Tag Archives: zombies

A Large Buttered Popcorn with Fiery Death, Please! by Ron Shaw

Recently, an excellent, thought-provoking article, “A Dinner with George” by Isaac Thorne, was featured at Crash Palace. Isaac’s nostalgic, heartfelt piece on George A. Romero and his iconic masterpiece (IMO) of Night of the Living Dead captured my thoughts and memories of yesteryear, launching me mentally into the past, reflecting somewhat on how and why horror and science fiction films impacted my life.

During my years of youth, the concoction of real-life horrors and fantasy ones on the big, white screen were indeed a strange brew that some may have suggested were unworthy of human consumption. The bitterness of reality is always a poor dish served, neither sweet nor savory.

I was born eighteen months before the end of the Korean War. Like post World War II, soldiers returning stateside proceeded as best and as quickly as they could to find hearth, home, and procreation, if they hadn’t done so before serving. After all, why would “Dear John” letters exist without pre-war girlfriends and sometimes, wives.

My youth was partially spent feasting on horror and science fiction movies of the day… while in a real way trying to find a path to minimally comprehend and survive the seemingly constant onslaught of reports of the gloomiest nature from here and abroad that we may be headed into another war ─ especially one featuring the unfettered use of nuclear weapons. As we were taught with alarming regularity, this next one would be the war that would truly end all wars and life on this blue planet as we had only begun to be taught, discover, and appreciate it.

Sound familiar?

In dimly-lit rooms of flickering fiction and most regrettably almost everywhere else in nonfiction, the atomic age of real or imagined horrors had landed on us. In frightening movies, we were fed disaster as salty and warm as a box of never-ending popcorn, and in our daily lives in school, we practiced, rehearsing our nuclear attack procedures even more often than our fire drills. A horrible, fiery death was either one atomic bomb, one gigantic, nuked insect, or a single assassin away.

Like most Americans who lived during these years, I’ll never forget the day our president was shot and killed. It had happened during a school day. After a school wide nuclear attack drill, we were called to the school’s auditorium for the dire announcement. John F. Kennedy’s assassination exacerbated the growing feelings of despair, fear and futility for us grade school kids in our tumultuous neighborhood, an Atlanta, governmental, housing project.

In addition to carrying a full lunch sack of horrors, back in the 60’s, during the national manhunt for another assassin, we’d learned from the news media that the fiend who had killed Martin Luther King, Jr. had abandoned his still warm and smoking getaway car, a Ford Mustang, on our turf, parking it on a city street beside our elementary school, Ed. S. Cook, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The deadly, racist serpent had escaped, slithering from this location beside our school playground. By the time his Mustang was located, reportedly, the crazed shooter was supposedly fleeing to a foreign country directly passed the front door of our apartment en route to Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, heading north.

Death seemed to live and thrive within our Capitol Homes neighborhood. Surely, we and Atlanta were vital targets for atomic bombs raining down on us from the USSR!

Our warring history, present conflict maybes, and future prognosis had signaled to those in the universe beyond Earth that we were not worthy of club membership in a rational, intellectual, evolved, peace-loving, universal community of beings. In 1951, the sternest Einstein-worthy-ray-of-oblivion-across-the-bow-of-Earth to date was issued within the film classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Obviously, we were not feeling Gort.

Concurrently, during the fifties and sixties as fictional fodder fallout from our past use, continued testing, and potential abuse of atomic weapons, a plethora of gigantic creature features swept big screens of drive-in and air-conditioned, walk-in theaters across the country ─ Godzilla (1954), Them (1954), and Mothra (1961) to name a few. How many times and ways must we be warned?

From the nuclear testing grounds of the western USA, to the depths of the Pacific, and from the entirety of Japan and the seas around the island, came massive monsters like we’d not seen in such numbers, appetites, or propensity. All were bent on avenging that which reckless humans had wreaked. In self-preservation mode, nature was fighting back in horrific, non-nurturing ways.

It’s shocking how much difference ten to fifteen years in age can make where and when you view a great horror film or the works of a fine horror director like Isaac Thorne writes about. I very much enjoyed reading about Isaac’s life, feelings, and experiences in conjunction with Romero’s film.

Thorne’s article also caused the above and below reflections on my life when Night of the Living Dead hit the scene. Back in 1968, we were well accustomed to black and white films and television. In short, the use of classic black and white in photography and films held on for as long as the world in those days remained in its drab shades of carnage. I’d be inclined to think for some of these people, the true colors of it all may have been too harsh in an all too real way.

In 1968, I would turn seventeen and the potentiality of going away, experiencing Vietnam, was only a year off, if I didn’t volunteer first. But where I came from you didn’t volunteer for Jack or his rabbit because “the man” shopped for warm bodies and weak minds in our impoverished area with great regularity. The poor are easily forgotten.

