Nights of Terror

This movie title could be misleading as it has apparently been released under a number of different titles including Zombi 3, Burial Ground, Nights of Terror, Zombi Horror, The Zombie Dead and its original Italian title Le Notti Del Terrore which seems closest to Nights of Terror.

burial-ground
The Poster
The imagery is pretty classic, shadowing figures menacing the viewer, a stark wasteland and a glowing red moon in the sky. We have the classic hand of the dead bursting through the ground and there staring us down is the face of horror. Bits of flesh still cling to its face, muscle and bone exposed in other places. It’s gleaming skull looking metallic, unbreakable and unstoppable.

Without a closer look it’s a great work of horror art but I wonder why all the figures are simply standing still. Not one of them is making a move to come at us. And for me the moon? is a little too much like the sun, or possibly a very juicy orange. Still, if I were looking for a horror flick to pick up in a 1980’s video store, this would probably get my attention. And after all, that’s what the art was made for, to stand out among the other firms on the shelves of whatever video rental shop you happened to be at.

The Good
The plot revolves around a family in a mansion where a scientist had been working. His research unwittingly unleashed the dead who promptly consumed him and then decided to dine on everyone else.

The villa the movie was shot in has the classic feel of a lot of horror films and games. I’m reminded of the mansion from Resident Evil.

The Bad
There are some seriously terrible transitions and shots in this movie.
Early in the movie the mother of the boy Michael pokes her head into his room to see if he’s ok. He’s covered entirely by blankets except for his head. The mother ducks back out of the room and the camera returns to Michael’s face. His eyes bulge open and suddenly the film cuts to the scantily clad ass of another character doing a sexy dance for her man.

I almost snorted my coffee through my nose when I saw this. The “kid” is actually a twenty-five year old who was cast in order for the film makers to avoid some of the rules regarding the use of children in scenes of violence and sexuality. Fair enough, but that hair cut is ridiculous.

He looks like the guy from the Starburst Berries and Cream ad.

Can hardly tell the difference. Amiright?

maxresdefault michael-from-burial-ground-1

 

 

 

There’s a seriously weird incestuous thing about this kid where he starts feeling up his mother and you have the feeling she’s half into it before finally pushing him away.

The Ugly
Some of the shots of zombies look well enough in certain shots. There are real maggots being used on the creature’s faces. But for the most part they don’t do much to terrify. They seem more like Halloween decorations than anything else.

It’s notable that there are plenty of shots of the dead walking around in broad daylight or in well-lit rooms. Where this helps us see them more clearly it also means we can see the makeup for what it is more clearly as well.

As with many of the Italian zombie flicks, these zombies are not simply dead things running around eating people. They reason, use weapons, even set traps to kill the people in the house.
The movie ends.

That’s it. Everyone gets eaten and the movie is over with no real understanding of why these things were up and about doing their thing and no real message or metaphor. The movie is literally just some mild sex and violence and not much else.

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Anger of the Dead

Anger of the Dead is an Italian short film clocking in at just fifteen minutes so you have no excuse not to watch it.

It’s got a lot going for it, good colorization, the staging and storyline are easy to follow regardless of the language so the visuals work well.

My one complaint is the makeup effects which basically look good. But a great effect is one you don’t notice. If I see a character with scars and think, wow that actor has some scars, I’ve been convinced. If I see a character and I think, that actor is wearing a lot of makeup, I’m instantly taken out of the movie. So my one complaint here is that the makeup was a bit thick at times.

Click here in case the embed doesn’t work.

When you’re done you can even check out a short piece on how the movie was made! It shows how the director tried to hint at a larger world and some of the smart decisions he made in order to be sure the movie had the look and feel he was really going for.

Zeder: Revenge of the Dead

Oh boy! It’s 1983 and we get to dive in to the world of 80’s horror.

ZederZeder Revenge of the Dead
The Poster:
The two posters here reflect the Italian and American releases of the film. Released as Zeder in Italy in 1983 and Revenge of the Dead in 1984 here in the U.S. The Italian poster feels a bit goofy to me only because of the demented smile on the character in the Z. He almost seems like a Bella Lugosi-like figure and doesn’t frighten at all. Then again, at the time, the maniacal smile might have been more easily accepted by audiences.

The American poster feels more generic to me and almost reminds me of other painted pop media at the time like Garbage Pail Kids or Metal album covers like for Iron Maiden. Even the title sounds generic. It feels like a typical repackaging of a foreign film for U.S. audiences.

The Plot:
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a copy of this in English and watched it in Italian so forgive me if I’m a bit off here.

The dead are brought back to life when they are placed in particular areas called K-zones. The start of the movie is all a bit jumpy to me and it’s a bit tough to follow the narrative. An old woman is attacked by a spring loaded zombie, then a young girl in a hospital? orphanage? is for some reason taken to the basement after something tries to burst through the floor of her room. She’s on an upper floor though and people below don’t see anything so I’m left thinking this was some sort of magic or psychic connection?

