4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Stephen King Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to Mr. Stephen King!

In others words, it’s time for….

4 Shots from 4 Stephen King Films

Creepshow (1982, dir by George Romero, written by Stephen King, DP: Michael Gornick)

Maximum Overdrive (1986, dir by Stephen King, written by Stephen King, DP: Armando Nannuzzi)

Sleepwalkers (1992, dir by Mick Garris, written by Stephen King, DP: Rodney Charters)

The Stand (1994, dir by Mick Garris, written by Stephen King, DP: Edward J. Pei)

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Finale of Dawn of the Dead


For our final horror scene that I love of the 2021 Horrorthon, how about the ending of George Romero’s 1978 masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead?

Keep an eye out Tom Savini, going over that railing.

4 Shots From 4 George Romero Films


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Happy Halloween!  Today, we pay tribute to the patron saint of American horror, George Romero!  We’ve watched Night of the Living Dead!  Now, it’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 George Romero Films

Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir by George Romero, DP: George Romero)

Dawn of the Dead (1978, dir by George Romero, DP: Michael Gornick)

Martin (1978, dir by George Romero, DP: Michael Gornick)

Day of the Dead (1985, dir by George Romero, DP: Michael Gornick)

 

Horror on the Lens: Night of the Living Dead (dir by George Romero)


Happy Halloween everyone!

Well, as another horrorthon draws to a close, it’s time for another Shattered Lens tradition!  Every Halloween, we share one of the greatest and most iconic horror films ever made.  For your Halloween enjoyment, here is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead!

(Be sure to read Arleigh’s equally famous review!)

Horror Film Review: The Dark Half (dir by George Romero)


It will always fascinate me that Stephen King, one of the most popular writers in the world and one of the legitimate masters of horror, also has one of the least inspiring accounts on twitter.

Seriously, he may be the most popular author in the world but he tweets like a retiree who has just discovered the internet.  Go over to his twitter account and you won’t find memorable descriptions of small town hypocrisy.  You won’t find scenes of shocking psychological insight.  You won’t find moments of unexpected but laugh-out-loud dark humor.  Instead, you’ll find a combination of dad jokes, boomer nostalgia, and an unseemly obsession with wishing death on any public figure who is to the right of Bernie Sanders.  It’s odd because no one can deny that King’s a good storyteller.  At his best, Stephen King is responsible for some of the best horror novels ever written.  Everyone who is a horror fan owes him a debt of gratitude for the work that he’s done promoting the genre.  At his worst, he’s your uncle who retweets the article without reading it first.

Of course, someone can be great at one thing an terrible at something else.  I can dance but I certainly can’t sing.  Stephen King can write a best seller but a good tweet is beyond him.  That’s the dual nature of existence, I suppose.  That’s certainly one of the themes at the heart of both Stephen King’s The Dark Half and the subsequent film adaptation from George Romero.

Filmed in 1990 but not released for three years due to the bankruptcy of the studio that produced it, The Dark Half tells the story of Thad Beaumont and George Stark (both played by Timothy Hutton).  Thad is a professor who writes “serious” literature under his real name and violent, pulpy fiction under the name of George Stark.  No one reads Thad’s books but they love George Stark and his stories about the master criminal and assassin, Alexis Machine.  (Alexis Machine?  George Stark may be a good writer but he sucks at coming up with names.)  After a demented fan (played, with creepy intensity, by Robert Joy) attempts to blackmail him by threatening to reveal that he’s George Stark, Thad decides to go public on his own.  His agent even arranges for a fake funeral so that Thad can bury George once and for all.

Soon, however, Thad’s associates are turning up dead.  It seems as if everyone associated with the funeral is now being targeted.  Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Michael Rooker) suspects that Thad is the murderer.  However, the murderer is actually George Stark, who has come to life and is seeking revenge.  Of course, George has more problems than just being buried.  His body is decaying and he’s got a bunch of angry sparrows after him.  The Sparrows Are Flying Again, we’re told over and over.  Seeking to cure his affliction and to get those birds to leave him alone, Stark targets Thad’s wife (Amy Madigan) and their children.

The Dark Half has its moments, as I think we would expect of any film based on a Stephen King novel and directed by George Stark.  Some of the deaths are memorably nasty.  Hutton is believably neurotic as Thad and cartoonishly evil as Stark and, in both cases, it works well.  Rooker may be an unconventional pick for the role but he does a good job as Pangborn and Amy Madigan brings some unexpected energy to the thankless role of being the threatened wife.

