Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

I was writing this for the user comments of imdb, but it went overlong because I couldn't stop writing. I think I need to add photos but at this moment I have other horror films to watch on this particular Sunday. I just enjoy spending an afternoon with Dawn of the Dead. I think many consider the heavier alternate versions overlong, but I just consider them another worthwhile zombie experience.

The review itself...

The plot: America has fallen under an apocalyptic doom thanks to the dead eating on the living with two SWAT members, a helicopter pilot, and a news broadcasting station director “running”, hopping in a chopper, flying off for a place to get away from the threat of destruction, landing on a huge shopping mall, hermetically sealing themselves off from the world around them, until their new “home” is invaded by a traveling group of raiders who move from place to place to pillage and steal to survive.

I finished watching the “extended version” and actually much prefer it to other versions because it just felt more like a “complete” film, further advancing the characters, how they deal with the zombie apocalypse and enjoy the mall for all the creature comforts and material wants that such an environment provides.
Just throwing off some thoughts, I have to admit that Roger’s departure was kind of a bummer this time around to me, because I wondered to myself how he would have reacted (and responded) to the raiders intruding upon “their digs”.

Flyboy and Francine’s (David Emge and Gaylen Ross) relationship never quite seems to contain any real present passion, which I found interesting; if anything, they seemed to annoy each other. I often wonder why Roger (Scott Reiniger) seemed to lose his bearings during the sequence where he and Peter (Ken Foree) were hot wiring diesels and driving them in front of the mall doors to protect their home from outside forces (the zombies, possible authorities, or others wanting to enter in). I mean he had already seen a lot of murder and zombie activity—I guess, after seeing enough of it, he could no longer hold together his sanity, but still, I ponder what sent him over the deep end to the point of irrationality which eventually led to several mistakes that would cost him his life.

Often discussed by zombie aficionados and DAWN fans is the comic treatment of the zombies: I think this movie just uses zombies in every way imaginable, including the pie-in-the-face ridicule, useless against weapons, dangerous when allowed to enlarge, a menace in that their bite contributes to the increase in numbers (strength in numbers matters), such a reminder of what we once were that some living humans have a hard time shooting them in the brain (a constant reminder of how difficult it is to just kill zombies is news broadcasts featuring talking heads on opposing sides debating the immoral act of shooting a former loved one in the brain or separating the head from the body, or especially the uneasy debate on how to respond to the epic crises facing the country, with non-stop bickering and arguing expressing the collapse of civilization, showing us that when push comes to shove, we cannot handle an epidemic of such magnitude), and even ignored for a small period of time (once our heroes are able to quarantine them from the mall, they seem to go about their lives inside the mall, enjoying their place for its many pleasures).

As a teenager, I remember renting the VHS, utterly shocked by the graphic violence on display, the way bodies are torn apart (the scene where a victim has his bowels removed certainly had me in total amazement), flesh is ripped from throats, shoulders, necks, legs, and arms, and the feeding frenzy that results from stupid decisions of several victims. David Emge’s zombie is a stunning depiction of a man in his exact state the moment of death: the limp, the gun hanging on the finger, the lumbering walk ( just impressive).

As an adult, the most powerful sequence to me is the Harlem apartment complex raid where the police enter to find a Puerto Rican gang of hostiles, encountering the undead as well, with one particular SWAT member completely unhinged ( a racist, blinded by rage and hostile intent, exploding a head with a shotgun blast). That incredible moment where a boarded room with those arms emerging, full of zombies, and the kid killing himself (I seem to remember the scene actually showing him blowing his brains out when I watched it on VHS, but dvd prints don’t seem to have it) show us Hell on Earth, a taste of how the zombie crisis is turning a once civilized country upside down.

Of course, the middle-of-nowhere farmland plane landing pad where our heroes stop to get fuel contains many powerful, memorable moments (such as the head severed at the top by the helicopter propeller, Foree having to shoot two zombie kids, and the iconic poster zombie’s momentary presence on screen).

Many do not like the greenish blue skin color of the zombies, but I think it gives the picture an appropriate comic book quality, including the bright red, thick, gushing blood that bubbles when the skin is pried away by zombie teeth. To this zombie fan, nothing is more awesome than rotting flesh make-up effects and flesh-wound gore, and “Dawn of the Dead” pleased this gorehound in every way.

To me, the *money shot*, a phrase used to describe all sorts of things, for a horror film isn’t the exposing of tits but a quick, bursting impact of brains/blood splattering on a wall after a zombie’s (or human’s) head is hit with a shot-gun blast. I applaud this movie for its audacity, the challenge to anyone to sit through its violence and dig on the thematic material that accompanies the gore.

I was fortunate, I think, to rent a grotty, beat-up VHS copy from an appliance center more concerned with selling refrigerators instead of hiring out video tapes, as a teenager, having never experienced such “sucker punch” (as Romero puts it) horror at such an impressionable age. I’m a “dead-head” thanks to that particular Midnight experience (and a lot of Saturdays, re-renting the movie over and over from the same place!) and continue to watch the film with such fondness and joy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Barbara Crampton



Word of warning: I have added some nude photos so if you do not like seeing a beautiful woman naked leave this blog post now.


Barbara Crampton (along with Rebecca DeMornay in Risky Business and Linnea Quigley in The Return of the Living Dead) was one of the first women I desired sexually as a teenager introduced to nudity.



A fantasy dream girl of mine, Crampton represented everything I have ever been attracted to. She could lose herself into the ‘girl next door’ or some ‘scientist’ in glasses (like From Beyond) part, roles which might hide the sex kitten underneath the disguise. I, however, have admired her willingness to “go all the way” in roles which demand a certain degree of courage.



