Tag Archives: zombies

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Remembering George A. Romero

The Last KnockGeorge A. Romero brought the world a new kind of ghoul in 1968 with his seminal film, Night of the Living Dead. Since then, the social conscientious independent went on to write, produce, and helm many films around his adopted city of Pittsburgh.

Romero wasn’t just an indie filmmaker, but a career maker for some and an inspiration to others. We’ll look at this renowned gentleman and his life, and his work from the remainder of his “dead” series, to Martin, Creepshow, and more.

Horror lost a beloved director and master of the genre on July 16, but we extend our condolences and very best wishes to his family and friend because they lost much more.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@THETomSavini @TheRealKenForee @Jamplas @StephenKing @TedDanson @abarbeau @LynnLynnlowry @G_Nicotero @LoriRogal @timhutton @RookerOnline @JohnLeguizamo @JordanPeele @palkodesigns @TraCee_tr @AFiendOnFilm @LoudGreenBird @JessicaCameron_ @RonGizmo

The 2000s: Horror’s Best Decade (Part 3: The Final Chapter) by Paul J. Williams

Please allow me one last time to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed and spoilers may exist, so please keep that in mind as you read.

And, I’m not a movie historian or expert; I’m just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies. I also like to reflect upon times and situations in our history and ask: Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.

NOTABLE DIRECTORS

As we entered the 2000s, one filmmaker seemed to lead the charge for a resurgence in the horror genre: M. Night Shyamalan. Coming off the monumental success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, he dipped slightly with 2000’s Unbreakable, before reconnecting with audiences with 2002’s Signs, which unfortunately has not stood the test of time in terms of its plot or an ending that makes sense. After that, poor Night descended that proverbial slippery slide with one miscalculation after another. However, I’m happy to report that the past few years have been a rebound for Mr. Shyamalan with the success of The Visit in 2015 and Split in 2017. While Night might have slumped in the 2000s, several other filmmakers rose to prominence in the horror genre, aside from the aforementioned Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, et. al.

TI WEST started with a couple of independent features before directing the sequel to Cabin Fever, which he now disowns. Afterwards, though, he started the run he has become known for with The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament, and segments on V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. His latest feature-length film was the 2016 non-horror, but critically acclaimed, In the Valley of Violence.

LUCKY McKEE brought us the now cult-classic May in 2002. Several years later, he returned with The Woods in 2006, followed by The Woman in 2011. His latest movie, Misfortune, is scheduled for release in 2017.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: Post-Apocalypse

Another oldie but goodie subgenre that resurged in the 2000s was post-apocalyptic movies, with many in the zombie subgenre as well. Here are a few survivors, though admittedly, some are more drama than horror:

REIGN OF FIRE, starring the not-as-yet-popular Christian Bale and the always great Matthew McConaughey, in a 2002 UK movie where dragons emerge and destroy half the planet.

TIME OF THE WOLF is a 2003 Michael Haneke post-apocalyptic drama that nobody saw during its initial run, but has become appreciated years later.

WAR OF THE WORLDS is Steven Spielberg’s 2005 loosely-based adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel about an alien invasion. Tom Cruise plays a longshoremen from Newark, NJ (remember, this is science-fiction) who must flee with his kids as the war-machines destroy everything in their path. With awesome set-pieces and special effects, the movie went on to receive positive reviews and hundreds of millions of dollars.

CHILDREN OF MEN is a 2006 UK movie set in a near-future where women, inexplicably, can no longer become pregnant. Alfonso Cuarón directs Clive Owen to a great performance as the man who may be able to help mankind. Surprisingly not a hit at the box-office, the movie earned critical acclaim and always pops up on “Best of” lists.

THE ROAD is the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father and son trekking along a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of that elusive safe-ground.

DAYBREAKERS is a 2009 vampire tale starring Ethan Hawke, who must love acting in these genre movies. Ultimately a fun ride, the film made double its budget.

STAKE LAND, from 2010, also sets us in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with vampires. A touching story executed on a low budget with some great scenes and a moving soundtrack.

“THE ORIGINAL WAS BETTER”…Yeah, No Shit…

Remakes, reboots, reimagining, whatever you call them, they were everywhere in the 2000s and the horror genre was the biggest victim. This was really the only low point, in my opinion, for the genre this decade.

Look, I like to think I’m not naïve or a prude; I get it, I really do. Hollywood is a business, and businesses’ goals are to earn profits. I’m an American trying to turn a buck as much as the next guy, so maybe if I were in these producers’ shoes I’d do the same, but they all reek of capitalism. There appears to be no artistic or creative goal to them at all… Okay, maybe I am a little naïve after all…

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of these:

THE FIRST: Announced in 2001 and realized in 2003, the first remake of an original horror classic in the 2000s was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Besides Jessica Biel running around in a skimpy white tank-top, the movie offers or adds nothing to the iconic 1974 original.

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL: Touched upon in Part 2, after the relative successes of Rob Zombie’s early/mid 2000s horror-films, producers who owned the rights to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween, tasked Zombie with remaking it in 2006. He would go on to write, produce, and direct it entirely in his own broad, bloody vision, abandoning what made the original so special. It didn’t stop Millennials and scores of others from rushing the theaters, and the movie went on to huge box-office grosses, which spawned the 2009 sequel. A feud of some sort, that might be total nonsense, between Carpenter and Zombie has emerged over the years, but the two seem to have made amends recently.

THE WORST: Hands down, unequivocally, without any doubt, 2006’s unintentional spoof-remake of the 1973 UK classic, The Wicker Man, takes the prize. Nicholas Cage leads the way in this turd, playing the detective searching for a missing girl on a remote island. An unmitigated disaster all the way around… “Not the bees!”…

THE VICTIMS: All of these tried and essentially failed at remaking their original classics: Willard (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Fog (2005), House of Wax (2005), The Omen (2006), When A Stranger Calls (2006), Black Christmas (2006), The Invasion (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Friday the 13th (2009), The Last House On the Left (2009), The Stepfather (2009), The Wolfman (2010), I Spit On Your Grave (2010), and last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010). That list is way too long.

THE EXCEPTION: Let Me In is the 2010 American remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire drama, Let the Right One In. Perhaps why this was one of the very few remake successes in the 2000s is the ingredients of talented professionals that collaborated to make it: Written and directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, and the always great, Richard Jenkins, the movie received critical acclaim, though wasn’t the biggest hit at the box-office.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Before we finish, I’d like to mention other movies of note that prove this was one of the best decades for horror:

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, a 2005 “young girl possessed” movie adds the unique aspect of also being a legal drama. That, along with great performances from both veteran and novice actors, separates this from other ubiquitous demonic possession stories.

HARD CANDY, a two-hander directed in 2005 by David Slade, stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page, a year before she would explode as Juno, in this disturbing revenge tale set in the modern, technological era.

