Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Return of the Living Dead (1985, Dan O’Bannon)


In 2017 Best Buy still had a decently sized movie section that has since been gutted since everyone streams movies and physical media has taken considerable hits. I went there to find something for Halloween since I knew I didn’t have to work the day after and I would be able to stay up late viewing horror movies after work. They had a cool looking copy of Return of the Living Dead, which I hadn’t seen in years at the time and was due for a rewatch. I still own my copy and I love that movie because it is a punk zombie horror comedy that has plenty of bite and even some scary moments. I’m not sure if it is a great movie, however I’ve known plenty who could argue that it is and even convince myself. Return of the Living Dead is one of those films that could only have been conceived of and made in the 1980s-yes I’m going to be that guy-primarily since a lot of the styles and trends the movie features are very much out of date and now laughably retro. Also punk has been co-opted by Hot Topic and has unfortunately gone mainstream. Too bad.

One thing I enjoy about Dan O’Bannon’s cult classic is that the movie has some great comedy moments and also some really surprisingly creepy moments as well. Plus the flick works as an agreed to by O’Bannon and George A. Romero unofficial sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968) where in this universe that movie actually really happened and the government covered it up. I also dig how the movie shows actual dates onscreen, acting as an unofficial covering of what happens one July 4th (yey holiday movie horror!) weekend. Freddy and Frank are two bumbling medical supply warehouse employees who accidentally unleash a zombie plague upon their home city of Louisville, making their city famous for more than just basketball. A group of young punks, friends of Freddy, end up breaking into a cemetery in what turns out to be the worst mistake of their young lives.

The cast for this film is excellent: I mean you have James Karen and Clu Gulager as the major heavyweight veterans, with Thom Mathews and Linnea Quigley headlining the younger cast. Quigley ends up stealing the movie with a freaky performance both as a living person and as the undead! I still chuckle at the “Send more cops” line, and admire this movie for having brain eating zombies, fast moving zombies, and trap setting zombies. Although technically the cult flick Nightmare City had zombies that moved quickly and were capable of using objects as weapons before Return of the Living Dead, and I’m sure it helped inspire O’Bannon’s film as well.

Despite not finding this movie very scary I still love it anyways, and I’m holding on to my Blu-ray copy as long as it still works. Return of the Living Dead is one of those movies that every horror fan should see, and despite being dated 1980s wise a lot of the material holds up incredibly well. Besides who doesn’t wanna party? IT’S PARTY TIME!

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Messiah of Evil (1973, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck)


Equal parts slow burn, nightmare fuel and zombie film, Messiah of Evil is one one those 1970s cult gems that people talk about years later. There are two scenes that echo in my mind: one is a grocery store one that is super freaky, the other takes place in a movie theater which calls to mind Carnival of Souls. Both are highly effective and add to the film’s overall high eerie factor that works very much in it’s favor.

Arletty (Marianna Hill) goes to a small California town in search of her father, played by Royal Dano. Running into an old man (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who tells her about a dark prophecy straight out of a Lovecraft story. She ends up joining a rich guy (Michael Greer) and his two female pals (Joy Bang and Anitra Ford) who hang around despite all of them, Arletty included, reading her father’s spooky diary.

In fact much of this movie has the look and feel of a Lovecraft adaption, with some solid nods to George A. Romero, of course. The final act is your quality 1970s finale that has no qualms about being gloomy. I liked this movie a lot and I might watch it again if Shudder still keeps the rights or Tubi has it. This kind of movie is why I love 1970s horror so much: it has guts, literally.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: One Cut of the Dead (2017, Shinichirou Ueda)


Every once in a while there comes along a movie that is equal parts clever and unique. Sometimes that is rarer in the horror genre, but when you encounter that type of movie you feel the need to celebrate it, particularly when the movie is both fun and delightful as well. The current gem I discovered while going through Shudder recommendations was the 2017 cult film One Cut of the Dead, a marvelous zombie movie that everyone should watch and enjoy. I thought it was funny, at times rather creepy, and a tribute to the efforts of low budget cinema.

