Horror Film Review: Shadows of the Dead (dir by John Ross)


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You know what?

If you’re in high school and you’re planning on skipping prom so that you can go hang out at the “anti-prom” (which is being held in a creepy old cabin) and drink beer and smoke pot and maybe have unprotected sex … well, then you’re probably guaranteeing yourself a lot of great memories.  But, even with that in mind, don’t do it at Shadow Creek.

Seriously, just the fact that it’s called Shadow Creek should be enough of a clue that you need to avoid the place.  It’s always possible that Shadow Creek was named after the famed explorer, Jean LeShadow, but it’s even more likely that Shadow Creek is in some way haunted.

And if you arrive at Shadow Creek and everyone is sitting around a campfire and telling a story about a murder that happened at Shadow Creek many, many years ago, that’s probably an indication that you should have just gone to the regular prom.  I mean, you might not have as much as fun at the regular prom as you would at the anti-prom but at least you would be hanging out with the rich kids and you wouldn’t run the risk of getting brutally murdered.

However, if you stay at Shadow Creek even after the campfire ghost story, one thing that you must NOT do is get offended over something and then run off by yourself.  And if you come across another cabin — especially if that cabin has a corpse in front of it, don’t go inside.  Don’t go anywhere near it.

That’s the main lesson to be learned from Shadows of the Dead, which, last Saturday, became the latest film to premiere as a part of SyFy’s 31 Days of Halloween.  Shadows of the Dead was an occasionally atmospheric, occasionally effective, and often rather silly horror film.

Shadows of the Dead opens up with the anti-prom at Shadow Creek and then goes on to follow several teenagers as their stalked by a shadowy monster.  I have to admit that I was never quite sure what the shadow monster was exactly.  (A lot of people on twitter speculated that it was Lost‘s smoke monster.)  The movie established that it could only attack people when they were alone and when they were in the dark.  Apparently, after attacking, the monster would enter its victim’s body and stay there until it eventually decided to burst back out.  As a result, we got a lot of scenes of people literally exploding.  It got messy after a while.

But oddly, the Shadow Monster’s powers tended to change from scene to scene.  Essentially, the monster could do whatever was needed to move a scene along.  As well, the monster was pretty much invulnerable until the film needed to end, at which point it suddenly became vulnerable.  There was no real consistency to this shadow monster but then again, Shadows of the Dead is not the type of film that demands consistency.  The monster had its frightening moments and its ever-shifting powers led to some nicely surreal moments.  Ultimately, your enjoyment of this film will depend on how seriously you take it.  (Needless to say, taking it seriously in any way would be a mistake.)

That said, the most interesting thing about Shadows of the Dead was how much of it appeared to have been lifted from It Follows.  Considering that the same can be said about The Crooked Man, it appears that It Follows has emerged as the new template for low-budget horror movies.

Horror AMV of the Day: Children of the Grave (Gakkou Gurashi)


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Here’s a little horror anime music video to help decompress after last night’s very nihilistic and emotional draining season premiere of The Walking Dead.

It’s from amv creator Xophilarus and combines Halsey’s song “Control” with the horror anime Gakkou Gurashi (surprise it’s about zombies!). The series itself was reviewed by site anime contributor pantsukudasai56. Yes, for some the zombie subgenre has started to feel overplayed and overused. But if there’s one thing the two co-founders of this site never truly get tired of are good zombie fiction and Gakkou Gurashi is such a thing.

Anime: Gakkou Gurashi

Song: “Control” by Halsey

Creator: Xophilarus

Past AMVs of the Day

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 6.1 “Let The Punishment Fit The Crime” (dir by Russell Mulcahy)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we present you the premiere episode of the 6th season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!

In Let The Punishment Fit The Crime, attorney Geraldine Ferrett (Catherine O’Hara) is pulled over while driving through a small town in upstate New York.  It turns out that Geraldine didn’t have enough numbers on her licence plate.  (That’s because she has a vanity plate that reads, “Sue me.”)  It doesn’t sound like a huge crime but, as everyone at the courthouse keeps trying to warn her, she is in “a very strict town.”  Let The Punishment Fit The Crime is a satirical look at our overregulated and overlitigious society.

