His name virtually synonymous with the cinematic zombie, George A. Romero’s Dead series rewrote the rules of the undead monster. In the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero’s core group of survivors battle each other as well as the zombies in a film which very much reflects the time in which it was made. As one of the group fighting for survival, Barbra is the epitome of the defenseless female. She spends the majority of the film either panicking to the detriment of those around her or catatonic. Her death, via consumption by her zombified brother, is almost a welcome reprieve from her complete ineffectualness.
Endings are crucial in horror. During the reign of the Motion Picture Production Code (1934-1968), evil had to be punished, which obviously dictated a certain kind of ending—an inevitable and often abrupt closure that restored the status quo. (Remember the evil Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed , struck by lightning at the end, a conclusion most definitely not in the novel.)
It wasn’t until 1968, after the demise of the Code, that modern horror saw its first truly shocking and nihilistic ending in George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead. The protagonist of the film (Ben [Duane Jones]), who was the sole survivor of a night of carnage after a group trapped in a farmhouse were attacked by ghouls arisen from their graves, was shot in the head by a posse “cleaning up” the staggering zombies. There was closure here, but it wasn’t about the destruction of the monster but of the good guy. And, if order was restored (which is arguable), it was indiscriminately brutal. Then came the slashers of the 70s and 80s and, as great as many of them are, they did usher in the kind of ending that unfortunately still prevails in much horror: monster dies; monster isn’t dead; monster is even more angry; cue sequel. Such endings can be shocking, but the shock is cheap, and it really isn’t that shocking after you’ve watched enough of them. Read more
I should preface this by stating that I was traumatized by Girl Scout camp long before I saw any of these films. I was an awkwardly shy kid away from home for the first time in the middle of nowhere with only one friend. The food sucked, the lake was icky (reminded me of “The Raft” segment from Creepshow 2 ), and I swear I pulled latrine duty every time. Frankly, I might take a night at Camp Bloodbath before I would go back to Girl Scout camp. By no means do I shudder from the great outdoors, but let’s just say I would take my chances in an urban jungle long before I would canoe down the Cahulawassee River looking to play Dueling Banjos with the locals. From a horror film stand point, I just feel as if things work out better for folks in the city than in the woods. Whether it is a vacation getaway in the woods, a week at summer camp, or some time to hone your cheerleading skills, these films offer little respite for the weary. As we embark on the summer of 2016, maybe some of these films will help you decide whether you would rather camp along the Appalachian Trail or book a room at the Hyatt this year.
We live in an era in which it seems every horror is caught on video tape. Presumably that renders those horrors clear and unambiguous. Pictures don’t lie, right? Except it seems that every picture, every scene of footage that makes its way onto a news broadcast or social media, has a thousand interpretations. On the night of July 7, when five police officers were fatally shot in Dallas during a night of peaceful protest, Fox News was showing live feed of the demonstrations and happened to catch bodies clad in uniform lying on the ground, before anyone knew what was going on. The anchor, Megyn Kelly, clearly not sure what to make of the footage, said uncertainly, “We don’t know what we’re seeing here.” And, in truth, it seems we never know what we’re seeing when some newly videotaped horror makes it into the public domain. Or, we do (think we) know what we’re seeing but our neighbor sees something entirely different. The hope of transparency, of the unmediated “real” –especially the truth of a sin or a crime—always eludes us. In fact, now everything is caught on tape, it seems especially to elude us.
And that’s where Agatha Christie comes in. In every detective novel she ever wrote, all of which begin with a crime (usually murder), Christie offers us “the truth.” We know exactly what happened, we know how, and we know why—usually laid out for us by the incomparable Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. Read more
Review: A Superb Tour for the History Buff, Horror Fan, or the Adventurous!
I go to Massachusetts regularly and I kept meaning to get to the Lizzie Borden house but it just never happened. On this date, the stars aligned as my biannual Seabird & Whale Tales Trip with the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) was cancelled and I had all the time in the world to run down to Fall River today. So I packed up my stuff and headed out. What followed was that I was excited, entertained, and educated by our excellent tour guide, Danielle (who is definitely “one of us” judging by her acute sense of humor, her Robert Englund tattoo, and her knowledge of the CON circuit).
Let me begin by saying that my tour guide was stellar and really made the experience special. Her wealth of knowledge and personal interjections were both informative and often hysterical. The tour guide never tells you with any certainty what happened in the house, they are careful to stick to the facts and let you come up with your own judgment. The inside of the home is fashioned with period pieces (which was a living replica of my grandmother’s house…down to the caned chairs and abundant doilies). The furniture is not original (thank goodness, as that would be gross) but there are sprinklings of original woodwork and belongings throughout. Read more