Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monkey Shines (1988)

Monkey Shines (1988)
Rated R
Starring: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Root
Directed by: George A. Romero
Tagline: Once there was a man whose prison was a chair. The man had a monkey, they made the strangest pair. The monkey ruled the man, it climbed inside his head. And now as fate would have it, one of them is dead.
Running time: 113 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): A quadriplegic man has a trained monkey help him with his paralysis, until the little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master.

That tagline is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. It’s even better when you hear it in the voice-over for the trailer. The rhyming, the fact that it gives away the entire plot of the film, everything. It’s just a disaster. And it’s perfect.

It’s easily the best thing about this movie, which is just a terribly boring and unscary “horror” movie. The second best thing about this movie is the sex scene. Because Allan, the main character, is a quadriplegic. It’s uncomfortable to watch and I couldn’t help but wander what the point was. I mean, he can’t feel anything below his neck, and it can’t be as enjoyable as the woman makes it out to be. I think somebody saw the swing bar he uses to get out of bed and thought “that would be perfect for a sex scene!” and then there was a sex scene.

I probably knew that George Romero directed this movie at some point in my life, but either blacked it out or forgot. It’s not about zombies, so I just figured it was some random '80s horror director. Romero is great at zombie movies, and he should probably only write and direct those movies. Apparently there was an issue with the studio, and they ended up editing this movie in a way that wasn’t in line with what Romero was gunning for. I don’t know that any editing magic or shuffling of scenes could have saved this movie. That sex scene would probably still be there, and anytime the monkey attacks someone, it’s very clearly a stuffed animal they are shaking around and pretending to fight off. And no amount of editing can fix the terrible acting.

Outside of a young Stanley Tucci and one of the first film appearances of Stephen Root, I didn’t recognize a single actor in the cast. And they were all pretty bad. I think Boo, the monkey who played Ella, was the best actor in the cast. I don’t know how a monkey could out-act professional actors, but it happened.

Back when I worked at Hollywood Video, I’d see this in the Horror section and skip it every single time. Nothing about it looked interesting to me, and I figured I’d never watch it, and I was fine with that. But then Paul Scheer and co at How Did This Get Made? picked it for their podcast, and I decided to jump at the chance to watch it and review it so I could listen along as they tear it apart. I’m pretty bad about staying current with the podcast, and usually don’t catch what the movie is going to be until it’s already out, so I was pumped to be able to actually watch this one for free on Netflix ahead of the episode.

There are a few funny moments, but they’re not intentional. And they aren’t that funny. This is just a terrible movie. I wanted it to be enjoyable, but it was so boring and stupid that I couldn’t bring myself to like it.

0 out of 5 stars


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Crazies (2010)

I had intended to watch the Romero version of The Crazies, since I had already watched and reviewed The Crazies back in 2012, but my wife (and I) love Timothy Olyphant, so we went with this version instead.

I actually think I liked it a little bit better the second time around, but not quite enough to bump the rating up from a 3 to a 3.5 or a 4. 

I've watched so many horror movies since 2012, back when I used to claim that I hated horror movies, that the entire fourth paragraph is completely wrong. That cliche I claimed to hate is actually one of my favorite things about horror movies, and The Crazies had two or three really solid "He's right behind you" moments. They're so creepy and effective in horror movies and I love them. 

Rather than re-review The Crazies in it's entirety, here's my original review from February of 2012. 

The Crazies (2010)
Rated R
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson
Directed by: Breck Eisner
Tagline: Fear thy neighbor
Running time: 101 Minutes
Netflix Instant

Quick Summary: After a plan crashes in a small Iowa town, a mysterious toxin is released into the water supply, causing the residents begin acting strangely, exhibiting homicidal tendencies and descending into madness before ultimately dying.

I had no idea this was a remake of one of George A. Romero’s movies before I watched this version, and I wish I had. I would have made it a point to see Romero’s version first, then compare it to the remake. Now, I have no idea if Romero’s is better, and may not be able to tell since the new one will be what I base my opinion on.

I was under the impression that this was more of a straight zombie movie, but I am kind of glad that it wasn’t, since that would have been a little bit more predictable and probably kind of boring. There’s nothing that would have differentiated it from any of the thousands of other zombie movies. By having the toxin cause insanity and homicidal behavior allowed them to go a little bit darker and down a different path than zombie flicks, so that was a little refreshing.

