#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!

 

 

#284- Häxan

Quick recap: A documentary-ish about Witchcraft through the ages

Don't feed after midnight

Don’t feed after midnight

Fun (?) fact: Director Benjamin Christensen originally planned on writing the script with the help of experts but dropped that idea when he learned they were against his movie.

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My thoughts: Another year of HorrorFest is in the books and another year where I still think the 1920s were a pretty creepy time. Häxan alone didn’t do much for me because ‘meh’ on witches, but people dressed UP as witches, no thank you. I’m not talking about the sexy kind we have walking around these days, but the ones with dead eyes featured in this film.

Häxan is half dry documentary about the history of witchcraft and half stories that the director heard. The dry documentary part was more interesting to me than the vignettes because people a long time ago imagined some pretty scary stuff. I’m all for science and learning how the world works, but sometimes it would just be nice to blame things on witches, you know? Like, it’s not my fault I didn’t get grades on time- my witch is a neighbor! I was going 30 mph over the speed limit because a witch cursed my foot. It works in every situation. We make jokes how stupid people back then used to be but they sure were the masters of shirking responsibility.

The vignettes are your typical witch fare of curses and making weird brews in a big pot. One ‘fact’ the director wanted us to remember is that witches like to kiss the butt of the devil. He mentions it 3 different times, complete with recreations of a bunch of witches lined up, ready to literally kiss ass. It seems like such a weird thing to focus on, as if that is the most offensive thing witches do. I didn’t know that was a thing before the movie, however, so I can’t completely hate on it. The more you know, I suppose.

Final review: 1/5. I’m still ‘meh’ on witches, but please don’t make me look at people dressed up during Halloween in the 1920s.

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Up next: The Wizard of Oz

 

#283- Eyes Without a Face

Quick recap: After a horrific accident, a father goes out of his way to try and repair his daughter’s face. It sounds like the sweetest story ever, until it is revealed he is murdering young women and stealing their faces.

there's a face that'll keep you up at night

there’s a face that’ll keep you up at night

Fun (?) fact: In order to get financial backing for the movie, director Georges Franju was advised to leave out the animal torture scenes (to not offend the English), too much blood (to not offend the French) and a mad-scientist character (to not offend the Germans).

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My thoughts: Many of the horror films I’ve watched from other countries do a nice job of building up suspense long after the movie is over. Except for Funny Games, which traumatized me from the very beginning. Eyes Without a Face is no exception. I thought it slow moving while I watched, but there were enough creepy scenes to keep me somewhat occupied. After the movie was over, however, I couldn’t get the image of the girl out of my head and it has stuck with me since then.

Unsettling is the best word I could use to describe the movie. There was never anything downright scary, but instead several scenes that unsettled me. The surgery scene, for example, as the doctor removed the girl’s face to transplant it on to his daughter’s. It was gruesome, but not terrifying. And then end scene when the doctor gets what’s coming to him was also gross but not scary. All the scenes in between, though, especially anything to do with the main character and her Mask of Gloom bothered me. She was very sweet and didn’t ask for any of this, but why did she have to look so creepy with the long, flowing night gowns? And whoever decided that the mask was an improvement over her disfigured face was out of their mind.

As has been the unofficial theme of HorrorFest this year, I had trouble trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to fear. The doctor was evil, murdering pretty girls just for their faces, but that didn’t particularly scare me. Or maybe it was the girl herself, who, as I just described, creeped me out, but only because of the mask,not because of who she was. I can appreciate that my knowledge of the horror genre has increased, but it also makes me a little sad that it’s harder to find good movies that just scare me, without any rhyme or reason. Maybe one will pop up here next year, because this year has been a bit of a dud.

Final review: 3/5. The girl wasn’t enough for a higher rating, although the movie itself wasn’t bad overall

Up next: the last film of HorrorFest!