Monday, April 27, 2015

Night Of The Living Dead (1990)

In  1968, a young special effects master by the name of Tom Savini had his first gig working on the George A. Romero Classic, The Night Of The Living Dead, though that never came to be since he was called on duty during Vietnam. Now 22 years, at the top of his prime, he recaptures the same intelligence and masterful effects in his 1990 remake, which is incredibly awesome.
What was so great about the original was it's strong political message hidden in the film. It was a rarity to have a black male hero in a horror movie and have him to be the rational, resourceful, quick-witted thinker, among the irrational and not so smart white cast. By the end of the movie, nobody lives and it has an all around bleak ending. At the time, it's one of those horror movies that will make you think and think till this day.
So It was probably a challenge to have that same political message in a 1990 setting and in Technicolor. But the political message still works in this movie as we see it through Barbra's eyes, shifting much more towards a feminist perspective, which is great because it adds a fresh new take on the story while putting much more action and conflict between the characters and the situation.
The Story: Unbeknownst to a plague turning people into walking corpses, Barbra and her brother Johnny are on their way to visit their mother's grave. Suddenly, a zombie appears out of nowhere and attacks them both. Unfortunately, Barbra's brother doesn't make it. Almost barely escaping from yet another zombie attack, Barbra hides out in an abandon house where she meets Ben, one of the survivors from the zombie outbreak. With five other survivors joining along the way, the group of strangers must find a way to prevent the zombie from killing them and from killing each other.

The cast is fantastic, along with horror veterans Tony Todd and Tom Towles. The biggest change in the new Night Of The Living Dead remake is the characters. They're still the same, just updated in a modern way.

Ben played by Tony Todd is still a competent leader but rather flawed. he's just as scared and irrational as everybody else and not taking the time to listen to anybody's ideas, especially Barbra and Cooper's, knowing in the spur of things they could be right. He realizes this tragic mistake in the end and eventually seals his fate.

Tony Todd is just awesome in this and there's even an iconic shot in the movie when he first appears. Just to let you guys know this came out BEFORE Candyman. Anywho, Tony Todd gave a head-on performance and knows how to do karate well.

Then we have the true star of it all.....Barbara! She is just all kinds of kickass! I like how they make her a strong capable heroine who holds her own this time and that's probably the best change that the filmmakers did with the movie. Looking at Barbra from the 1968 original, she was kind of meek and useless, just sitting around being in a dazed, confused state. To be honest, Women in films back then weren't as progressive as they are now.

So It was really refreshing for Barbra in this version to get angry, aggressive and take charge with a firey haircut, giving off a Ripley vibe. Hell Yes! it's about time.

She does, of course, starts off kind of meek and scared but it makes since because it's real human emotion and she doesn't understand what's really going on.

Though once she takes wind of things she gets a lot tougher and stronger and is pretty good with ammo, too. By this time, she is just as much of a capable leader as Ben is and a lot much smarter than the 1968 Barbra who was kind of....well....idiotic in some places. Okay guys, I'm going to spoil it for you a little bit but for those of you who haven't seen it, go watch it now!.....
Barbara is the sole survivor which is very fitting in my opinion. Since the 1968 movie had a strong political message with racism, Vietnam, and social class issues. This version has a sort of feminist message as it focuses on Barbra and how she grows as a character through the crisis that she's experiencing but it still has the important new world issues that it had in the 1968 film. Once Barbra escapes with a new group of survivors, she looks at the people, as they torture the zombies like toys in playful glee, and says, "We're them and They're us." Which is something to think about when watching this movie. Patricia Tallman is the strongest actress in this. She can be vulnerable and tough at the same time and it takes a good actress to handle that emotional range. Overall, Barbra is an awesome character with an even more awesome actress.

Tom and Judy are a lot more active in this as opposed to them being typical lovelorn teenagers in the original. Tom is now a local good o'l boy who knows his way with guns and Judy is taking Barbra's old role, but even though she's usually whiny and screaming most of the time, that doesn't mean she's totally useless. After all, she IS a teenager in this situation.

And I would like to say that William Butler was at his prime as a Scream King. He starred in a Friday The 13th sequel, starred on a Freddy's Nightmares episode, starred in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, and now is being attacked by zombies. He actually gave a good performance and quite the looker, too.

Harry Cooper in this version is way much worse. He berates his wife whenever she desperately tries to find a way to help her sick daughter, even slapping her, fights constantly with the other strangers, especially Ben, and selfishly goes up the attic for Ben and Barbra to fend for themselves. In the original, his jerkassery came from how scared he was in the situation, scared for his family. But in this, he's just a plain o'l asshole. He doesn't get off easy though once Barbra finds him, she says 'fuck it' and shoots him in the head. Tom Towles does a good job and was able to add more layers to the character which is why he's honored as a veteran in the genre.

The suspense is at a high and so is the action. It makes the experience of watching this movie much more enjoyable.

