our own condition is really highlighted in the terrifying opening moments of any great zombie film.
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The Sultan of Splatter

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If the title of this post doesn’t give away what we’ll be talking about, well…shit. We’ve got some work ahead of us. As any fan of horror, the one thing that we deranged nerds tend to appreciate, even more than the actors themselves, are the special effects guys (and gals). To be frank, why do we watch horror? To be entertained, fundamentally, correct? We’re not here to find enlightenment, though if it happens then all the better.  No, much like the poor bloodthirsty souls crammed into Rome’s gladiatorial colosseum, we cry out for escape from the realities of our plight. And what brings the greatest escape, the tastiest of entertainment? Gore. And all the horrible ways characters get done in by the monster, the serial killer, the freak in the castle, the alien invaders, the thing hiding the ice, whatever, we expect gore and lots of it and not just quantity but quality as well. For horror fans, special effects take front row. We critique effects just as harshly as we look at the screenwriters and even more so maybe than the directors. Who hasn’t sat through a terribly written and directed horror movie walking away loving it simply because it had awesome effects? It’s often the first thing we look at.

And with every decade, every generation, there are particular styles of special effects. In the 1940s and leading through the early 60s, it was what wasn’t seen that was supposed to scare you, and blood came from a bottle of Hersheys Chocolate. But starting in the late 1960s, following the advancement of technicolor, under the direction of guys like Alfred Hitchcock and Herschell Gordon Lewis, filmmakers began pushing those on-screen limitations and inventing new ways to entertain with effects. Dick Smith is rightfully the real pioneer of realism in special effects. His crowning achievement, realistic gore in movies such as The Exorcist, The Godfather, Scanners, and more. And Dick did more than pioneer the industry, he set the table for the rise of a new generation who would bring us even better work to the history cinematography.

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Tom Savini was inspired, not by Dick Smith or Herschell or even Frankenstein’s maker Jack Pierce, though no doubt they each impacted him in some way. No. Tom credits his inspiration to legendary early silent film star, Lon Chaney Sr, aka, the Man of a Thousand Faces. Chaney had a reputation in Hollywood for coming up and developing his own props and makeup, most of it often extremely uncomfortable, for the characters he played on screen, some of the most notable ones being The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Norte Dame, and London After Midnight. In 1957, Universal released the biopic of Lon Chaney Sr., and young Tom fell in love and began experimenting with special effects makeup, first on himself and later his friends. Eventually, Tom attended Point Park University and later Carnegie-Mellon University (following his tour of duty in Vietnam). After enlisting in the U.S. Army, Tom served as a combat photographer in the Vietnam War. It is during this service Tom most credits his development of special effects, taking the harsh realities of war and applying it to his later work.

The true birth of practical effects, or the surge of gore, really started in the 1970s, in such movies as Dawn of the Dead, I Drink Your Blood, and The Incredible Melting Man, among others. And it was during this era Tom Savini started his career which would eventually award him such titles as The Sultan of Splatter and The Godfather of Gore (though to be fair, I think this title ought to go to Dick Smith, don’t you think?). In 1974, Savini worked on Bob Clark’s masterpiece (but oddly forgotten) Deathdream, the story of a Vietnam soldier who comes home after being killed in action. I’ve often wondered what Tom thought about this flick, having served in Vietnam himself. Deathdream doesn’t present itself as being either pro or anti war, though we can certainly guess. What it does present is an overwhelming sense of questioning of our individual involvement in the affairs of the nation, beautifully told from the simplicity of a small town family unit. I’ll stop myself there. I can go on for a tangent with Deathdream, in fact, I’ve got a review of the movie…if you’re interested, you can read it here.

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Next, Tom worked again with Bob Clark in the movie Deranged. Later, he worked with fellow Pitsburg allium, George A. Romero, in the underappreciated fright flick, Martin. Let’s slow down here before moving on with Tom’s other work. Whenever I think of George A. Romero I first think of…zombies, yes, it’s true, shocker, right? But I also tend to think of Tom Savini after thinking about zombies. While Tom was in Vietnam, Romero was making Night of the Living Dead, but thanks to their relationship developed in Martin, they were able to collaborate in Romero’s second of his Dead Trilogy, Dawn of the Dead in 1978. If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan. Dawn of the Dead is without a doubt one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Not only was the screenwriting, the direction, the acting totally above par, but the practical effects also shined. Even today, though the blood is certainly not realistic, it is still effective. When the zombie-fro dude takes a chunk out of that lady’s shoulder, it still gives me the creeps. That’s a 38-year shelf-life, and it’s still aging, still perfecting like a fine wine.

