Category Archives: Films
“Stranded in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a man sets in motion an unlikely plan to protect the precious cargo he carries: his infant daughter. “
This zombie short film is creative and beautiful. A friend suggested it to me, and I was glad I spent the few minutes it took to watch it. Short films can be a great way to ingest some brief bursts of entertainment, but I find that those in the horror genre tend to be of very low quality. This is an exception for sure.
It’s from the 2013 Tropfest, which is an international short film festival that’s grown tremendously in popularity over the last decade and a half or so. Tropfest takes place all over the world each year (there are technically multiple “fests”) and this film showed at the Australian fest. Cargo was a finalist, but it does not appear to have won.
The film was made by Ben Howling with Dreaming Tree Productions, something he refers to as a “filmmaking collective” on his website. It’s gotten quite a few YouTube views, and has also shown at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, and the Las Vegas Film Festival, among others. It starts Andy Rodoreda.
The Schwarzenegger zombie flick Maggie has been picked up by Lionsgate for American distribution, and pulled from showing at the Toronto International Film Festival. While it’s probably fine that they pulled
The movie has been praised for bending and transcending genres. It’s set in an apocalyptic world overrun by a zombie virus, but rather than the usual plot we see in zombie movies of late (in which “plot” is substituted for “shotgun”), it’s about he drama that unfolds between a father and his daughter when the daughter is bitten and begins to slowly transform into a monster.
“Maggie has all the ingredients that spell commercial excitement—a compelling script and an ‘A’ list superstar surrounded by a world-class cast,” said Lionsgate’s Co-Chief Operating Officer and Motion Picture Group President Steve Beeks. “We’re delighted to continue our relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turns in a performance that marks a dramatic departure from his action persona, and partner with our friends at Lotus Entertainment on a film that will resonate with thriller aficionados everywhere.”
There’s no official release date for it yet, but they’re saying we should see it by early 2015.
Being pulled from the festival is probably fine. But it does make one wonder. While the official word on why they did it is that, having been picked up now, it doesn’t need the buzz from the festival. But isn’t buzz always good? One might wonder if they moved it out because now that it’s picked up, there’s no reason to risk a poor reception that might sour the deal with Lionsgate. But I’m staying optimistic – it really is a great concept.
Directed by: Glenn Ciano
Starring: Michael Madsen, William Forsythe
Synopsis: A virus that turns people into cannibal monsters has started doing that. Now some people are trying not to get killed.
Rating: 3 Brains
The movie starts with some nature shots that are meant to look artistic, but aren’t so much. There’s some narration about how this virus has happened that turns people into flesh-eating monsters, and what a bummer that is. The music is serene for some reason, something that feels really inappropriate for the narrated tale of the oncoming apocalypse. But at least it’s not the hard rock/blues guitar stuff we hear in most of these zombies flicks these days.
But our hopes for appropriate music are dashed when we launch into a scene where zombies are attacking a house full of people to the sound of driving guitars.
Let’s talk about music for a minute here, because this is something that a lot of movies get totally wrong. You don’t think much about what music does for a film. That’s because it’s meant to have a subtle effect. Most of the time, it’s just in the background, not stealing focus from the scene, but just enhancing it. For some reason, we humans have a strong emotional reaction to music. Long ago, filmmakers realized that by playing music that elicits a certain emotional reaction from the listener, a movie’s audience can experience a heightened sense of whatever emotion they’re meant to feel in the scene they are watching. If it’s a sad scene, a melancholy tune will make us even sadder. If it’s a happy scene, jubilant music will make us swell up and smile.
Here’s a little experiment.
Watch this scene from Night of the Living Dead. This is the scene at the end, when the zombies finally break through and basically everyone dies. (Spoilers, I guess). The music is classic horror – suspenseful, with string instruments creating a high sense of tension.
Now watch the same scene again, but mute it, and listen to the music from this video while you watch the NOLD scene.
