Night of the Living Dead, Dir George Romero 1968
A young couple drives way out into the sticks to place flowers on the grave the girl's father. As she is praying, and he is complaining, they notice a man wandering between the headstones who doesn't appear to be playing with a full deck. The stranger grabs for the girl and ends up killing the young man as he tries to defend her. The girl drives away and ends up at an abandoned house with another young man who tells her of the nightmare he has already survived. As they board themselves into the home they are beset by, and see if you can follow me here, the reanimated corpses of the deceased that have spontaneously risen from their graves and are eating the flesh of the living.
I joke, but of course Night of the Living Dead is about as seminal a horror film as you can find. Romero took a fledgling subgenre and turned it into basic horror cannon. I am always impressed with this film. It is an indie horror production that had to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of eighteen dollars to produce and yet it really is a landmark feat of filmmaking and must have scared the holy beJesus out of audiences just discovering zombie cinema (though if you watch the film, the word zombie is never used). I do ultimately find the film a bit dull, but I like the fact that you can see Romero being influenced by the sci-fi horror that had dominated the genre for so long; in its twilight by the time of NotLD's release. The music and the performances seem plucked from a giant bug movie. I do enjoy the ending and it's fun to work out how the events in this film set in motion Romero's ultimate zombie apocalypse saga.
The Evil Dead, Dir Sam Raimi 1981
A group of college students head to a cabin in the woods for a relaxing weekend. If only they had known what diabolic events lay in wait for them in those woods, they probably would have gone to the beach instead. Though creepy happenings begin occurring almost as soon as they walk through the door, the nightmare really begins once they discover a mysterious book called the necronomicon and make the unfathomably stupid decision to read from it. One by one, they succumb to demonic possession
and ... tree molestation until only young Ash remains. Can he survive the night and make it back to civilization un-zombified?
I had to watch The Evil Dead quite a few times in the last to review the Anchor Bay Blu-ray release. The more I watched, the more my crush on it was rekindled. I've always liked it, but I don't think I had revisited it since becoming the gluttonous horrorphile I am today. Sam Raimi, much like Romero, was able to take next to no budget and create a work of horror art that has been elevated to the distinction of classic. Never mind that the film breaks horror gender barriers by making the final girl a dude whose 80 minute torturing would be considered misogynistic were he a she, but the film also uses incredible camera work and stellar makeup as a beautiful compensation for their meager means. I am blown away by how good this film is every time I see it and I believe the Blu-ray will henceforth share many happy reunions with my player.
Burning Bright, Dir Carlos Brooks 2010.
From pure horror bliss, to pure garbage. A girl and her autistic brother batten down and prepare to ride out a hurricane. As if this awesome force of nature weren't enough to contend with, the girl's brother is running a zoo on the same property as the house and the recently-acquired tiger somehow gets loose in the house. So now, as this tiger hasn't eaten in weeks, it becomes a battle to survive both the elements and the two ton predator in the dining room.
I cannot adequately express how awful Burning Bright really is. It opens with star Briana Evigan reading the William Blake poem The Tyger (the titular inspiration for this film) in a way that makes me seriously lament the failure of the American public school system; her pronouncing the word symmetry as "sim-i-tri" is especially groan-inducing. But more than that, the tiger's better moments are CG and the sharpest character in the film is the autistic kid. We get a lot of scenes wherein the tiger is doing things tigers either wouldn't or couldn't do all while we wonder why the sister doesn't break through what is obviously particle board blocking their exits. At one point she leaves her brother in the house-in full view of the tiger-crawls out a window, and tries to start a car to leave. When it won't start, she goes back in and says to the little brother, "I would never leave you." Are you sure? Because it looks like you just tried to. The moments that aren't aggravatingly moronic are hilariously amateur. Don't waste a Netflix rental on this unmitigated crap masquerading as a creature feature.