Dawn of the Dead also opened new doors for Savini. In a slew of films, he would eventually be invited by Sean S. Cunningham to work on a new project titled Friday the 13th. Clearly, I’m picking all of my favorite movies Tom was involved in, and why sudden I? I’m the one writing this dang article! That being said, I’m sure there are other horror nerds who tend to lean in other directions regarding the Sultan’s work. Some may prefer Maniac or Eyes of the Stranger or The Burning or The Prowler, all are fine films worth considering. But for me, one of his crowning achievements was Friday the 13th. It’s because of this movie I question why Savini hasn’t been given the nickname The Father of Jason Voorhees. It was Tom’s creation that would spawn into a long lasting and fruitful franchise. Loved by many; despised by some. And as any tragic greek tale, Tom would eventually be asked to destroy his creation in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

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And his career continues. In 1985, Tom was given the Saturn Award for Best Make-Up Effects in Geroge A. Romero’s third “dead” installment, Day of the Dead (1985). And he moved on to contribute to too many movies and television shows to mention here, working as not only a special effects guru but also as a director and an actor/stuntman. Without a doubt, his love for horror movies is very evident. He even started his own school for special effects by opening  Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania and authored several books, including but not limited to Grande Illusions I and II and Horror F/X. For fans of the late 70s and 80s horror, it’s difficult not knowing his work and the work of other legendary special effects artists. It’s what we wanted most, the gore. Today, though, I have to wonder, are the makeup artist and gore masters even thought of. If I asked your typical The Walking Dead fan who did the practical effects for the show, would they know? I seriously doubt it. The answer is Greg Nicotero, BTW, who also worked on The Evil Dead 2 and Day of the Dead, and who is also from Pitsburg, which makes me seriously question what exactly does Pitsburg put in their drinking water. Maybe this is something we should start doing. No, not the drinking water, the “other” people who make movies possible. Even I do not know all the names of the effects or prop masters and all the other behind the scenes people working tirelessly to bring us our horrific entertainment. This is especially worse for TV as the credits flash by to make time for more commercials. So, if you’re a fan of horror, if you indulge to be entertained by the grotesque, after the show, after the movie, look up the effects team, the writers, the props, the composers, and read their names. you may be surprised to find a lot of these people have been involved in a lot of work you happen to be a fan of.

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Born November 3rd, 1946, today marks Tom Savini’s 70th birthday. And I wish him many more birthdays to come. Thank you, Tom, for your work and bringing not just me but countless others hours and hours of wonderfully sadistic entertainment. Cheers!

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our mailing list by clicking on the FREE BOOK image below to not only receive updates on new reviews and books but also a free eBook anthology of dark fiction.

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An Extraordinaryly Close Encounter w/ Duncan P. Bradshaw

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Many of you may have heard his name whispered in certain circles. Down dark alleyways. Flickering pubs. The smoke stacks of places sunlight dare not tread. Rumors written on bathroom stales right next to an elaborate image of Lobstercock and bible verses and call-for-a-good-time and that strange looking oval shaped hole cut out in the wood. You dare not recant his name three times whilst standing in front of a mirror, for fear he may just show up, hidden if not for the odor of fresh tobacco and the wool of a fashionable newsboy hat. But the worst is when he laughs. A chuckle belonging to the creatures only children believe in, whistling sunny songs before being dragged down between the sewer drain. Shuffling into your house late at night, his shadow is cast by the yellow porch light, and in his hands he offers you a sampling of tea and biscuits. You may have heard the name before, the name of Duncan P. Bradshaw. If you have, then you’re one step already in the door, if not, well…you’re in for a treat. Newcomers and everyone in-between, I invite you to sit back, for you are about to behold something truly wicked, a one-on-one interview with the real urban myth.

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Machine Mean: Let’s get some basic introductions out of the way, shall we? Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? What got you into writing? What brought you into the genre of horror?

Duncan P. Bradshaw: Why hello there! Tis I, Duncan P. Bradshaw, from the land of tea and crumpets. I reside in the majestic county of Wiltshire, in Southern England, with my amazing wife Debbie, and our two cats, Rafa and Pepe. I started writing a few years back now, finally managing to get my love of zombies down into words. I think if it wasn’t for my penchant for the undead, I doubt I would’ve been drawn to the horror world.

MM: What’s your favorite book and why?

DPB: It has to be World War Z by Max Brooks. I just love the style of how it’s done, instead of taking a normal narrative, it’s this after-action series of interviews. Just love how this big huge earth changing event has been and gone, and now you have people trying to go out and record what happened, by speaking to those who survived through it. I rarely read the same book twice these days, as my TBR pile is in danger of taking out a satellite or two, but WWZ gets re-read every few years.

MM: Here’s a hard one… What is your favorite zombie movie? Should zombies be fast or Romero-esk slow?

