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Posts Tagged ‘Night of the Comet’

The new season of Stranger things has hit Netflix.  It’s 1984 and the kids are dressing up as Ghostbusters for Halloween.  Then, there is a gratuitous shot of a cinema showing The Terminator, it seemed like a good time to look back at my favourite movies of 1984:stranger things season two

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Wes Craven’s horror thriller about serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams.A Nightmare On Elm Street

Beverly Hills Cop: Eddie Murphy’s best movie role. Culture clash action comedy about a Chicago cop to travels to Beverly Hills catch a killer. Beverly Hills Cop

Blood Simple: The Coen Brothers criminally under-seen debut about a rich man who hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her lover (obviously things don’t go to plan). Blood Simple

Dune: David Lynch’s criminally underrated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s influential sci-fi novel. Dune

Ghostbusters: If I need to explain Ghostbusters, give up now!Ghostbusters

Repo Man: Alex Cox’s bizarre sci-fi fantasy about a punk who becomes a Repo Man.gnp-0428-dvd.jpg

Night of the Comet: Two valley girls, a trucker and a group of mad scientists are amongst a small group of survivors after a comet wipes out most of the population and turns the rest into zombies.night of the comet mac10

Streets of Fire: “A Rock & Roll Fable” Walter Hill wrote and directed the story of a mercenary who is hired to rescue his now famous ex-girlfriend who has been kidnapped by a motorcycle gang.Streets of Fire

The Company of Wolves: Neil Jordan’s Gothic horror fairy tale based on a story by Angela Carter.  A clever reworking of Little Red Riding Hood that is possibly a allegory on the end of innocence. The Company of Wolves

The Terminator: James Cameron’s seminal Tec-Noir, Cyberpunk thriller about a killer cyborg who travels back in time to change the future.

The Terminator

Other 1984 movies to check out: 1984, Tightrope, Paris Texas, Top Secret, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, The Bounty, The Killing Fields, Against all Odds, The Natural, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Purple Rain, This Is Spinal Tap.

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Heather over at Man I Love Films has published a list of her “TOP TEN FAVORITE POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIES” I started replying but soon realised it was just a list of other movies that I would recommend, so I decided to post my own alternate list instead. As an alternate list I have avoided all the films heather chose, The Mad Max Trilogy, 28 Days Later, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men would all have made my list. Escape From New York may have made the list and Reign of Fire would have been worthy of an honourable mention. As anyone who listens to Wittertainment (if you don’t know what Wittertainment is google it) knows, Post Apocalyptic is an oxymoron as there is no “post apocalypse”, after an apocalypse there is nothing! So putting that cheery prospect aside we will continue to use the term Post Apocalyptic as it is the accepted name of this sub genre.

Planet of the Apes (1968) Everyone knows all about Planet of the Apes, most people have seen at least one of the movies and many know the twist at the end, but go back and watch it again and remind yourself just how great it is.

Death Race 2000 (1975) I saw this movie when I was very young, too young! I loved it at the time but didn’t really get it. Following a financial crisis and a military coup United States has become a fascist police state. The most popular sport is the Annual Transcontinental Road Race, a race where drivers score points for killing pedestrians as they race from coast to coast. The acting is terrible and the production cheep, but it has aged surprisingly thanks to a simple subtext that makes it an effective political satire.

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Heather favours the 2004 remake that I must admit I like but the original is my all time favourite Zombie movie. At its heart it is a clever satire and allegory of modern consumer society but forgetting that its just a great horror movie.

Hardware (1990) Written and directed by Richard Stanley and based on a short (7-page) comic strip called SHOK published in 2000 AD by Steve MacManus and Kevin O’Neill. Set in a dystopian world ravaged by war, the population is living of the scraps of the dead and decaying civilisation. A soldier retuning home for the Christmas cease-fire, gives the head of a long destroyed robot to his sculptor girlfriend, before long it begins to reassembles itself the body count begins to rise. There is an inherent honesty in the low budget simplicity of the movie that is as sumptuous in its grime and bleakness as it is in its sense of desperation.

Delicatessen (1991) Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s feature début is set in a strange retro post apocalyptic France. A bizarre little film about a butcher and landlord who finds an interesting and cannibalistic way of feeding his customers. Like so many films of the genre, it is about a fight for survival, but in this case its on a smaller and more intimate scale.

