Mr. George A. Romero

Some years ago now, I wrote a rambling blog post that was titled “Closing the Loop On Romero.” I still have what I wrote but I’ll spare us the reposting of it. The gist of it was that when I was in the seventh grade, in my Advanced English class, we watched two films, a 1955 film titled “Les Diaboliques,” in which a wife and mistress plot to get rid of the abusive man they’ve been sharing at their digs at a French boarding school owned by the wife, and a 1968 film titled “Night of the Living Dead,” in which a group of people hole up in an abandoned house in order to escape the “living dead” rising up out of the cemetery, whom seem to be interested in dining on human flesh, which makes it sound sophomoric when it is, in fact, completely adult, and despite our seeming cultural desensitization to such horrors, if you engage your brain and think about what you’re watching, it remains a completely terrifying film.

These two films taught me to understand films as art. These two films began my fascination with films as art. It was one of those moments in life when the world changed for me, expanded, deepened, became more interesting.

Imagine the world if George Romero had never made the film, “Night of the Living Dead.” It is an art film. It has been selected for historical preservation by the Library of Congress. “Night of the Living Dead” has a lot to teach us about the ways in which people interact with one another. It isn’t the first so-called zombie film, it is, however, the zombie film that irrevocably changed our cultural landscape.

Rest in peace, Mr. Romero.

Westworld.

I didn’t want to bump my own book post to write about anything else right now, “Don’t bury the lead”, but I’m going to repost all that when the paperback is available, and then again when the poetry book comes out so it’ll be right there, and the premiere of HBO’s “Westworld” was that amazing.

The first novella that I wrote was a western, one that I’ve since decided to rewrite because I saw the potential for something else in it, but, what that western looked like in my head, is “Westworld.” The colors, the mood, the vibe, something isn’t quite right, oh, but it could be. It could be so right, maybe it will be? The people visiting Westworld sure hope so, whatever their idea of that is.

This show has levels upon layers upon tiers and zones. The premise, a fantasy world where the super wealthy can go to play cowboy, act out their wild west fantasies, good or bad, and of course, they aren’t all good, an idea originally brought to us in 1973 by Michael Crichton, make no mistake, this isn’t that Westworld. Advances in technology and ideas about artificial intelligence have given this idea a power boost that really, it kind of freaked me out. This show is violent. Creating a contrast of the sometimes inhuman desires of humans, the basic gist being that who is more monstrous, what is more monstrous than man? How monstrous the idea of how many times have those things happened there? Themes that are a commentary on society.

The first episode delivers the questions, who is really in charge of Westworld? Is the bad guy, the man in black, played by Ed Harris, possibly something else? We know going in, if we know about Westworld, that things are going to go wrong with the robots, what exactly though? Evan Rachel Wood is amazing as Dolores, and that is what is selling this show, the acting. Everyone is so good that I was completely enthralled withing the first five minutes. With the built in premise of, at least at first, not knowing who is a human, and who is a robot, and that premise layers right on up the food chain to Anthony Hopkins and Sidse Babett Knudsen, as Dr. Robert Ford, and Theresa Cullen, as they’re playing with elements of ideas about the creation of a world, Westworld, that naturally gives way to themes of good and evil, the classic “God complex”, ( something at work in several of my stories, including The Slick Furies), and who is Dr. Robert Ford really? Because once they start playing with that, maybe Westworld is something out of Dante’s Inferno, with all of those layers?

I also love what they did with the music, “Black Hole Sun” on a player piano, “Paint It Black” sounding very un-Rolling Stones-like, only added to the wonky feeling of Westworld as a pinball machine gone “Tilt.”

I’m going to be looking to re-watch the original soon. I think there’s something to be said for the resurgence of the western in recent years, something that people are perhaps seeing in the world and/or maybe longing for in some way? Though I’m not quite sure exactly what that is yet, whether it’s a reflection or a direction. Either way, fantastic first episode, I hope it stays this good. I’m watching this one.