Notice what a difference that makes? It’s not so scary and tense anymore; now it’s a bit bad ass. Ben the bad ass zombie killer is taking care of business! Even when he shoots another person, the music kind of gives us the sense that he’s kicking some ass that needs to be kicked (which is true), rather than giving us the feeling of “oh God, has it really come to this?” that it’s meant to.
As a side note, try watching the NOLD scene with this music. It changes the context again, but makes it super epic.
The basic plot of the movie is this: A small group of people lives in a remote mountain region. Some virus, apparently originating from ticks on deer (it’s mentioned that it is related to lime disease), has started turning the infected into 28 Days Later rage zombies. One of the characters’ grandmother is sick, clearly infected with the disease, and like any zombie flick where one of the people is infected, this affects a chain reaction where most of the characters end up bitten or dead. Michael Madsen and his family manage to escape when the zombies finally swarm on them. That’s it, really.
This movie isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s good either. It’s good for a first effort from a director – that it happens to be the second effort of this director means he’s just kind of a slow learner. The lighting is good. The atmosphere is superb – I’m from a suburb of Atlanta, and two hours north of there, everything looks like this movie. The sound isn’t fantastic – there are scenes that sound like they were shot on a camcorder – and the dialogue isn’t particularly inspiring. But the shots are framed well, and the director clearly knows what he’s doing…he just hasn’t really honed his craft yet. And he needs to figure out the music thing.
The characters are lame. This isn’t as bad as The Dead Undead where I am rooting for the zombies because I hate the characters so much. But these characters are all very flat. The way the older characters (Michael Madsen and William Forsyth) are portrayed as middle-aged men who remember the “good ole days” is slightly relatable, at least for people who feel that way, and the younger people who think that attitude is stupid is as well, for the rest of us. But the characters are not memorable or empathetic. I just finished watching it, and I don’t remember any of their names. That’s a problem in a horror movie. It falls flat if I don’t care if they all die, and in this thing, I really don’t. Let’s put it this way: the first time we’re shown two characters off by themselves having a meaningful conversation, the guy starts talking about his balls. I’m not sure if there’s an amount of ball-related conversation a character can have and still remain sympathetic, but conventional wisdom holds that it’s none.
The acting is sub par, but not the world’s worst. Even Michael Madsen delivers a pretty uninspired performance, and this is a guy who could bring the feels in Free Willy.
Other than the music, and the ending – which I’ll get to in a second – the worst thing about this movie is that it feels like Glenn Ciano, who both wrote and directed this one, conceived of it in high school. It very much feels like what a 13 year old boy would come up with if he wrote a movie, and then was told to revise it to add some more compelling story elements. He’d keep the useless scene with the topless hooker who is killed in the woods, because boobs. He’d still make the main character a bad ass cowboy, and the supporting character of the doctor would remain a sort of country doctor caricature with ridiculous hair. Then he’d tack on an extra character – Michael Madsen’s pregnant…wife, I think? And make the end about loss, and sneak in a theme about the world progressing and leaving behind the old-fashioned world of the older characters. Sort of a No Country for Old Men zombie movie.
And these elements do feel forced, and added after-the-fact. But the worst is the ending.
In the beginning of the movie, we’re shown the scene where the infected attack the house. The rest of the movie is the events leading up to that. Once we get there for reals, the whole scene lasts less than ten minutes; the infected attack, a few folks get killed, they fight them back, and then they escape to the car and drive away. Strangely, it’s pretty realistic how simple it is. I mean, if that happened to you, would you barricade the house and get ready for a last stand? Or, knowing you had a car right outside the back door, would you just get in it and bolt? Well that’s what I’d do, and it’s what Michael Madsen and the survivors – miraculously, his son and wife – do in the end.
Which wouldn’t be such a problem, if we didn’t cut there, and go into about 15 minutes of Michael Madsen narrating the rest. Apparently they got overrun, and the wife died. We don’t see this – he just tells us this, somewhat matter-of-factly. The fact that this did not warrant a scene screams that they ran out of money and had to rush the end. Still, a better choice would have been to cut it entirely. We see Michael Madsen losing it and crying like a baby at his wife’s grave – which is good, considering he was bitten in the fight, and seems to have come through just fine (despite the movie establishing that bites = infection).
