Film Review: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Also known as: The All New George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (poster title)
Release Date: October 19th, 1990
Directed by: Tom Savini
Written by: George A. Romero
Based on: Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, John A. Russo
Music by: Paul McCullough
Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley

21st Century Film Corporation, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“This is something no one’s ever heard about, and no one’s ever seen before. This is hell on earth.” – Ben

Other than the solid special effects, I’m not a fan of this movie. And that does kind of suck because I am a fan of Tom Savini, the special effects master turned director.

I think what I don’t like about this movie is that everyone in it makes the worst decisions possible. Also, they’re all pretty unlikable because all they do is make dumb choices and scream the entire time with all the lights on in the house and zombies outside listening for food. I also should mention that everyone is hammering fucking boards over the windows for almost the entire length of the picture!

Now I know that this was a remake of the original 1968 film and that the script was pretty damn close to the source material. However, by 1990, zombie movies had been around for a long time and with that, there are much smarter films on the subject that George Romero, himself, had written.

While this was his attempt to start over with his original concept, it doesn’t mean that it has to be populated with really stupid, self-sabotaging assholes. A person in 1990, whether they know what zombies are or not, should still have the common sense to shut the fuck up and act like you don’t exist when there is literally death surrounding your house. No, not these dopes, they might as well have been banging pots and pans outside screaming, “Come and get it!”

By 1990, you can’t suspend this much disbelief. Well, I guess some people can because many consider this to be better than the original. Well, if I’m being honest, I was never a huge fan of the original either. In fact, I much prefer the sequels that started a decade later.

Whatever, no disrespect to Tom Savini but fuck this movie. His special effects were great, though.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Bruiser (2000)

Release Date: February 13th, 2000 (Canada)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: Donald Rubinstein
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Peter Stormare, Leslie Hope, Tom Atkins

Canal+, Barenholtz Productions, Romero-Grunwald Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Rosie… They won’t know me. I’m invisible. I’ve always been invisible.” – Henry Creedlow

I remember seeing marketing for this film back in the day and thought it had a cool look to it and a character with a cool, unique mask. However, I didn’t know anything about the plot. I guess I just assumed he was some sort of cool hitman or slasher with a gun. Nah, this film is a lot weirder (and duller) than that.

The film follows this guy that’s a loser and pretty much invisible to everyone in his life. He’s got a shitty job, even if it is prestigious, and he’s got a shitty marriage, even if she’s hot and they have a pretty incredible mansion.

Crazy shit happens and then the loser wakes up with a mask attached to his face that he can’t remove but it figuratively makes him even more invisible to those around him. With that he gets a bit crazy and starts getting revenge on the shitty people in his life.

The plot is a bit hard to explain as I had a hard time trying to make sense out of it. The main character’s motivations to kill were clear but his decisions still didn’t make a lot of sense. Well, unless you can watch a movie and not think about things like logic and relying on what you’re shown of the character while the foundation for the plot is still being established.

Point being, the main character doesn’t seem like someone capable of these acts but waking up with a weird mask on I guess makes one into a heartless killer.

I think that the lead actor is the problem, though, and not just the script. He just isn’t convincing and since I’ve never noticed him in anything before, I don’t know if its his fault or director, George A. Romero’s.

That being said, Romero, by this point, was a solid horror director for decades but maybe by this point he just wasn’t as passionate and had lost some mojo. Honestly, nothing he made from this point in his career, going forward, was any good. And I guess that’s unfortunate, considering he was instrumental in giving birth to what became the zombie subgenre of horror.

Bruiser is a really weak, very dull film. It tries to go for the gusto in its big finale but it falls flat.

In the end, at least I got to spend some quality time with Tom Atkins.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: George A. Romero’s films that don’t involve zombies.

Film Review: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Release Date: January 30th, 1991 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Ted Tally
Based on: The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Kasi Lemmons, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Frankie Faison, Tracey Walter, Charles Napier, Roger Corman, Chris Isaak, Harry Northup, Daniel von Bargen, George A. Romero (uncredited)

Strong Heart/Demme Production, Orion Pictures, 118 Minutes, 138 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” – Hannibal Lecter

My memories of this film are as great as they could possibly be but after seeing this again, the first time in many years, I was still surprised by just how perfect it is. There are very few motion pictures that deliver so much and at such a high level that seeing this was incredibly refreshing and left me smiling from ear-to-ear, regardless of the dark, fucked up story.