Teri

Moonshine

 

68d73-halloween20card2070

Halloween

'Tis creepy, scary, here within, the hallowed halls of imagining,
the graveyard earth turned up by hands, dug from under, nether lands,
and quiet all then 'cept the wind, was howling through the trees again,
the leaves had left and stood the trees stood bare, naked in the midnight air,
the fog and mist to cover them, the sticky damp of clammy skin,
won't you come a wandering ?
With such beauty in the night, her heart the glowing candle light of operatic arias,
her song the clutching of the claws, the nails well hammered in the wood, they'd get out if but they could.
In the morning, found a hat, no telling where the body's at,
and heard her laughing with breeze, and chased the sound in round degrees,
back to where it started from, tell me, darling, won't you come?
Out to the graveyard on this eve, I'll show you things you won't believe.

This is my scary movie list for this October, or, alleged scary movie list, such things being matters of perspective. Some of these films, I haven’t watched them in a while but when I started to make this list it was like, “Oh yeah, remember that one!” Some of them are very definitely from my teens years, and I think that’s sort of telling about a person,whether or not they get into the concept of a ‘good scare’ while still in their youth. The idea of hearing a noise outside and saying to whoever you’re with, “Did you hear that? Don’t go out there!”  Or watching a scary movie alone and getting up in the middle of it to make sure you really did lock all of the doors, and windows. The kinds of movies that have you pulling your knees up to your chest and peering at the t.v. screen from behind them. Some of these movies are movies that created those feelings for me the first time I watched them however many years ago and when I got to looking them up on youtube now, hearing those first notes of the score, that feeling returns. I think that in order to really be able to enjoy a scary movie, you have to be in a situation where you actually feel quite safe.

So maybe some of them don’t seem to ‘hold up’ or if you watched them now, for the first time, they might not seem that scary, some of them aren’t scary at all, on the other hand…

1.) Halloween, and Halloween II.

I list these together because as soon as I watch one of them, I  watch the other one. I think I actually saw Halloween II first, however many years ago, and what got me and maybe sealed the deal on me being into these kinds of movies forever ~ About eight minutes in, the kids are still trick or treating, and Myers is going through the alleys and backyards. Have you ever lived in an older neighborhood, stood at your kitchen window at night? Left the screen door open to catch the breeze? Those scenes are perfect. “Harold, you want mayonnaise on your sandwich?” It’s another of the many elements that give us the sense that these neighborhoods are so normal, they could be our neighborhood, Anywhere, U.S.A.

 

2.) The FOG

Maybe it’s the cast, the director, the monsters from a sunken ship, maybe it’s that I always secretly wanted to be the sultry voiced dj on the midnight to four am shift. I happen to completely adore this movie.

 

3.) The THING

Here we have Kurt Russell, heading a superb cast of men, stranded in the one location on earth that is certainly the farthest away from civilization that they could possible get, it’s almost a documentary. They’ve been there isolated just long enough that all of them have started to get a little bit weird anyway and, what the hell is this? Got to be one of the most practically executed, brilliant uses of a flamethrower, ever.

 

4.) The Omen.

1970’s horror often relied on religious themes or elements of the supernatural, the mysterious, ethereal, the idea that there is a God, and that means that there is a Devil, and there are things that human beings simply aren’t fully qualified to know about and shouldn’t mess around with. The Omen deals with prophecy, and it plays deeply on our emotions because Gregory Peck and Lee Remick  makes us believe that they love each other, they love this seemingly adorable child that they’ve longed for, we want them to be happy.

 

5.) The Sentinel

This is one of those movies that I think the first time I saw it was at the home of a friend who had cable and then I remember watching it again really late at night when we got cable. Sometime last year, I watched again, uncut, start to finish and it is still one of the weirdest, creepiest, scariest movies and one of those movies where I was telling myself that I shouldn’t still be scared by it, but I was.