Then we see about ten minutes of his character’s son turning a car into a tank, raiding a warehouse for supplies, and driving home to a military safe zone where people are gardening, guarding, and basically just living their lives safely. The scene is shot outside in overcast weather, there are a lot of details about this safe zone that are shown pretty quickly. The music is even pretty appropriate, and really helps the scene. And when the credits hit during that scene, I couldn’t help but think: this would have been a better movie. I really liked what I saw at the end there! But it made the rest of the movie look that much worse in comparison. Get rid of the first two hours of this thing, and expand on the last 10, and we’ve got a party.
Maybe Ciano is dreaming of a sequel. If it picks up where this one left off, I’d watch it for sure. Or maybe it’s just the culmination of that theme he tried to put in there about the new generation overtaking the old. Because while we see a bleak apocalyptic world, in the end there is hope and it looks like the kids are doing alright for themselves. This is why the first character infected is the oldest, and the second significant character that is infected is the white-haired doctor, who shows up during the escape scene to say “it’s too late for me.” The message of this movie seems to be that while the new world is replacing the old, as it always does, everything’s going to be okay. Very different perhaps, but we’ll make it work.
I’m a little bothered by the fact that Michael Madsen survived the bite though, and narrated an ending about him and his son surviving and hoping for the future, even though Madsen does not appear to be present at all in the safe zone. It feels like he probably died in the first draft, and they couldn’t get him back for more scenes after he’d left the set. Can’t really blame him.
This movie is worth a watch. It’s not going to change your life, but it’s not bad, and if Glenn Ciano learns something from this and manages a respectable career, you’ll want to be able to say you saw this one before he was cool. You zombie hipster, you.
Rating: 1 Brain
Directed by: Edward Conna
Starring: Luke Goss, Cameron Goodman, Johnny Pacar
Synopsis: Some teenagers go off for a sex romp at a motel in a remote town, and end up attacked by zombies. Some friendly neighborhood vampires show up to help. Yes, you read that right.
I found The Dead Undead on Netflix while cruising for zombie flicks. This is definitely an attention grabbing title; its comedic redundancy makes me hopeful that it will be a self-aware B-movie, kind of like a lower budget, lower class Evil Dead 2.
What I’m going to do is watch it, and write this article while watching it, to share my insights in real time. Or something close to that. There’s a storm brewing outside, so I’m really looking forward to an afternoon of horror in a thunderstorm. Such a great atmosphere (or atmosFEAR bwaha)!
I did a quick IMDB search of the stars for an idea of what I’m in for here. Luke Goss played Steve Fox in the Tekken movie (in other news: there’s a Tekken movie). Cameron Goodman has Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure listed among her top credits, a Disney straight-to-DVD flick that seems to be about a ditzy blonde and a dog (somehow I missed that one), and Johnny Pacar is mostly a dude who does small roles on TV shows and in low budget movies – so he’s just kinda doing that again here. The actors are all small time players, but what got me strangely excited was director Edward Conna. On IMDB he has 5 directing credits (2 unreleased thus far, and one is this). He does have a whopping 122 credits as a stuntman though. I’m very interested to see what kind of movie a stuntman comes up with, so this should be fun!
Okay. Vampires vs. zombies. Let’s begin.
The opening credit sequence is all dudes with guns stalking through the woods with generic hard rock guitar music playing. So far, exactly what I’d expect from a stuntman.
After that we see our main characters. Five idiot teenagers pour out of a truck. Looks like one of those dumb teenagers-on-a-roadtrip movies. The female characters let us know immediately that they don’t like being called “chicks” and prefer “bitches.” This isn’t one of those groups with several morons and a couple of smart types who will become our heroes later. Everyone in this group immediately proves to be an irredeemable fucktard. Those zombies can’t come fast enough.