The main reason I even added this movie to my Netflix queue was for Timothy Olyphant. Olyphant is absolutely awesome in Justified, which I had just started watching when I added The Crazies to my queue a year or two ago. He’s been awesome in just about everything I’ve ever seen him in, including The Office, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Olyphant was just as awesome as always, killing people when he needed to.

I’m not much of a horror movie fan, and I usually find them kind of dumb, since the people in the movies always absolutely do one thing they should not do (turning around, going to sleep, being alone in the woods, having sex), and I can’t ever get over that. Luckily, there was only a scene or two in this movie where I caught myself saying “Don’t go in there” or “Don’t go off alone”. Of course I was right and something immediately happened to that person, but that’s what happens in horror movies.

As horror movies go, it wasn’t great. Certainly better than any of the Paranormal “Found Footage” movies that are (inconceivably) all the rage these days. I was moderately entertained for a little while, so that’s a plus.

3 out of 5 stars


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Best Horror Movie of All Time (Animal Edition)

A few years back, I did a post about the BestHorror Movie Villain of All Time. It’s my most popular/most read post to date. It’s one of the proudest things I’ve done in the three plus years of running this blog. But looking back at it now, I realize that it wasn’t really fair to limit it to just the big three slasher/serial killer villains. What about Jaws? What about the Predators? Aliens? Cujo? What about all those monkey-fighting snakes on that Monday through Friday plane? Limiting the best horror movie villain of all time to “people” was wrong. I needed to revisit that post and re-do the competition to include animals and aliens and monsters.

And then I took a look at the Wikipedia page for the list of Natural Horror Movies and was overwhelmed. There was no way I was going to be able to include all of those movies, plus all the monster movies and all of the alien movies in one contest. That’s not a fair competition. Plus, since I’ve barely seen any of those animal movies, and even fewer of the monster and alien movies. It wouldn’t be right to include every movie on all three of those lists.  So for now, I’ll just focus on the Animal Edition of the Best Horror Movie Villains of All Time, using the same(ish) criteria from the original post.

The contestants arbitrarily decided on by me: Jaws, Cujo, King Kong (2005), T-Rex (Jurassic Park), The Velociraptors (Jurassic Park), Spiders (Arachnophobia), Snakes (Snakes on a Plane), and Piranha.

They will be judged on the following 10 criteria: Real Life Scariness, World Wide Box Office, Origin, Weapon(s) of Choice, Tagline, Estimated Total Kills, Kills Per Minute, Killability, Cultural Significance and Director/Cast.

Here we go and may the best animal win.

1.            IRL Scariness

Both the T-Rex and the Velociraptors kind of get a raw deal here, seeing as how they are extinct and I will (hopefully) never encounter one IRL, likewise for King Kong, though I generally don’t find regular gorillas to be all that scary, I still don’t want to be alone with one in the wild. The Piranha are prehistoric and probably don’t exist, but I don’t plan on ever swimming in bodies of water with regular piranha either. Granted, I’ve never encountered a rabid dog, but I don’t usually find dogs to be all that scary.

That pretty much leaves spiders, snakes and Jaws. As the de facto spider killer in our house, I have no real fear of them, except for last week when I encountered a brown spider in our mailbox. It reared its front legs up at me in a defensive posture and I may or may not have panicked and ran away. I spent the next three days convinced it was a Brown recluse and that it was going to get me because I didn’t kill it. I’m better now, but still wary of the mailbox.

I find snakes to be more interesting than scary, for the most part. But my real life interactions with snakes have been limited to garden snakes, a green tree snake and a black snake in the middle of a path in the woods behind a rest stop in West Virginia. We turned and went back to our car and left, but only because we had our daughter with us and didn’t want her devoured by a four foot snake in West Virginia. All poisonous or threatening snakes I’ve seen have been safely enclosed in glass at aquariums and zoos, where I can look at them and not be afraid.

Sharks are the most terrifying and fascinating of all animals. After years and years of watching Jaws, its sequels, other shark-based horror movies and Shark Week, I am deathly afraid of sharks. It’s my main reason for not wanting to go into the ocean. That and I don’t like taking my shirt off in public, but mainly the sharks. Outside of aquariums, the closest I’ve come to a shark was at the City Museum in St. Louis, which had a tank with nurse sharks and turtles swimming around. The tank was open at the top and we were there for feeding time. It was kind of cool. I also once bought three tiny pet store fish that were adorably labeled as sharks. I don’t think they were, but it made me feel cool to have sharks in my room. Jaws is the clear winner here.