In the basement she is attacked but by … something… and some workers start digging only to discover a corpse identified as Dr. Zeder. He turns out to be the person who discovered these areas where the dead can be brought back or at least someone who wrote about them.

Horror ensues as a writer tires to uncover the mystery behind these strange zones and encounters a secret organization trying to keep the whole thing under wraps. 

The Good:
Aside from the jarring opening the plot is actually pretty good and the story benefits from the sense of mystery it instills. A lot of the acting is more realistic to me than many other Italian horror flicks of the period because they get so badly dubbed over into English. It’s actually a pleasure to hear the original Italian.

The Bad: 
Not being able to watch it in English isn’t so bad but I wish I’d found a copy with subtitles so I could get into the characters and the story in a bit more detail. That’s not fault of the film makers of course.

One other thing, if you’re looking for your classic zombies, look elsewhere. The living dead hardly appear in this film at all and when we do encounter them they are more the supernatural undead killer types rather than the classic flesh eaters we all love so well.

The Ugly:
A good example of how the film has aged but one which still sort of works is when the main character discovers the writings of Dr. Zeder on an ink ribbon. (He’d gotten the typewriter as a gift from his girlfriend.) The scene is really well put together so that the audience can see just what the man finds and how he finds it. It might look a bit odd to younger audiences unfamiliar with typewriters and ink ribbons but it was so clearly shot at the time that even they should be able to see what’s going on without too much trouble.

(Oh my god am I getting old?)

Zombi 2

I’ve mentioned this movie a number of times and even done some art based on the characters in it so I finally decided to sit down and write a bit more about it.

Zombie_Flesh_eaters
The Poster:
There’s no way around it, Worm eye is the quintessential zombie character for a lot of fanboys and is the defining character from this movie because of all the promotion featuring this image. It’s a brilliant piece of horrifying makeup effects that gets nastier the longer you look at it. As posters go it’s fairly uninspiring but it’s been around long enough to have become rather iconic.

The Good:
The plot revolves around an island where the dead are rising. The island has all the trappings of great classic horror stories. A mad doctor, centuries old graves, spooked natives, legends of a  curse and hysterical people who want nothing but to get of the island.

Throughout the movie shocking special effects and scenes of brutality really turn the stomach creating a rising sense of tension that makes you want to turn away even when you can’t. I’ve always felt a heightened sense of realism from 70’s horror films. In large part because of the natural lighting that was often used. The color saturation in a lot of films today sometimes seems unnaturally rich or so far altered that it’s hard to feel the realism.

The Bad:
It’s pretty easy to sum this up because it’s usually the same for Fulci films:
– bad music
– terrible dubbing
– unrealistic dialogue

In this case we got a really special zombie treat, a zombie fighting a shark which I’m sorry, I know it’s an iconic image but it’s just preposterous. Not too preposterous for me to do an illustration of it though!

Click here to check that out.

The Ugly:
In this case it’s the ugly business of rights and titles and how film promotion works.

In Italy, Dawn of the Dead was released under the title “Zombi.” So, when Italian director Lucio Fulci released his film Zombie 2 it was apparently a sequel to Dawn of the Dead. Although I like to think Fulci was merely making an artistic statement I think it’s a lot more likely he was riding the coat tails of another successful movie.

Just based on the title alone I can understand how the film could be sold as a sequel. Story wise it just doesn’t make any sense.

In Dawn of the Dead, we see that the world has been overrun by zombies. We know this because every single place we are shown is devoid of organized government, services, police, and military presence. It’s entirely possible that some places on the planet and other places in the US where the story takes place, were not overrun. However Romero’s storytelling is meant to suggest it. He furthers this idea when we see in Day of the Dead, the official Romero sequel, that Florida is gone the military has fallen apart.

If Zombi 2 were actually a sequel, taking place after Dawn of the Dead, then the ending of the movie wouldn’t make any sense. At the end of Zombi 2, we see that a boat has reached New York Harbor and the zombies are infecting people in large numbers with walkers streaming across the bridges into Manhattan. This being Manhattan completely untouched by any sort of disaster or emergency like say the dead rising from their graves and taking over the world. Actually what’s suggested here is that Zombi 2 is really a prequel to Dawn of the Dead which does the job of explaining in more detail how the dead came to rise from their graves. It’s suggested in Night of the Living Dead that radiation from a space probe returning from Venus is the cause for the dead returning but if we consider Fulci’s version, it suggests a totally different origin.

Even though it’s fun to think of these movies as being related honestly they just aren’t. Marketing and titles and the money making that goes with filmmaking sort of overtook the artistry of two great but totally separate zombie masterpieces.