The first time one of the girls is alone, a little kid pops up and drools blood on the napping girl, who fights it off and it runs away. She spends the next 10 minutes of the film flipping out about getting blood on her.
Things escalate pretty quickly. Within about 10 more minutes, one of the girls is turning into a zombie, one of the guys has been bitten, and the other has had his throat ripped out. This pleases me; these people are horrible. When everything has gone to hell, what appears to be the local redneck militia comes rolling up, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and shotguns, to start blowing the zombies away. That same generic hard rock from the opening starts playing – I think one of the dudes must have a boombox or something, as it seems this music is going to play whenever these guys show up. As a fun note, when they open fire, the gunfire looks a little strange; I paused it to examine it, and it looks like the gunfire has been added via computer in editing, and kinda looks like the explosions from movies with bigger budgets photoshopped into each frame at the tip of each gun. The sound effects for the gunfire don’t sync up right, and the CG fire doesn’t look right either. This really screams “low budget,” because even in the crappiest movies, I am not used to seeing bad gunfire.
The shots are framed all wrong. There is a scene where one of the militia people fights a zombie with her fists (with a big blade strapped to her back the whole time), and it takes way too long…she punches it, it shambles back, she hits it with a bat, it shambles back. It’s a sign of a bad director when they don’t know when to cut. Scenes go on too long, we’re shown shots we don’t need to see.
The zombies in this movie, and the peoples’ reaction to them, brings up an old question about zombie outbreaks. This clearly takes place in the early days of this epidemic, as only this small band of soldier guys knows what’s going on. The confusion about current events and response aside, it’s strange that the soldier guys refer to this as “some kind of infection” and yet they have already resorted to headshots as the cure. Would this happen in real life? I would think the first few victims of the zombie virus would have gone to hospitals, and science would be baffled, but looking for some kind of cure. So how long after the outbreak is the decision made that these are ghouls who must be stopped by bullets and cannot be helped? This stage is usually disregarded in zombie movies, and at best glossed over (“doctors tried to contain it, but it spread too fast”). It’s still all wrong in this movie though, because we’ve gotten to the point where a local militia knows that these monsters can only be killed in certain ways, that it’s an infection, and they even have terminology for them…and yet no one has gotten to a hospital about it, and there has been no news about it? Clearly the civilians in the film have not heard of this.
Oh, okay. They’re ZV’s. Zombie vampires. The zombies can only be killed by sunlight and decapitation. This is really going downhill now. I thought we’d get real vampires. Not this garbage.
Okay, I’m sorry. Hold on. One of the soldier guys came in contact with some zombie blood and might be infected…and they have this explosive belt to make him wear in case he turns. How are they that prepared for this? Why are they fighting with swords now when its been established that exposure to blood can cause infection?
I just looked it up by the way – all the main soldier boys characters are played by stunt men.
So, the one who got infected tells the girl one not to be sad that he’s dying, because he’s going to “the halls of Valhalla.” Which sounded pretty lame. But then when they blow him up, we are treated to like a 5 minute viking battle sequence. It’s actually pretty cool, and as stupid as it seems, possibly the only redeeming moment in this film. Seriously, this thing goes on so long that it’s like…what the hell? And yet…in the middle of a shitty zombie movie, suddenly we’re in…oh, I see. The soldier guys were vampires the whole time. Now we’re seeing when they were made into vampires on some ancient battle field. It’s not as awesome as the random trip to Valhalla I thought we were taking, but still better than the action porn we were just watching where they let loose half the movie’s budget in artillery on a horde of zeds.
It turns out that the hordes of zombies are actually vampires who have contracted Mad Cow disease because they feed on cow blood. It would appear that they had a whole village of vampires, and now most of them are zombies. Salem’s Lot has had a zombie outbreak.
