October is horror month!

October is horror month! Incidentally, since I started reading Nightmare:USA the past couple of months have pretty much been horror months anyway, but this is the official one, with Halloween coming up and everything.

Here goes…so far I’ve watched…

Dawn Of The Dead (George A. Romero / USA 1978)
Being a horror fan, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t actually seen this before. I’d seen the re-make (and I liked it) and I’m not quite sure why I never got round to watching the original. I guess, with all its hype as THE zombie movie I just always expected to be disappointed. In the end I wasn’t. Dawn of The Dead is amazing in every way. It looks great…extremely bleak and violent, but also funny at the same time. This must have been a dream-come-true for effects wizard Tom Savini and he does a fantastic job. There’s not much point in going into detail, since most people will have seen this. Zombies are taking over the world, biting everything they can get hold of, thus infecting more and more people and creating more and more zombies. Our small group of heroes/survivors take refuge in a shopping mall and try to figure out how to beat the increasing hordes of living dead. 5 out of 5.

Shivers (David Cronenberg / Canada 1975)
David Cronenberg is (or was anyway…since he has gone a bit straight in recent years) a weird one and Shivers is a strange film indeed. An already sleazy doctor has developed some sort of parasite with medical benefits. The original intentions were probably reasonably noble, but something goes wrong and the people infected with the parasite develops strong violent and sexual urges (this is an early Cronenberg film after all). It all takes place on Starliner Island, a custom-built luxury apartment complex for wealthy people. They then turn into sex-crazed and bloodthirsty zombies. Yes. That’s all. Just great. 5 out of 5.

Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik / USA 1983)
The makers of Sleepaway Camp seem determined to call it ground-breaking, especially by referring to the surprise ending and the fact that it doesn’t rely on gory effects to achieve it’s chills. But, when it comes down to it, the ending is really the only interesting bit and I imagine the true reason behind the relatively blood-free killings is because they couldn’t afford the effects. Anyway, it’s the old kids at summer camp thing. A weird young girl and her cocky male cousin goes off to camp. Soon someone starts killing off the councellors/staff one by one. Who dunnit? Add some surreal back-story about parents dying and an insane aunt with some twisted gender issues and you’re pretty much there. It’s not great, not even particularly good. And the “surprise ending”. Well, I guess I’d recommend you see it just for the “huh? What the fuck! Why?” experience. 2 out of 5.

Black Christmas (Bob Clark / USA 1974)
Another classic that I hadn’t seen before, Bob Clark’s yuletide horror often claims to be the first stalk n’slash horror movie using subjective point-of-view of the killer, here used exclusively throught the film. It certainly doesn’t feel like an indie film. It’s very professionally made. Thi sdoesn’t stop it from being very creepy at times, though. Coming from Clark this is a little bit surprising, seeing as he is most known for being the “brain” behind Porky’s and Porky’s 2. Anyway, it’s Christmas time. A prank caller is harassing a sorority house with obscene phone calls. At the same time, the girls of the house start disappearing. Since they’re all about to go home for Christmas anyway, this causes a bit of confusion until everyone realises that the prank caller is also a crazy killer. But who is it? Whooooooo? Is it the crazy piano-playing boyfriend with anger issues? Hmmmm. Definitely worth a watch. 4 out of 5.

The Crazies (George A. Romero / USA 1973)
Geez. I thought Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were bleak. Then I watched The Crazies. Through some mishap, an extremely contagious virus called Trixie(intended to be used as bio-chemical weapon) is released in a small town. The symptoms of getting infected by Trixie? – well, either you die or you go crazy. The army is called in and suddenly the whole town find themselves being rounded up by soldiers in white jumpsuits and gas masks and horded into the local high school at gun-point. One small group of people manage to escape and try to figure out what the hell is going on. The men in white jumpsuits are having none of it. All “crazies” must be detained or shot on sight. Meanwhile, the government is planning to drop a nuclear bomb on the town in order to “take care of the problem” and contain Trixie. Eek. As usual with Romero this is very straight in your face, with emphasis on the realistic rather than the fantastic. There are no over-the-top gory special effects, just a gazillion blood squibs for all the deaths by gunshot. The acting is a bit iffy at times, but this is still a truly disturbing and brilliant film. 5 out of 5.

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