[Movies/Horror] George A. Romero (1940-2017)

Today, one of the masters of horror left us alone. Indeed, horde of zombies and living dead are orphan tonight. George A. Romero left us today at the age of 77.

What can I tell about Romero? He is the father of the zombies as we know it. All the zombies (not the infected ones like 28 days later) have in my opinion to follow the Romero’s canon: originated from an infectious agent, resulting in their transformation into creature solely driven by their reptilian brain and nourishing from flesh-eating.

But beyond the living dead image, Romero was indeed a very talented filmmaker, because the zombies, the living dead, were indeed us, a mirror image reflecting on our society.
Romero’s genius resided in his ability to shock and awe the viewer, but only to ask them to think about the symbolism and the meaning. Through the tetrad of the “Living Dead” (Night/Dawn/Day and Land), Romero was behind his movies stinging us in the heart of the society.

“Night” was indirectly bringing on the table the case of Vietnam war veterans and the racism that was still alive and kicking 100 years after the Civil War and just a couple of years after the Civil Rights Movement. Romero shook the American audience by having Duane Jones, an African-American, as one main character. This was a very bold and progressive move from Romero, but also a very provocative one. Jones was the hero, he was the one that set a barricade, where the “white savior complex” got slashed through the entire movie. The white man is coward, hide from the danger and will kill any non-white on sight.¬†Duane Jones performance was fantastic and at the end of the movie *SPOILER ALERT* survived the whole living dead siege only to be shot from distance by a sheriff *SPOILER ALERT*.

“Dawn” was set about 10 years later than “Night” and at another period, another criticism of our society. That time, a virulent prosecution of the consumer society. It starts with the siege within a TV station in which the channel director fulminates on how the usual programming grid is interrupted in a middle of a major chaos. When we end with “Night”, we have this false sense that the situation is under control, that it was just some isolated incident. “Dawn” shows the gravity of the situation. Big cities are in total chaos, SWAT teams with National Guards and some enthusiastic drunken gun-totting civilians try to keep the situation in order. We see the society crumbling before our eyes, with law and order of the civil society sinking into abyss. The only refuge of all this chaos is…..a shopping mall. A f***ing shopping mall with living dead wandering around, as a reflection of their past lives. Again, another African-American takes the lead impersonated by Ken Foree. Where all people of the survival group lost themselves into their delusion, Ken stood still and focused and again one of the only one to survive, with an open-ending that keeps us with a question unanswered: with an helicopter running out of fuel and the two last survivors flying over in the horizon, did they make it safe or did they just die?
The contribution of Dario Argento resulted in two major directors cut, with my favorite is of course the Argento cut.

“Day” is again set 10 years later and again Romero’s use to fingerpointing at his best. The US is now invaded by living dead, only small pockets of resistance are maintaining their survival. This group ironically found refuge in a former ICBM silo. This one goes heavily on the US military, with the absurdity of the military in pursuing insane research, just look at Bubba experiment, such absurdity culminates at the end of the movie and only those that kept their ethics straight.

“Land” was certainly one that was the most misunderstood. It got half-bombed in the box office but was indeed one of the most visionary version 20 years early. A divided US, between those surviving in junk towns and the only happy few (a clear illustration of what we call “The 1%”) living literary in their ivory tower in a delusional world, dreaming of their “Make America Great Again” promised by the ruling class on the pleb, with pleb dreaming that one day they will also belong to that 1%.

George A Romero also had other movies that encountered much a mitigated success but George also acquired the highly distinguished title of “Master of Horror” with his collaboration on “Creepshow” with Stephen King.

Tonight, one Master of Horror gave us his latest salute. May your soul rest in peace and let your filmography haunt us with your spirit ūüė¶

[Movies] Halloween Month – Le Lac Des Morts Vivants/Zombie Lake (FRA/SPA – 1981 – 90 mins)