Most of the vampires and humans die in stupid ways. The surviving blonde human – I’ve forgotten her name already – escapes in a van with Jack, the main vampire guy. They crash, he’s hurt, she offers up some blood to turn him into a super bad ass again (like the scene toward the end of the first Blade movie). There is mention of an “ancient prophecy” about some place where a vampire can be reborn, which is of course super lame. He cuts a bunch of zombies down, then another platoon of vampires shows up and mows down the zombies with some machine guns. The main vampire from this backup squad confirms that the ancient prophecy is true. And we’re suddenly in a very different movie.
…and then we’re not. That’s the end of it.
You know, I get when a big budget movie leaves the ending open for the possibility of a sequel. But did the producers of The Dead Undead really expect that they’d have a second film greenlit? Based on the strength of the first? And a quick Google search reveals no details regarding a sequel, and given that the movie is now 4 years old, it’s clearly not going to happen.
The Dead Undead is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. And that includes Charles Angels 2 and The Incredible Hulk. It apparently had a budget of 1.1 million bucks, and from the look of it, about 1 million went to fake guns and effects, and the remaining .1 went into actors, crew, script, lighting equipment, and non-gun related effects. It’s a lot like this flash game Endless Zombie Rampage. That game is basically Act 2 of this film…just an endless flood of zombies, and a machine gun cutting them down. And while it’s an awesome game, I wouldn’t consider optioning it for a film.
Very little planning went into this movie. Every element is bad, from the dialogue and acting, to the lighting and sound, and right down to the blocking and framing of the shots. It looks like what a bunch of high school kids would come up with if they were given $1.1 million to make a movie. That lack of planning is evident in the story, too. It’s a zombie movie. No wait, it’s a movie about a fallen vampire village. No wait, it’s about an ancient prophecy and a vampire’s quest to fulfill it. It’s like the first draft of a 9th grade creative writing project, that never got workshopped, graded, or even proofread.
I discussed before how bad direction is evident in the overly lengthy scenes. There is also unnecessary dialogue. That happens, though…just look at the Lord of the Rings extended cuts, with their 60,000 extra words of dialogue across the 75 scenes that got cut from each film. The difference, though, is that those scenes got cut. The Dead Undead decided to keep them all. What’s even worse is that there are entire characters that the film could have done without. This guy Curtis (played by Joshua Alba, who is, strangely enough, Jessica Alba’s brother), randomly wanders up in one scene and joins the soldier guys and the remaining idiot teenager. His presence affects nothing, only contributing a few bullets to some of the gun porn scenes, and then he wanders off in the woods and gets killed. There was no reason for that character, or any of his scenes, to be in this movie.
When you’re directing and editing a movie, you take crap like that and you cut it out. You look at Fellowship of the Ring and the whole sequence with Tom Bombadil in the book, and you say “you know what, we’d have a tighter script if this guy wasn’t in it.” Hell, it might have been even better if he hadn’t opened with all these other teenagers. The vampire soldiers are clearly the main characters – why not start with them, show a little bit of this group of kids getting attacked, and they come across it? Rather than showing up like the damn A-Team in the middle of someone else’s movie?
I enjoy a B-movie as much as the next guy – maybe even more so – and if this movie was “fun bad” then I’d recommend it. It is not. It is just bad bad. If you enjoy watching crappy movies to pick them apart like I have, then you might enjoy this. But if you like watching movies that are so bad they’re funny, this isn’t that sort of movie. The dialogue is cringeworthy, the plot is very thin, and much of it is entirely unnecessary. See it if you like, but promise me you won’t buy the DVD or anything. Please don’t reward these peoples’ “effort” by spending money on it.
Birth of the Living Dead (2013)
Director: Rob Kuhns
Stars: George A. Romero, Mark Harris, Gale Anne Hurd
Synopsis: A documentary about the making of Night of the Living Dead.
Overall Impression: Entertaining and very informative, particualrly with regard to the film’s context.
I had the pleasure recently of discovering that Netflix was now streaming Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary all about the making of Night of the Living Dead. I had never seen it, so I sat down with it and gave it a watch.