Without giving away too much I will say that I also liked the entire cast, particularly Takayuki Hamatsu as the way over energetic director and Harumi Shuhama as the film’s main actress, who takes things a bit too far. The special effects reflect such B-movie classics as George A. Romero’s Dead films and the work of Lucio Fulci as well, and I was left pleasantly surprised by what happens later on in the movie. One Cut of the Dead is an example of a great foreign horror movie, and also reminds me that every time I think I have seen it all with horror films, something new comes along and inspires me to continue with the genre.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Creepshow 2 (1987, Michael Gornick)


Those few who have bothered to read my reviews know that I am a sucker for horror anthologies. Even the lesser ones have something good to offer, however Creepshow 2 is a good one that I rather enjoyed. The first film is better due to the director and casting choices, yet the sequel has its charms. The Creep, this time played by horror legend Tom Savini, hands the latest issue off to young Billy, all while laughing with glee. And thus, begins our film. Hey it’s from New World Pictures, that company rocked.

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Ok the wrap around story is cool, although its mostly animated. Probably for budget reasons, and because it looks great, reminding me a little of the animation from Heavy Metal. More on that later. The first story is called “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” and it concerns a nice elderly couple played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour. What happens to them is tragic, resulting in a killer statue coming to life and seeking revenge. This one is awesome and is wisely kept short, although the viewer is left to wonder if the old chief will do it again. Or has done it before. Spooky. Also I didn’t recognize Holt McCallany as Sam, the leader of the gang that gives the old couple trouble. It must have been the hair…

Before the next story begins, Billy stops to buy a Venus flytrap bulb. Does this figure into the story later? Maybe…and now, for “The Raft,” the best tale of the bunch. A group of young kids make a grave error and encounter something monsterous on a secluded lake. Not the fun romp they had in mind. I like the FX in this one, and the ending made me chuckle. I know the story is slightly different, and I will read it at some point. This is the only tale of the trio that could have been made into a movie. Which is not a knock on the film overall, just a reminder that some tales are better than others.

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Look at that fat bully. He leads a gang that makes the really big mistake of going after Billy. The wrap around story is actually my favorite thing about Creepshow 2, and has the main thing I like about both films: if you are a sucky person, you get crushed by the wheel of karma. This brings us to the last tale, a bleak slice of humor called “The Hitch-hiker.” Lois Chiles cheats on her husband, then runs over some poor guy on her way home. She keeps on driving, only to find out that sometimes the dead refuse to stay dead. “THANKS FOR THE RIDE, LADY!” is a line I will never forget, haha, along with Stephen King playing a trucker in a weird little cameo.

Overall despite its flaws (low budget, only three stories, lesser cast, etc) I rather liked Creepshow 2. I have no desire to watch the third film. I believe that Shudder is making a new Creepshow show, which sounds promising. They were also the reason I was able to finally view this flick. What a great resource.

Ten Years Dead: Night of the Living Dead Essay (Warning: Spoilers)


From 2005, no less. Whoa that’s 10 years since I wrote about George A. Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead (1968). Unfortunately I was unable to discuss the film in full detail without using spoilers and mentioning key plot points, although at this point if you haven’t seen George A. Romero’s classic film then you should go fix that ASAP.

Despite the snubbing the horror movie genre receives from many critics, there are actually a good many horror films that have received substantial praise from both critics and fans. One such film is original Night of the Living Dead, made in 1968 by the famous and renowned director George A. Romero. I’ve heard it referred to as the Citizen Kane of horror movies, and while I haven’t seen enough to agree with that statement, Night is indeed a landmark in the history of horror movies, and in cinema.

Before I begin my attempt to discuss the film’s plot, stars, and the finer points of human flesh, I feel the need to say how I discovered this film in the first place. It was back in the fall of 2001, when I was a sophomore at my local high school. Being that it was Halloween, we decided to rent a couple of horror movies, thus continuing a tradition of sorts that we’ve done every year since the 8th Grade.

After walking through the door and being greeted by one of the store clerks wearing some freaky mask, we wandered into the video store aisle marked “Horror.” While my friend picked Scream 3, which was a fairly new release, I noticed a VHS cover, which I think had a zombie on it (my memory is kind of fuzzy). I read the back of the movie, which said it was about some people getting attacked by zombies, and I thought it would be gory fun. Get this: there were two copies of Night of the Living Dead, both the original and the remake. I thought I was getting the remake. But no, when my friend and I popped the tape in back at his house, I discovered to my surprise that it was an old black and white film instead.

Being young and wanting quick scares, my friend didn’t like the film and I found it to be alright at best, with the ending quite shocking and the famous “girl zombie” scene to be gruesome. Turning to the fun of Scream 3, which I found scary at the time (I only saw the rest of the trilogy two Halloweens ago), we both forgot about the other film. That was roughly four years and four viewings ago. Multiple viewings quickly changed my thoughts and views on the flick, but one could say that about a number of movies. I could go on all about me, but I’d rather focus on the film itself.