DPB: Hands down, without a doubt, the original Dawn of the Dead. Yes, if you watch it now, it is a little dated, the zombies are a touch too much blue, especially the Blu-Ray version, but that is all part of the charm. It’s just become the archetypal zombie film, you have video games based on the setting, an entire sub-genre is undead and kicking thanks to it. Really does showcase the human condition extremely well. How they take the mall back, and slip into that kind of nonchalant aloofness, that is only challenged when they are under attack by the biker gang.

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Personal choice here, I prefer the Romero shambling dead, to me, they pose a more terrifying threat than the ones from the remake. It’s that slowly moving wall of dead, which just loom down on you, building up dread. Over-confidence is the worst thing, as you assume they are easy to evade, but then BOOM, you round a corner and one is nibbling on your jugular, they’re my favourite ‘monster’.

MM: Duncan, you seem to have a wide arsenal of genres and sub-genres within the horror/dark fiction umbrella that you write in, from horror-comedy to science-fiction, to mystery, and even a bit of extreme. Is there one particular sub-genre you prefer to write?

DPB: I like to try different things out, mainly just from the weird and wonderful thoughts that I have going on. My aim is to get to the end of 2017, have a look back at what I’ve done, and try and focus down onto what I enjoyed doing, and try to specialise a little more. I’d say, here and now, the book I loved writing the most, was Class Three. It is equal parts horror and comedy, and I think it’s safe to assume that I’ll be trying to go down the comedy route in time. Whether that also includes horror, maybe? I think there will be elements in there, I like a bit of blood and guts, but I doubt it’ll be chilling psychological drama that I’ll be releasing.

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MM: You are keeping busy, by my count you’ve had Celebrity Culture, Prime Directive, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers: A Horror Anthology, The Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 2, and now you’re releasing your newest book, Hexagram. Do you have a writing method that you like to keep to? A schedule of sorts? Do you have a special place you like to do your writing?

DPB: Cheers man, had quite a productive end to 2015, which meant that I had a number of titles ready to go at the beginning of this year. Definitely more luck than design I’d say. I don’t have a method at all, most of my books start from a line of dialogue or one event, I’ll have a few days to think about it in general, then just start writing and see where it takes me. Like most writers, I try to get something down every day, but that’s not always possible with a full-time job and other commitments. Still, I miss it when I don’t do it.

I’m lucky that I have a room upstairs which is now converted into my office, which has all my junk in it. Got a desk there which I work from, with a speaker dock for my tunes. Though if I’m editing or doing a short story, I’m more than likely just to sit downstairs on the sofa, with some random sport on in the background.

MM: According to the all-knowing and all-powerful Amazon, you’re last publication was Prime Directive, which is a science-fiction story, something a little out of what you’ve normally published in the past, correct? Can you tell us a little bit about Prime Directive and what compelled you dabble in this sub-genre? Are there any future (no pun intended) works in store for us in the Bradshaw science-fiction realm?

DPB: Yeah, I think Prime Directive was a bit of a head scratcher for some people. It came about when I was writing the first draft of a novel called Deadlock. I had these five words of dialogue repeating in my head, over and over again. Then that little spark fused with a number of other ideas I’d had in the ol’ brain, and BOOM, I had a story. Deadlock was getting to a bogged down part, so I took a few weeks off, and wrote Prime Directive.

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I’ve always loved space exploration, find it enthralling and terrifying in equal measure. There’s just so much that we have no idea about, it’s inevitable that there are things out there which are even worse, morally speaking, than us humans. It provides such a wealth of opportunity. So, using an old story idea about the first set of Mars explorers, I was able to get it done. I’ve got no immediate plans for another one, but you never know…

MM: You are one of three of the founding members of Sinister Horror Company, alongside that vile cat-loving Daniel Marc Chant and the locks-people-in-basements Justin Park. What’s it like working with your partners and with Sinister Horror? How do you like working with other horror authors? Do you guys have any big plans down the road?

DPB: Honestly? It can be tricky, you’ve got three people, who have very different ideas on how they do things, and how best to approach growing the small press. It does cause friction, anyone who says otherwise is lying. But…at the end of the day we are all friends, and we find a way to make it work. It’s like a relationship, in that you have to work at it, and whereas before, when we just used to hang out, drink, play video games etc, now we are all responsible for this fledgling company.

I personally have not had much of a working relationship with the other people that have been published to date, or in the pipeline, as they are being dealt with by Justin or Dan. The one obvious exception is Kit Power, when we put GodBomb! out. As soon as I read that premise, I wanted us to be the ones to publish it, and am so glad I managed to speak to Kit and get it sorted.

We’ve got a really packed end of the year coming up, there will be new releases out every few weeks, but I’m quite lucky in one sense, as none of them are mine or I’m connected to. Sounds selfish, but I’ve been non-stop up until now, and I’m looking forward to watching Dan and Justin get some of their work out there. My plan is to try and clear a number of projects I’ve got on the go.