This episode originally aired on October 31st, 1994 — hey, this is a Halloween episode!

Enjoy!

 

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Nightmare City (dir by Umberto Lenzi)


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Since Case just reviewed 28 Days Later, this seems like the perfect time to say a few words about the 1980 Italian horror film, Nightmare City!  Though Nightmare City has never been as critically acclaimed or as popular with audiences, it is regularly cited as probably being one of the main inspirations for 28 Days Later.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I can’t say for sure whether it was an influence or not.  I listened to the entire Danny Boyle/Alex Garland commentary track on my DVD of 28 Days Later and neither of them ever mentioned Nightmare City.  As well, there are some pretty big differences between Nightmare City and 28 Days Later.  For one thing, 28 Days Later is a hyperkinetic Danny Boyle film whereas Nightmare City is obviously an Umberto Lenzi film, filled with over the top gore, gratuitous nudity, and nonstop violence.  For that matter, the Infected in 28 Days Later still look human whereas all of the infected humans in Nightmare City are covered with what appears to be burned oatmeal.  (I’m going to guess that it’s meant to be radiation scarring.)

And yet, despite all of that, it’s impossible to watch Nightmare City without thinking about 28 Days Later and vice versa.  Both Nightmare City and 28 Days Later are commonly mislabeled as being zombie films, despite the fact that both of them are about people who have been driven mad by a military accident/experiment.  Where you really see the influence that Nightmare City had on 28 Days Later is in the scenes in which various “infected” humans run through the streets, savagely attacking and killing anyone that they come across.  For all the attention that was given to 28 Days Later‘s “fast zombies,” Nightmare City got there first.  Call them human, call them infected, or call them zombies, the monsters in Nightmare City are relentless, unstoppable, and blood thirsty.  Whatever flaws the movie may have, Nightmare City‘s zombies truly do belong in a nightmare.

(Except for that one scene in which a zombie extra is seen to be kicking a soccer ball while a dog chases after him but you have to look closely to notice…)

But before I say too much more about Nightmare City, I’m going to ask you to watch this tribute to the hero of Nightmare City, journalist Dean Miller:

Dean Miller was played by Spanish actor Hugo Stiglitz.  (If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Quentin Tarantino named a character after him in Inglourious Basterds.)  To be honest, the first time I ever saw Nightmare City, I thought that Stiglitz’s performance was one of the worst in the history of horror cinema.  No matter how violent or bloody the film gets, Stiglitz rarely seems to react.  He might occasionally arch an eyebrow.  But, for the most part, he doesn’t seem to care.  But, after subsequent viewings, I’ve come to respect the fact that, while everyone else in the film was overacting, Siglitz distinguished himself by refusing to act at all.

Nightmare City is a relentless and nonstop film.  It starts out with Dean Miller being sent down to the local airport.  His job is to cover the arrival of a scientist who has been assigned to investigate a recent nuclear accident.  From the minute that the plane lands and a horde of hatchet-wielding zombies stream out onto the tarmac, Nightmare City is nonstop mayhem.

And, quite frankly, a lot of it doesn’t make much sense.  At one point, the zombies enter a television studio and attack what appears to be the most boring dance show in the world and, as bloody and borderline disgusting as the action got, I still couldn’t get over how boring the dance show was before the zombies showed up.  The other thing that struck me about that scene was that nobody at the television studio seemed to be that upset about a bunch of radiation-scarred zombies literally massacring hundreds of people on camera.  Dean may have arched an eyebrow but even he didn’t seem that concerned.

(Fortunately, Dean manages to escape by grabbing a TV and throwing it at the zombies.  Apparently, televisions explode if you throw them, even if they’re not plugged in at the time.)

Then the zombies attack a hospital and it’s the hospital attack that always disturbs me.  There’s a scene where a nurse comes across a zombie raiding a blood bank and he shakes his head almost apologetically.  Oddly, almost all of the doctors turn out to be self-defense experts.  One elderly doctor even throws a scalpel at a zombie with all the skill of an Agent of SHIELD (or perhaps even …. HYDRA!)

