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.

 

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special George Romero Edition


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!

Today would have been George Romero’s 80th birthday.

Now, those of you who have been reading us since the beginning know how important the work of George Romero has been to this site.  A mutual appreciation of Night of the Living Dead is one of the things that first brought many of us together.  It’s a film that we watch ever Halloween and Arleigh’s review of the original remains one of our most popular posts.  If this site had a patron saint, it would probably be George Romero.

And yet, Romero wasn’t just a director of zombie films.  He made many films, dealing with everything from hippie lovers (There’s Always Vanilla) to wannabe vampires (Martin) to government conspiracies (The Crazies) and eccentric bikers (Knightriders).  George Romero was one of the pioneers of independent films and today, on his birthday, we should all take a minute to consider and appreciate the man’s cinematic legacy.  It’s not just horror fans who owe George Romero a debt of gratitude.  It’s lovers of cinema everywhere.

With that in mind, here are….

4 Shots From 4 George Romero Films

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

The Crazies (1973, dir by George Romero)

The Amusement Park (1973, dir by George Romero)

Martin (1978, 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!)

6 Trailers For Halloween


Happy Halloween!

Well, the big day is finally here and that means that it’s time for a special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers!  Below you’ll find the trailers for some of my favorite horror films!  Let’s take a look!

  1. Suspiria (1977)

That I picked this trailer to start off this special edition should come as a surprise to no one.  While I don’t think the trailer really does the film justice, Suspiria is still one of my favorite movies of all time.  Don’t talk to me about the remake and we’ll get along just fine.

2. Zombi 2 (1979)

Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters!  This is the Lucio Fulci-directed classic that launched the Italian zombie boom!

3. The Beyond (1981)

And, as long as we’re talking about Fulci, there’s no way that I could possibly leave The Beyond‘s trailer out of this post.

4. Martin (1978)

Some people, undoubtedly, will say, “Martin but no Night of the Living Dead?”  Well, we’ll be featuring Night of the Living Dead later today.  Martin is one of George Romero’s best films and it’s still criminally unknown.  Check out the trailer but definitely be sure to track down the film as well.

5. Halloween (1978)

Naturally.

6. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King might not like it but Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made.  It’s one of the few films that continues to scare me after multiple viewings.  (It’s those two little girls in the hallway.  They freak me out every time!)

Happy Halloween!

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Call of Cthulhu, The Descent, Land of the Dead, Wolf Creek


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’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 2005 Horror Films

The Call of Cthulhu (2005, directed by Andrew Leman)

The Descent (2005, dir by Neil Marshall)

Land of the Dead (2005, dir by George Romeo)

Wolf Creek (2005, dir by Greg McLean)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Dawn of the Dead, The Grapes of Death, Halloween, Martin


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’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1978 Horror Films:

Dawn of the Dead (1978, dir by George Romero)

The Grapes of Death (1978, dir by Jean Rollin)

Halloween (1977, dir by John Carpenter)

Martin (1978, dir by George Romero)