As the movie opens, we see Johnny boy and his sister Barbara on their way to place flowers on some dead person’s grave. Who that person is isn’t relevant to the story, but instead it serves as an ample plot device, since Johnny is reminded of how he used to scare Barbra, going on to say “They coming to get you Barbara,” with a stupid look on his face. He should have kept his mouth shut, because one of them comes alright. He’s defiantly not human, looks like Lurch’s long lost cousin, and he proceeds to bash Johnny’s head into a tomb stone. Lurch attempts to grab Barbara, but she ditches her car (“Johnny has the keys” is what she says later on), and runs like hell, finally reaching an abandoned farmhouse. This scene marks the change in the movie from quiet and relaxed to a freaky, heavy sense of dread, and I find the zombie attack to be somewhat surreal and almost out of place, which is why it works. Rising from the grave, clearly awakened by gongs being banged by crazed Buddhist monks, dozens of zombies slowly converge upon the farmhouse. All hope seems lost for poor Barbara, who by this point has become a buddle of fried nerves, scared out of her bloody mind, and clearly in no shape to battle the undead hordes.

That’s when the protagonist of our film comes in out of nowhere, riding in an old broke down car and wielding what looks like a tire iron. His name is Ben, and he is her knight in shinning armor, or, in actual reality, an African-American male completely surrounded by whitey. Seriously, Ben is the only black man we see in the entire flick-even the zombies are white! While Romero claims that his decision to cast Duane Jones in the role wasn’t motivated by race, the film’s events (which I will get to later) make me wonder. Completely unfazed by the fact that he’s surrounded by flesh eaters, he walks out on the front porch and sets some of the creatures on fire, and also quickly boards up the house. The guy even finds a lever action shotgun, and starts loading the weapon; Ben is a man of action, and here we witness what has become a common cliché in many movies: the quick thinking man of action, who stays calm, knows what to do, and isn’t afraid to act.

The movie wouldn’t be complete without some drama within the house itself, and this is supplied by Harry, a racist, his wife and child, and the young couple Tom and Judy. Harry doesn’t trust Ben’s decisions and wants to be in charge, providing the film with an added and interesting dimension: Harry feels that he is the bigger man, that he’s right, that he has to be the alpha male of the group. It’s not just a matter of race, but also a matter of serious pride; this pride ends up leading to the destruction of the group, and a bitter irony: that Harry was right about the basement of the house being the safest place to hide. Well at least in the end for the most part; although at the same time staying up in the main house, where there are multiple escape routes makes sense too.

At its core, Night of the Living Dead is many things. It’s clear that the movie is a horror version of those old westerns where the cowboys are holed up in a small cabin or fort, with the savage Indians attacking it, trying to break in and scalp everyone inside. Of course the Indians never ate the cowboys (last time I checked), but that seems to be the main reason why most of the movie takes place inside an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. The claustrophobic feeling of the house has a clear effect upon the inhabitants, and this only ups the film’s slowly building sense of tension. I also feel that the movie in a way mirrors the social and political upheavals that were taking place at that time in America. Ben and Harry’s struggles for control certainly reflect upon the racial conflicts that had exploded in many American cities, along with the film’s ending, which caught me completely off guard. Also, the movie’s few extremely violent scenes are perhaps references to the Vietnam War; in that American troops mowed down countless, nameless Vietnamese communists-only replace the communists with flesh eating zombies. I also have to note that many of the zombies had the look of dirty, druggy hippies, which makes me wonder if Romero was commenting on the country’s counterculture as well.

A final theme I think the movie touches on is the horrifying thought that mankind at its worst reverts to its most primitive, primal and gruesome instincts, and I think the zombies reflect this. That at any time, any place, and your loved one may go berserk and decide to either gnaw on your flesh, or stab you to death with a garden trowel. They are no longer human, and reasoning with them won’t save you. Which is to me a very scary thought indeed.