BUG, a 2006 psychological horror from William Friedkin, who directs a sparse cast, made double its budget, and was well-received, despite many disappointed with its conclusion.

TRICK ‘R TREAT, technically a 2007 film, is a horror anthology directed by Michael Dougherty, set on Halloween, that was released straight-to-DVD in 2009. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20, not releasing this was a detrimental decision by Warner Brothers, as the movie was eventually received with critical acclaim and has gone on to develop a big cult following. It undoubtedly would have earned a significant profit at the box office.

THE MIST is a 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novella by director Frank Darabont, who seems to be one of the only filmmakers to successfully transfer King’s stories to movies. The film is faithful to the pages up until the ending, I’m sure most of you know by now, which is very different from the novella that had an ambiguous, yet hopeful finish. It’s a real kick in the balls.

THE ORPHANGE, in 2007, is a scary ghost story (with kids!) from Spain.

EDEN LAKE, a highly disturbing 2008 UK film, starring Kelly Reilly, a then little-known Michael Fassbender, and an unknown Jack O’Connell. A young couple are attempting to enjoy their vacation, but a gang of local hoods have other plans for them. Some scenes are hard to watch, for sure.

TRIANGLE, a UK release in 2009, is a mind-fuck of a movie that, despite Melissa George running around in short-shorts and heels, is a very cleverly structured film.

ANTICHRIST, a 2009 experimental horror from the mind of the infamous Lars von Trier, stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple whose infant son dies in the prologue. No hyperbole: It’s some of the craziest shit you’ll ever see on screen.

GRACE, from 2009, stars Jordan Ladd as a grieving and pregnant widow, who may also lose her baby. Directed by Paul Solet, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

DRAG ME TO HELL is the 2009 supernatural movie written and directed by the accomplished, Sam Raimi.

BLACK SWAN, though not 100% horror, is Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 companion-piece with 2008’s The Wrestler, about a performer’s obsession with their craft, ultimately leading to their demise. Natalie Portman’s performance would go on to earn her an Oscar for Best Actress. Creepy scenes, mild “gore,” and foreboding atmosphere allows me to list this as a horror.

MONSTERS is the 2010 feature-film debut of Gareth Edwards, who would go on direct Godzilla in 2014 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016. It’s not surprising that Edwards would be selected to helm these big budget movies, considering what he does with the visuals and effects in Monsters with only $500,000. The movie puts a great twist on the alien “invasion” subgenre and explores themes way more relevant today than in 2010. Dialogue was adlibbed a la Before Sunrise, however, the actors in that film were much more up to the challenge than the cast in Monsters.

Last, I’m embarrassed to admit I omitted in Part 1, the South Korean movie, A Tale of Two Sisters, from 2003. Unseen by me until some years later, the film is loosely based on an old Korean fairytale and has since been adapted several times.

2010: THE BUBBLE BURSTS

With a decade like the 2000s filling up with so many notable horror movies, the inevitable bubble would burst, which it did, right on cue in 2010 with two films: Human Centipede and A Serbian Film.

One rare thing these two movies have in common is that in this modern, digital, social-media age, each film had an old-fashioned word-of-mouth aspect to them. This was more so with Human Centipede, which I think more US viewers have seen or at least heard of. 2009’s Paranormal Activity was the last horror movie I remember having more of that pre-internet dialogue amongst folks.

HUMAN CENTIPEDE Technically, it’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and was written, produced, and directed by Dutch filmmaker, Tom Six (Oh, the Dutch!). Just from the movie poster, you know you’re in for it. The film starts out torture-porn-esque, with three tourists kidnapped in Germany by a deranged scientist, but devolves much lower than other movies of this ilk. If you haven’t watched it, I’ll just come out and say it: The victims are surgically attached to each other, mouth to anus, hence becoming his human centipede. Themes and inspirations in the film are evident and, of course, this received what you could call “mixed” reviews at best, but it has spawned two sequels which, admittedly, I’ve passed on.

Before we move on, I want to formally recognize three professionals. I’ve been on movie sets and have asked actors to reach down into some deep emotional and physical territory to accomplish a scene, but what is asked of the three actors in Human Centipede goes above and beyond. Here’s to Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura for what they endured in this movie. It wasn’t for nothing.

A SERBIAN FILM Co-written, produced, and directed by Srđan Spasojević, A Serbian Film is an obvious indictment of the filmmaker’s country, Serbia, and its government. Also classified in the subgenre of “just when you thought you saw it all,” A Serbian Film tells the story of poor Milos, a financially strapped, retired porn actor called back to duty by the craziest fucker ever to live. Just how crazy? I’ll give you a hint: “Newborn porn” becomes a porn subcategory.

Somewhat surprisingly, the movie is photographed very nicely, and has way more of a professional look for a movie of this nature. A Serbian Film would ultimately become one of those movies defending itself against censorship in many countries, creating various edits. No matter which cut you’ve seen, or will see, the movie is like no other.

POST-MORTEM

So here comes the arbitrary part where I try to figure this all out. Why, in my assertion, was the 2000s a great decade for horror?

It could be because we became a global society and gained access to movies from around the world that we may have missed twenty years earlier. You’ll notice many, many of the films discussed did not originate in the United States.

It could be because cameras and equipment became much more affordable, opening up filmmaking to those who are truly independent and outside the Hollywood studio system. Everything went digital, as well. DSLR cameras shot HD and became an accepted norm. Expensive film-stock was no longer necessary. Editing software could be downloaded on a laptop. Creative, talented filmmakers were no longer on the outside looking in.

It could be because so many events of the 2000s were so painful, filmmakers thought they had to raise the bar in the movies they showed us. They didn’t want us to pause our movie to turn on CNN and watch something in the world more horrific.

It could be that filmmakers thought they could only explore themes with certain subgenres of horror. The zombie and post-apocalyptic movies jump to mind.

It could be just the ebb and flow of life. The 1980s were an important, prolific decade for the horror genre, which was then followed by a horror dearth in the 1990s.

But, enough of me blabbing. What do you think?

Before I go, I’d like to thank Billy Crash, proprietor of Crash Palace Productions and close friend, for hosting this series on 2000s Horror. I had a blast.

Until we meet again, everyone…

(Photo of Stake Land from Confessions of a Film Junkie.)

Crash Palace Support Team

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Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and his short films have appeared in numerous festivals. Although Paul’s the man behind Rolling Dark Productions, he’s also a detective in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul’s a Medal of Honor recipient from the City of Newark for actions on December 14, 2002

THE LAST KNOCK presents: JACK GOES HOME on the TRAIN TO BUSAN

The Last Knock

It’s another Horror Double-header: Jack Goes Home and Train to Busan. We’re sure you’ve heard of the latter, but poor Jack hasn’t gotten his due. We’ll give you the low down, the high points, and more as we discuss this offbeat pair from a heady psychological horror to a zombie disaster on a KTX. So kick back, relax, and enjoy the train ride to Busan with Jack as your passenger. No tickets necessary – but don’t even think of jumping for it because we’re crushing it at 187 mph (300 kph).