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MM: Okay…let’s talk a little bit about your new book coming out, Hexagram. The cover looks wicked. Can you tell us a little bit about the story? What sub-genre in horror would you label it?

DPB: Cheers fella, appreciate it. The idea for HEXAGRAM, came about from the adage, ‘We are all made of stars’. I wondered what would happen if stardust could be extracted from people, could it be used in some way to create something? From there, I started to write what I thought would be a novella. Typically, as soon as I started it, I thought about the origins of the ritual, and settled on the Inca. Then…my stupid brain suggested that I start with the Inca, and work a set of stories through history, to the modern day, and the story I had started on.

After a bit of going through a number of historical events, I managed to find a path through which I could do it. It became six stories, based on stardust. BOOM, a six pointed star, each point one step closer to the completion of the ritual, starting five hundred years before the climax. For each story, including the Inca tale, I used an actual event as either the foundation, or inspiration. So we have a survivor from the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet, a Confederate soldier at the Battle of Kolbs Farm, a detective with information on one of history’s most notorious serial killers, and the Jonestown Massacre.

In many ways, it is almost a collection, rather than a novel. For people who don’t like reading novels, as they’re ‘too long’, this is essentially five short stories and a novella at the end. As for which sub-genre, I don’t think it really has one. Some of the stories, I’d argue, aren’t particularly horrific. I don’t like aiming to fit my books into pigeonholes, I think it’s just a slightly weird concept, with horror elements. Best thing really, is to go and pick it up yourself. (SHAMELESS PLUG TIME).

MM: In the description, it looks like the book deals with some Inca rituals and shipwrecks, and suicide cults. What kind of research did you have to do with Hexagram?

DPB: When I was working out the chronology, I discarded a number of possible historical events, as I wanted ones which gave me the room to do my own thing in. So, when I did the story based on the Treasure Fleet, I used one of the ships that was never found. Likewise with the American Civil War story, I settled on a relatively small engagement, but which had some cool features in. I checked out some maps on the layout of the town, and in particular, the church.

One thing I get asked about, is the penultimate story, which is based on the Jonestown Massacre. They asked why I didn’t just use the event itself, why make up something? I just felt that using something so recent, which has been pored over by a multitude of journalists, would not enable me to do my own thing. I want people to enjoy the story, not picking holes in it, saying that so and so didn’t do this, or nitpicking the details. This is a work of fiction, so even the other stories use the events as a background, not a slide rule.

MM: The book cover for Hexagram looks freaking sweet. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Who designed it? Did you both get any say in the creative process?

DPB: I love the cover to HEXAGRAM, it’s done by a chap called Mike McGee, who runs Big Foot Studios with his mate, up in Liverpool. I found him when I was after the CLASS THREE cover, and wanted to use him again for the right project. When I finally settled on the book name, I had the idea of having each main character as a point of the star, with a little picture of something within their story. As it’s borne from the Inca, I wanted that golden coin in the middle.

I’m quite a particular person, and covers are no exception. I fully understand that when I write a brief for an artist, that what I will get back will not match it exactly, but it must incorporate a number of the key elements. When I got the black and white drawing back from Mike, I was blown away, he could not have gotten it more perfect. Once I had it, I then made the galaxy background, and it was all done.

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MM: Before we go, can you drop a little hint on future projects you may have cooking?

DPB: I’m working on a horror novel called DEADLOCK, about a retired jewel thief lured out of retirement for one more job. He ends up in Hell, and has to go through a number of trials to try and get what was promised to him. There is a comedy horror book called SUMMONED, about an apocalyptic monster that gets accidentally summoned. This is a multiple narrative book, with a mini comic, and a choose your own adventure, hoping this will be ready early next year.

I also have to finish up the CLASS FOUR trilogy, book two, VERSUS, is next on my list, so looking forward to getting that all done. Typically though, I already have two more books bubbling in my head, one is called AFTERTHOUGHT, and the other unnamed one, is a comedy horror post-apocalyptic book, set during the Brit-Pop years.

This concludes our interview with Duncan P. Bradshaw. We here at Machine Mean wish Duncan the best during his launch of Hexagram, now available on Amazon in both eBook and paperback editions for the mere price of $2.99 and $12.48 respectively.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Sinister Horror Company Website

 

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Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read. Why not pop over to his website, http://duncanpbradshaw.co.uk/ or give him a like over on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/duncanpbradshaw or read his ravings on his blog, http://duncanpbradshaw.blogspot.co.uk/

 

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Follow along the tour with these hashtags:  #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram, Synopsis

  • File Size:3282 KB
  • Print Length:232 pages
  • Publisher:EyeCue Productions (July 25, 2016)
  • Publication Date:July 25, 2016

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.

Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.

Praise for Hexagram

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

Praise for Bradshaw’s Writing

“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews

“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene

“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Sinister Horror Company Website

Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?

If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com


Night of the Living Dead: celebrating 47 years

RELEASED this day in 1968, George A. Romero’s epic, groundbreaking classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD hits theaters, recounting the tale of a group of disparate individuals who take refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to walk in search of fresh human bodies to devour. The pragmatic Ben (Duane Jones) does his best to control the situation, but when the reanimated bodies surround the house, the other survivors begin to panic. As any semblance of order within the group begins to dissipate, the zombies start to find ways inside — and one by one, the living humans become the prey of the deceased ones.

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There are few movies out there that represent the feelings of the era in which the film was made as honestly and brutal as Night of the Living Dead. 1968 America was very chaotic, with the deaths of charismatic leaders such as MLK and JFK, post Tet, and the furious antiwar protesters took over in colleges across the nation, including Columbia University in New York. And of lest no forget, Tricky Dick’s infamous call for the GREAT SILENT MAJORITY to stand up and be recognized. Night of the ?Living Dead was very much an subversive answer to the late Presidents speech. And was interesting invoked one of the greatest Civil Rights speeches made, when Dave Dennis stood up in front of those mourning the loss of James Earl Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner from New York City, when he said, “I’m not here to do the traditional things most of us do at such a gathering…what I want to talk about right now is the living dead that we have right among our midst, not only in the state of Mississippi but throughout the nation. Those are the people who don’t care, those who do care but don’t have the guts enough to stand up for it, and those people who are busy up in Washington and in other places using my freedom and my life to play politics with…”

Not only does Night of the Living Dead hold historical clout, but also became the predecessor to an entire sub-genre in horror. Think about it. Before Romero, zombies were still in the realm of voodoo witch-doctors and crazed plantation owners, space alien mind control, or even atomic aged ghouls. Not saying those sub-genres aren’t good in their own right, cause anyone whose seen The Serpent and the Rainbow can attest that voodoo zombies are still scary. But Romero created something new, a new monster in the lineup of Frankenstein’s, Vampires, Werewolf’s, Mummy’s, fish people, and the like. Without Romero we wouldn’t have The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombi3, The Beyond, and a laundry list of films that benefited from George’s take on walking flesh eating ghouls. 

And besides all this, Night of the Living Dead is a damn fine horror movie. Low budget and gorilla in nature. The story was plausible and the characters felt real: we know these people; they’re us, we’re them. Romero’s take on zombies is fundamentally about the people who are trying to survive and how they react given certain situations. How we ultimately take sides and are not quick to listen to the ideas of others. Our fight or flight response forces us into making poor decisions, instead of working together as a group. And then in the end, much how Ben met his fate, we needlessly die. 

One of the best reviews I read on Night of the Living Dead wasn’t really a review, but rather a review on the audience during a screening in 1969. The unknown reviewer noted the following: 

“The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying. I don’t think the younger kids really knew what hit them. They were used to going to movies, sure, and they’d seen some horror movies before, sure, but this was something else. This was ghouls eating people up — and you could actually see what they were eating. This was little girls killing their mothers. This was being set on fire. Worst of all, even the hero got killed. It’s hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that’s not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It’s just over, that’s all. I felt real terror in that neighborhood theater last Saturday afternoon. I saw kids who had no resources they could draw upon to protect themselves from the dread and fear they felt.”

 




Horrible Women, or my favorite women in horror

Image result for horror women

With February being Women in Horror Month, I thought I’d do my part in honoring the many women who’ve made the genre I love so bloody fantastic. Women who have broken boundaries and defied not only gender clichés, but also social and cultural as well. Now, in all honesty, horror is not with its own stereotypical tropes, but in fairness, horror has also done more to mangle down those grey stone walls of truism. Slasher movies for one have a nasty habit of typecasting women into weak character roles. Yet, looking at it from another angle, you might notice that as said slasher movie victim is running around bumping into dead things and screaming at the top of her lungs, she survives while typically every single if not 99% of the male character population parishes in some grotesque way. At the very least, perhaps even slasher movies are saying that when the shit hits the fan, women are survivors. 2013’s home invasion horror movie You’re Next may or maybe count as a slasher flick (we’re going to roll with it), but in the film while there are a few damsels in distress, Erin Hanson (played by the beautiful Sharni Vinson) utterly dominates the movie, chewing bubble gum and kicking ass, taking no prisoners. To say the only contribution women have made for horror is to play its victim is a gross generalization. In movies where women are intended to be the victim, they survive. And then there’s the other side of the road. The villains. The most creepiest characters and monsters of horror, in my humble opinion, have been women. Consider Kathy Bates in Misery and you tell me if her portrayal as Annie Wilkes didn’t creep you the F out! Lets all be honest here, lets put aside our egocentric macho bullshit and come clean. Lets admit it, women have done more for horror than men. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite horrible women!