But, in the end, The Dark Half never really seems to live up to its potential.  In the book, Thad was a recovering alcoholic and it was obvious that George Stark was a metaphor for Thad’s addiction.  That element is largely abandoned in the movie and, as a result, George goes from being the literal representation of Thad’s demons to just being another overly loquacious movie serial killer.  Despite having a few creepy scenes, the film itself is never as disturbing as it should be.  For all the blood, the horror still feels a bit watered down.  Take away the sparrows and this could just as easily be a straight-forward action film where the hero has to rescue his family from a smug kidnapper.  Comparing this film to Romero’s Martin is all the proof you need that Romero was best-served by working outside the mainstream than by trying to be a part of it.

Add to that, I got sick of the sparrows.  Yes, both the film and the book explain why the sparrows are important but “The Sparrows Are Flying Again” almost sounds like something you’d find in something written in a deliberate attempt to parody King’s style.  It’s a phrase that’s intriguingly enigmatic the first time that you hear it, annoying the third time, and boring the fifth time.

The Dark Half was a bit of a disappointment but that’s okay.  For King fans, there will always be Carrie.  (I would probably watch The Shining but apparently, King still hasn’t forgiven Stanley Kubrick for improving on the novel.)  And, for us Romero fans, we’ll always have Night of the Living Dead, Martin, Dawn of the Dead, and the original Crazies.  And, for fans of George Stark, I’m sure someone else will pick up the story of Alexis Machine.  It’s hard to keep a good character down.

Horror Film Review: The Crazies (dir by George Romero)


Ah, The Crazies.  The original Crazies.

This 1973 film is one of George Romero’s best non-Dead films, though it never seems to get the respect that it really deserves.  Even today, the original is often overlooked in favor of the remake.  And don’t get me wrong — the remake of The Crazies is good and it features several effective jump scares.  But the remake is a slick Hollywood film and, watching it, you always have the safety of knowing that you’re watching a slick Hollywood film.  The original, though, is rough and low-budget and it looks and it feels real.  As a result, it sticks with you long after the haunting final scenes.

The storyline is simple but effective.  People in a small Pennsylvania town are going crazy and murdering each other.  Usually, it’s impossible to tell who is infected until they’re already attacking you.  The infected are just like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead with one key difference.  The crazies may be as relentless as the Dead but they’re also human beings.  They think.  They plan.  They scheme.  And when they die, they die like humans and we’re reminded that, just a few short hours ago, they were friendly and, more or less, harmless.

The government, of course, shows up in the town and tries to contain the outbreak.  The main image that most people will carry away from The Crazies is of men in white hazmat suits, walking through small-town America and killing almost everyone they see.  As is typical for a Romero film, the so-called solution often seems to be worse than the problem.  We also get the typical conflict between the scientists and the military.  The  military wants to destroy the infected.  The scientists want to cure them.  The film is bleakly cynical as the one man who knows how to cure the disease is ignored and finally killed in a stampede of quarantined citizens.

The film follows six people as they attempt to escape from the town and avoid getting sick themselves.  Needless to say, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  The characters who everyone seems to remember are Artie (Richard Liberty) and his daughter, Kathy (Lynn Lowry).  What happens to them is perhaps the most disturbing moment in a film that’s full of them.  The other members of the group can only hope to survive, even as they slowly lose their grip on sanity.

It’s a disturbing film, precisely because it’s not slick.  The actors are not movie star handsome and the attacks are not perfectly choreographed.  The grainy cinematography gives the entire film a documentary feel and serves as a reminder that Romero made industrial films before he revolutionized the horror genre.  The Crazies works because it feel like it could be happening in your community or your back yard.  And, ultimately, it offers up no solution.  Mankind could save itself, Romero seems to be saying, if only mankind wasn’t so stupid.

Needlessly to say, a film as bleak as The Crazies was not a hit in 1973.  But it’s lived on and continued to influence other horror makers.  It’s one of Romero’s best.

4 Shots From 4 George Romero Films: Night of the Living Dead, The Amusement Park, The Crazies, Day of the Dead


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

This October, we’ve been using 4 Shots from 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror filmmakers!  Today, we honor the father of modern horror, George Romero!

4 Shots From 4 George Romero Films

Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir by George Romero)

The Amusement Park (1973, dir by George Romero)

The Crazies (1973, dir by George Romero)

Day of the Dead (1985, dir by George Romero)

 

Horror on the Lens: Night of the Living Dead (dir by George Romero)


Happy Halloween everyone!

Well, as another horrorthon draws to a close, it’s time for another Shattered Lens tradition!  Every Halloween, we share one of the greatest and most iconic horror films ever made.  For your Halloween enjoyment, here is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead!

(Be sure to read Arleigh’s equally famous review!)

Horror Scenes That I Love: The Interview With The Chief From Night of the Living Dead


“Yeah, they’re dead …. they’re all messed up.”