2.                  Worldwide Box Office (adjusted for inflation)

Arachnophobia - $95,878,534
Cujo - $50,026,015
Jaws - $2,060,331,622
Jurassic Park - $1,677,378,384
King Kong - $663,855,645
Piranha 3D - $89,848,757
Snakes on a Plane - $72,455,925

Again Jaws is the winner.

3.                  Origin

Arachnophobia – newly discovered Venezuelan spiders are brough to America and produce a new race of deadly spiders.

Cujo – St. Bernard is bitten by a rabid bat and infected with rabies.

Jaws – A beach town is terrorized by an enormous Great White Shark.

King Kong – a great ape found on a remote, awesomely-named Skull Island.

Piranha – Prehistoric fish, thought to be extinct, from an underground lake, released after an earthquake.

Snakes – Venomous snakes are released by a gangster (?) to keep a witness from surviving the flight to testify. Passengers’ leis are coated with a pheromone to make the snakes more aggressive.

T-Rex/Velociraptor – Genetically engineered in a lab from genetic material found in a mosquito fossilized in amber combined with DNA from frogs. Cloned as females to prevent breeding.

It’s a tie! Since the T-Rex and the Velociraptors share an origin story, they both get a point and keep Jaws from running away with the victory.

4.                  Weapon(s) of Choice (WOC)

It’s teeth. For all of them.

But rather than an eight-way tie, let’s break it down a little further. What other means, aside from razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws do these animals have at their disposal?

Jaws, interestingly enough, doesn’t really have much else going other than the teeth. He could probably ram and capsize a boat (he does), and that tale is mighty powerful, but his main attack is to bite.

The prehistoric piranha, in addition to their razor teeth, swarm their prey in massive groups, making short work of stripping all the meat from the bones before moving on to their next snack. They are ferocious and there are so many of them that they easily overwhelm helpless, drunk college students partying on the lake.

The snakes in Snakes on a Plane are all venomous and have all been provoked to attack by a pheromone on the passengers. They’re aggressive snakes, but anti-venom awaits the passengers once they arrive.

The spiders are a new breed and are extremely venomous and deadly. There is no known anti-venom. The “general” spider mated with a more common spider and produced thousands of deadly “soldier” spiders.

Cujo is a little bit different than the other animals, in that it’s a normal (large) dog infected with rabies. Rabies does some pretty messed up things to animals and can cause problems if a person is bitten by a rabid animal, but like the anti-venom for snakes and spiders, there is a vaccine and treatment a person can get that can ameliorate (I really just wanted to use that word…correctly?) the symptoms if they get it quickly enough.

King Kong has the size and power, but not much else. He survived on an island with all kinds of dinosaurs and giant bugs for years, so he’s got that going. He’s 25 feet tall and can smash planes out of the sky, which is cool.

Like Jaws and King Kong before it, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park doesn’t have much other than its teeth and size. Those little t-rex arms aren’t doing it any favors.
The velociraptors, on the other hand, have a couple of things other than just their teeth. As presented in Jurassic Park (which was probably not really accurate as far as size and behavior go), they hunt in packs, are whip smart and have those ferocious long middle claws they can use to disembowel their prey. Total badass and they stole the spotlight from the T-Rex, who everyone thought was the apex predator of the movie. It’s the velociraptors for the best Weapon(s) category.

5.                  Tagline

Arachnophobia – alternate: The suspense of Alien! The excitement of Jaws! The fun of Back to the Future!
Cujo – Now there’s a new name for terror…
Jaws – Don’t go in the water.
Jurassic Park – An adventure 65 million years in the making.
King Kong – The eighth wonder of the world.
Piranha 3D – There’s something in the water.
Snakes on a Plane – At 30,000 feet, snakes aren’t the deadliest thing on this plane.

In a close race, by virtue of the fact that they’re basically the same, Jaws just edges out Piranha 3D. On a related note, some movie taglines are just awful. I’m looking at you Arachnophobia and Snakes on a Plane.

I couldn't find one with "Don't Go In the Water" as the tagline, but the poster is still awesome. 

6.                  Estimated Total Kills

Jaws, Jurassic Park and Piranha would probably get a bump if we included all of the movies in the franchise, but we’re only counting a single film.

Arachnophobia – 5
Cujo – 3
Jaws – 5
Jurassic Park – 4
T-Rex – 1
Velociraptors – 2
Others - 1
King Kong – 10
           Kong – 5
Others - 5
Piranha 3D – 6 (plus hundreds of other extras, but I couldn’t get an accurate count)
Snakes on a Plane – 31 People (29 Snakes)

I’m giving this one to Snakes on a Plane, if only because there was a confirmed (via kill number for the snakes.