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@RealJillyG @JoeEliseon @WriterMichelleB @DeadWood2012 @isaacrthorne @ZADF_ORG @CarlPopEye @drawnofthedead @ZombieDoug @RonGizmo @fullmoonhorror @RealCharlesBand @palkodesigns @KeyzKeyzworth @OwenMcCuenQuest @HorrorTalk @Lndnknts @ALOLMOVIE @TheWalkingDead @dixiefairy @RSBrzoska @LoudGreenBird @d_m_elms @JackGoesHome @theThomasDekker @roryhugh @linshaye @NikkiReed_I_Am @Ceiri_Composer @Momentum_Pics

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Hodgepodge of Horror IX

The Last Knock

No, Billy and Jonny aren’t trying to catch up to the Super Bowl type numbers, but they are getting there. With the ninth installment of “Hodgepodge of Horror” they travel the realms of horror cinema from Eduardo Sanchez’s Altered to Kate Beckinsale in Underworld: Blood Wars – with some intriguing films in between.

So kick back, relax, indulge, and check off your  horror list about what to watch, and what to avoid like a zombie virus.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@LoudGreenBird @AFiendOnFilm @CrypticPictures @d_m_elms @dixiefairy @ThisIsHorror @RealJillyG @wilkravitz @Jimbomcleod @RonGizmo @UKHorrorScene @Tammysdragonfly @MFFHorrorCorner @GuyRicketts

The 2000s: Horror’s Best Decade (Part 1) by Paul J. Williams

saw1

Please allow me to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed and spoilers will exist, so please keep that in mind as you read.

And I’m not a movie historian or expert, just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies. I also like to reflect upon times and situations in our history and ask: Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic, as well.

If you’ve read my three-part article on horror cinema of the 1990’s, then you’ll remember that I argued the ‘90s was a good decade for movies in general, but the worst for the genre of horror. This time, I’m here to tell you the opposite: I submit that the 2000s were one of the best decades for films and probably the best for horror.

Okay, okay, I hear you: What about the Universal Pictures’ movies of the ‘30s? What about the slasher craze of the ‘70s that lead to the boom of the ‘80s? Great decades, no doubt, but I think the ‘00s have them beat.

LIFE AND TIMES OF THE EARLY 2000s: A (Very) Brief Summary

While the world of the ‘90s seemed to be split in two: the first half being not so great and the second half being pretty good, the 2000s seemed to be punctuated with moderate peaks and very low valleys.

The decade starts with one of the worst events in American history: September 11, 2001. If you’re of a certain age, your life is probably divided between pivotal, oftentimes tragic events in your life (e.g.: before and after a close family member dies unexpectedly, etc.). For Americans, and perhaps for other parts of the world, our pre-9/11 and post-9/11 lives are added to that list.

The requisite War of Terror followed, but soon devolved into the quagmire that became the Iraq War.

In 2002, as if to snap the American public back into normalcy, the Washington D.C.-area sniper was on the loose, scaring the hell out of folks just like the Son of Sam and Zodiac Killer of yore.

In 2004, a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed hundreds of thousands, becoming one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

The one common denominator in all this: Almost everything was caught on video for the world to see, sometimes playing out in real time. More on this later.

So, that was the bad; let’s get to the good…

EARLY 2000s HORROR: Crawling Before We Run

1999 gave us two of the best horror movies of that decade, so we had every right to think that we were heading into better times for the genre, but maybe not as fast as we thought.

The modern “found-footage” phenomenon was kicked off with The Blair Witch Project, but it would take years for another recognizable film of this subgenre to emerge, and more than a half-decade before the found-footage franchises found audiences (more on that subject later).

Night Shamalyan’s, The Sixth Sense, reinvigorated the ghost story and psychological horror subgenres, but it’s not until 2001 until we get another good one with Nicole Kidman in The Others, an effective haunted house story that I feel would have been even more successful if it wasn’t a victim of poor timing as audiences had already seen the very similar ending in the aforementioned Sixth Sense. I’m not sure when the script for Others was written or when the project went into development, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the story and screenplay had been around for years, maybe even before Sixth Sense, but alas, that movie was released first, stealing some of The Others’ thunder.

THE RING

Somewhat paradoxically, I feel the first horror movie to really get the 21st century going is The Ring, the 2002 remake of Japan’s J-Horror Ringu from 1998. I say “paradoxically” because the plot-points of this movie are based on technology that seemed primitive only a few years later, but the film still holds up overall after more than a decade later. The movie was well-received by critics and was a huge hit at the box-office, launching a stream of Japanese horror remakes to varying degrees of success. Naomi Watts returned in 2005 for the obligatory sequel, The Ring Two (which is just awful), but she won’t be back for the third film, RINGS, tentatively set for a 2017 release after many delays (not an optimistic sign, unfortunately).

THE ASIAN INVASION

Remakes seemed omnipresent in the 2000s (for better or worse, but more for worse, and more on that later), but as previously stated, the success of The Ring caught Hollywood’s attention and made them research what horror-movies that Asia, particularly Japan, had for them to acquire the rights to. Most of what followed was lackluster at best: Dark Water in 2005 was panned, despite its stellar cast; Pulse, even with Wes Craven penning the screenplay, floundered in 2006; One Missed Call became one of 2008’s most worst reviewed movies; and Shutter remade the exceptional 2003 Thai horror in 2008, but couldn’t capture the same magic.

The outlier in all these films is 2004’s creepy The Grudge, a financially successful remake of Japan’s Ju-On: The Grudge. After banking almost $200 million dollars worldwide, two sequels were to follow in 2006 and 2009, and you guessed it, they aren’t as good.

SAW

2004’s seminal movie, Saw, written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, is perhaps responsible for a couple things: re-starting franchise films like we saw in the 1980s, and being part (although a small one) of the start of a new subgenre: torture porn.

In case you’ve lived on Mars for the past thirteen years, Saw tells the story of the Jigsaw Killer, who compels his kidnapped victims to make terrible choices, but are given a chance to live if the “right” choice is made, ultimately teaching them lessons on taking life for granted. What would you do?

Saw mixed creepy visuals with blood and gore, and concludes with a surprising, though fairly implausible ending. It’s a real “fun” ride.

Though, unsurprisingly, it received mixed reviews, Saw was a hit with audiences, grossing over $100 million dollars at the box office and spawning seven sequels over the next thirteen years.

Both Whannell and Wan, especially Wan, capitalized on the success of Saw, and both have established themselves as leaders in the horror genre ever since.