 

6.) The Shining

My favorite scene in the movie ‘Twister’ is when the tornado is ripping through the drive-in and The Shining is on the screen. This remains one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, Danny riding through the halls, the noise in between the hard floor and the rugs, building that tension and you know something is coming. It’s the scenes in the bar, it’s Danny and Wendy playing in the Hedge Maze and knowing that’s going to come in handy for them later. Scatman Crothers. In fact, I will upgrade this movie to ‘frightening.’

7.) Scream

Fantastic, from the open scenes of Drew Barrymore making popcorn, what’s not to love? And the first time I watched it, I loved that she ran, that she fought. My favorite scenes are when Jaime Kennedy as ‘Randy’ is watching the horror movie, talking to the t.v., telling the characters what not to do, and it’s going on all around him. Great movie.

8.) WOLFEN

This is my favorite werewolf movie. Gregory Hines, Albert Finney. I think this gets overshadowed by The Howling a lot but it’s just as good in a different way, and that’s on the list too. “Wolfen” effectively incorporates the city of New York into the film as a main character, setting the overall mood and tone, while drawing a stark comparison between the have and the have-nots, the areas of shadow and light, the old ways and the new world, and is civilization really all that civilized?

 

 

9.) When a Stranger Calls.

I’ve seen this movie twice. It’s not as scary the second time but, scary enough that I haven’t watched it a third time. And if you didn’t know, this is where Scream got the phone call thing from. I figured that out for myself, but, it’s actually listed on Wikipedia.

“The film has developed a cult following over time because of the first 20 minutes, now consistently regarded as one of the scariest openings in horror movie history. The opening sequence was largely influential for the horror genre and was paid homage to in Wes Craven’s Scream in the latter film’s opening 12 minutes.” from Wikipedia

 

 

10.) The Cabin in The Woods

This movie is one of the movies that you’re going to get something different from, or see something new in, each time you watch it and I’m saying that and I’ve only seen it once, so far. Providing a new twist on and old theme, kids going to the woods to party and, ostensibly, have sex, The Cabin in The Woods offers a new explanation as to why sometimes, they don’t come home.

 

11.) Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.

I love this movie. Incredibly smart, completely hilarious, parody without patronizing or pandering to the audience. Awesome. Comedy horror.

 

12.) Night of the Living Dead.

From which all other zombie movies are spawned, if not all modern horror, though 1964’s, “The Last Man on Earth” is close second.  I’ve talked about this one a lot too. What is there to say, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. And just watching a clip, I think part of why this film is still scary is because it’s in black and white, it almost seems like watching footage of a past zombie uprising.

 

13.) The Howling.

“Rare.”

 

 

14.) Night of the Comet.

This is camp, this is zombies, and shopping at the mall and I totally still love this movie, totally.

 

 

15.) Near Dark.

One of the few vampire movies that I will fully endorse. There’s nothing glamorous going on with this one, there’s none of that, “We’ve had centuries to refine ourselves and collect antiques.” Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, some scenes that if I watch it, I’m still watching from the other side of my hand.

16.) The Sender.

I hadn’t watched this since high school so I watched it again not too long ago. Don’t know that I’ll watch it again anytime soon.

 

17.) Carrie.

Despite the dated scenery, this film continues to hold up. My favorite scene is after the prom, when Carrie is on the road and she turns around really quick at the speeding car. I’ve meant to check to see if that was some kind of a film editing trick but it seems to me that I remember an interview where Sissy Spacek said that it wasn’t, that she had to make that move, for real.

18.) Duel

Dennis Weaver is stalked by a tanker truck.

19.) Evil Dead.

Which one is it where he’s fighting his own hand? Is that the second one? Bruce Campbell. Enough said.

20.) Fire In the Sky.

I don’t know if this was scarier to me because there were books about Travis Walton around our house when I was a kid, along with other such books, that I remember looking through, looking at the pictures and wishing that I was better at reading at the time because I’d been told to stay out of those books and I just knew, that had to be important information. This is a frightening movie.