7.                  Kills per Minute (KPM)

Arachnophobia (105 Minutes) – 0.048 KPM
Cujo (91 Minutes) – 0.033 KPM
Jaws (124 Minutes) – 0.041 KPM
Jurassic Park (125 Minutes) – 0.032 KPM
           T-Rex – 0.008 KPM
           Velociraptors – 0.016 KPM
King Kong (187 Minutes) – 0.027 KPM
Piranha 3D (88 Minutes) – 0.069 KPM
Snakes on a Plane (105 Minutes) – 0.296 KPM

Once again, it’s Snakes on a Plane with a kill every 3 minutes.

I totally forgot Kenan Thompson was in this movie. 
8.                  Killability (KA)

Arachnophobia – Fire, a nail gun, and exterminator chemicals are used to kill off the spiders. The most memorable being the aerosol can and lighter. Probably why my wife yells “Kill it! Kill it with fire!” anytime she comes across a spider in our house.

Cujo – He’s rabid, but it still takes being impaled by a broken off baseball bat and several gunshots to put him down.  

Jaws – Killed by an exploding scuba tank shot with a rifle. Three sequels were not the same shark.  

Jurassic Park – The T Rex killed two of the raptors, and a Gallimimus. No humans kill any dinosaurs. And there are three sequels.

King Kong – Killed after being attacked by fighter planes and falling from the Empire State Building.  

Piranha 3D – Explosions, guns, electrocution and an outboard motor are used to dispatch of the piranha. Turns out all of the piranha they had killed were only the babies, not the adult fish. Followed by a sequel.

Snakes on a Plane – The majority of the snakes are removed from the plane by intentional depressurization of the cabin when Sam Jackson shoots out two windows. Per, 29 snakes are killed onscreen.  
It took a worldwide mass extinction event to kill the dinosaurs the first time around, so it was going to take a little more than a couple of scientists and some kids to take them out the second time around in Jurassic Park.

9.            Cultural Significance

Arachnophobia – John Goodman, Jeff Daniels, probably helped make people more afraid of spiders, was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and had a video game (available on Amiga, DOS and Commodore 64!).

Cujo – Based on a Stephen King book, what I call any vicious or aggressive dogs I come across

Jaws – Three sequels, countless rip-offs, the Jaws Theme, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” (#35 on AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes), Quint’s USS Indianapolis Story, three Academy Award wins (four nominations), a Grammy for the Score, #56 on the AFI Top 100 Years…100 Movies List, Jaws is #18 on AFI’s Top 50 Villains, #2 on AFI’s Top 100 Thrillers, selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 2001, two theme park rides, two musical adaptations (?!?), and three video games.

Jurassic Park – Two sequels, with a fourth on the way in 2015, #35 on AFI Top 100 Thrillers, three Academy Awards wins (three nominations), nominated for a Grammy, directly responsible for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors team name (per Wikidpedia), Industrial Light and Magic’s special effects innovations were directly responsible for the Star Wars prequels (boo), Kubrick/Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong remake, three video games, several amusement park rides, and some of the coolest toys from my childhood.

King Kong – Remake of a 1933 movies which had also been remade in 1976, is somehow an hour and twenty-seven minutes longer than the original, there are also dinosaurs and giant bugs.

Piranha 3D – Remake of a 70’s movie, one sequel, Richard Dreyfuss Cameo, Christopher Lloyd, was a lot better than it had any right to be.

Snakes on a Plane – Samuel L. Jackson. There is a novelization of the movie, which is somehow 405 pages (!?!), countless Internet memes and viral videos, the T.V. edit (“I hav had it with these monkey fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane”)

Have to give it to Jaws here. More sequels, more importance to the genre, better quotable lines and the Jaws Theme.

10.   Director /Cast

I know this is about the animals, but without a solid cast of human actors to play off of, some of these animals (and the movies) wouldn’t be as great as they are.

Arachnophobia – Dir. Frank Marshall. Starring Jeff Daniels, Julian Sands, Harley Jane Kozak, John Goodman

Cujo – Dir. Lewis Teague. Starring Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, Christopher Stone, Ed Lauter

Jaws – Dir. Steven Spielberg. Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw

Jurassic Park – Dir. Steven Spielberg. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight

King Kong – Dir. Peter Jackson. Starring Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler, Andy Serkis.
Piranha 3D – Dir. Alexandre Aja. Starring Elizabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szhor, Paul Scheer, Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Roth

Snakes on a Plane – Dir. David R. Ellis. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale, Lin Shay, David Koechner
As much as I love Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, he wasn’t enough to overtake Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.