ZOMBIES RETURN FROM THE DEAD

28 Days Later, written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle, became a surprise hit in 2002, both with critics and movie-goers, eventually grossing over $85 million dollars on an $8 million dollar budget. The British film put a new twist on an old tenet of how zombies hunt you down. No more would they lumber around. They now had the speed of Usain Bolt, and it works perfectly. Essentially a road-trip movie, our crew of protagonists are en route to a destination they think will be safe, only to find out that the living are worse than the dead. We’ve come to find out over the years, the film actually has several alternate endings, which I’m pretty sure you can check out on later DVD releases, or on YouTube.

What 28 Days Later launched was a seemingly unrelenting stream of zombie movies, the more notable being:

2004’s horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead with Simon Pegg.

Zach Snyder’s directorial debut with the 2004 remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

2006’s Canadian horror/comedy Fido.

Will Smith starred in 2007’s I Am Legend, which somehow has bad C.G.I. and should have kept its original ending.

2007’s Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez’s entry in the double-feature with Quentin Tarantino.

George Romero returned in 2007 with his found-footage zombie film, Diary of the Dead.

2008’s Pontypool, while not a personal favorite, has definitely developed a bit of a cult following over the years, so I can’t deny its impact.

2008’s controversial Deadgirl (not to be confused with 2006’s The Dead Girl, the depressing Brittany Murphy crime-drama).

2009’s crazy French film, La Horde.

2009 gave us Zombieland, a funny and poignant horror/comedy with the exceptional Woody Harrelson, and probably the zombie/post-apocalyptic movie that uses the ubiquitous “rules to survive” plot-points the best way.

NEW FRENCH EXTREMISM

In the early 2000s, while France was being derided for its anti-democratic pacifism and chided by such clever jokes as “Freedom Fries” (get it?), film-makers from or affiliated with the country turned out some of the most transgressive movies in cinema history. Here’s a sampling:

Trouble Every Day is a 2001 Vincent Gallo marathon of eroticism and blood that has become more recognized fifteen years later.

Irreversible, though perhaps not technically in the horror genre, is a 2002 Gasper Noe film that unfolds in reverse chronological order. Despite not being labeled a horror, the movie has some of the most horrific, hard to watch scenes ever shown, the most infamous being the nine-minute, uncut rape scene of Monica Bellucci’s character. Controversial immediately upon release, Noe has defended the movie against criticism of homophobia ever since.

Haute Tension, a gory slasher movie from 2003, became infamous for the scenes they had to cut for an R rating, a twist ending that defies logic, many title changes, a version with odd voice dubbing, and, ultimately, a plot a little too similar to Dean Koontz’s Intensity. Despite this, the movie received as many good reviews as bad, and tripled its budget with almost $7 million dollars in box office sales.

Ils (Them) is a 2006 home invasion horror with a simple set-up: A young husband and wife are alone in a huge house located in a remote area, and evil’s come-a-callin’. It’s a pretty cool reveal when that evil is identified at the end. (The home invasion subgenre will be discussed further later on.)

Frontieres, with themes as relevant in late 2016 U.S.A. as they were when this was released in 2007 France, so let’s hope this gore-fest from writer/director Xavier Gens isn’t prophetic.

Inside, a 2007 home invasion horror that transcends that subgenre, is equal parts scary as it is bloody…and I mean bloody. The surprise ending works perfect and makes sense out of the carnage and antagonist’s motivation. It’s a great entry to this list.

Martyrs, last on the list, but definitely not least, is a 2008 movie from Pascal Laugier. Where to start with this movie? There’s just nothing like it. Divisive, to say the least, you can categorize this gory film as torture-porn, but it’s so much more than that. You’ll go through so many different emotions during its 94 minutes. Oh, it’s home invasion? Who’s the bad guy? Wait, it’s torture-porn? What’s the point of all this? Oh, there’s a point, my friend. Wait for the ending you’ll never forget that makes sense out of everything you just watched. I obviously can’t do this movie the justice it deserves; please, just watch it.

NEIL MARSHALL

England’s Neil Marshall brought us two of my favorite horror movies of the early 2000s, one many have seen and one many might not have: The Descent and Dog Soldiers.

With the werewolf subgenre being a personal favorite, Neil Marshall’s 2002 Dog Soldiers is a great addition to this catalogue. We set out to the Scottish Highlands with a squad of British soldiers on a training mission who become hunted by werewolves. Even though a plot-twist or two can be seen coming, the movie perfectly mixes action, horror, and gallows humor, all on a low budget. It’s very well done.

The Descent from 2005 is a superior monster movie, telling the tale of a group of women who set out spelunking in the Appalachian Mountains. One of the ladies suffered a tragedy a year earlier – a gory car accident we witness in the prologue where her husband and daughter are killed, and this trip is supposed to be cathartic and strengthen the bond of friendship between the women. Way before any creatures become apparent, the danger and claustrophobia of their adventure is horror enough. Once the monstrous cave-crawlers appear, the movie really takes off, with the most notable scare coming from a camera’s night-vision function. The film was a hit with critics and audiences, eventually earning almost $60 million dollars, which was fourteen times its budget. A 2009 sequel was released with Marshall serving only as Executive Producer, but the movie couldn’t capture the magic the first film did. How could it have…

As for Neil Marshall himself, he hasn’t written or directed any original material recently, but has gone on to have a successful Hollywood career, directing episodes for Game of Thrones, Hannibal, and Westward.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

I would be remiss to not mention the following films that bettered the horror genre in the early 2000s:

American Psycho is a 2000 slasher/serial killer movie adapted from the novel of the same name by Brett Easton Ellis and, ironically, written and directed by two women: Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner. Starring Christian Bale before his stardom, the film tells a tale of misogyny and excess in the backdrop of 1980’s Manhattan, with Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker, who moonlights as a serial killer…or does he???

Ginger Snaps, a 2000 Canadian werewolf story of two teenage sisters. Though you’re run over like a truck by its themes, the movie tells a poignant coming-of-age story and the bonds of siblings.

Final Destination, in 2000, started a supernatural gore-fest that would eventually lead to five films in the franchise. Perhaps trying to capitalize on the late-90’s teen slasher craze, our young protagonists try to escape Death, but of course, it wouldn’t be a movie if they all did.

Jeepers Creepers, in 2001, also capitalized on the late-90’s teenage slasher film, this time telling the story of a brother and sister who set-off on a road trip during the worst time imaginable and end up stalked by a demonic creature. Grossed $60 million dollars on a $10 million dollar budget.

Session 9, 2001’s psychological horror, which pops up on almost every “Best of 2000s” list, went unseen by yours truly and a lot of other folks when it was first released, but has since become a cult classic in the genre. Directed by Brad Anderson, who would go on to have a Hollywood career of ups and downs.