“Night,” like most horror movies isn’t well known for its actors, or good acting in general. That seems to be an extra bonus, especially if you take a look at the slasher films of the 1980s. But even on a shoe string budget Romero manages to get some pretty good acting out of some of the movie’s cast, especially Duane Jones. Jones as Ben is really the film’s strongest character, and while it’s not an entirely fleshed out role, Jones does a wonderful job portraying a man surrounded by what one could call a surrealistic nightmare. What makes Ben so damn cool is that he takes no prisoners, refuses to surrender, uses everything at his disposal to kill the zombies, and until the second half of the film, he has a plan. What also makes his character so fascinating is how Ben slowly comes to realize that even he is human, and that despite all his planning everything goes terribly wrong. This feeling is further explored in a scene where Ben is trapped in the basement, haunted by the fact that he is now all alone, and that the bastard hippie people eaters have finally broken into the house. Ben has been defeated, and he knows it.

As for the other actors, Karl Hardman as Harry, we see a man who is the complete opposite of Ben. Harry seems to be nervous, racist, (one could say that Ben was racists at times also), and paranoid. His struggles with Ben and the distrust that exists between them do indeed add the needed dynamic to the film, and his demise is equal parts gory, tragic, and horrifying, and showcase’s the film’s third theme about lack of true humanity. Judith O’Dea, who as Barbara is stuck in the role of the woman in need of rescue, is the film’s truly realistic side, in that she’s scared out of her mind. While most of us think that we’d act like Ben in such a situation, more than likely many of us would be frightened, and wondering whether or not we would survive. Oh, and what happens to poor Barb is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and is horribly ironic.

The film in itself has plenty of irony, some people who get their just deserts, and others who were unlucky enough to be caught of the middle of two angry men and the horde of the undead. Romero by the way smartly only has a few scenes of gore, and so their shock value and the effect of disgust they aim to project are seared onto the audience’s mind; this is in sharp contrast to the rest of his zombie series. Although the part where the zombie girl stabs her mother to death with a garden tool is a clear homage (or rip off if that’s your opinion) of the famous shower scene in “Psycho,” with the blood splattering, the screams of the dying, and the sharp musical notes in the background. That scene gets me every time, simply because the image of a woman’s spawn butchering her is to me quite cringe worthy, and somewhat shocking.

Stamped with Romero’s unique vision, driven by tension, gore, a cast of realistic characters, and a thoughtful commentary on humanity that may or may not have been intentional, Night of the Living Dead is a movie experience every horror fan should have. The movie proves that not all horror films are mindless, gory thrill machines, and that the genre has contributed more to the world of cinema than is generally acknowledge.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci)


Lucio Fulci sure loves his zombies, as evidenced by many of his movies. Especially the aptly named cult classic Zombie, made in 1979 and styled as a quasi sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. However this film is more graphic and violent, which is the usual hallmarks of a Fulci movie. This one starts out with a brutal killing followed by a freaky and gory incident on a boat in the New York harbor.

A reporter and the daughter of a doctor team up together and decide to travel down to the island to find him. This leads to them using a pair of vacationing adventurers and a mysterious island where a strange doctor is conducting bizarre experiments. Nothing is what it seems and the undead lurk around every corner, set on devouring the living. This is made especially clear during a horrific scene where a woman is powerless to stop a zombie from attacking her in gruesome fashion.

From that point on the film turns into a walking nightmare, as the undead rise and begin to attack. Most zombie movies have a siege moment at one point or another, and Zombie sure provides it. Funny how cowboys vs Native Americans are incorporated in many horror films, as the heroes must blast their way out and prevent themselves from becoming monster food. Also it helps that they have enough guns to battle the zombie menace.

Despite the low budget and the cheesy acting this is a really well shot horror film. Also the film has one of the coolest moments ever when a shark battles a zombie. Plus the ending is fantastic and eerie, a fitting conclusion to what could be Fulci’s masterwork. Also the film could be seen as a case study in different awesome ways to slaughter a zombie. Even though its not really dived into more there is also a subtitle yet also obvious commentary on how the island’s inhabitants get revenge/seek to devour their seemingly white colonial masters, in addition to the island’s curses that plagued its Spanish rulers coming back to haunt the living centuries later. I can’t wait to see some of his other films, as I have already viewed and liked a few of his other works.