The Results
Arachnophobia – 0
Cujo – 0
Jaws – 5
Jurassic Park
T-Rex – 2
           Velociraptor - 3
King Kong – 0
Piranha 3D – 0
Snakes on a Plane – 2

The Winner: Jaws

I wasn’t surprised in the least. Jurassic Park had a real chance, but having two entries essentially cancelled each other out. I expected more of a push from Piranha 3D or Arachnophobia to at least get on the board, but along with Cujo and King Kong, they were shut out. Snakes on a Plane was quite a surprise, stealing the points in the ETK and KPM categories with a dominant performance, no doubt helped by the fact that I couldn’t find enough data on many of the other movies to give them any boost.

So there you have it. Jaws joins Michael Myers in the pantheon of Greatest Horror Movie Villains of All Time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Carrie (2013)

Carrie (2013)
Rated PG-13
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Tagline: You will know her name. 
Running time: 100 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.

The 1976 Carrie was a better movie and a remake was (probably) not necessary.

(I am completely ignoring the fact that the 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 and the 2002 made-for-TV movie even exist)

I just wanted to go ahead and get that out of the way from the jump so I don’t have to repeatedly compare the 2013 version to the original. The remake gave them a chance to have better special effects and to update to modern technology. Cell phone cameras, YouTube and the internet added new wrinkles to the story, but I don’t know that they made it any better.

Chloe Grace Moretz, as the titular Carrie was an interesting choice. I think she’s a good actress and has been great in some other things (Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Hugo), but I don’t know that she was the right girl to play Carrie. She’s talented enough and did a good job with it, but she’s too pretty to be believable as the dowdy, formerly home-schooled, and awkward teenager. She was age appropriate, being fifteen at the time of filming, but the transition from frumpy to fabulous wasn’t as drastic as it could/should have been. Her hair was stringy and her clothes were tragic, but she was still a little too pretty to be plain. They could have done a lot more to ugly her up in the beginning, and then the transformation on Prom night would have been a lot more shocking to the other kids. They made Julianne Moore look terrible as Carrie’s mother, and should have done more to make Moretz less pretty. Doing so would have made the torment the other kids put Carrie through more realistic and made her reaction more justified.

Carrie makes for an excellent anti-bullying message. They should make kids watch one of the versions of the movie or read the Stephen King book in seventh grade or something. It may not be the best idea to threaten potential bullies by saying that the person they bully could burn the school down and kill them all on Prom Night, and it may not even work, but I’d bet they’d at least think twice before picking on someone.  

I was trying to avoid referencing the original Carrie, but I just can’t do it. I made it 264 words, which is further than I thought I’d make it, but there are just a few things I couldn’t ignore. There are three iconic scenes from Brian de Palma’s 1976 version: the shower scene, the prom scene and the ending. All three of those scenes make up the best parts of the movie and are what everyone thinks of when they think about Carrie. And Kimberly Peirce’s version nailed two out of three. The initial humiliation of Carrie by the other girls in the locker room might have been even better in the remake because of the fact that one of them recorded video on her phone. Rather than rumors and hearsay, there was actual proof of the incident, posted on YouTube for the whole school (and the world) to see. That makes an already humiliating situation so much worse. And Carrie’s revenge at the Prom was just as good as in the original, aided by some better, more modern effects. I wish Moretz’s Carrie was a little less demonstrative with her hands during her telekinesis. We know she has telekinetic powers; she doesn’t need to move her hands to make things happen, just her mind.

Both of those scenes were solid and hold up well when compared to the original, but the very last scene of the movie was completely different from the original. If you haven’t seen either version and want to, you should stop reading now because this is a spoiler. In the 1976 version, a hand shoots out of the ground below Carrie’s tombstone. It was ominous and scary and I didn’t see it coming at all. In the 2013 version, instead of seeing the hand shoot out of the ground, we stay focused on the tombstone as the ground shakes and the CGI tombstone cracks. And then the credits roll. I was fully expecting the ending to be the same as the original. It was such a let down.

The 2013 version of Carrie was actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be, updating the story for modern times and incorporating new technology in. On its own, the movie is a fine and entertaining revenge horror movie with a solid cast. Compared to the original, though, it’s just not as good.