So, in 1968, Night of the Living Dead became the perfect metaphor for the prospects of carnage and futility of a bright future we “boy-men” were experiencing daily.

In Atlanta, among other odd jobs, I worked as a soda jerk at a drug store located across the street from one of the oldest, busiest, and largest funeral homes in Atlanta. Back then, the boys, men now, were coming home in great numbers in pieces in body bags. Some were friends from high school and later, college.

It became increasingly difficult to be entertained by make believe death and fantasy mayhem in a movie during this bleak period. In some forms of entertainment such as films, like Night of the Living Dead, it seemed they took on a more sinister meaning than simply being a brief time spent enjoying something unreal.

At times, it felt as if the dead were all around us. During these moments, the “Barbras” in living color, moms, wives, daughters, friends, and girlfriends were as hysterical, fetal, and in frightened tears as the Barbra in black and white on the big screen.

Often, those brave soldiers who did make it home alive were reduced to a state of living while walking dead. Nobody seemed to care, but the funeral homes, alcohol, drug, and methadone clinics, and much more sadly, Veteran’s Administration hospitals, were thriving businesses.

In the sixties and seventies, a heroin epidemic was also sweeping the nation. Once again, death and destruction were as formidable as the dead rising from the grave. Many veterans who had made it back succumbed to a less obvious enemy, trying to “inject” and often drink their post traumatic stress disorder and nightmares of war away.

Yes. It can be both sad and obvious to see how at times art can imitate life and death, and comprehend why it becomes a direct reflection on the reality of life through films. In respect to Night of the Living Dead, these factors appeared to be mutually exclusive in comparison and even sensory numbing in the end when the living dead and living became merely target practice for robotic men with hair triggers on their weapons with plenty of ammo at the ready.

“They’re coming to get you Barbra (or Bob)” took on a true deadly meaning when Uncle Sam’s letter to report for your physical for the draft arrived in the mail. I would think most high school boys were ill-equipped to handle such potentially deadly realities.

Like hundreds of thousands of young boys, I had a 2S draft exemption status while attending college in Macon, Georgia. Slowly and methodically, the government began ending the draft exemption for most, if not all, students, depending on your date of birth and luck of the lottery draw. We’d soon learn bingo had never been so intense.

In 1971 while in college, my lottery time had arrived. As we know, several Vietnam draft lotteries were conducted, starting in 1970. The strong rumor mill, also implied by the media, had it that if your number was two hundred or lower, say goodbye frat row and hello Vietnam. It was a somber crew of boys that day at Mercer University watching the drawing live at our Kappa Sigma lodge. The atmosphere was a direct opposite – a dire, visceral, and visual juxtaposition of when we gathered at the lodge to enjoy Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” each week huddled close to our dates.

For those fighting the war, their potential Night of the Living Dead became at least one tour, if they survived that long. Life had become as black and white as death back then.

After that lottery, I think they drafted numbers up to around one hundred. At the time, I was somewhat optimistic with a guarded sigh of relief since my lottery number was above one hundred and fifty. To this day, I regret those feelings while so many had stepped up voluntarily to answer the call or had reported as ordered once drafted. To me at least, a debate on whether any war is just or not is almost as futile as Tom living beyond the day after his Night of the Living Dead.

Not serving my country during this time is one my greatest regrets in life. , I also cowered in the basement, unwilling to step forward, helping at minimum to join with those willing to stand and fight regardless of self.

Isaac, your piece was excellent!

(Photo of Night of the Living Dead from Pittsburgh Haunted Tours. Photo of Ron Shaw from the author.)

Crash Analysis Support Team:

Ron Shaw

Ron Shaw is an Atlanta, Georgia native who currently resides in metro Atlanta with his wife and daughter. In1974, he graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. degree in English Literature. In 1996, he retired from the Atlanta Police Department with the rank of Captain. In 2013, with “Seven Fish Tree,” he began his writing career. Since writing his initial book, he has authored other novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and poetry. As his published works indicate, Ron enjoys writing in a wide variety of genres like romance, horror, humor, travel, young adult, coming of age, science fiction, paranormal, erotica, visionary and metaphysical, among others.

Check out the man on Twitter, Amazon, and his website!

 

At Dinner with George by Isaac Thorne

I was having dinner with a good friend the evening of July 16 when I heard the news. As most folks do these days, my dinner guest and I occasionally glanced at our phones to check notifications and create replies on social media during our meal. Don’t judge. We’ve known each other for a long time now, and we’re comfortable that way. At one of her Twitter checks, my friend turned to me and said, “Some big horror person named George has died.” The name that automatically appeared in my head and from my lips was, unfortunately, the correct one. The father of the modern zombie apocalypse, George A. Romero, had passed away at the age of 77 after a brief battle with lung cancer.

It wasn’t long before the Twitterverse exploded with tributes, all well deserved.