Meanwhile, the military is supposed to be doing something but I’m not sure what.  We get a lot of scenes of a general (played by Lenzi regular Mel Ferrer) staring down at a model of the city but he doesn’t ever actually seem to do anything.  His assistant, meanwhile, is worried about his sculptor girlfriend being at home alone.  He should be since there are two zombies in the basement, though we’re never quite sure how they got there without anyone else in the house noticing.

And the mayhem continues.  There’s a zombie priest.  There’s a zombie attack at an amusement park.  There’s many scenes of Hugh Stiglitz staring off in the distance.  At one point, his girlfriend falls off a roller coaster and we are briefly amazed at the sight of an obviously fake dummy crashing to the pavement below.  But fear not because … it’s all a dream!

That’s right, Dean Miller wakes up in bed!

OH MY GOD, LISA, YOU JUST SPOILED THE MOVIE!

No, I didn’t.  Believe it or not, the movie’s nowhere close to being over yet…..

Nightmare City is a hard film to review because, while it might not be good in any traditional sense, it’s also very much a one-of-a-kind movie.  This is one of those relentless and shameless exploitation films that works despite itself.  It’s preposterous, it’s silly, it’s often offensive, and yet it’s never less than watchable.  If you’re into Italian horror, you have to see this film.  If you’re into zombie cinema, you have to see this film.  (If you’re not into either, you probably stopped reading this review a while ago.)

And, while you watch it, I dare you not think about 28 Days Later

(This trailer is NSFW so watch at your own risk…)

28 Days Later


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Gentle Readers, there are A LOT of bad horror films out there and I mean Halloween Resurrection bad, but when you get a truly great one, it sticks with you for your life.  This movie is more unique in that the writer Alex Garland really peaked with this film and there are IMDB credits to prove it.  Danny Boyle directed the piece and you really feel as though you were inhabiting the after-times of a dead world….well, undead.  Danny Boyle did Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 hours, but I know what you’re thinking- Did he write anything besides family films for Disney?  Yes, he made this awesome zombie film.

We see shots of terrible violence and realize that monkeys are being forced to watch it. Then, Animal Rights Activists enter heavily armed with guns and sanctimony.  The researcher begs them not to release the animals because they are infected with a terribly contagious disease and that the goal of their research is to find a cure for rage.  The Animal Rights Activists patiently listen to the scientist instead of acting purely from smug instinct, dooming us all.  Just kidding, they release one of the monkeys, it rips the animal rights activist apart, barf bleeds all over her, making her patient zero, and I try really hard not to root for the diseased monkey.  The disease is out!  Of course, many of us always knew that animal rights activists would lead to the zombie apocalypse.  Just read their twitter feeds and you’ll know that they’ll doom us all.  Fade to Black and 28 Days Later… appears as a subtitle in the bottom right….BRILLIANT!!!

Jim wakes from a coma to a dead world.  Sound familiar? Yes, TWD went beyond homage there.  He leaves the hospital to amazing details that really sell a dead London.  Empty hospital, empty streets, garbage, worthless cash everywhere, a bus is overturned in front of parliament, and an amazing score reveals a World without people.  If you’re looking for the song that plays when he’s walking around dead London during the opening –  it’s by Godspeed You! Black Emperor – East Hastings – Long Version.

HOW DID THEY MAKE LONDON EMPTY?  MERLIN!  This is England, after all.   Nah, Danny Boyle got MANY government officials to agree to let the production shutdown huge traffic arteries for 90 seconds at a time.  London is one my most favorite cities and I would love to live there and it is Europe’s New York City, therefore, imagine shutting down Times Square for filming.  

Jim gets chased by fast-moving zombies and meets Selena and a Red Shirt.  He goes with them and realizes very quickly that he was probably better off in a coma.  Jim insists on seeing his parents.  They agree to take him and he finds them suicided on the bed clutching a note that reads- “With endless love, we left you sleeping. Now, we’re sleeping with you.  Don’t wake up.” This is not your dad’s zombie movie.  They decide to stay at his house for the night, but are attacked by zombies.  Red Shirt gets infected and is dispatched by Selena.  Jim and Selena must flee.