WARNING: The trailer is the original French Trailer, in other means NSFW!
Today we will continue on some zombie movies, this time it is an UFO, a pearl as I call it. So bad it is so good. Today we will discuss about “Le Lac Des Morts Vivants” aka “Zombie Lake”, probably the best movie from Jean Rollin. Filmed with a ridiculous budget, with pathetic actors, with a scenario that some attributed to drunken med school students. But it has this charm, this audacity that any Hollywood yes-men would never ever bet a buck on it.
The story plot is about a lake somewhere in France in which some German Nazis were put down to rest during the Liberation of France. However, the dormancy is ended when a young woman decides to skinny dip into the lake (that is for the underwater scene clearly a swimming pool!). Surely the presence of fresh meat may have raised the appetite of some these German Nazis that are surprisingly still fit and fresh for cadavers that may have been there for 5-10 years (you will know why I give this timeline later). They decide to have a snack on her and pull her down in the bottom of the lake.
The disappearance and the subsequent recovery of the body raises some waves in the nearby village, in particular to the mayor played by an aging Howard Vernon. It seems the mayor understood the meaning of this murder and recall the ambush done by some villagers to these German Nazis during the Liberation battle of France, in which they got rid of their bodies in the nearby lake.
As if it was not enough, we discover that indeed one of the Nazi soldier had a love relationship with one French woman of that same village (that was a common story in the WW2 France and later led to a massive lynch mob against these women), resulting in the birth of a little girl. Of course, her mom died during labor.
The problems just started and only got worse when a whole group of girls, labelled as a nearby basketball club, stop by the lake and decide to play basketball like walruses. To only end up naked and skinny-dipping in the nearby swimming pool, eh-lake and raising the appetite of the zombies. Only one girl will make it through, topless of course, to the village pub to alert the population.
Now that the zombies are completely awake, they decide to emerge from the lake (some rumors the camera was filming too fast, so the actors have to walk slower to make it through). Now in the village, they attack surprisingly to villager girls and raise the ire of the mens, holding their forks and hunting shotguns (remember we are in France). Add on it now that one of the zombie Nazi recognize his biological daughter and takes under his protection.
That is something about these movies, especially about Jean Rollin ones that summarizes the French touch: a Rabelaisian view of life in which a good wine, good meal and pleasure of flesh is part of the good life, something that in France you would not be surprised to see  women topless on the beach or even naked for advertising shampoos (things you would never see in the US, Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction is a grim reminder). It was a time where VHS was a powerful vector to spread movies through video-clubs and also providing an affordable distribution model for filmmakers with micro-budgets. If you want to explore French horror movies, you should definitively get into it with Jean Rollin. The movie plots are weird, the acting are just disastrous but you get free boobs and a good amount of laughs.

[Movies] Halloween Month – Zombi 2 (ITA – 1979 – 91 mins)

10 days before Halloween and such many movies to talk about. But today we will about the other zombie movie that came from Italy, straight from Lucio Fulci’s mind. Trying to surf on the trail blaze of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead”, also named “Zombie” for the EU market, Fulci will bring his version of zombie that are probably the most iconic ones: the rotting, putrid flesh zombie. Fulci will open the door of Italian horror movies, in my own and humble opinion one of the best production from Italy.
The plot starts in New York, as a ghost sailboat enters New York’s City waters. A¬†NYPD boat arrives to inspect the boat with two police officers, one of them got bitten by a man showing sign of decomposition and killing him. The second officer shoots him, making the rabid man fall into the Hudson River. The daughter of the boat owner is questioned, as no trace of him is found but the last time he was reporting, he was stationed somewhere in the Caribbean, in some remote island to conduct his research. This lead the main character, Anne Bowles (played by Tia Farrow) to investigate what happened to her father. This leads her to go to the Caribbean, accompanied by a journalist and a couple of adventurers. In the meantime, in the island, dead people are suddenly re-animated by a voodoo curse and their numbers keep growing.
What makes it unique aside of his decomposing zombies? Well many things. First the soundtrack, signed by Fabio Frizzi that will compose with Fulci in several movies. It is the kind of winning duet that we have with Georges Lucas/Steven Spielberg and John Williams and that we will experience within the next decade with Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. No classical music here, more synthetic sound but also very deep and heavy composition making the atmosphere insane.
Second is the famous enuclation scene of Olga Scarlatos by a zombie with a wooden chard, that worth some fistful of gore scene.
Third is the famous underwater zombie. In one scene, the actress Aureate Gay decide to go skinny-scubadiving near the island, to better be confronted by a white shark. As she tries to hide from the shark behind a reef, she gets assaulted by an underwater zombie. Using coral to blind him, she managed to escape, only to see the zombie swim towards the shark and literally attack the shark. Some rumors have been discussing that the shark was highly drugged to shoot this scene, making it even more unreal.
Fourth is the particular set that Fulci will establish his signature about living-deads: rotting, flash-eating zombies. No fast-runners zombies here, but very determined and dangerous zombies that will mark his following movies “The Beyond” and “City of the Living Dead”. What Fulci fail to achieve in terms of budget, he compensate with the gore effects that are as impressive as Tom Savini’s one.