Lina Leandersson as Eli in Let the Right One In (2008):

Lina Leandersson as Eli, Let the Right One In, 2008.

Let the Right One In released in our most desperate hour, during a very strange and scary time for vampire tropes. I hate to mention here on my blog, but it needs to be said, in 2008, vampire lore had been polluted with Twilight-esk glowworm sparkle making me want to scream for trying to ruin a classic horror monsters! Yuck! And thank Zeus those days are over. Let the Right One In was an welcomed breath of fresh air, an absolute amazing horror flick. And Lina Leandersson playing the century’s old vampire Eli was magnificent. She was so innocent until she wasn’t. The best scene has to be at the pool when Oskar is confronted with some rather violent bullies. You do not see her inflict the carnage, but when Oskar comes out of the pool and you see all the gore surrounding this small adolescent girl, it is a utter chilling moment in horror history. Her portrayal as his protector was totally believable. The American remake was decent, but for this list I have to go with the original Swedish version. It was by far the superior.

Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully  in The X-Files (1993-2003, 2008, 2016):

Gillian Leigh Anderson as Agent Scully, X-Files (1993-2003).

What can really be said about our favorite doubting Special Agent? The X-Files had a huge impact in my life growing up. And the show is still good. Better than most of what passes as TV nowadays, not to sound like some bitter old man. Gillian Anderson’s portrayal as Dana Scully is interesting. She’s the yin to Fox Mulder’s yang (not to sound dirty). She was the rational part of the relationship, Mulder was the wide eye dreamer who jumped at any and all shadow that spelled conspiracy or extraterrestrial or both. She was a skeptic, sure, but she had to be to level out Mulder’s eccentricism. She was also the scientist, the doctor, the brains of the operation. Her portrayal is interesting because its a role typically played by men. Are men not the more rational? DON’T ANSWER THAT! (cough-cough, wink-wink).

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986):

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, 1986.

Though the first time Miss Weaver portrayed Ellen Ripley was in Alien (1979), she did not feel to me as strong of a character as she was in its sequel, Aliens. She was a survivor, for sure in Alien, but in Aliens she kicked some major xenomorph ass! In James Cameron’s epic sci-fi horror, Ripley was easily the strongest character not only because of what she did, but the fact that she did it while struggling with PTSD, struggling with the memories of the traumatic events from the first film. She was a protector when at times you felt she was the one needing protection. Hell, she came out on top while every single one, save Hicks, of the supposedly badass Colonial Marines gets bush whacked! She even goes toe to toe with the “get away from her you bitch” queen bee! Aliens is an excellent movie for many reasons, but the best is watching Ripley transform from traumatized survivor to tuff-as-nails She-Ra!

Jane Levy as Mia in The Evil Dead (2013):

Jane Levy as Mia in The Evil Dead, 2013.

I have no idea what some nerds have against this movie. It is absolutely fantastic. It wasn’t a reboot, it wasn’t a remake, it wasn’t a continuation; 2013’s The Evil Dead was simply another cabin-in-the-woods movie cast in an Evil Dead universe. The mood from the very beginning is grainy and dark, given the subject matter of Mia’s rehabilitation with drug addiction. And it just gets darker. And her struggles felt real. And when the table turns and her inner-demon, as they say, comes out…her creep factor goes sky high! It was fun watching Mia start off playing the victim of the demon that had taken hold of her, and then in actuality becoming the monster (and scary one at that!). And it was satisfying seeing her, by the end, transform into a person willing to literally and metaphorically come out swinging. Mia was not some Ash trope, she was her own character, and a strong and realistic one at that.

Gaylen Ross as Francine in Dawn of the Dead (1978):

Gaylen Ross as Francine in Dawn of the Dead, 1978.

While I struggled between Gaylen as Francine in the original and Sara Polly as Ana in the 2004 remake, because I feel both characters and women were strong in each of their respective films, in the end I had to go with Gaylen Ross. Blame it on my favoritism to the original classic or on my love for Romero or whatever you want. Regardless, who can deny the magnetism in Ross’ portrayal as Francine? She was a lone woman surrounded by male machismo and was still able to keep her voice heard over all the grunts and farts. From the very get-go, when they land at the mall and she states “Stephen, I’m afraid. You’re hypnotized by this place. All of you! You don’t see that it’s not a sanctuary, it’s a prison! Let’s just take what we need and get out of here!” Yet, while being overruled by the male majority, she remains patient and lets it slide until her prophecy becomes reality. Of course, her best line is when the boys hatch a plan to secure the mall without consulting her and she confronts them with her own demands, telling Stephen mostly to never leave her without a gun again because (she states mockingly) “I just might know how to use it.” And what’s more interesting is that she is not only the lone woman in the group, but also pregnant. That in itself says something to the strength of her character to deal with these boys and keep her cool in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist (1973):