This is a very interesting and informative documentary. There are interviews with cast and crew, insights from luminaries in the horror industry, and of course some words from the man himself, George A. Romero. There are a lot of “fun fact” sort of information tidbits, but it’s not just a trivia reel.
One of the best things about this documentary is getting to hear stories about the production. I’ve always known the basics – it was filmed on a shoestring budget at a small farmhouse with a cast and crew that consisted largely of friends, local volunteers, and investors, had distribution deals, was poorly received but found popularity after word spread, etc. But never before have I felt like I was really hearing the STORY. I could visualize that farm and that field (although strangely, it’s black and white even in my head). I could see the young George Romero driving through Pittsburgh, going from meeting to meeting, struggling to find a distributor for his film. It really does a good job of taking you there.
We’re also given context for the film, particularly regarding the influence that the racial tensions and the Vietnam War had on the film. This is seen, for example, in the way that the scientists, government agencies, and law enforcement seem clueless and ineffective in the face of the disaster. Trust in the government, and authority in general, was very low in the 60’s, due in large part to the war.
I had known that the casting of a black lead actor, and the surprise ending, did not have the racial implications that some have seen in it. The film does not attempt to make a racial statement as some have assumed: the main character was not written as being black, the part was simply offered to Duane Jones. The more important racial statement made by the film was simply that a black man is the main character, and this does not affect the story at all. People were shocked to see a black man as the lead in a film with an all white cast.
Though the documentary is fairly linear, sticking to the story of the film’s development, there is a detour or two. one such secondary story is that of Christopher Cruz, who teaches literacy through film in the Bronx (incidentally, where Romero grew up). We see him teaching his class through Night of the Living Dead. It’s really cool to see how the film still resonates today not only with adults and horror films, but even with children.
Even as a fan of the film, and a horror connoisseur, I learned some new things from this documentary. Such as:
– Romero made several short films for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The show was filmed in Pittsburgh, and lots of people in the film industry did work for “Fred” at some point. Romero calls his film about Mr. Rogers at the dentist “one of the scariest movies I’ve ever done.”
– Romero was inspired to make a horror movie with a splash of social commentary after reading I Am Legend and surmising that it was more about revolution than monsters.
– During the filming, the crew lived in the farmhouse, using a nearby stream for their water (there was no plumbing).
– The famous and funny line “yea, they’re dead, they’re…all messed up” was ad-libbed, as was a lot of the dialogue in the film’s fictional news reports.
– Romero has no official reason for the cause of the zombie outbreak, and doesn’t care. As he puts it, “God changed the rules…no more room in Hell.” Though the experts in the film do posit something to do with radiation from a probe returned from Venus, this is meant more to sound ridiculous than anything else, and show how clueless the “experts” are. Romero says that the cause of the outbreak is not what’s important, and it doesn’t seem he has any intention of ever offering an explanation.
The documentary ends with a brief vignette from the 2007 Zombie Walk at the Monroeville Mall (the set of Dawn of the Dead), where the documentarians interview Bill Hinzman. Hinzman is probably the most famous zombie from the film, and possibly from the entire Romero canon (not counting characters who became zombies later) – the “graveyard zombie” from the opening scene. It is a brief and touching tribute to Hinzman, who passed away in 2012.
To any fan of zombie films, especially those of George Romero, I fully recommend Birth of the Living Dead. It’s fun, informative, and really imparts a better understanding of the film’s production and the social context of its creation and reception. It’s on Netflix, and at 1h 16m, it’s not a huge time sink. Put it on while you’re relaxing this evening, but put your phone down, because there’s really some stuff worth seeing in this thing.
Sadly, this is unlikely, as the film did end with half the Pegg/Frost duo as a zombie. The story is fairly complete, as it is given a resolution (albeit the humorous notion of living in peace with the zombies).