There’s a lot of disturbing scenes in the original Night of the Living Dead but I’ve always loved this live, televised interview with the chief of police.  First, there’s the delivery of that classic line.  “….they’re all messed up.”  Yes, they are.  Then there’s the fact that the chief doesn’t seem to be particularly perturbed by the fact that the dead are coming back to life.  Instead, his attitude is very straight-forward.  It’s happening, we need to take care of it, let’s arm some civilians.

Of course, this interview sets up the film’s ending, in which we learn that those helpful civilians with guns are a bit trigger happy and sometimes, the living get in the way.  When you first see this interview, it’s easy to laugh at the sight of the chief’s posse and everyone’s odd confidence that the dead will somehow just go away.  (Death, after all, is the one thing that is guaranteed to happen to everyone eventually.)  Once you know how the story’s going to end, though, this scene becomes much more ominous.

Film Review: There’s Always Vanilla (dir by George Romero)


You can probably guess how you’ll react to the 1971 film, There’s Always Vanilla, by seeing how much the title annoys you.

To some people, a title like There’s Always Vanilla may sounds innocuous and even a little innocent.  After all, vanilla is a flavor and it will always exist and the movie has to be titled something, right?  On the other hand, people like me see a title like There’s Always Vanilla and we just cringe because it’s such a cutesy collection of words.  We see the title and then we see the fact that the film was made in 1971 and we immediately assume that the film must be some sort of annoying-as-Hell counter-culture romance.  There’s Always Vanilla just sounds like something someone would say while trying too hard to be profound.

And we’re right.

There’s Always Vanilla tells the story of Chris Bradly (Raymond Laine), who is an annoying-as-Hell freeloader who the audience is supposed to find to be charming.  There are several scenes in which he talks directly to the audience, which is a technique that has always been annoying but which is somehow even more annoying than usual in this film.  Chris has just gotten out of the army and now he’s drifting around the country.  He makes his money through doing odd jobs.  Sometimes, he works as a pimp.  Sometimes, he works as a guitar player.  Do you remember when you were in college and there was always this kind of annoying 30-something dude who wanted to hang out on campus with all the students and he never seemed to realize how creepy everyone thought he was?  Well, that’s Chris.

Anyway, Chris’s father owns a factory that makes baby food because, in 1971, movies always featured people having important jobs that sounded slightly silly.  Chris’s father wants him to work at the factory.  Chris wants to wander the country being annoying.  The movie seems to think that we should, at the very least, understand where Chris is coming from but you know what?  BABIES NEED FOOD!

Anyway, Chris eventually meets a beautiful model named Lynn (Judith Ridley, who also appeared in Night of the Living Dead) and he moves in with her.  They have a falling in love montage where they run through the park and eat ice cream together.  Unfortunately, Lynn knows that Chris is an irresponsible freeloader and, when she gets pregnant, she knows that Chris will be a less than satisfactory father.  But, in 1971, getting a safe and legal abortion isn’t really an option either.  (There’s an effectively unsettling scene where Lynn meets a back alley abortionist who isn’t willing to take no for an issue.)  Lynn is forced to make a decision about her future and Chris is forced to realize that, while life offers up several different flavors of ice cream, there’s always vanilla….

So, this film is a bit infamous because it was directed by George Romero.  It was one non-horror film and it’s also a film that he practically disowned.  Apparently, it stated out as a 20-minute acting reel for Raymond Laine, which explains all the time that he spends talking to the audience.  There’s some disagreement  as to who exactly decided to extend it to being a feature film.  It’s been suggested that Romero didn’t want to get pigeonholed as being just a horror director after the success of Night of the Living Dead but Romero said, in numerous interviews, that There’s Only Vanilla was only something he directed as a favor to some friends and that he didn’t even consider it to be one of his films.

Of course, a lot of the dispute about who is responsible for There’s Always Vanilla is probably the result of the fact that it’s not a very good film.  It’s not as terrible as you may have heard but it’s definitely not good.  Judith Ridley gives an excellent performance as Lynn and the scenes that satirize advertising have a real bite, probably due to the fact that they spoke to Romero’s own background.  Unfortunately, almost all of those good things are eliminated by just how annoying the character of Chris was.  There’s Always Vanilla is one of those counter-culture films that tries to be progressive (for instance, Chris briefly goes into advertising but refuses to do a commercial for the Army) but which still displays an unmistakable streak of misogyny.  Chris is basically an irresponsible jerk who freeloads off of everyone but yet we’re still expected to feel sorry for him when Lynn quite reasonably decides that she needs something better in her life.

Anyway, there’s always vanilla and, fortunately for Romero fans, there’s always Martin as well.