#318- Night of the Living Dead

Quick recap: Surviving hysterical women and zombies, a black man still can’t manage to get a break. 

Ben knows he’s on his own keeping these idiots alive

Fun (?) fact: Night of the Living Dead is ripe with amazing facts, from the chocolate sauce used for blood to Reader’s Digest warning watching the movie would inspire cannibalism. My favorite, however, is that the word zombie is never used in the film. Not even once.

My thoughts: I typically only fear zombies on a case by case basis. Fast moving ones? nope. Super decomposed ones that groan and like to fight plants? not really. Lumbering ones who look like they have just died and their only purpose is to devour you? Totes. And that’s what Night of the Living Dead had, which is why it worked so well for me. I saw the movie years ago but I don’t remember it having the same impact as it did when I rewatched it this time. Maybe it’s these trying times we are currently in or maybe it was the fact that my cat chose to bite my finger during a particular jumpy scene, but Night of the Living Dead got to me.

So, a few stray observations:

  • I know that almost every horror movie draws inspiration from this film but the opening scene is just like Rocky Horror Picture Show, except that Johnny will never be as annoying as Brad.

Dammit, Johnny

  • Ben is a much nicer person than I would’ve been to Barbra. She was useless the entire time, which I get because of the whole ‘brother eaten by zombies’ thing, but still it made it hard to really root for anyone but him .
  • Zombie children are adorable but they use their cuteness to be absolute savage. Judy never stood a chance

I love how low budget this film is, yet it makes its point so clearly. The scene where the zombies chowed down was gross but it was the scenes where they just stood there hanging out that really bugged me. For something that unnerving, you don’t millions of dollars to tell a story. The true punch, though, came at the end when Ben is gunned down by police. Those final still shots of the police take his body using hooks is beyond chilling. If I had watched only that scene, I wouldn’t have been able to tell whether I was watching a horror film or a documentary on police brutality. Director George Romero might not have  meant to make such a powerful statement about race, but he did and that’s why this is film is such a true classic.

Final review: 5/5. Essential viewing

Up next: More Horrorfest!

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#317- Audition

Quick recap: A director uses the audition process to find an actor for his film as well as a wife. What he gets instead is a big ball of crazy.

Crazy, yes, but also really talented at torture so points for that

Fun(?) fact: That was totally actress Eihi Shiina’s (Asami’s) throw up given to the prisoner. IMDb says she’s a method actress but I’m going to double down on ‘big ball of crazy’.

My thoughts: As with every Horrorfest, my goal is always to find the movie that scares me most. Being an adult, it’s hard to latch on to anything creepy these days. I’m more likely to freak out about whether I paid a bill on time than if there is a ghost haunting my house. Then again, the other day I walked into my bedroom to find my cat meowing at the wall and it scared me so much I just walked back downstairs. So, where does Audition fall on Mary’s Spectrum of Horrors? I’d say it’s scarier than a wind turbine (seriously, those things are so unnerving) but not as scary as my child silently walking down the stairs with an astronaut helmet on at 6 in the morning.

There were definitely parts of Audition that stuck with me and I thought the film itself was gorgeous, in that ‘someone’s about to get murdered’ way, but I can’t say it was enough to keep my interest for long. I was really surprised by how normal everything seemed at once and I admit to be lulled into a false since of security. But then unnerving information started coming to the surface and soon it was just all out crazy. I don’t want to reveal much because I think that’s the film’s best quality-surprise. Had I known what I was getting into beforehand, I would’ve been much more harsh and not as scared.

Two elements of the film keep me from giving it a higher rating- the over the top torture, and the explanation as to why the woman turned out the way she did. For some people, these elements are what make the movie so fascinating and scary but personally, it detracted from what I was looking for.

Final review:3/5. Not a strong start to Horrorfest but there are several days left in the month! The search continues.

Up next: more Horrorfest!

 

 

#316- City of God

Quick recap: Two boys grow up in the slums of Brazil. One has hopes of becoming a photographer while the other wants to rule the drug trade.

I’ll probably say it again, but this movie is bleak as HELL

Fun (?) fact: Almost all of the actors were recruited from real slums around Rio de Janeiro, including the actor who played Rocket. He actually grew up in the City of God. There’s a lot of great trivia about this movie but most of it gives away major plot points visit IMDb at your own risk.

Loosely based on a real story

My thoughts: Did I mention that City of God is bleak as hell? Not that I expected a comedy, mind you, but I was prepared for light drug trade,maybe a murder or two. Just enough so that I know I’d never want to go through that, but if for some reason I had to, I could make some serious bank (Is that a thing? Do people still say bank?).  Instead, I get a ridiculously sad, mostly true story about people who have no choice but survival, whatever that means. And I learned I wouldn’t last a day in the slums.

The plot was captivating and the cinematography had this brisk pace, kind of like Trainspotting does at times. I also loved that the story wasn’t straightforward, choosing instead to weave characters in and out. I’d get attached to them and then their story would be revealed and it was always tragic. Always. I’m surprised anyone survived in the film, especially towards the end when it was just a huge gun battle.

It’s really hard to write about this movie without giving anything away. There are a set of characters that pop up throughout the movie and at first they are just an annoyance. But as City of God goes on, they become more and more central to everything. But revealing who they are would reduce the impact of the film. So, just go watch it. But be prepared to be crushed. It’s a beautiful film in a way, and there’s a vibrant life to the slums. But it in no way glorifies the drug trade or glosses over how horrible it all was. And still is, in some ways.

Final review: 5/5. An essential film

Up next: Horrorfest!

#315- The Ice Storm

Quick recap: Rich white people make really bad decisions, as do their rich white kids. During an ice storm, of course.

rich or not, everyone made bad clothing choices in 1973.

Fun (?) fact: There really was a bad ice storm in 1973.

My husband spent a great deal of the movie angrily confused because he can’t tell Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire apart. Is this a thing?

My thoughts: Despite my previous snark, in the genre of Rich White People Drama, The Ice Storm is quite good. Watching sad married people can be tiresome after awhile, but the performances in this film made me loathe everyone less than I normally would. It also helps that Ang Lee directed, which added depth without overkill on the whole ice storm metaphor.

And now to the real star of the film: the ice storm. Being from Texas, I haven’t experienced ice in the way people up north have. Sometimes it accumulates enough that school is canceled but we all know it’s mostly because we needed a break anyway. But this was a legit storm! I don’t know how Ang Lee managed to create something so realistic but it totally worked. I was worried the metaphor might be too heavy handed ,like when you learn in middle school that birds symbolize freedom, but the storm really did tie everything together nicely.

As for the plot, I particularly liked that nothing was really solved. Everyone was just as miserable at the end, but with a new perspective on their miserableness, I think. In a strange way, I wouldn’t say the movie as a whole was depressing. There were sad moments, sure, but everyone just endured through them in the way that people back then did. I won’t give away the ending because I do have some self-control at times, but I imagine that the defining moment ultimately didn’t do much for either family in the end. They carried on as people tend to do, and for some reason, that comforts me.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: City of God