However, in this recent interview with TotalFilm.com, they do shed a little glimmer of hope on the idea of a sequel to Hot Fuzz. Check it out:
You might not be familiar with IDW’s Zombies vs. Robots comic, but if not you should give it a look. It’s a brilliant and fun piece of work about a young girl – the last human on earth – who is protected from zombies by highly advanced robots designed specifically for the task of protecting her.
And now it seems Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company is keen to adapt it into a film. From what I’ve read, it’s working title is Inherit the Earth, but we should see it called by its original title, because while Inherit the Earth is a great name, Zombies vs. Robots is a real attention-grabber. The rumor about this has been floating around for a while, and just because it’s on IMDB doesn’t necessarily make it true. But I’ve seen it on ScreenRant now, which tends to mean that there’s some truth to it.
J.T. Petty is attached as the writer. He wrote the screenplay for a few Splitner Cell games, so it’s okay if you’ve never heard of him. He has written the spec script for the film, and should be to work on the real thing by now.
While it’s hard for me to feel excited about a Michael Bay film, what we can at least surmise from this is that there’s a big budget zombie movie coming up that’s based on a great comic title some time in the not-too-distant future. We will probably see some big names attached to the cast soon and this project should become a big deal by next summer.
George A. Romero is the father of the zombie film, and an unquestioned genius of the genre. His last two movies fell a little flat, but are still better than 90% of the horror garbage out there today. But he’s not working on anything right now, and he’s got a fairly decent reason for it.
In an interview with Big Issue recently, he was asked about the subject, and had this to say:
Once they bleed out of pop culture I’ll be able to go back and do them again. I don’t want to touch them now. Gosh, they are all over the place. The Walking Dead is the number one television series in the States, World War Z, games, commercials… Ugh! It’s too much!
He was asked to direct a few episodes of The Walking Dead, but explains in the interview why he refused:
They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.
So because pop culture is over saturated with zombies at the moment, he will go back to work on zombie movies when the fervor has calmed down. For now, he doesn’t want to be just another face in the crowd, which I can respect.
If you’ve got a Romero jones though – which I basically always do – he’s writing a 5 part comic book miniseries for Marvel called Empire of the Dead. I’ll definitely be picking up each issue as they start coming out in January.
I wrote up some Walking Dead trivia I found recently, and so I’m on kind of a trivia kick. I’ve been reading about the Romero movies, and I’ve got some fun facts to share. Did you know all of this?
Night of the Living Dead
Reader’s Digest warned people against watching the movie in 1968, claiming it would inspire cannibalism.
Much like The Walking Dead, the zombies in the film were not referred to as “zombies” during shooting, but rather as “ghouls.”
As a publicity stunt, the Walter Reade Organization, who distributed the film, took out a $50,000 insurance policy against anyone who died of a heart attack while watching the film.
Walter Reade Organization screwed the pooch on the film’s copyright though. They changed the name from the original title (Night of the Flesh Eaters) to Night of the Living Dead. When doing so, they removed the copyright notice that had been under the original title, and neglected to put it in with the new one. Because copyright law in 1968 required this notice, the film passed into public domain. Which means I can legally do this:
Roger Ebert’s original review of the film mostly reflected on how scary it was, and how inappropriate it was for the young audiences who frequented horror movies at the time. He didn’t understand the idea of a horror movie actually being scary.
Many of the actors in the film were local investors who were given roles not only as thanks for their funding, but because the budget was too short to hire professionals!
The social commentary on race that some perceive was not intentional. According to director George A. Romero, Duane Jones, who plays Ben, the film’s black main character, was simply the best actor who tried out for the part.
Dawn of the Dead
The Monroeville Mall, where the movie was filmed, has remained a tourist attraction today. There are posters with scenes from the movie on the upper level, and a store called Monroeville Zombies that sells zombie swag.
This film was more comedic than the previous film because Romero wanted it to seem a bit more like a comic book.
The two zombie children who attack Peter are played by Tom Savini’s real life niece and nephew. They are the only zombies in any Romero film that move quickly and do not shamble.