May, written and directed by Lucky McKee in 2002, while well-received critically at the time, has developed a big cult following ever since. With obvious parallels to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Angela Bettis plays the titular character, who many audience members identify with.

That gets us warmed up, so stay tuned for Part 2 of 2000s Horror, where real fun begins…

(Photo of Saw‘s Cary Elwes from Netflix Life.)

Crash Palace Support Team

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Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and his short films have appeared in numerous festivals. Although Paul’s the man behind Rolling Dark Productions, he’s also a detective in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul’s a Medal of Honor recipient from the City of Newark for actions on December 14, 2002

The Walking Dead: Too Much, or Does Lucille Save the Day? by Kim McDonald

weekend-preview-walking-dead-negan-feature-hero-800x450When the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead was over, and for most of the next day, I walked around my house in a depressed daze. I cried. I felt nauseated. I even felt a bit disoriented. What was going to happen to our group now?

I also felt relieved. Not because I wanted Glenn and Abraham to die, or to watch Rick be completely destroyed, but because I was glad the show finally refused to take the safe way out. This was The Walking Dead I fell in love with: dangerous, and not afraid to completely shred your heart to pieces. Negan is a bad dude, but he is also a necessary evil. We need a good bad guy sometimes to shake things up. Rick may need a break from the Good Guy/Crazy Lunatic routine.

I need to explain. At the end of Season 6, I, and quite a few others, were left frustrated. Once again, after so much build up, things just ended. Everyone knew Negan was coming and things were going to end badly. What we got was a lot of driving around and cut offs just at the moment of truth. I understand the value of cliffhangers, but the show had worn the concept rather thin the past few years.

It started with the Terminus storyline in seasons 4 and 5. There was such a build up that everything was about getting to Terminus. Then they were there a day and Carol busted them out. Don’t get me wrong, Carol is a straight up badass I could watch all day. And, in a sense, I feel like I have. Carol seems to be the only one not lulled into complacency the last few seasons. Sure, she makes cookies and casseroles, but she’s also hoarding chocolate and guns and threatening small boys because she understands this isn’t a soap opera and we need to be ready for shit to go down – since something is always inches away from eating your face. We also saw her begin to buckle under the strain of always having to be the clean up crew.

I wanted to know more about Terminus. The brief flashback of who they were before becoming cannibals was interesting. The group should have hung out a bit, had lunch, then realize what exactly was in the soup. The Wolves were built up too. My point is, our group has been much more dangerous and menacing than anything they’ve recently encountered. The Glenn dumpster episode felt a bit cheap and cheesy. Deus ex machina flashed brightly in my head.

This show is better than that.

The group also seemed to land on the planet of the Red Shirts. There has been a parade of peripheral characters who don’t stick around long and get killed off quickly. We aren’t given time to invest in them so their deaths, while gruesome, don’t seem to carry as much emotional impact. Case in point: When Jessie and her sons died, I didn’t really care. Good riddance to a storyline that seemed to flounder. And her kids were annoying, so it was actually a bit of a plus watching them go. I was disappointed when the Saviors who captured Carol and Maggie were killed so quickly. We all knew they were doomed, but I actually wanted to know them. No such luck.

The season 7 premiere felt like a demarcation episode. Negan is going to change everything, and I’m excited to see how our group deals with what has happened. There are new communities and interesting characters, like Ezekiel and his tiger, Shiva. Can the group stick together, or do they scatter? Can Rick bounce back now that he’s without his brothers and trusted generals? Can Carol find her purpose again after being burned out? We don’t know. For the first time everything is unknown, and it’s great. If the show is going to last, and be relevant, it has to evolve.

The reaction on social media to this episode was not surprising. I don’t remember another episode eliciting such a strong gut-wrenching response. There has been a reaction that at first confused me. Posts and articles started popping up stating the violence in the episode went too far; accusations of torture porn were thrown around. At first, I thought it was coming from morality groups who pop up now and then, feeding off the ratings explosion of the premiere. I then realized the posts were coming from people who watched the show, who were fans, and I became even more confused.

The Walking Dead is now in its 7th season. It was never a Mary Poppins show. What exactly had these people been watching all these years? As gruesome and horrible as Glenn and Abraham’s deaths were, they weren’t unique. What about when the Governor chopped off Herschel’s head, and not in one neat swing? Or when Noah was ripped to pieces in the revolving door? Did they forget? What was it about the violence in this episode that had people saying they were walking away from the show?

It has little to do with how the characters were killed, and more to do with who was killed. Glenn was the first of the original Atlanta group to die since Andrea and Merle back in Woodberry. He was Rick’s introduction to the group. He was the heart and the light, the moral compass that always guided the group back to center even when Rick was unstable. He was the everyman character we related to – a regular guy figuring it out as he went along. His death leaves us in darkness. Abraham was the fearless soldier who rushed in, and the group is less without him. So it makes sense that people are grieving. We are a species that tells stories; the characters become real. When they die, we feel the need to lash out, to blame someone. I understand. In a way, it is a further testament to the power of the episode.

Things have to be broken down periodically, and rebuilt. With all the criticism, I’ve also heard some fans say they had lost interest but were now willing to get back into the show. Horror is about unsettling us, reminding us that life is never truly complacent. I really hope that once the shock wears off, these fans will stay for the story. Great horror keeps us coming back, despite ourselves.

Crash Analysis Support Team:

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Kim McDonald rocks out on metal near Charlotte, North Carolina, and obsesses over “weirder” foreign horror films. You can find Kim’s movie reviews at loudgreenbird.com and follow her on Twitter @dixiefairy.

(The Walking Dead photo from Screen Rant.)

The Italian All Night Splatterfest 5 – September 3, 2016 – Event Report by Jonny Numb

all-night-splatter-fest-5Gazing at the façade of the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is like being transported through a black-and-white filter and entering a vision of small-town America in the 1950s – something out of a Twilight Zone episode, perhaps. Or one of the theatres the Losers Club frequented in Stephen King’s nostalgic classic, It.

It’s fitting, then, that the Colonial hosts “Blobfest” every summer – in celebration of the gelatinous monster flick from 1958 – because the theatre is one of the locations director Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr. used in the film. Historic, indeed!

The Colonial’s warmly-lit marquee is an inviting beacon nestled within a quaint downtown of shops and restaurants. Even before setting foot inside, it’s easy to tell why this venue has been home to the Italian Splatterfest Film Marathon for five years running.

Walking through the big, welcoming doors consummates the time-warp experience. The lobby has red carpet, a chandelier, and a functional facsimile of an old-school concession stand; flyers for local attractions, businesses, and artisans adorn tables. Reminiscent of York’s Capitol Theatre or Philadelphia’s Trocadero, the Colonial is a 3-story building that has been well-preserved through the years (its website proclaims it “a community treasure,” and I can’t argue that).