 

21.) Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Can we just watch Peewee Herman die over and over again?

 

22.) The Land of the Minotaur.

1976, Donald Pleasance, Peter Cushing, when it comes to horror, there are certain names that if they are involved, you pretty much know you’re going to watch at least some of it. I watched all of this one a long time ago, late at night, I didn’t mean to watch it and then, well, Peter Cushing’s eyes got me, right at the beginning, and that was it. It’s robes and worshiping a paper mache’ Minotaur that smokes and people blowing up. It’s  terrible-great.

 

23.) JAWS.

As kids, if the deep end of the pool was too dark, we were kind of leery of it, because of this movie. This is another all time favorite.

 

24.) Klute.

Though not classified as horror, this is an incredibly suspenseful film and I was on the edge of my seat through most of it, particularly towards the end.

 

25.) Les Diaboliques.

I’ve gone on and on about this film plenty, watch the original with the subtitles, Simone Signoret. One of my favorite films of all time. An abusive headmaster at a private school takes a swim, with the help of his wife, and mistress.

 

26.) The Dead Zone.

This was before Christopher Walken was really Christopher Walken, when he was just the new young actor burning things up in Hollyweird. I read this book years ago as well, it is a chilling story. There’s something about this film, about certain films of that era, that seems so believable though it is practically incredible. In some films, the dated scenery adds an air of distraction, unreality, in others, instead of appearing ridiculous, the passage of time has added an air of plausibility. This is still an incredibly suspenseful film.

 

27.) Shaun of the Dead.

Good, funny, campy, zombie horror. Laughed, said, “Gross!” more than once.

 

28.) Stephen King’s Rose Red.

I bought a copy of this and stayed up all one night watching it, it’s got some good jumps in it, thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

29.) Last Man on Earth.

This is the original starring Vincent Price that was later remade as “The Omega Man,” which I also think is fantastic, and then later again as “I am Legend”  which I also liked. There was something about this one that was scarier to me for some reason. Again maybe it was the black and white film making it seem almost archival.

 

30.) The Amityville Horror.

It was scary, it’s still scary. I’ve read the book as well and true or not, it is completely terrifying and I believed it could be true.

 

31.) Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The version starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright. The tension level in this film is like a powder keg, the subtext here is paranoia. If we’d all been brainwashed or taken over, or inhabited, well, how would we even know? Especially if it was painless?

32.) Mr. Frost.

Is Mr. Frost the devil? Jeff Goldblum delivers a deeply creepy performance as a mental patient who just might be Satan.

33.) The Sixth Sense.

Though it may be one of those movies that is really only scary the first time you see it,  before you know what the story is. I was on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, jumped, all those things.

34.) An American Werewolf in London.

Truly a classic werewolf film. Friends on an innocent backpacking trip through Europe and they lose their way in the dark of night, in gathering mist.

35.) Altered States.

This film spoke to me from the first time that I watched it when I was in junior high. He’s trying to understand something about the human animal, about our origins, how far away from being those primitive creatures, from having been primitive creatures, are we really? However, I also found it disturbing in that he continued to subject himself to it all, he had to know. I kept thinking, “Get out of the water.” and I kept watching.

 

36.) Dead Calm.

Nicole Kidman and a Sam Neill portray a couple on a lengthy sailing trip. Billy Zane appears to be the soul survivor of a horrific event on another boat. This is one of Nicole Kidman’s early feature film performances and really, she steals the movie, while Sam Neill graciously lets her, and Billy Zane tries to keep up.

 

37.) Nightmare on Elm Street.

This movie is completely unbelievable, and scary as hell.

38.) The Ring.

A fly on the screen hasn’t been just a fly on the screen since. The invested performance of Naomi Watts will pull you in.

39. Fallen

I think that this is one of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen. Are their demons and angels? Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, James Gandolfini, and Greta Milano, make up this amazing ensemble and deliver nuanced performances that will make you wonder, and possibly change your mind about owning cats.