The Matrix (1999) One of Heaters honourable mentions but deserving a place on my list as a hugely influential film and one of the best films of the 90’s. A lot of The Matrix is set within “The Matrix” so it is easy to forget the real world scenes onboard the Nebuchadnezzar. Like The terminator movies the glossy Sci-Fi is enhanced by the grim reality of the dystopian future. 

Doomsday (2008) Doomsday is a bit of a mess of a movie but it such a good fun mess it really doesn’t matter. Made up of multiple set pieces including shootouts, car chases and sword fights (inspired by movies as varied as Escape from New York, Aliens, Mad Max 2 & 3 and Gladiator) the final result is a little disjointed but each element is extremely well made. At the heart of the story and holing it all together is Rhona Mitra in her best role to date as a sort of female Snake Plissken. Think of it as a more polished and high quality take on a Enzo G. Castellari style movie. It actually gets better each time I watch it. 

The Road (2009) Post Apocalyptic movies are often gung-ho survival of the fittest stories in the new world order, The Road is very different. A melancholic and chilling story of a world dying with a whimper told through a grim and gritty story of a farther and sons fight to survive. It sounds depressing but it strangely isn’t.

Stake Land (2010) Thanks to a certain franchise of sparkly, vegetarian, teenage vampires the genre has taken a bit of a beating in recent years, Stake Land redresses the balance with the style, brutality and themes of a zombie film except with vampires. Like many great genre movies it is enhanced by a strong subtext, reflecting the time it was made, the tone of the movie is bleak but with a small but vital glimmer of hope, in other words a reflection of the world today.

Perfect Sense (2011) Like the road Perfect Sense tells a story of society going out with a whimper and not a bang. Starting with taste, people start losing their senses. Concentrating on a chef and a scientist (Ewan McGregor and Eva Green) who fall in love as the epidemic unfolds it could have been soppy, disjointed and depressing, it isn’t.

Here are a few more movies that are set in Post Apocalyptic future that are worth a look: Monsters, Zombieland, The Hunger Games, The Book of Eli, A Boy and His Dog, Night of the Comet. And don’t forget The Terminator and Terminator 2, set in the present day but featuring characters who have travelled back in time from a post apocalypse future. There are also a lot of films set in a dystopian future that probably don’t fit the Post Apocalyptic tag, they include: Metropolis, Brazil, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Rollerball, Eraserhead, The City of Lost Children.

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Having just re-watched the underrated Land of the Dead (2005) I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the genre in particular what makes a zombie movie.

Early zombie movies concentrated on zombie masters and voodoo rituals: In White Zombie (1932): Béla (Dracula) Lugosi plays a Voodoo master who is employed by plantation owner Charles Beaumont in order to lure the woman he loves Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) away from her fiancé Neil Parker (John Harron). Lugosi’s character known only as ‘Murder’ turns Madeleine into a zombie using magic and the power of his mind. Things never go to plan when you employ an evil Voodoo master and it soon transpires he has his own plans for Madeleine. I walked with a Zombie (1943): Director Jacques Tourneur is probably best know for the brilliant original version of Cat People from 1942, he followed it up a year later with I walked with a Zombie an eerie and atmospheric mystery thriller that is dreamlike and often poetic in its approach to the genre. It is the story of a Canadian nurse, Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) who is sent to a small West Indian island to tend for a young comatose woman. She soon uncovers the voodoo that is practiced on the island.