A quick scan of the Colonial’s Facebook page shows a revolving-door lineup of current independent films coupled with classics and unconventional cult flicks. This clearly attracts a diverse crowd of film buffs who look to the theatrical experience as something more than going to the multiplex “because it’s there.” (I attended Splatterfest with my best friend, who had attended the screening of Barbarella at the Colonial several months prior.)

That’s what makes it the perfect place to host a mind- and eyelid-testing marathon of Italian horror flicks. The 5-film lineup was all over the place, which lent itself to an interesting viewing experience: first up was Claudio Fragasso’s notorious Troll 2; followed by Juan Piquer Simon’s Pieces; Michele Soavi’s contemplative and surreal Cemetery Man; Massimo Dallamano’s dramatic giallo What Have You Done to Solange? (under an alternate title, The School that Couldn’t Scream); and concluding with the gut-munching spectacle of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.

My friend and I had splurged on a VIP pass that included a catered, Italian-themed buffet prior to the marathon. Cooked with care by Shorty’s Sunflower Café and Truckstop, menu items included homemade meatballs and sausage in red sauce, eggplant chili, and Rigatoni Frizzi. During the two 20-minute intermissions, VIPs were also given snack packs containing items as varied as almonds and olives, cupcakes, mini chicken bruschetta wraps, and chips & salsa.

Oh, and coffee…plenty of coffee. The biggest thanks in order may be to the Splatterfest gods for giving us willing fools the liquid perseverance to plow onward!

In addition to the delicious treats, the Splatterfest showrunners also had raffles for both the VIPs and regular attendees. The prizes included DVDs and Blu-rays from Arrow Video and Blue Underground, among others: T-shirts from Fright-Rags… and the periodic six-pack of beer. I was lucky enough to win a copy of the Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack on vinyl during the pre-show VIP raffle. Nobody had to leave empty-handed, though: for those looking to purchase mementoes of the event, there were great, newspaper-ad-style T-shirts commemorating the 2016 lineup (it bears noting that these sold out before the second intermission).

While I began the marathon with apprehension over whether my mind and body would stay awake for the duration, I made it through with the aforementioned liquid and food assists, not to mention the energy of the crowd. As the films progressed, the logic of the order became clear: the unintentional badness of Troll 2 gave everyone a chance to laugh and groan; but Pieces garnered the night’s greatest guffaws, due to the horrendous Spanish-to-English dialog translation. Cemetery Man’s overt strangeness, genre-jumping, and slick polish produced a mostly quiet viewing experience, which continued with Solange, easily the most serious (and stately-paced) of all the films. By the time Zombie was threaded through the projector, I think most of the audience had succumbed to marathon fatigue, though those in attendance sprung to life to applaud the film’s meatier kills.

Before the lights went down, one of the festival runners requested that those in attendance “laugh, clap, and yell – but don’t do the Mystery Science Theater 3000 thing,” which everybody respected. Say what you will about horror fans, but they enjoy a shared experience as much as anybody else, and are reverent toward the genre they love. And perhaps, with the films being projected in scratched and dirty 35mm prints (in other words, beautiful), everyone realized how special and sacred this event was.

The Colonial Theatre is certainly a community treasure, but Splatterfest is like a second treasure nesting within. For anybody in the central Pennsylvania area, I would highly suggest marking your calendars for next year’s event – where fun and thrills are included in the admission cost.

Crash Analysis Support Team:

Jonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) spends his days clowning around for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and writes horrific movie reviews by night. His work can also be found at loudgreenbird.com. He judges other things via antisocial media @JonnyNumb (Twitter and Letterboxd), and co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast with @crashpalace.

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Take a look at the fantastic Colonial Theatre for horror fans and cinephiles alike, and learn more about Blobfest and next year’s Splatterfest. You can also find them on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram.

(Splatterfest 5 photo from B Movie News Vault, and Colonial Theatre photo from U Wish U Nu .)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Behind the Horror – Cemeteries

The Last Knock

Cemeteries have permeated the horror genre long before film. From Gothic literature to the present, those final resting places (well, maybe) find their way in many a horror feature. We look at the best cemetery based films, from CEMETERY MAN and MORTUARY, to THE GRAVEDANCERS and THE OMEN – plus many other horror favorites, including NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and the PHANTASM series! Don’t miss our tip-toe through the tombstones, as we discuss why they’re so prevalent in western culture, and why they deliver the horror…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@TheresaSnyder19 @palkodesigns @TimBurtonArt @GenovevaRossi1 @dkarner  @LianeMoonraven @jerryWalach @AnnThraxx @theadman40 @RealJillyG @martin19674  @SiaraTyr @MelanieMcCurdie @JJBryan @BleedingCritic @RiversofGrue @PromoteHorror @Loudgreenbird @FearNthCast @RonGizmo @compassiom @stevecourtney79 @THENAMNATION @Amber_F_Shaw @TimothiousSmith @sharkkteethsolo @isaacrthorne @firstscreamto @IvonnaCadaver @Slaful_Stories @machinemeannow @madmanmendez

Crash Analysis: Fear the Walking Dead Mid-Season Finale

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If you’ve seen the Fear the Walking Dead mid-season finale (sounds like “certified pre-owned,” doesn’t it?), then read on. Otherwise, save this post for a rainy day…

For those who have indulged in the ultra-successful The Walking Dead, “Fear the Walking Dead” may come off as “light” in comparison. Although it does not divert from the soap opera feel of the original, this series takes a different approach to the zombie apocalypse: contemplation of the new world in which we live as the the old world continues to disintegrate. No, this does not mean the characters sit in high-back leather chairs and sip expensive brandy as they ruminate, but a couple of families and new “friends” try to find some respite. They are looking for their own version of Alexandria without the threat of Negan (“Negation”) and his bloody baseball bat.

In the beginning, other than drug addicted Nick, in a consistently excellent performance by Frank Dillane, who could easily star as Eric Draven in a The Crow reboot, his family is late to catch on to the “virus” sweeping the world. Only his mother, Madison (Kim Dickens), seems to get the picture, though her husband, Travis (Cliff Curtis) takes a dumb-witted “wait and see” for almost far too long attitude. As society collapses in their little slice of suburbia, Travis picks up Daniel (Ruben Blades) and helps to rescue the rest of the Salazar family, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spindola). In short, the equally cool and contemplating, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) joins the troupe, and gets them off shore on his yacht, Abigail. The group is off to Mexico, where Victor has a planned rendezvous with his lover Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott).

