Plague of the Zombies was on TCM last night. This is the first movie that had zombies in it that looked like they had actually risen from the dead, looking decrepit and rotting. In previous movies the zombies looked like ordinary people shambling around with their eyes bugging out of their heads.
However, these zombies in Plague were still taking orders from their human masters who controlled them with voodoo as Bela Lugosi did in White Zombie. Granted, the zombie special effects in Plague were nothing to write home about, but they were an improvement over previous film zombies.
The zombies in Plague of the Zombies hadn’t yet morphed into independent flesh eaters that take orders from no one. That was to come later in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which presaged today’s Hollywood zombies. It was Romero that created zombies as we know them today–the carnivorous walking dead that eat human flesh and take orders from no one, mindless beasts wreaking havoc on the world for no other reason than to eat.
Though it is relentlessly grim and terrifying, The House That Jack Built is still an important work of art, since neither grimness nor terror disqualifies a movie from being art. It is a well-made horror movie by Lars von Trier about a serial killer and, ultimately, a morality tale. Von Trier depicts the murders the killer commits in clinical, detached detail and they are chilling to watch. Hitler and Mussolini are the killer’s icons, so be prepared to be unsettled. Think American Psycho without the satire.
We just wrapped on the production of the audiobook version of The Bus Stops Here and Other Zombie Tales. It was submitted to quality control and should be available in the near future at Amazon. These are terrifying stories from the apocalypse, sure to send tingles down your spine.
I have mixed feelings about Steven Soderbergh’s latest thriller Unsane. I liked the way he worked his trademark indictment of the health insurance industry into the film’s story, which made it seem more realistic. On the other hand, the whole movie was shot on an iPhone, and the results are a blurry, dreary movie, especially when the scenes are shot inside the insane asylum. Everything seems to fade into the background. I found the movie suspenseful, but not scary.
It turns out to be an unpleasant movie about an unpleasant woman who is being stalked, or is she losing her mind? Whatever’s happening to her, she isn’t sympathetic thanks to her offensive personality.
Maybe if Soderbergh uses a newer-model iPhone next time, his movie won’t look so blurry.
Soderbergh is a good match for horror movies, because he has a realistic approach to them, which makes them more believable.
Is the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead worth purchasing? I’m of two minds on this question. Part of the eerie charm of the original edition is its low budget–its grainy black-and-white film, cheap sets, tinny music, and actors nobody ever heard of.
The Criterion edition attempts to enhance the cheap black-and-white print with Blu-ray technology. But do we really want it enhanced? Doesn’t enhancement take away part of the sinister charm of the grungy original?
On the other hand, it’s good to see that the movie is getting the attention it deserves from its groundbreaking reenvisioning of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature that feeds on living humans. Before this movie, zombies lumbered around with their eyes bugging out of their heads, looking spooky, but they were harmless. They were the walking dead without a bloodthirsty appetite, as in Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie.
Then along came George Romero and the invention of the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead. And the zombie was forever changed. It has now become identified as the monster that is the most terrifying threat to humanity, much more terrifying than vampires and werewolves.