And since this was directed by Tom Savini, His special effects is great on display, making the zombies very nasty and menacing-looking.
The movie was met with negative reviews at the time, which I don't understand. I feel it should have the same praise as the original. Though years later it has received a cult following and the horror community greatly appreciated it.
The verdict? Yes, watch this! Both movies should be watched and analyzed. They both have a strong political message yet the 1990 version is much actionized, having it's own spin to it. Both movies are definitely worth-seeing.
My Last Word: Like I said go watch this and the original. Definitely a good time.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Blob (1988)

Chuck Russell, who was riding off the success of A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, decided to remake the  1958 Monster Movie The Blob, Starring a young Steve McQueen, 30 years later. The Result: Fan-fucking-tastic!
But before I get to this review, let me give a quick overview of the original..... it's so boring! It's so boring, you guys. And I'm not saying this because I'm young and therefore not up to par with classic movies, I happen to enjoy classic movies, however the 1958 version I couldn't be invested in. Everything about the movie was bland. The acting, the characters, the writing, and all the way down to the directing and special effects. I think in my case, the movie is only remembered because it was Steve McQueeen's first major role and nothing else. So this definitely needed to be remade and it was only a matter of time during the 80's, which was the golden age of Sci-fi, where this could happen.
The Story: On a typical day in a small idyllic town, strange event occurs. A meteor suddenly falls from the sky. Once the town drunk takes a hold of this, a glob of goo attacks his hand. Meanwhile, likeable jock Paul and innocent cheerleader Meg is on a date when they suddenly encounter the homeless man, desperate for their aid, along with resident rebel Brian who also helps. While in the hospital, Paul checks on the ailing man, only to see the blob devouring his first victim, getting bigger and bigger, eating anyone who comes towards it's path.....

The characters are just awesome in this film. While the original had your stereotypical 1950's teenagers, the 80's version already have the characters fleshed out, we already know them well, and we already CARE about them. just enough time and care put into this movie.

Let's start with Brian Flagg and his luxurious hair played by sexy Kevin Dillion. Brain is your typical rebel without a cause, at first. You would never expect a character like this to be a hero, but the presence of Kevin Dillion, with his charming loveable rouge attitude makes you root for the character. And that's what I like about this movie, it's not just the character development that fleshes the characters out, it's the acting as well.

Speaking of good actors, Shawnee Smith is full of pure awesome along with the character Meg Penny who is incredibly badass. She starts off as your typical happy-go-lucky cheerleader but as the movie progresses, we can see that she is an intelligent, resourceful, strong-willed, and all around kickass girl.

It is SHE who defeats the blob. Yes guys, it's the cheerleader who saves the world and this was way before Buffy came along as a butt-kicking cheerleader. How awesome is that! This was the Post-Ripley era where more female characters in horror/action movies take charge and fight to the finish which was why I was so enthralled by Shawnee Smith's performance. She is definitely an underrated Scream Queen alongside Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis.

And lastly we have nice jock Paul played by the dreamy Donavan Leitch. He's nice, helpful, upstanding, mild-mannered and all around perfect boyfriend. It seem he might be the hero of the movie but I was in for a big shock when he went out in the most gruesome of ways. This is when it shifts to Brain as our main hero, who turns out to be very effective as a strong male lead.

Along with Meg, which they both make a very effective action couple.

So it leads me to this:

Who Would You Rather: Brian or Paul? Well, of course, I would Choose Brain, at least he doesn't get killed in the first 15 minutes and who could resist that gorgeous hair and that bad boy swag.

The one thing that brings much more to the story and how it keep things interesting, is that the blob isn't the only antagonist of the film. There is the leader of this science project group who intently cause the man-eating blob to land on earth just so he can get his greedy hands on his next experiment, quarantining the whole town and putting them in danger. Then there's the town priest who has turned crazy from the experience and has kept a little piece of the blob, still forming in a jar at the end of the movie. As in the 1958 version, the blob came out of nowhere, with no sense of how and why it crashed on earth.

The special effects, which were inspired by The Thing, another 80's remake from 1950's monster movie, are NASTY. There are so many ideas and creative choices done with the blob monster and how it devours it's victims is probably some of the most goriest things I've seen a movie. Where as the deaths were off screen in the original, you get to see the deaths in plain view in the remake. The filmmakers even takes the risk of killing off a child onscreen, which was totally unexpected, giving the 'anybody could die' motif, which always works in horror films in my opinion.

And yes there were moments that were actually suspenseful and where I was truly scared for the characters. As for the original, it lacked any suspense and I just kept waiting, impatiently, for something to happen.
Chuck Russell surprised me again with his strong directing skills, putting in much effort with the special effects and more intense action scenes. To be honest, I think HE would've been the right choice to direct A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, but seeing that he put his passion into all of this, it's worthwhile.
The Verdict? Go for the remake. It's much more fast-paced, the characters are interesting, there is actual action and suspense and plus much better special effects. Enjoy this while you can.
My last word: Go watch the remake. Like right now!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Thing With Remakes

I meant to make this a short overview but somehow this turned out to be a rant/discussion instead. There have been a slew of remakes lately and it's gotten kind of out of control almost like it's a marketing ploy. It 's been a hit or miss in some movies, however it's been mostly a miss. Statistics show that Hollywood since the coming decade has literally run out of original ideas. This isn't always the case all the time but, trust me you guys, compare to the horror movies or movies in general back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and the movies of modern times. Without a doubt, there is just no original ideas that pop out anymore. No movies that pop out or stand the test of time. I know I'm being a little overdramatic, however, it's only my opinion. There are some movies that heighten our expectations  though you get your occasional remake, reboot, re-imagining, re-do, redux, it never ends. This have been trending since the 90's and I am a firm lover of the 90's though that's not really the issue. People will eventually keep making remakes whether it's necessary or not(like the recent re-do of Poltergeist I might add). The problem is the people behind the movies don't put any sort of thought or passion into the project or any respect for the original. I feel like if the filmmakers doesn't know what they're doing, what's the point of remaking the film at all. If somebody took the time to re-evaluate what was missing from the original and put on a new perspective on the new material, I'll probably give a lot of respect towards that filmmaker. I want to keep this short and simple because I know I have a lot of remakes to review though since there are so many I can only review a quarter amount that I have which is about 18 or so and that's a lot. And maybe in the future, I can make a vol.2 to this.
So that's pretty much all my venting into this whole remake phenomenon. And I'll be sure to hope to go on with the reviews as much as I can, this isn't an easy task. So wish me luck!