Victor and company arrive at this Mexican vineyard/compound with a supposedly loyal Mexican staff to Thomas, who has been bitten and is near his demise. In the meantime, Celia (Marlene Forte) is clearly the bilingual queen bee who runs the roost and has a knack for converting people to her way of thinking as if she’s a politician who doesn’t simply appeal to the crowd. Victor and Thomas were supposed to take poison from Celia in the guise of “The Host” from a Roman Catholic communion – the same hosts she used to send a local congregation into some of the walking dead she keeps secure on the property. But when Victor shoots Thomas and chooses not to die along with him, Celia lays down the law and Victor has to go – along with everyone else. And what transpires sets up the several different paths and scenarios for the second half of season two.

Granted, there are many characters to enjoy on the show, especially, Nick and his intuitiveness, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and her burgeoning toughness, Victor and his refined approach to mayhem, and Daniel with his years of experience that helps him maintain calm in the heat of the moment. The mid-season finale, however, created some “out of nowhere” character issues for several personalities. All of a sudden, the cool, calculating, Daniel, who comes off as a sort of grandfather to the group because he’s “been in the shit,” suddenly falls apart with a mental breakdown we didn’t see coming. He imagines his dead wife speaking to him, and for all those he murdered in Central America during the horrific eighties where several terrorist groups fought governments, where communists fought fascists or the status quo, and involvement from the United States and Cuba led to increased turmoil, fear, misinformation, and bloodshed. Granted, we had a hint that Daniel was a little off because of what he had done in his past, but there was no inclination he would completely lose his composure and fall apart to the point where he’d have hallucinations and see the faces of those he killed in the faces of the walking dead. He went from being a survivor to a man whose guilty conscience suddenly overwhelmed him like never before, and he ultimately came to the realization that before he dispatched other souls, that as a young boy forced to kill, he had been a victim himself from political dogma. Now, if his daughter Ofelia had proven in a previous episode that she could really handle herself instead of existing in her father’s shadow, we could see Daniel acknowledging this to relax just enough to let the past overwhelm him as he looks at an ugly future of living with death on a even grander scale. Unfortunately, his ultimate collapse was not established well enough within the beginning of the story. Even when he finds Celia’s stash of walking dead family members in a large holding cell, and suddenly imagines the dead around him in a river when he was a boy, the connection is both abrupt and should have occurred well beforehand to set him off-kilter as we witness his slow demise. “Fear the Walking Dead” could have easily established this with the hundreds if not thousands of undead secured in the arena during the first season.

Nick goes from stable and insightful and wanting to maintain the family unit to becoming a sort of hermit like sage – a rebel with a zombie cause. He’s learned that if he spreads the blood of the walking dead upon him that he can walk among the zombie horde without harm. He tells Celia that he understands why she keeps walking dead family members around, as if they’re people with a sickness where they are not responsible for their actions. They are to be cared for and not condemned, and when it comes to Holier-than-though Celia, and the former junkie who’s self-assured, one wonders who is playing who. Regardless, Nick smears blood on himself, heads back to the Abigail or town, plays “zombie whisperer,” and retrieves Celia’s walking dead son, Luis (Arturo del Puerto). She puts her son behind a locked gate, a glorified community jail cell for the damned, and tells Nick that everyone can stay in the Abigail – Celia Flores – compound, but Victor still has to go because his actions led to Luis’s death. Nick has faced much adversity in his life, with drugs, personal relationships, and family, but this is a sort of rite of passage for him. He’s a man now because he completed a mission of his own doing to save his family and impress Madison, though his mother still sees him as “her little boy,” or the no good drug addict son who gave her grief for too long, and must do as she says. (Things may have been different if Nick hadn’t come off as being so cavalier when telling his mom that he could walk among the undead with impunity). Maybe this is why even as the compound collapses into fire and mayhem he refuses to go with Madison and company as if another act of rebellion as he sulks among the dead. His intent is to stay with Celia because unlike his mother, he feels their is a mutual respect between them that mother fails to provide – and she may have never provided such respect, which could have influenced his drug addiction. Regardless, the sudden shift from Nick is too abrupt.

Travis, is another one who wants to preserve the family, though he’s slow to accept what’s happening around him as he continues to apply an old way of handling things, such as contemplation, negotiation, and kindness, when he needs to step up and become a man of action – think of Ray Milland as Harry Baldwin in Panic in Year Zero!. At times, Travis doesn’t seem as invested as he might imagine because he usually takes too much time and over thinks, and seems to be mentally and emotionally trapped in a world before the outbreak, though he did get a brainstorm of sorts and buy time for family and friends when Abigail had been boarded by unsavory characters. His family is certainly not the Brady Bunch by any means, and once his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) learns that his father reluctantly stepped up and shot his birth mother in the head, the teen begins to unravel. He hates his dad, hates his step-mom and step-siblings, and engages in strange behavior: freezing during a zombie attack and almost letting Madison become lunch, walking into Madison and Alicia’s room and brandishing a knife, and holding a little kid hostage. The problem is that Chris’s decline, or maybe it’s all a grand misunderstanding, seems more conjured than anything else. One could say Lorenzo James Henrie is not conveying enough through body language to give us a look at what’s really going on behind his eyes, or maybe this is what the show’s “bible” has called for. Regardless, it’s not working.

After Chris runs off from the main house of the compound, Travis gives chase. Once he discovers Chris holding a young boy hostage at gunpoint, he disarms him. Mind you, he doesn’t punch his son in the face, which would seem warranted at this point, but bitch slaps the gun from Chris’s hand. Once again, Travis is holding back and not stepping up as he should. To make matters worse, Nick locates the pair, and Travis tells him to inform Madison that they couldn’t be found. Where the hell did that come from? Travis isn’t one to tell such a grandiose lie, or to ask someone else to do such a thing, especially his wife’s son – but since as a former junkie Nick has lied a gazillion times a day, Travis may think one more is acceptable. However, once Nick relates the lie to Madison, Nick has put his relationship with Madison into an even worse state, especially once the truth is revealed, and we know it will be. In addition, Travis’s tall tale is an absolute betrayal to Madison and their marriage. Granted, the love between the two has been strained, if at many times non-existent as if they’re playing roles for their three children. So why not simply tell Nick to relay the truth that he needs to take care of Chris and set him straight? This can revert back to Travis’s dimwittedness on occasion, but instead of standing up and being both a husband and father, he chooses to only try and be a father to his actual son, and disregards his wife and adoptive family. If so, this means Travis has absolutely no love for Madison, Nick, and Alicia. After all, if he truly loves Madison and her children, and is making this sacrifice to salvage the family unit, he would have been torn and emotional instead of stiff and stoic. However, if Travis and Madison reunite in the second half of “Fear the Walking Dead,” we should see Madison unleash an unexpected kind of fury that might leave Travis with a bullet in his brain.