Favorite Horror Movies


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  1. Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)
  2. Gremlins (1984, Joe Dante)
  3. Videodrome (1983, David Cronenberg)
  4. Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
  5. Night of the Creeps (1986, Fred Dekker)
  6. The Last Man On Earth (1964, Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow)
  7. The Horror Express (1973, Eugenio Martin)
  8. Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright)
  9. Carnival of Souls (1960, Herk Harvey)
  10. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
  11. Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987, Sam Rami)
  12. Scream (1996, Wes Craven)
  13. Tremors (1990, Ron Underwood)
  14. Re-Animator (1985, Stuart Gordon)
  15. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, Joseph Zito)
  16. Horror of Dracula (1958, Terence Fisher)
  17. Sleepy Hollow (1999, Tim Burton)
  18. Trick ‘r’ Treat (2008, Michael  Dougherty)
  19. The Frighteners (1996, Peter Jackson)
  20. Arachnophobia (1990, Frank Marshall)

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It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Plague of the Zombies (1966 John Gilling)


Made before George A. Romero created Night of the Living Dead Hammer Studios released their own zombie film, Plague of the Zombies. In some ways this film had zombies acting more like modern zombies, minus the eating of people. The creatures were violent, hostile, and really freaky looking, which was different in a way from the old versions of the monsters featured in films such as White Zombie and I Walked With A Zombie.

However this time they were under control, used by a voodoo master for his own twisted ends. One of the coolest parts of the movie is when two people witness a freaky zombie killing a man. Its harrowing and shocking, which are classic characteristics of many Hammer Studios films. As is also violence and gore, which are also utilized properly in many of the studios’ films. I loved the main characters, too-a professor and his young friend, who tackle the threat with typical British stiff upper lip and their refusal to shy away from great danger.

Also the famous element of class is thrown in, as the main villains are ruthless aristocracy. I like the film’s creepy sense of foreboding mixed in with pure weirdness at times. The opener is quite strange and unique, and for an entry that wasn’t directed by Terence Fisher this is a good, properly crafted movie. Oh and that ending is actually haunting and scary, a great conclusion to a quality popcorn flick. I love how English this movie is, and how Hammer Studios sets its movies in either the big cities of England or the small towns, where just underneath the surface of quiet country life something terrible is happening.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Video Dead (1987, Robert Scott)


Released around the same time as Sam Rami’s classic The Evil Dead II, Scott’s The Video Dead is a low budget zombie film in a long line of low budget zombie films. What I dig about his movie is that it’s gory, raw, creepy and entertaining despite its clear limitations and the poor acting. I can admire the level of dedication it takes to get a movie like this made and how hard it was to achieve a pure vision without the proper funds. This is one movie that could have been a classic with just the right budget. Although I guess that never stopped George A. Romero or Sam Rami. Still Scott had an original idea, one that I rather like.

Zombies emerging from a cursed TV set is both fantastic and rather eerie. The hapless brother and sister duo that are faced with an nameless ancient evil must battle the undead horde that is terrorizing their neighborhood. I liked most of the kills, with one murder being properly gruesome. The zombies themselves are decaying and ugly, appearing as if they did truly emerge from their graves to prey upon the living. That’s some quality makeup work for a film that took a year to make due to lack of funding.

The DVD copy I found of this film was a two pack, with The Video Dead being parterned with another solid underrated cult horror film, Terrorvision-thanks to Scream Factory, a division of Shout! Factory. Which is a cool double bill, one I would love to see on the big screen. The Video Dead also has a bone chilling ending and is a reliable addition to the zombie subgenre. I realize it’s funny how every time I think I’m getting tired of zombie films I find another one that surprises me in a good way.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Resident Evil (2002, Paul W.S. Anderson)


Despite how the rest of the series is the first film is rather solid and creepy. Anderson does a fine job of building up the film’s atmosphere and not revealing the monsters until later. There is a strong feeling of doom and menace surrounding a covert team sent into an underground lair to deal with a terrible situation. Only until its too late do they realize the serious danger they are wrapped up in.

This movie is also really entertaining although Anderson is a bit obsessed with slow motion. I did like the action scenes, as all of them are well executed and even a bit outrageous at times. The zombie dogs were cool and I laughed when Alice roundhouse kicked one in the face. Oh and there is a twist, flashbacks and your typical gigantic ugly creature. It would have looked better if less bad CGI would have been involved. But I did think the zombies were freaky looking.

The ending merely serves as setup for the rest of the series, and its clear that this is the origins film where Alice develops into unstoppable badass. I did like the train sequence and I imagine this movie is one of those films you can watch again on a bad weather day. I will check out the rest of the series even though looking them up I’m disappointed that Anderson didn’t direct them all. He has a campy feel and a distinctive visual style that fits these kinds of movies really well. Although I do wish George A. Romero would have directed this for obvious reasons.

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