That being said, as great as both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are as actors, I have a hard time thinking of anything else they were better in.

Sure, they’ve both had other legendary performances but man, they brought their best to this picture like their entire lives counted on it being a success. Plus, their chemistry is incredibly uncanny that in spite of knowing what Hannibal is, at his core, you almost kind of root for them in a sort of awkward, fucked up, romantic way.

I can understand why Jodie Foster didn’t want to return to the role with Hannibal, a sequel that took too long to come out, but I really would’ve liked to see this version of the characters come together again because the strange connection that they share deserved more exploration.

It would’ve been hard to live up to this masterpiece of a film, though, but I’ll save my added thoughts on Hannibal for that review in about a week.

Anyway, it wasn’t just Foster and Hopkins that were great. This film’s entire cast was perfect and this enchanting nightmare just sucks you in and doesn’t release its grip till well after the credits are over. This movie just lingers with you and a big part of that was the performances of every actor.

Credit for that also has to go to Jonathan Demme, who, as director, was able to pull the best out of this stupendous cast from the smallest role to the most iconic and pivotal.

Additionally, he really displayed his mastery of his craft in this like no other movie he’s directed. The tone, the atmosphere and the sound were perfect. This boasts some incredible cinematography, masterful shot framing, exceptional lighting and Demme employs some really interesting and cool techniques. The best being used in the finale, which sees Foster’s Clarice, terrified out of her mind, as she hunts the film’s serial killer, seen through the point-of-view of his night vision goggles, as he carefully stalks her through a pitch black labyrinthine basement.

That finale sequence in the house is absolutely nerve-racking, even if you’ve seen this film a dozen times. The tension, the suspense, it’s almost too much to handle and that’s the point in the film where you really come to understand how perfect this carefully woven tapestry is.

Plus, it really shows how complex Clarice is as a character. She’s brave as fuck but alone, up against a monster like Buffalo Bill, her senses and her primal fear overwhelm her. However, she still snaps out of it just quick enough to put him down, perfectly and exactingly. Foster is so damn good in this sequence too, that you truly feel yourself in her shoes.

Speaking of Buffalo Bill, Ted Levine was amazing in this role. Man, that guy committed to the bit so much that it’s impossible not to appreciate what he brought to the film. It could’ve been really easy to have been overshadowed by Foster and Hopkins but this guy rose to the occasion with them and excelled in this performance.

My favorite sequence in the film, after the finale, is the one where Hannibal Lecter escapes imprisonment. This is where you finally see how cold and vile he can be. It also shows you how damn smart he is at outwitting those who tried to cage this lion but took that cage’s security for granted. He exposes the flaws in their overconfidence and careful planning and leaves this story a free man, out and about in the world.

The Silence of the Lambs was an unexpected runaway hit and it’s easy to see why. I always thought that it was funny that this was released on Valentine’s Day, as it must have shocked many casual moviegoers just looking for a film to see on a date where they just wanted to smooch their lover. It makes me wonder how many married couples saw this on their first date.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Hannibal Lecter films.

Film Review: Creepshow 2 (1987)

Also known as: Dead and Undead: Creepshow 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Michael Gornick
Written by: George A. Romero, Lucille Fletcher (uncredited)
Based on: stories by Stephen King
Music by: Les Reed, Rick Wakeman
Cast: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tom Savini, Frank Salsedo, Holt McCallany, Don Harvey, Will Sampson, Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer, Page Hannah, Tom Wright, Stephen King (cameo)

New World Pictures, Laurel Entertainment Inc., 92 Minutes, 85 Minutes (UK video)

Review:

“Ooooh, mucho ecological, Poncho! Mucho ecological!” – Deke

While this doesn’t get as much fanfare as the original movie, I like it just as much if not slightly better.

Something about these stories just stuck with me.

To start, the first story about the wooden Indian is fantastic and my second favorite of all the Creepshow tales. It’s surprisingly well acted and chilling and by the time the wooden Indian comes to life, you’re so ready to watch the scumbags get murdered in horrible ways.