Linda Blair as Regan in The Exorcist, 1973

As horror director and visionary Tom McLoughlin put it (and I’m paraphrasing here) Linda Blair as Regan was everything sugar and spice and everything nice, and she was set up so beautifully pared with her mother, but when she turned on us she became is absolute terror because while she is being victimized by the demon (or demons if you have read the book) she is also the monster, this evil thing that is in total control. Linda Blair did such a marvelous job with her role that The Exorcist is without argument the scariest movie ever made. But it was not just Blair and Regan that made the movie sensational, it was also Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, a strong independent single mother, balancing a profitable career and parenthood. Both actresses deserve mention as this list.

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton in Hellraiser (1987) & Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988):

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton in Hellraiser, 1987.

I wanted to give Ashley Laurence’s portrayal as Miss Cotton credit in both films because she was pretty much the same character types in both films, though you can imagine that in Hellbound she was struggling more with the hellish (no pun intended) events in the first movie. Miss Cotton was a believable loving daughter who did what she could to love her step-mother, but as they classic trope demands, her step-mother was quite wicked and unlovable. I love Cotton’s character. She’s not weak necessarily. She is a survivor. And she most certainly has her wits about her during times of tribulation. Consider the moment in Hellraiser when she first opens Lemarchand’s box (aka The Lament Configuration, aka The Puzzle Box). When the cenobites first appear, though terrified, for obvious reasons, she is still able to keep her cool and hatch a plan to trade her life for Frank’s. And at the end, when the cenobite attempt to alter the deal she sends each and everyone of them back to hell via solving the puzzle box. In Hellbound, though traumatized, she not only confronts the return of her wicked step-mother, Julia, but manages to humanize Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the other cenobites, turning them back to their original self’s. Clare Higgins also deserves mention here. I was not impressed with her portrayal as Julia in the first Hellraiser, her character was too needing of Frank to stand on her own. But in Hellbound, the gloves came off!! She was a strong and dominate villain, blood thirsty and seductive, even without skin. Yet, despite strong acting from Higgins, I’m more favorable toward Laurence as Cotton. She was smart and foul mouthed, a perfect combination.

Well, there you have it folks! Just a few favorites from the numerous women who have not only embraced, but also defined horror. Who are some of your favorite women in horror?

Thomas S. Flowers creates character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

A tale of revenge and BBQ!!!

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Dawn of the Dead (1978) and me..

Let me just say, that I have been a Romero fan for a very long time. Longer than when I started considering myself a “horror guy.” I’ve been a fan, considering my age, since the release of Savini’s directorial foray with Night of the Living Dead. Even after finally watching the original (of which I love more now that I’m older), I still consider the remake as a Romero flick. Why? Simple enough. He wrote it. Savini directed. End of story.

The feel I had watching one of Romero’s “dead” flicks is a very fond and pleasant memory. Friday night. Popcorn. Pizza. Junk food. The life, right? I still get that feel watching movies, but especially horror movies, and even more especially when watching any one of Romero’s trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day.

When I finally sat down to watch Dawn of the Dead, the movie became an instant favorite. I wouldn’t dare say Dawn is better than Night, but Day…well..

So, why am I a Romero fan? Good question. In all of film, horror is the most honest. Horror will show you the ugly mess society often turns things. Film makers normally are not intentionally making a movies with social commentary in mind; social commentary is usually a byproduct of the times the movie was made. However, with horror, more often than not, social commentary is intentional. Or at least most of the time! And Dawn of the Dead, all of Romero’s original trilogy, even Diary of the Dead, are chocked full of subversive commentary!!

This is part of the reason why I’m turned on to horror. You can tell a fun and exciting story, filled with interesting characters and creatures, whilst also turning over the apple cart, as Romero has said during an interview with Nightmares in the Red, White, and Blue. With horror, you can be as brutally honest as you want, just so long as it makes sense politically, and in the context of the story.

Dawn of the Dead was released in 1978, yet amazingly and tragically (in a way) its bit on consumerism is still so very relevant. The things that fill the void, so to speak. Stuff can only make us happy for a little while..and then.. “What the hell are they?” And so on!