Let’s face it, naked, strapped to a gurney, with a severed head between your legs, I imagine it wasn’t easy performing in front of the camera in such a situation without a degree of reservation and reluctance. The character was violated in an absurd way unlike anything we had every seen at that time. Maybe not sexually, but having to endure that devious professor's severed head ogling her body, without her ability to thwart off his leering, Crampton properly showed the horror such a ordeal would elicit. How could she not encourage arousal, especially in a dominatrix outfit in From Beyond? Crampton, to her credit, seemed unencumbered with the fear of surrendering her naked flesh to roles she portrayed> Such moments as her clothes being torn off by her lobotomized father in Re-Animator at the request of Dr. Hill, while unconcious due to a shock, soon awakening to find herself tied to that gurney for the film's most notorious scene, had to acquire a bit of bravery because many would not allow themselves to be put in such a precarious position for the sake of an absurd scene such as that.



Still, I liked her performances in Stuart Gordon’s pictures featuring Crampton, such as her most famous Re-Animator and (my favorite) From Beyond, as characters who just didn’t appear in as bubble-headed idiots that drop their clothes on screen. I cared about both characters, and didn’t want harm to come to them although danger was almost a guarantee considering the threats that existed in those films.




She appeared sparingly in other films like Castle Freak and Robot Wars (and Puppet Master), but I will never understand why she never achieved B-movie goddess status she so richly deserved. I watched Chopping Mall a week ago and couldn’t understand why director Wynorski didn’t feature Crampton in a more substantial role because she could easily play a better part than some ditzy moron who makes these stupid decisions that get her burned alive.

I didn’t think she was the same as those many other dumb ass blonds who bounce their boobs and stumble over their lines while on all fours receiving a shagging doggy style. Maybe this is why she didn’t make a lot more movies after Chopping Mall, appearing in a semi-lead role in Castle Freak as the estranged wife of Jeffrey Combs, or featured as more or less a “special guest star” in something obscure like Robot Wars. I noticed she got a part in Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, so I smiled knowing that the director reached out to her to allow us to see Barbara once again.

As a 34 year old, I look back fondly at my teenage years when women like Barbara were so very vividly present in my mind, some might say I looked at her from purely lustful reasons, but I enjoyed not just her beautiful body, but those particular characters she portrayed before the interesting roles which could punctuate her sensual abilities on screen evaporated. Too bad, I wish there was as big a resume for Crampton as there is for Quigley who seems to have never stopped working. Perhaps Crampton simply wanted more quality parts while Quigley just wanted to keep working, but I hate that I can’t find a list of films with Barbara in them…you know goodies to discover.

I certainly get a geek thrill looking back at photos like the ones I have included here where she seems perfectly aware of her alluring qualities as a sexpot, uninhibited enough to establish her then-connection with sci-fi and horror.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2

***/****


I just had some random thoughts about Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2, and I haven’t added anything to my blog in a while. So what the fuck, might as well include them here, with some pictures. I included a nude photo of Wendy Lyon (I don’t imagine very many people stop by this blog anyway, so why not?).



Well, if you are gonna rip off “Carrie”, “The Exorcist”, and “Nightmare on Elm Street” then do it right and “Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2” does just that. Wendy Lyon sure impressed me in showing that she could portray two specific characters and mimic Lisa Schrage to a tee. Speaking of Schrage, I relished her so much that I longed for her to be on screen so much longer than she actually was (so seductively sexy in a slutty way yet conveying a sense of menace if her ire is enflamed, you don’t want to cross this woman or scorn her in anyway, her wrath gets your ass killed). The film really is an effects movie, but Lyon’s locker room scene is easily the best sequence of the film going away. What I liked most about it was her comfort buck naked on screen: you could actually see Mary Lou, completely uninhibited and embracing her new body, knowing that the victim (trying to hide in a locker) was mincemeat, and it is because Lyon has that ability to show the new host possessing her character Vicki.



This film also includes a fetish of mine, when Vicki appears in a guy’s jersey during the “demonic horse”/ “water mirror”/ “sheet violation” sequence—I am overwhelmed with arousal when a pretty young thing gets into a guy’s jersey. Anyway a rocking horse has rarely looked more scary and this has to be the first time I’ve seen bed sheets “trap” a girl to her bed, the impressions of these hands groping Lyon’s body appearing (it is a GREAT scene). The bizarre chalk board scene, where these hands protrude, grabbing Lyon, pulling her into it, with Mary Lou emerging from the basement chest in Vicki’s body, is quite surreal.







This movie thrives on these unusual nightmarish special effects scenes, like Mary Lou’s burnt corpse bursting from Vicki’s body, over a period of minutes metamorphosing into her beautiful body before the fire set her ablaze in the 50s. We get the Carrie prom night homage where students scurry in horror as Mary Lou extends her fury by turning the hall into a sparks-flying, lights falling, tables-turning, mayhem-filled craze, where a certain self-absorbed bitch (an adversary to Vicki), Kelly Hennelotter (Terri Hawkes) gets a “lightning bolt” impalement. The Exorcist homage has a Catholic Priest warning Ironside (as a teenager he was Mary Lou’s boyfriend, getting revenge for her dismissal of him) to embrace Christianity or else not have protection against her evil (although she doesn’t fear him and the crucifix does not harm to her).






I also love these off-the-wall scenes that seem to exist just to make us fall back in our seats like when Mary Lou has Vicki give her pops a nice sensual kiss, sends Vicki’s fanatically drab religious mom through their door, and enters principal Ironside’s office, hopping on his desk, eventually sitting on his lap. I think it just further establishes that Lyon is fully capable of playing a foxy minx lost in her role as Mary Lou, who could do such things, behave such a way, without flinching. I particularly grinned when Mary Lou, at the beginning, confesses to her priest that she committed a multitude of sins and doesn’t feel guilt for doing so.

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The Boogens - Intro

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