I’ve got to especially give props to Holt McCallany for playing the shitty, sadistic gang leader. The guy has had a good career but he showed he had real acting chops here, in only his second role, as he was so good at making you hate him. While the script is written to obviously make you dislike him, McCallany took it to a deeper more convincing level.

I also loved the dynamic between George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour.

But most importantly, the effects of the wooden Indian were spectacular. Especially for the era and the small budget that this film had.

The second story is the one Creepshow tale that has stuck with me the most over the years and it actually creeped me out as a kid. It’s about these party teens trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, as a sludge monster is waiting to devour them. Once the creature gets ahold of its human victims, it literally digests them alive as they scream in pain and horror, dissolving before your eyes.

This sequence does a great job of building tension and terror with very little.

I think that it stuck with me the most because I grew up in and around the Everglades. So as I kid, I used to swim in swamp rivers and lakes fairly regularly. And while I wasn’t afraid of alligators or snakes, I was always on the look out for some sort of demon sludge in the water that might show any sign of sentience.

The last story is my least favorite but it is still damn enjoyable.

A woman accidentally kills a hitchiker and then her entire trip is comprised of the ghostly, zombie-like hitchhiker haunting her at every turn. It’s a simple setup with a simple story but it’s still entertaining and I love the practical effects used in this sequence.

Overall, Creepshow 2 is better than I remembered and it probably deserves as much respect and admiration as the original film.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: everything else under the Creepshow banner, as well as other horror anthologies from the same era like Twilight Zone: The Movie and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie.

Comic Review: Creepshow

Published: July, 1982
Written by: Stephen King
Art by: Bernie Wrightson, Michele Wrightson, Jack Kamen (cover)
Based on: Creepshow by Stephen King, George A. Romero

Plume, 64 Pages

Review:

I’ve wanted the original Creepshow comic book since I was a little kid. I never quite tracked one down and I still want an original copy. However, they recently did a reprint of it, as the television show just came out a few months back.

So I finally got to read this and I liked that I had a fresh, crisp copy, simply so that I could see the superb art of Bernie Wrightson without age, wear and tear.

This follows the plot of the movie pretty much beat-for-beat but it is really a cool companion piece to have for fans of that film. It feels consistent to the movie and its use of comic book styled art, lighting and effects.

Ultimately, this is just beautiful to look at, as Wrightson just had a real talent for drawing the macabre. He was the perfect guy to illustrate these stories and a lot of it reminds me of his Swamp Thing work, as well as his House of Mystery, House of Secrets and Frankenstein stuff.

Hands down, this is one of the coolest horror movie comic book adaptations. It does just about everything right and represents the intellectual property it’s tied to perfectly. I kind of just wish this was longer or that it had opened the door for a regular Creepshow comic book series.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: old EC Comics horror stuff, as well as the Creepshow movies and TV series.

TV Review: Creepshow (2019- )

Original Run: September 26th, 2019 – current
Created by: Greg Nicotero
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Creepshow by Stephen King, George A. Romero
Music by: various
Cast: various

Cartel Pictures, Monster Agency Productions, Striker Entertainment, Shudder, 6 Episodes (so far), 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m a few months late to the party but I finally got around to watching the Creepshow television revival on Shudder. And now that I have, it’s just one more great reason to subscribe to Shudder, which has a much lower price than the average streaming service.

Schilling aside, I swear I’m not a Shudder employee, I’m just a happy customer, the show is pretty much what I expected in that most of it is pretty enjoyable but the quality varies from story to story.

I’ve stated before that I’m not a big anthology fan and the main reason for that is because of consistency. Horror anthologies, especially, seem to be like a pendulum swinging back and forth from good to bad within the same film.

While this show isn’t that different, most of what’s here is engaging and the few tales that I didn’t like weren’t terribly bad. Plus, each 45ish minute episode contains two different stories. So even if you aren’t feeling something, it’s not going to take up too much of your time.

I think the only one I really didn’t like was the fat loss leeches one, which was surprising to me as I’m a fan of Paul Dini’s writing, mainly because of Batman: The Animated Series and his run on Detective Comics, and I’ve always liked Dana Gould.