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There is Something About Bub

“Hello! Is anyone there?” There are no better words for an opening scene in a zombie movie!!! This particular verse comes from George A. Romero’s third “dead” installment, Day of the Dead (1985). In the scene, as Dr. Sarah Bowman and Pvt. Salazar call out from their nearby helicopter, searching for other survivors, the camera pans out, revealing a ravaged and empty tomb of a city slowly echoing with the hungry cries of the undead. This scene is one of the first images shown in Day of the Dead; with it we’re given a very chilling and unforgettable moment in horror, the feeling of desperation.

How desperate have things become? Following Night of the Living Dead, where folks were simply trying to survive the night, and following Dawn of the Dead as folks were escaping the cities, abandoning attempted containment zones and searching for safe havens, Day of the Dead shows us a group of survivors after the flood, the last ditch effect of a collapsing government desperately looking for a cure, while also searching for other survivors near the area of their underground complex. How desperate have things become? In the words of Nick Furry, “very desperate,” and they might not like the outcome their kind of “situation” tends to bring out in people.

Day of the Dead is a highly regarded zombie movie, though, typically, fans of the series will rate Dawn of the Dead as the better “dead” flick within Romero’s trilogy, if only marginally. To be honest, this holds true for me as well; Dawn was simply a better movie. The things Dawn said about society and people resonated with me better than with Day; however, this doesn’t mean Day didn’t have something valuable to teach us regarding said society. If anything, Day of the Dead told the tale of desperation and how people react when cornered better than the other two movies combined.

There was also something about Bub that wasn’t told in the other movies…not until Land of the Dead at least. Bub was a very unique character; a zombie interacting with peoples both positively and negatively. With Doctor Logan, aka Dr. Frankenstein (who by the way reminded me of an aged Herbert West), Bub was rather nonviolent and friendly, but with Captain Rhodes, while Bub started out friendly, he turned violent in response to Rhodes aggressive attitude. Though Rhodes was a total jerk and was constantly boarding a nervous breakdown, it was hard not agreeing with him. How were they supposed to “train” millions of undead? While Logan was looking towards domestication, Rhodes was hoping for some kind of WMD. Logan was obviously mad, but we can’t ignore Bub as proof that some form of domestication was possible…or maybe Bub was just the next evolutionary stage for the zombie within the Romero universe.

The strangest bit with Bub was when he discovered Logan’s dead body. Okay, so you can train Bub by showing him things he “remembers” from when he was alive. I can buy that, its not a huge leap of faith to see a zombie interacting with something it remembers from its past life. This was the theory in Dawn of the Dead for why the undead were coming to the mall. But when Bub finds Logan in the freezer, he reacts with emotion, Bub is sad and then becomes enraged. You can see on his face a desire for resolution. Bub is strange because he forces us to question the existence of the zombie. Are they not mindless beings? Do they feel? Do they cry? Obviously, in the movie world, these undead beings are a huge threat and very dangerous, but with Bub we have to question everything. However, in Day of the Dead, Bub is an anomaly, he’s the only zombie we see behaving with cognition, the rest simply follows the food. The lasting imagine with Bub is how Logan falsely thought he had domesticated him. Did bub stop seeing people as food? Sure, but that doesn’t mean he stopped seeing them as the enemy. In the case of Rhodes, Bub guns him down, pushing him into a horde of zombies to be pulled apart. The final scene with Bub shows him giving the disemboweled Capt Rhodes a mocking salute.

The great flaw Romero highlights in his stories are how incredibly messed up people are, the ones who react poorly in face of some earth shattering event. His movies show us the ugly truth: when folks are scared and desperate they make selfish decisions. But Romero doesn’t take away hope, he also shows us the smaller band that pulls together and survives. This smaller group of heroes goes back to the original play-on-words that spawned his zombie vision, Romero’s response to Richard Nixon’s call for the non-violent silent majority to stand up and be counted (1968), still lives on in Day of the Dead. However, now the silent majorities are no longer mindless zombies, but evolving, and perhaps not in the way Nixon had originally intended.

On September 17, 2013, the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack for Day of the Dead releases nationwide. The cover art, conceived from the morbid mind of Nathan Thomas Milliner, is amazing and just how mama used to say, “First impressions are everything.” Some of the special features include, but are not limited to:

• New High-Definition Master

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director George A. Romero, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and Actress Lori Cardille

• Behind the Scenes: 31 Minutes of Production Footage from Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini

• Audio Interview with Actor Richard Liberty

• Wampum Mine Promotional Video

• Photo Galleries

• Theatrical Trailers

• TV Spots

• And More…

You can pre-order your copy here with Amazon. Which, in my opinion, is worth the $20.96 cost, especially as this edition comes with both the blu-ray and DVD. And the Bottom Line? Good story, awesome traditional effects, what more could you ask for in a zombie movie? Was Day as good as Dawn? Not for me, but that doesn’t mean Day of the Dead wasn’t worth watching, it is; Day of the Dead is an amazing movie full of characters you’ll love and hate.