Friday, June 17, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Night of the Living Dead and Deadgirl

Been a busy day, and the sun will be up in not too long, so these will be some short reviews!

The first movie doesn't even really need a review, it's Night of the Living Dead, the seminal zombie film from George Romero. I don't think you could find someone who doesn't at least have a vague understanding of the film.

A classic.
This black and white classic is about the night the recently dead rise up and attack the living, causing panic and hysteria. The movie follows a small group of people who hole up in a house to try and stay alive, but inevitably mistrust, hate, and fear tear everyone apart shortly before the zombies do. While it may not have aged well, its still an effective movie and a timeless portrait of the time. Subtle undertones of racism and fear of the enemy at home color the undead and the survivors in interesting lights. Of course by the end of the movie the viewer is acutely aware that when confronted with frightening situations, humanities greatest threat is its own inherit prejudices and hate we have for one another. We will always be our own worst enemies.

This movie was the jumping point of a cultural phenomenon that has lasted generations, Romero's depiction of the walking dead would spawn plenty of sequels and countless imitations. Its a cultural icon, and a horror foundation stone.

"Gruuuhave you heard of our lord jesus christ?"
Following Night of the Living Dead was another zombie film, this one a decidedly different approach to the idea, but with some of the same themes running throughout. Deadgirl.

The premise of the movie is that two outcasts from the high school social scene decide to cut during a fire drill. Looking to find a nice cool place to drink some beer and get out of the sun, they opt for a condemned insane asylum. Its in the basement that they find a sealed room, which when opened, reveal a naked women chained to a table. A girl who cannot die. A zombie.

For better "growing up" horror, see Teeth or Ginger Snaps.
Deadgirl is an interesting movie to say the least. Off the bat the premise makes the movie seem to be a base exploitation film, looking to shock and titillate more then anything. Actual viewing the movie is a different matter, the movie keeps most things off screen, and isn't looking to visually shock you as much as emotionally shock you.

For instance, The Last House on the Left from a few days ago. The original version of that movie exists basically to show you naked ladies, and terrible things happening to naked ladies. The revenge tale the last fourth of the movie focuses on is almost an afterthought, the typical ending expected from an American horror movie. Happy and brutally retributive. Deadgirl doesn't put it all up front, yes some nakedness is seen, but the sex is always through the eyes of the protagonist who thinks whats happening is appalling. The camera never lingers, the movie seems more interested in giving you time to mull over whats happening.

What would you do if you found this? If you didn't say, "Call the police," then I have some bad news for you.
You have the protagonist, Rickie, who refuses to rape the zombie girl, and J.T., who feels this is what the world owes them. To J.T. this is the best thing they will ever have, and they would be fools to pass it up. As J.T. spends more and more time with Deadgirl, Rickie grows more and more despondent and angry about whats happening. Soon after J.T. brings down another friend, Rickie tries to break Deadgirl free, but is interrupted by J.T. returning to where he now basically lives.

Its interesting to watch. The two who committed to the act of rape become increasingly more desperate for Rickie to either join in or express approval, and even more desperate to maintain the status of their operation. Rickie meanwhile grows more and more desperate to set things right while battling the loyalty he feels for his friends. Things eventually spiral out of control, of course, and the bodies begin to pile and we finally find Rickie's tipping point for his morality. Honestly his tipping point comes across as kinda lame after the events of the movie, negates most of his character.
The bad news is that you are a bad person, and should feel bad.
Its not a perfect movie by any means, but I respect that it at least tried to be different. Rather then make it overly gory or titillating, the movie wanted to mull over morality and philosophy. It wanted you to consider the darker side of the teenage male, and the bonds of friendship. It doesn't do these things all that well, but it does try, and that's what matters. It was interesting, it was different, and it let its concept do the work rather then being in-your-face about it like so many other movies. That's all I ask for in a movie, do something interesting and entertain me in some way. They also cast J.T. very well, never have I seen such a sketchy guy.

So, two short reviews because I will die if I don't get some sleep! Tomorrow brings another Zombie movie with Die You Zombie Bastards! As always, feel free to check out the full 150 Days of Halloween schedule with links to (fuller) reviews for the movies I have seen so far.


  1. Whoa scary pics you got there.

    So this is the foundation of all these zombie-oriented stuffs?



  2. Love your content. Zombies <3

  3. Very nice and complete post. Added as favs!

  4. Two more zombie movies for the "to watch" list, thanks.

  5. There's just something about black and white horror pics that adds an air of legitimacy to the whole thing. Love Notld

  6. never heard of, deadgirl seems intruiging

  7. wow that is some scary crap.

  8. Have you seen super 8 by chance? has a great homage to romero stashed in the credits, best part of the movie.

  9. @Jim, I did, and I loved they called it Romero Chemical! I actually talked about Super 8 in my last post.

  10. I enjoy zombie movies but man, some are just bad, others are so good. There's never a middle ground.