Other than that, there was something about each episode that lured me in. I think some of my favorites were the first tale, which was written by Stephen King, then the ghost head one, the suitcase one and Nessie one. Maybe I’ll do a list where I rank the segments soon.

Anyway, this was a good show that holds onto the spirit of the films. And in a similar vein as those movies, it also feels like it’s channeling the anthology horror comics of old. I felt like I was watching EC Comics come to life.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the Creepshow movies, as well as other horror anthology TV shows and movies.

Film Review: Season of the Witch (1972)

Also known as: Jack’s Wife (working title), Hungry Wives (original title), George A. Romero’s Season of the Witch (alternate title)
Release Date: May, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: Steve Gorn
Cast: Jan White, Raymond Laine, Ann Muffly

Latent Image, Jack H. Harris Enterprises 130 Minutes (original cut), 89 Minutes (theatrical), 104 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“[reading from the Witchcraft primer] ‘The religion offers, further, a retreat for emotional women, repressed women, masculine women and those suffering from personal disappointment or nervous maladjustment.’ Christ, what other kind of women are there? No wonder this stuff’s getting so damn popular.” – Shirley

Season of the Witch is kind of a weird movie. While it has some horror themes to it, it really isn’t horror in a traditional sense. It’s got some witchcraft and some creepy imagery but ultimately, it is more of a feminist drama.

The film was originally called Hungry Wives and wasn’t marketed in a way that showed that it was a film about witchcraft. In fact, it was pushed out like it was a softcore porn film in the height of the grindhouse era. Upon its initial release, the film was a failure.

The story is about a bored and abused housewife from suburban Pittsburgh, who meets a local witch and develops an attraction for her pagan practices. She starts doing things that were once uncharacteristic of her, like having sex with a young charmer that had sex with her daughter earlier in the film. She also finds herself and develops confidence and her own power.

The film was directed by George A. Romero and he came up with the idea while researching witchcraft for another project. Around the same time, he also became aware of the Feminist movement and was inspired by it.

Ultimately, the film is pretty dry and certainly won’t satisfy the palate of Romero fans looking for something similar to his more famous work. There is little to no terror and dread in this other than a few visions and a creepy mask.

Also, the original negatives are lost, as is the original cut of the film. All that’s left is a chopped up, much shorter version of the final film. So some of Romero’s vision is probably lost and it’s possible that the quality of the film suffers because of this.

Still, what has survived makes a coherent enough story to follow and yet it is still rather boring apart from less than a handful of scenes.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Romero early films: The CraziesNight of the Living Dead and for something more modern, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch.

Film Review: Creepshow (1982)

Release Date: May 16th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: Stephen King
Based on: various stories by Stephen King
Music by: John Harrison
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini, Stephen King

Laurel Entertainment, Warner Bros., 120 Minutes

Review:

“I drove out there with the remains of three human beings… well, two human beings and Wilma.” – Henry

Creepshow was one of the first modern horror films I experienced as a kid. However, I was a kid in the 80s, so this was modern then. Now it is thirty-five years old. Revisiting it now though, is still a real friggin’ treat.

I love this movie. I admit that a lot of my warm and fuzzy feelings for it can be due to the fact that I’m a total sucker for nostalgia but it is a damn good picture for its time. I’m not even a huge anthology horror fan but when these films are good, I absolutely love them.

Creepshow is one of the best horror anthology films of all-time. Each story works and George A. Romero created a true piece of cinematic magnificence outside of his Dead series. Plus, having the help of Stephen King’s pen made this a bit more unique than other films like it.

There isn’t a dull story out of the five that we get within this film. Six stories if you count the intro and ending.

The weakest story is probably the one that stars King himself, as a man that becomes possessed and overcome by some sort of alien plant life. Even that one is entertaining because King plays the role so hilariously. It is also the shortest chapter.

The best story of the bunch is The Crate, which really could have been its own film and worked really well. It is also the longest chapter and feels like a throwback to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. In this story, we see a janitor discover a strange crate under a staircase at a college. It is from an expedition, decades earlier. Inside the crate is a hungry beast that pretty much want to devour everyone. But it is the monster itself that is the star of the movie, in my eyes.