3.5 out of 5 stars


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman,
Directed by: George A. Romero
Tagline: They keep coming back in a bloodthirsty lust for HUMAN FLESH!...
Running time: 96 Minutes

Quick summary (from IMDB): A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.

I was probably fifteen or sixteen the first time I watched Night of the Living Dead at my friend’s house across the street. I don’t think I had any idea that we were less than ten miles from the cemetery in the movie or that I would occasionally drive by it on my way home from school depending on who I bummed a ride from. It wasn’t until I was eighteen and working on my senior project, meeting with my advisor (my brother’s friend John), eating French fries and talking about movies, that I learned that Night of the Living Dead was filmed in our neck of the woods. After that, Night of the Living Dead joined other Pennsylvania-filmed movies (along with Dogma and Sudden Death) I would tell people about at parties in college.

One of those people ended up being my wife, and she begged me for several years to take her to the Evans City Cemetery for pictures and to be able to say we went. Having never actually been there myself and generally not liking cemeteries, I avoided it for as long as I possibly could. But as with most things my wife asks me to do, I eventually caved in. It had been years since I’d seen the movie and neither of us remembered exactly what we were looking for, but luckily for us, my sister-in-law is a huge fan and knew all of the details. We went and it was fun and we have pictures to prove it. I don’t really feel the need to go back again, but my wife wants to go again at night time, and I’m not cool with that. A cemetery after dark seems like the worst place to be.

After watching a bunch of movies we’d both never seen this month, we agreed that we wanted to watch Night of the Living Dead. We both consider it amongst our favorite horror movies; it’s a classic and probably the best zombie horror movie ever made. Without it, none of the other good to great zombie movies of the last forty six years exists. Maybe we still end up with something similar to zombies as we know them now just by sheer luck, but without Romero’s influence, it just wouldn’t be the same as a genre.

There are several things about Romero’s ghouls (they never call them zombies in the movie, just “ghouls” or “those things”) that I find interesting. For one, we’re never really given the explanation for where the virus, if it even is a virus, came from. There is a radio report implementing a NASA probe from Venus returned to Earth covered in radiation, but it’s never confirmed or substantiated. The audience is just as in the dark as Barbra, Ben, Mr. Cooper and everyone else. I also like the fact that the zombies are the recently deceased, and not skeletons rising up out of the ground or the rotting flesh monsters we see every week on The Walking Dead. And Romero’s zombies are a lot more capable than most of the zombies we see in modern zombie fare. Romero’s zombies are able to open doors, smash windows – on purpose, and use weapons and tools. They aren’t the completely mindless monsters we’re used to seeing.

Night of the Living Dead features one of the best and most memorable lines from any horror movie.

It’s a great line and the delivery makes it even better. I only wish it wasn’t a joke. It comes so early in the movie, and sure everything starts getting real right after Johnny teases Barbra with that line, but I wish it had been more of an explicit warning or threat to Barbra. Or maybe more time elapsed between the lines and when the zombies appear. That would give the line that much more weight and make it more ominous and foreshadowing. It’s still one of my favorite lines, but I forget how little it has to do with everything that comes after it.

Ben (Duane Jones) is a total badass, and according to Twitter is a young Barack Obama, which while completely ridiculous, is hard to ignore. There’s something about the way he speaks, with the annunciation and the pauses, which makes him sound an awful lot like the President. From the minute we’re introduced to him, Ben is constantly trying to do something: secure the house, plan an escape, find solutions, while Barbra sits in shock and tells incredibly boring stories about how she got to the house. Maybe it wasn’t really a boring story, but it considering we just watched it happen, it seemed a little ridiculous that she would recap the opening and tell Ben every single little detail we saw. On the whole, Ben was maybe the only useful or interesting character. All of the female characters were pretty useless. Barbra, Judy, Mrs. Cooper and the little girl were all pretty worthless in terms of helping the group and Tom (?) and Mr. Cooper weren’t much help either. Ben had all the good ideas and was the only one taking charge and trying to save them all, not just himself.

Even for a zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead has an incredibly dark ending. Sure, we get the idea that maybe things will get better as the police and National Guard round up and kill the ghouls, but we know that it doesn’t because of the five o Romero’s Living Dead sequels that have come since. And (spoiler alert for a 46 year-old-movie that is public domain) Ben dies at the end! That’s such an awful, gut-punch of an ending after spending the previous hour or so rooting for Ben to survive and get out. It’s not a complete surprise that it’s coming, but it’s still shocking to see when it finally does.

5 out of 5 stars