 

40. Poltergeist

In a lot of ways this film from 1982 serves up the 80’s suburbs like no other, giving us a big dose of seemingly normal middle America. Mom and Dad smoke a little pot, but they clearly aren’t losers. Mom stays home with the kids, and she’s still young and hip and cool. The kids are all as normal as apple pie. They’re decent people, the Dad believes he’s part of the American dream. But, just like the mayor in “Jaws” doesn’t want to close the beach because it’ll cut into the profit margin, there’s something not quite right about Cuesta Verde Estates.

41. Blade

This is my favorite anti-vampire film. Wesley Snipes is Blade. Great concept, villains that are easy to hate. Kris Kristofferson as Whistler, the vampire killing Alfred to Snipes as Blade. It’s a good movie, if it wasn’t for all of the gore, it’s really thematically more of a superhero movie than a horror film.

42. Christine

This film is uncomfortable to watch. I’d read the book but to actually see the bullying of Arnie and the seeming destruction of the car, Christine, well, that was difficult to watch. That’s how you know that a story has you, at that point, I was rooting for the car.

43. The Invisible Man

This remains one of my favorite films of all time, and, in my opinion, it holds up. A scientist’s experiments on himself go too far and he is driven to madness.

44. The Skeleton Key

I love a good Southern Gothic and that’s what this is, with a horrific ending that it took me a minute to process. What links would you go to in order to stay with your beloved?

45.) Ghost Story.

I watched because of the actors, not knowing at all what to expect, thinking that it wouldn’t be that frightening, but it was, it really was. I read the book sometime after, though that was many years ago.

Rated R.

 

They aren’t all the most gory, or necessarily the most high-profile flix that tend to make all  the scary movie lists, but they are some of the ones that struck a chord, and lodged themselves in my memory. There are others, but I had to keep myself from making a list of every scary movie I’ve ever seen.

I love this time of year, the glistening glow of the moonshine through the silken air, illuminating things that are, and are not there.

TS

 

 

 

Below are the original notes from the original post in 2012, I had since cleaned up the list and written a little more about each one.

Footnote:

What isn’t on this list, and why…Or, what’s not there?

There are some movies that might seem obvious that aren’t on this list and if I’m really being honest about scary movies, I’d have to include these:

The Exorcism of Emily Rose – I’ve seen this movie one time. It was very well done, and very, very scary.

Paranormal Activity – I’ve only seen the first one, so far, and it didn’t start out scary, and it did kind of turn into why don’t they just leave? and why doesn’t she just smack him? but then that was part of the process of it all and it became scary.

FALLEN – This is secretly a favorite, very scary, kind of meant to put this one on the list.

Alien – It seems so obvious a choice.

Poltergeist – The clown and the tree, that’s still and always scary. Otherwise, I don’t know if this one holds up for me.

Blade – This is my favorite anti-vampire movie.

( Then there’s all those other hunting monsters movies and, I was really trying to keep this from happening. my lists have a tendency to go long.)

Not on the list for other reasons –

The Exorcist – While I’ve never seen this movie all the way through, I’ve seen most of it, and that was probably too much. The advertisements for this movie seemed to be everywhere when I was a kid and there was something about it that colored my perspective in such a way that I kind of prefer not to have seen all of this film.

Jacob’s Ladder – So scary I only watched it once years ago and really, it is not a favorite. Disturbing.

Rosemary’s Baby – It’s scary, it’s simply not a favorite.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Have never seen it, on purpose, have never seen it.

I think that covers some of the more obvious scary movies that aren’t on the list, but, I have to stop myself or I will just bust out a rambling list of every scary/horror movie I can think of that I have seen and the truth is, in recent years, there have been a lot of movies, scary and otherwise, that I haven’t seen, yet. So there’s a lot of unexplored territory there for me movie wise, and that’s kind of cool actually. ~ TS