The film has a good all-star cast with two highlights. The rivalry between Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen is well orchestrated and they play off of each other like the pros they are. The other is the relationship between the quiet and sweet Hal Holbrook and his annoying as hell wife played by Adrienne Barbeau. It is such a comedic mismatch but it works too a t.

The visual comic book style highlights within the film, give it an otherworldly life that really wraps the movie in that old school pulp feel.

Creepshow is so enjoyable and the funny bits are still funny. Yes, it has a real sense of terror but it is a load of fun.
Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: Document of the Dead (2012)

Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Directed by: Roy Frumkes
Music by: Rick Ulfik

Synapse Films, 66 Minutes (1979 cut), 85 Minutes (1989 cut), 102 Minutes (2012 cut)

Review:

Document of the Dead is a documentary that has been released at three different times, as it has been updated and expanded throughout the years.

Initially, it was about the making of Goerge A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. Since then, it has looked behind the scenes at some of his other films, as well as checked in with the man and those close to him from 1978 up through 2006.

It is a sort of disjointed documentary, as the additions are very apparent in a way that distracts from the narrative. Also, the documentary jumps around a lot. It is entertaining and informative but it is a mess too.

I am reviewing the 2012 version, the final one released, so I can’t really say if the earlier versions, especially the 1979 original version, were more coherent. Anyway, it is the 1979 material that is the most compelling anyway.

Some of the cool things in this are seeing Tom Savini put the makeup on the Dawn of the Dead zombies, as well as his stunt work. Also, just seeing the behind the scenes stuff is cool, especially on an old school movie like this where DVD extras were still twenty years away.

Document of the Dead, while not a great documentary, is still a cool look into the world of Romero from a filmmaking point-of-view. For fans of Romero’s Dead series, it is certainly worth checking out.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

Release Date: July 19th, 1985
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero
Music by: John Harrison
Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard

Dead Films Inc., Laurel Group, United Film Distribution Company, 100 Minutes

Review:

“What kind of progress? What are you talking about, “make them behave?” What does that mean?” – Captain Rhodes

While Dawn of the Dead is regarded as the closest thing director George A. Romero has to a masterpiece, I consider its follow-up (and the third film in Romero’s Living Dead series) Day of the Dead to be a slightly superior film. I know that some agree with me but that the majority are probably against me.

Maybe it’s because the outside areas of the film where shot in downtown Fort Myers, a city in my county or maybe it is because when this film came out, I was incredibly impressionable and saw it first. I think the real reason however, is that this has the most compelling story of the first three films in Romero’s zombie arsenal. In fact, it has the most compelling story out of any film that Romero has done.

This is the first time, at least to my knowledge, where a filmmaker delved into the zombie psyche and experimented with the idea of how their brains might work. In this film, there is one zombie in particular, named Bub, who shows increasing improvement in his mental functions, in that he recognizes people, likes music, learns how to fire a gun, remembers how to use a phone and builds up an almost father/son relationship with the scientist that is studying him.

To this day, Bub is one of the most iconic zombie figures in the history of film. I would even go on to say that he is the most iconic. That alone, puts this film on a higher level than the other Romero zombie flicks. A lot of credit should also go to the actor who played Bub, Howard Sherman. He didn’t speak but his facial expressions made it so he didn’t have to. His performance is what made Bub the first lovable zombie character in cinema history.

As far as style, this film takes the cake in the Romero zombie world. From the sunny and historic Florida streets to the cavernous and haunting mine underground to the brightly lit zombie lab, this film has a good palate of contrasting tones that go on to shape the emotional narrative of the film.

The great effects of its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead, were once again on display but perfected even more for this film. The death of the character named Rhodes is one of the most gruesome yet awe-inspiring scenes of all-time for a special effects junkie.

Yes, the acting can be a bit cheesy and overly boisterous at times but that adds to the fun of this film. The violence, while there is a lot and it might seem gratuitous to some, never really pushes the bar so high that this becomes some low budget gore fest. There is a pretty stark political and social message in this film and it isn’t lost by a filmmaker inadvertently distracting his audience with shock value tactics.

Romero delivered in every way and this is, in my opinion, his best film.

Rating: 9/10