The most surprising change has been Madison. She began the series strong and seemingly ahead of the curve with what was transpiring around her and her family, but now she’s become a silly smother instead of maintaining perspective. The whole family needs to step up and get into survival mode, or all is lost in this brave new world. Although she did one great act to protect her family in the mid-season finale, essentially trying to dispose of her alpha-female rival, Celia, who clearly out-alphaed her in leaps and bounds, Madison has become an almost whiny mom – even after confronting people at gunpoint to get her daughter back. However, after this latest episode, she should suck it up and transform into that alpha-female role with abandon. She could easily be a strong female character, yet maintain vulnerability as a person, and also remain feminine in the process. All one has to do is see the strengths of Nikki Alonso’s character Tank in Crawl or Die, Sigourney Weaver as Lieutenant Ripley in Alien, and even Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in Star Wars, to grasp that we can have strong, vibrant female characters who do not become masculine. One other item is that when Nick tells Madison that he couldn’t locate Travis and Chris, she’s as stoic as Travis and only wants her son Nick to get into the damn truck. She definitely did not appear to try and hold it together because her husband was gone so she could focus on winning back Nick. Then again, as the truck slowly drives by an angry and broody Nick, Madison simply looks at him. She’s concerned to a degree, maybe because she’s a mother and feels she should be, but there are no tears, no grand emotions. Madison may not want to admit it, but she hasn’t loved her drug addict son in a long damn time. If he’s gone for good now, this will only clarify that’s been dead to her for many years.

The best aspects of the “Fear the Walking Dead” is the fact that we are in a diverse world. Travis and his son are American Samoan, we have Latinos and Latinas, and we have a black gay character in Victor who is a million miles removed from gay and even black stereotypes. Granted, we know that Victor can con and commit minor crimes, but those days are long over, and he is quite the alpha gay character, long needed in the horror genre. All too often, the gay character in horror is a feminized and sarcastic male, and the old sad joke of a single black character not lasting long in a horror film is pathetic. Let’s hope the show continues bringing in a different array of characters far removed from stock and cliche.

“Fear the Walking Dead” has a three-fold problem, however, which is a major lack of suspense, conflict among the characters has been too refined and reserved, and other than Victor and Nick, there is a lack of appropriate emotional responses from characters. Too many existing characters have yet to be defined with individual goals. No, we do not need extreme personas, but the lack of emotion and drawn out stakes only lead to a lack of a reflective emotional response from the audience. In “The Walking Dead” we are subject to never knowing who or how someone is going to perish – and that could happen at any moment for a multitude of reasons. But with “Fear”, this hasn’t really occurred. Even when the Abigail had been boarded and everyone held captive, it was hard to imagine anything bad happening to any of the characters – and if something had taken place, it most likely would not have affected us as much on an emotional level. This is because the conflict between characters has mostly been marginal or manageable. It’s not that we need a major villain among the survivors, but we definitely need a stronger sense of conviction in contrasting belief systems. Yes, Nick may have been swayed by Celia and has walked off with the dead for now, but if he stayed with the family, the conflict between mother and son would have kept the show popping. Now, we have a small group with Victor and Madison who are seemingly on the same page when it comes to survival, as Nick wanders in a little hissy fit, and Travis hangs with his son, though Travis most likely has no clue how to handle Chris, and definitely needs Madison’s insight.

There was hope that the group would have come together in great ways during the attack outside the church, but the characters seemed to go through the motions. This only led to the scene becoming something that simply happened instead of an emotional game changer for the group as a whole. Yes, Chris paused to watch Madison nearly get killed, and Nick came up with some misgivings once he had to take out a zombie child, but it mostly seemed like a matter of course though it certainly shouldn’t have been for a group that had not been tested like that on such a grand scale. They negotiated, bought time, and tried to play mind games when they were captive on the yacht, and they had to fight for it a bit when high-tailing it out of suburbia, but it was destroy or be killed with walkers surrounding them enlarge, and with everyone together fighting in one spot, there should have been more of an emotional response once they achieved victory.

In addition, “Fear the Walking Dead” must avoid the tropes of the original series. For instance, when the yacht was boarded, we have seen situations like this arise too many times on “The Walking Dead.” We need new scenarios beyond the characters being captured by a new group of bad people every other episode. The philosophy of “Fear” is worthwhile to an extent, the notion that the undead are just different and shouldn’t be condemned, but that can only go so far. Instead of working on some sort of “let’s live alongside our zombie brothers and sisters in peace,” let’s see the great depths of each character and see how they each pursue their own paths and stories as they grow and change in a new, unsettling dystopia. After all, even the serene Celia who loved her undead ones fed them human beings, and she had to get them from somewhere other than the corner grocer. And Madison, Victor and company must do the right thing according to their mindsets, even when it leads to conflict, pain, death, guilt, remorse, and hatred. After all, that’s being human, and “Fear the Walking Dead” needs those elements to keep audiences engaged.

In addition, we may see both Madison and Victor share leadership roles. As with “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” is not simply about stepping up and surviving, but forming a new family dynamic. Family is not simply a blood connection, but can be defined in any way we need it to be. Both shows have taught us that family is what we make it, and this is a poignant take on society in general, wherever one resides around the big blue marble. Simply put, find those who love, respect, appreciate, and believe in you, as you do them – and stick with them. That’s family. Not blood. Not some appeal to tradition. This means that loners, introverts, and those on the fringe can find others, connect, and move forward because they are accepted and respected, and this mutual gift could undoubtedly lead to personal improvement. For instance, Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) is a part of Alexandria, but does his best, regardless of his idiosyncrasies, to step up his game for his newer more expanded family that has seen combat in “The Walking Dead.” Once Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) gives him the nod that he’s “in” through a rite of passage Eugene has thrust upon himself, Eugene has earned his place in a new family dynamic. In addition, fan favorite, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), the once bigoted tough guy, has become the family oriented tough guy who remains complex because as distant as he sometimes seems towards others, he cares about everyone in his group and he’ll protect them anyway he can.

In the United States, there is no nationwide rite of passage. We have no real way to prove that we have become men or women through some traditional act. For many, transitioning from child to adult is a mystery. Do we become adults after consuming our first beer, or earning a driver’s license, or getting a student loan and falling into horrific debt like everyone else? Yet, in our heart of hearts, we don’t really know. This is why some join the military, or get married, or have a baby. But for us horror fans, many hope that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen that we’d step up and do the right thing for our family, however we define that term. Let’s hope the characters on “Fear the Walking Dead” do the same thing so we can enjoy a virtual rite of passage through their actions.

(Inquisitr Photo: Victor and Nick enjoying the good life before setting sail into the unknown.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Horror Author Pembroke Sinclair

The Last Knock

Pembroke Sinclair (Jessica Robinson) is an author of horror and the macabre, as well as an independent scholar in academia. We discuss the role of women in slasher films, talk about “final girls”, and look at her YA and adult horror novels from her “Undead” series to the human-dragon hybrids of “Wucaii.”