Contrary to many kids of the 1970s and 1980s, my first encounter with Romero’s work was not an airing of Night of the Living Dead on late-night independent television. I believe the first Romero movie I ever saw was 1982’s Creepshow, the EC Comics tribute collaboration with Stephen King. I think I saw it in a hotel room while on a trip with my parents. The hotel in question just happened to have HBO – I believe that it was HBO, anyway – and that particular night HBO just happened to be showing Creepshow. I was both amused and terrified, and I think that might have been the point that I became not a fan of Romero, but of King.

I am ashamed to say that I learned little about Romero in the years after I first saw Creepshow, aside from what I later read in a mass market paperback edition of Stephen King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre. I don’t know whether I should attribute that to my own teenage horror fan laziness, or the fact that Romero was routinely shafted and rebuffed by the larger film industry, so I was less likely to notice him. It was not until I started college in the very early 1990s that I first saw the original Night of the Living Dead. I believe I saw it on an episode of the Joe Bob Briggs B-movie showcase Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater, back when it aired on The Movie Channel, which was Showtime’s other cable property at the time. Briggs aired Night of the Living Dead as a double feature along with the 1990 Tom Savini remake of the same name, bookended by interviews with some of the original cast.

Over time, Romero has developed an enormous iconoclastic reputation in horror filmmaking, and his films have been dissected over and over as social commentary. Although I was of college age the first time I saw the film and attending a liberal arts university, I didn’t at first get the apparent 1960s subtext of Night of the Living Dead. I grew up partially in the me decade, so I suppose my natural instinct at that time of my life was to try to make the films I watched somehow about me. And so it was with Night of the Living Dead.

My early college days were a dark time for me. Yes, the United States was engaged in the first Gulf War, and rushing headlong into an economic recession. However, above all that for me was the fact that I knew my childhood was officially at an end. In my youth, I doubt anyone could ever have accused me of wanting to grow up too fast. I was happy being a kid. At the time, my impression of being a grown up meant nearly killing yourself every day to make ends meet, feeling like you were a failure at family, and being angry all the time. I figured that was no way to live a life, but I could also see no way out of that eventuality. I knew that once I graduated college, the immediate expectations for me would be to nail down a comfortable salaried job, start a family, and buy a house. It was the American dream, yes, but it wasn’t my dream.

Watching Ben and Barbra board up that old farmhouse while the apocalypse shambled toward them, ready to eat them and their futures alive, felt like a metaphor for my existential crisis in those days. I was Ben and Barbra, furiously attempting to maintain a small pocket universe of normal by closing up any portal to the outside world I could find. I was building walls where walls were not supposed to exist to keep out the reality that was ever so slowly closing in on me from every side of my simple little existence.

If I wanted to extend that metaphor today, I would add that attempting to build such walls is useless. The world scrambles over those walls. In Night of the Living Dead, it comes through in emergency broadcasts on the radio and the television. It breaks through even more forcefully with the arrivals of Harry, Helen, Karen, and Tom, the extended emergency family of Ben and Barbra, who bring with them their wants and desires that are antagonistic to the dream of preservation pursued by Ben and Barbra. They are united in their desire to keep the dangerous world out, yet divided as to both the why and the how of it.

“That cellar’s a death trap,” Ben says when Karl insists on squirreling his family away in the lowest portion of the house. It turns out to be prophetic for Karl and family, but not for the reasons Ben fears.

After I saw Night of the Living Dead for the first time, I immediately wanted to watch it again. Fortunately for me, I had recorded that episode of Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater. Not only did I enjoy both versions of the film over and over again while I was in college, but I returned to that tape many times in the years after I graduated. Perhaps I wanted to remind myself of what I had been so afraid of turning into back then. Maybe I wanted to tell myself that turning into what I feared is still and always will be a genuine danger.

I haven’t owned a working VCR for many years, but I’m pretty sure I still have that old VHS recording of Joe Bob’s Drive-In stored in a drawer somewhere. I’d love to dust it off again in memory of the man who, unbeknownst to him, helped me face some genuine fears in my past.

Thank you, Mr. Romero. The horror-loving world’s everlasting gratitude might not be enough to make up for the shaft you got from the film industry many times over, but in my heart, I do hope you understand what a difference you made in people’s lives; in mine, anyway.

Rest in peace.

(Photo of George Romero from Geek Tyrant. Photo of Isaac Thorne from the author.)

Crash Analysis Support Team:

ISAAC THORNE

He’s the author of several short tales of dark comic horror. He’s a nice man who simply wants to provide you with a few fun frights. Over time, he has developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. His collection of short tales of dark horror, Road Kills, will be available in both paperback and ebook formats in October of 2017.

Check out the man on Amazon, IMDb, Facebook, and at his website.

 

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

12496273_131479987232834_5948852029879239438_o

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

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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