Jim and Selena venture forth and find Frank and his daughter Hannah.  It hasn’t rained for some time, therefore -no water.  For survival, they have to leave the city.  Selena doesn’t want to go with Frank and his daughter because she sees them as anchors, but Jim insists and Hannah explains that we actually need each other. Frank plays a radio signal that beckons them to safety and they leave as one tribe.  Along the way, there are some intense scenes and some shopping.  They arrive at the salvation location, but Frank gets infected and is killed by soldiers.

Right away, you can tell that the soldiers are goofing off too much.  I have commanded soldiers and there’s some level of goofing off, but this had an air of creepiness and broken discipline.    The soldier’s have taken over a residence as their HQ and have put up defenses to keep zombies out and people in.  We quickly learn that the radio message was a trap. Corporal Mitchell harasses Selena and a fight erupts.  The Major breaks it up, but it’s clear that Jim, Hannah, and Selena are prisoners.  The Major explains that the soldiers could not face a dead world and one attempted suicide.  The Major had a plan- lure women to the compound with a radio signal.  When they arrived, they would keep them prisoner to breed with his soldiers to restart civilization. He puts it simply: women equal hope.  His logic and delivery is truly chilling in its cold mathematics.

They decide to execute Jim and a SGT who gets in their way and keep Hannah and Selena for reproduction.  Corporal Mitchell and another Soldier take Jim and the SGT out for execution to a killing field.  Corporal Mitchell wants to bayonet Jim, the other Soldier can’t handle that kind of intimate murder, leading to a melee.  The SGT is killed and Jim escapes.

The next sequence is truly amazing because we see our hero morph from the sensitive man that he is naturally to a state of feral revenge indistinguishable from the fast-moving zombies.  He’s shirtless to further emphasize his lack of civility as he makes short work of many of the soldiers to rescue Hannah and Selena. Corporal Mitchell who wanted to bayonet him and rape Selena becomes the focal point of Jim’s rage- Jim puts his thumbs deep into Corporal Mitchell’s eyes until he’s dead.  This is a critical act of monstrosity because it shows not tells in the clearest finality that there is no separation between Jim’s blind rage and the rage that has infected the human population.

I don’t want to totally spoil the ending because this film will remain with you and is a must see.  It’s commentary on violence and society is forever salient: Violence is horrific, but forced civilization is worse and will lead to the ultimate act of revenge – THUMBS IN YOUR EYEBALLS or some such equivalent.  The other important lesson the film tries to inculcate is to beware of self-certain sanctimonious people because their grandiosity could doom us all.

Halloween Havoc!: A BUCKET OF BLOOD (AIP 1959)


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We can’t have Halloween without a good Roger Corman movie, and A BUCKET OF BLOOD is one of my favorites. This 1959 black comedy is a precursor to Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and I actually prefer it over that little gem. A BUCKET OF BLOOD skewers the pretentiousness of the art world, the 50’s beatnik scene, and the horror genre itself with its story of nerdy Walter Paisley, a busboy at a hipster coffee house learns making it as a famous artist can be murder!

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Walter’s a no-talent nebbish longing to be accepted by the pompous clientele at The Yellow Door, especially beautiful hostess Carla. When he accidentally kills the landlady’s cat, Walter covers it in clay (with the knife still protruding in poor little Frankie!), and brings it in to work. The grotesque sculpture causes a stir among the patrons, and Walter is congratulated for his brilliant work ‘Dead Cat’. Beatnik…

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The Covers Of Horror Stories


Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

From the time that the first issue was published in January of 1935, Horror Stories was one of the most popular pulp magazines, featuring content that was considered extreme even by pulp standards.  Unfortunately, like many pulp magazines, it was forced to cease publication in 1941 due to a paper shortage following the U.S.’s entry into World War II.  Because of its short press run, issues of Horror Stories are especially valued by collectors.

Horror Stories was best known for its lurid covers.  I’ve posted a few here.  Though many of these covers did not have a credited artist, it is believed that the majority of them were done by John Newton Howitt.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

by John Newton Howitt

by John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

By John Newton Howitt

by John Newton Howitt

by John Newton Howitt

By Monroe Eisenberg

By Monroe Eisenberg

by Rudolph Zirn

by Rudolph Zirn

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

By John Drew

By John Drew