Those who have a narrow idea of what constitutes a zombie tend to forget that the now accepted idea of flesh eating walking dead was actually invented by George A Romero in Night Of The Living Dead (1968): Zombie movies had died off (terrible pun intended!) until George A Romero reinvented, revolutionized and reanimated (the bad puns just keep coming, sorry) the genre. Romero’s ultra low budget movie is about a widespread outbreak of flesh eating zombies. The reason the film works so well is that it is more claustrophobic and personal; it does this by concentrating on a small group of survivors. Using TV and radio broadcasts to show what is going on away from their personal struggle it is as if we are one on them, only seeing what they see of the outside world. But the film is far more important than that because it set the rules for the modern zombie. They are literally the walking dead, they have little brain activity and “live” on instinct, their only aim to feed in turn creating more of their number as the victims die and are reanimated as zombies. The un-dead are slow moving and shuffle along making it seemingly easy to escape an aspect of their character that has caused much derision more recently. The film was in its day considered to contain graphic violence; this manifests itself more as gore than actual violence, something that found its way into other horror sub genres in the subsequent twenty years. Moving on from the Vietnam references of the first film the second and best of Romero’s ‘Dead’ series Dawn Of The Dead (1978) is at times a satire about consumerism making full use of its shopping mall setting. The movie follows all the same rules as the first film including one that seems to exist to this day, the best was to destroy a zombie is severe trauma to the head. Whether it be a cricket bat (Shaun of the Dead) or a bullet (most modern zombie movies). The idea of shutting oneself away from the problems of the outside world has relevance outside the plot as do so many of the other themes explored like race, greed and selfishness. Some of the themes explored in each of the five films in the series so far have direct correlations to the time they were made. This second film made in the late 70’s has more of a sense of hope and optimism than the first and most recent of the series.

The new bread of zombie are created by a man made virus the zombies are fast angry and violent, the best example of this is probably 28 Days Later (2002): The new zombies are compelled as much by rage as any need to feed. Directed my Danny Boyle and written by author Alex Garland in Their second collaboration. It was garlands first story written directly for the screen and is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that has that combines action, horror, drama and thriller but retains the personal story of the Romero films. It spawned the inferior but not bad sequel 28 Weeks Later and a third film, the imaginatively titled 28 Months later is rumoured to be in the early stages of development. Will there be a 28 Years later? The photography is notably different to a Hollywood film giving it a real feel of something that little bit different. Scenes of a deserted London are haunting and brilliantly executed. Resident Evil (2002) was made and released around the same time as 28 Days later. Resident Evil is based on the popular video game series of the same name. The film has been dismissed as similar to other video game spin-offs like Tomb Rader, although not as good as the other films I have mentioned it still as some merit within the genre. Playing out as more of an action film it follows one main character throughout, Alice (Milla Jovovich) in the way that a computer game does. Using Amnesia as a plot device an element of mystery is included. The cleverest thing about the film is that the narrative is a collection of set pieces that end abruptly and move on to the next when a goal is achieved, much like in a video game. The zombies are similar in to those in 28 Days later, they where created by a man made virus and exhibit more strength and speed than seen in traditional zombie films, an element essential for the action. The film has had three sequels Apocalypse and Extinction and Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution is set for release next year.

The Spanish horror film [•REC] (2007) uses the increasingly popular found footage idea. REC follows a television reporter, Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman, Pablo (Pablo Rosso) who are shadowing a Barcelona fire crew, they get trapped inside a building of infected people following what appeared to be a routine callout. Making full use of the filming technique the movie is full of both the gore and the scares a horror movie needs. The cause of the outbreak seems to have a foot in two camps, the zombies are clearly the result of an infection but the latter stages of the film introduces a religious element as we discover the owner of one of the apartments was an agent of the Vatican who was researching the virus responsible for demonic possession. Putting all this aside, for me it is the best zombie movie since Dawn Of The Dead.

These movies represent three or possibly four different types of zombie movie, for a completely different spin on the genre take a look at director Ryuhei Kitamura’s seminal Japanese action/horror film Versus (2000). For zombies that can run but are otherwise follow the Romero rules see the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. There has been much debate around The Evil Dead trilogy (1981, 1987, 1992) and if the demonic possession in these movies constitutes zombies, whether they are zombie movies or not is irrelevant they are just great movies. Comedy horror is a notoriously difficult combination to pull of, there are two zombie comedies that do it perfectly: Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). The main reason they work is simple, they stick to the basic ideas (rules for want of a better word) of the genre, this and they are perfectly cast and painfully funny. One final film to look out for Night of the Comet (1984). This is an 80’s teen/horror/comedy that works well as a parody of the cheesier side of low budget horror. It doesn’t have anything new or original to say and won’t change the world but it is good fun.

So where do you stand on the zombie debate; what are you favourite zombie movies, do you like your zombies fast or slow and are the infected zombies?

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