Tom Savini used gray makeup for the zombies, as the previous film had been black and white and the color of their skin had not been clearly
Horror legend Dario Argento was a big fan of Romero, and invited him to come stay with him in Rome so he could write the script for Dawn of the Dead without distractions. Romero was able to write it in 3 weeks (longer than the 3 days he used to write the final draft for Night of the Living Dead!).
The extras were famously paid $20, a box lunch, and a Dawn of the Dead t-shirt.
Filming had to stop over the Christmas shopping season because it would have been too much work to remove and rehang all the seasonal decorations.
Day of the Dead
The extras in this film were paid $1, a hat with the phrase “I Played a Zombie in ‘Day of the Dead'”, and a copy of the newspaper scenes at the beginning of the film that says “THE DEAD WALK!”
Romero says this is his favorite of all his films.
The budget for George A. Romero’s original script was estimated at $7 million, but he would only be given the money if he could film an R-rated film. He was told that if he went ahead and shot an unrated film with no limits on gore, the budget would be split in half to $3.5 million.
The underground facility that makes up the film’s main setting was not filmed on a soundstage, but in the Wampum mine, an old limestone mine near Pittsburgh.
Land of the Dead
After seeing and loving Shawn of the Dead, Romero invited Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to cameo as zombies in this film.
The zombie of Tom Savini’s biker character, who appears in Dawn of the Dead, is seen in one scene in this movie.
Dennis Hopper’s performance of Kaufman is based on Donald Rumsfeld.
Romero’s daughter appears in this film as the soldier who shoots the zombie on the electrified fence.
Alternate titles for this movie included “Land of the Dead” was chosen: “Dead City,” “Dead Reckoning,” “Twilight of the Dead,” and “Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning.”
Asia Aregento, who plays Slack in this film, is the daughter of Dario Argento. Dario was the co-producer and composer for Dawn of the Dead.
Warning: Not for the faint of heart! Some of these scenes are completely inappropriate for children.
Too many zombie flicks these days rely on gore, or the action fantasy or endless shot-to-head action. Where’s the real terror? When Roger Ebert initially reviewed Night of the Living Dead in 1969, his review was mostly about how terrified the audience was. Other than some cheap jump startles and nasty special effects, there’s not much to scare audiences in a lot of zombie flicks. But check these out!
This is known as the “finding the keys” scene. You can feel the panic as she ransacks the place looking for the damn things, and the moment when she gets out to the stairs again is the reason they probably handed out changes of pants at the door in the theater.
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
In the remake of Dawn of the Dead, a movie that grows on me with every subsequent viewing, one of the characters is pregnant. She ends up bitten, and in this scene, we see what she gives birth to.
3. Zombi 2 (1979)
Zombi was the Italian title for Dawn of the Dead, and this movie was titled entirely as a way to cash in on the success of what is still Romero’s most successful film. Despite somewhat shady origins, it’s actually a hell of a film, considered not only one of the best zombie movies ever, but one of the best horror movies period. This is an iconic scene that will really mess with your head. Watch how slowly it happens, building tension, making you wonder how far they’ll actually go! Spoiler: It’s an Italian horror movie, so pretty damn far.
2. Return of the Living Dead
One of my personal favorites, this scene is creepy for so many reasons. Return of the Living Dead did something few films have – gave zombies the power of speech. Their voices, in the few instances in the film when they speak, is suitably creepy, and the dialogue in this scene is especially unsettling.
1. Night of the Living Dead
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I hold Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead in the highest regard. So you shouldn’t be surprised to see it showing up at number 1. And of all the great scenes in that iconic film, by far the scariest is the basement scene with Karen Cooper and her mom. I’ve mentioned before how much I love Karen – played by Kyra Schon. She’s my Instagram profile picture. She’s the most unsettling zombie in the picture, and ultimately the one who does the most damage. And this is the penultimate scene with her. When Roger Ebert complained that this film was too scary, he was no doubt thinking about this scene.
And that’s it for my little list! What’s your favorite zombie movie moment? One of these, or a different one? Talk to me in the comments section!