5 Phenomenal Things About “Night of the Living Dead”

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How can I let Halloween pass without an applicable Phenomenal 5? And what better way to celebrate Halloween than to focus on my favorite horror movie of all time “Night of the Living Dead”. For many it would be impossible to narrow down the list of great horror pictures to one indisputable favorite. Not for me. I adore “Night of the Living Dead”. So today I’m going to throw out five big reasons why I love the film so much. Now there are many examples I could give of the movie’s greatness so I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But these five things about “Night of the Living Dead” are certainly phenomenal.

#5 – THE MUSIC AND SOUND

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For me one of the key ingredients to the success “Night of the Living Dead” is the fantastic sound design and choice of music. In many ways it’s key in developing the movie’s overall creepy tone and feel. It may surprise some to know but much of the music was purchased and previously used in a variety of other shows and movies. Subtle but effective alterations were made to some of the tracks to make them feel more connected to the film. The live sound effects were recorded by Richard Lococo and they are amazing. Echos and distortions are used to make things all the more eerie and I love the little sound choices which add to the tense atmosphere. For example the emergency television newscast that we hear in the background of much of the film. It and all of the sound design lends much to the film’s disturbing feel.

#4 – DUANE JONES

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He was a relatively unknown stage actor when George Romero hired him to star in “Night of the Living Dead”. But Duane Jones was stepping into what would become an iconic role particularly in the horror genre. His performance as the composed and resourceful Ben is a real strength of the picture. We don’t learn a lot about his character’s story but we learn a lot about who he is. He’s cool, calm, and collective and without him things would have fallen apart quicker. Jones’ casting was significant because at the time (1968) African Americans weren’t known as leading men and women in movies particularly with an otherwise all-white cast. But he fits perfectly into his role and without his rock-solid performance “Night of the Living Dead” just wouldn’t be the same.

#3 – THE SETTING

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I still remember the first time I watched “Night of the Living Dead”. My uncle brought it and a rented VCR to our house and my parents let me stay up and watch it with them. I’ve loved it ever since. One of the main things that has stuck with me from that very first viewing all the way to today is the film’s setting. The whole idea and concept of basically being cornered in an isolated farmhouse while hordes of the undead collect outside was terrifying to me as a child and still creepy today. The survivalist elements mixed with the simple “we have nowhere to go” angle is very effective here and of course it would go on to influence a large number of other movies that followed. I’ve seen “Night of the Living Dead” more times than I can count, yet with each new viewing I still find myself completely immersed in that Pennsylvania farmhouse.

#2 – GEORGE ROMERO

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“Night of the Living Dead” is known for several firsts and for paving new ways. Perhaps most notable is that this was the feature film directorial debut for George Romero. He was the real mastermind behind the project and in retrospect what he was able to accomplish is astonishing. First, the film was made with a miniscule budget of only $114,000. This seriously limited many things but also called for a much more creative sense. Romero certainly had that creativity. Intelligent uses of sound, the camera, and the limited special effects all fell into place under his direction. He also chose to shoot the film in 35mm black-and-white. Initially this was a budget constraint but he uses it like a master. Now it’s the only way the movie should be viewed. Again, what Romero does here is astonishing and it’s a true testament to the creativity of good filmmakers.

#1 – THE ZOMBIE CRAZE

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Zombies are all the rage aren’t they? The undead have found permanent homes in all sorts of media including comics, video games, movies, and television. So many people have been inspired to offer their own vision of zombies and the term ‘zombie apocalypse’ is known by everyone. And to think it all started with Romero’s vision. “Night of the Living Dead” wasn’t the first film to deal with the dead coming back to life, but it was the first film to truly develop zombies as they have come to be known today. It would be impossible to number all of movies whose inspiration could be traced back to “Night of the Living Dead”. It’s influence can be seen not only in cinema but in the culture as a whole – something I know Romero couldn’t have imagined at the time. So the next time you see a zombie movie, watch an episode of “The Walking Dead”, or play “Plants verses Zombies” just remember that it can all be traced back to the classic “Night of the Living Dead”.

So there you have it – 5 phenomenal things about what I consider to be the greatest horror picture ever made. What do you think of the film? What’s something you love about it? Do you even like the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and share your thoughts.

5 Phenomenally Goofy Horror Movie Villains

It’s the Halloween season so this is the second Phenomenal 5 that’s about the scares. But lets start the week on a lighter note. We all know the Jasons and the Freddys of the genre. We are all familiar with Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. These horror movie villains have made names for themselves and to some degree or another gained large followings. But not every horror movie terror is all that frightening. In fact, there have been many that are just plain goofy and that’s where this list comes in. We’re looking at five of the silliest, goofiest horror villains to ever grace the movies. There are so many to choose from therefore I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I think we can agree that these are five phenomenally goofy horror Movie villains.

#5 – THE GREEN GOBLIN SEMI-TRUCK (“Maximum Overdrive”)

Maximum Overdrive” was an odd horror movie about machines coming to life after a comet passes by the earth. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The machines, ranging from vending machines to automobiles, begin attacking people. At a North Carolina truck stop Emilio Estevez and a handful of survivors are trapped inside as a number of “living” semi-trucks continue to circle the building. What’s even goofier is that they have a leader – a menacing black semi with a huge Green Goblin face mounted on its front. There’s a big final battle between the human survivors and the trucks (no, I’m not kidding) which is almost as absurd as the concept behind the movie. But ultimately it comes down to stopping the green-faced 18-wheeled evil. This film was based on a Stephen King short story and it marked King’s one and only foray into directing. I think it’s easy to see why.

#4 – KILLER CLOWNS (“Killer Klowns from Outer Space”)

Yes, this is a movie that’s just goofy as it’s title. Now to be fair, “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” knows it’s idiotic and it does have a little fun with it. But it’s still a horror picture with antagonists that fit perfectly on this list. Do you need proof? Ok, how about this – an army of “Klowns” land on Earth in their circus tent-shaped space ship and begin killing the residents of a California town. We find out these Klowns (and yes they are actually clowns) are here to harvest us as a food source. But the town fights back and soon find the Klowns have one big weakness. Remember how zombies die with a bullet to the head? Well Killer Klowns can be killed by taking out their bright shiny noses. Shoot them in the nose and watch them spin like a top before blowing up into pieces. But it’s not a simple thing to do. They’re armed with everything from deadly ray guns to lethal balloon animals and acid pies. Now do you question their inclusion on this list? I thought not.

#3 – CHUCKY (The “Child’s Play” Series)

I still find it amazing that Chucky has made five movies and there’s still another one in the works. In case you don’t know, Chucky is a children’s doll possessed by a serial killer. Sounds like a completely rational idea for a horror villain, doesn’t it? Yet regardless of how preposterous it may sound, Chucky gained a strong cult following that resulted in several sequels. This foul-mouthed, murderous, red-haired doll kills indiscriminately and learns to enjoy his new “body”. He’s a tough cookie too. Chucky has been shot, burned, melted, blown up, decapitated, and cut into a million pieces. But despite all of the attempts he keeps coming back. And life has been good for Chucky. He’s met a female doll and married her. He’s even a proud father. Ok, I feel idiotic even typing that. It’s hard to believe that a corny concept like a killer “My Buddy” doll could have had such success. But if you doubt me, just keep your eyes open. It sounds like he’s coming back to theaters yet again.

#2 – KILLER TOMATOES (“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”)

It’s obvious that the creators of the 1978 horror film “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” intended to inject a lot of humor into their movie. I mean how could they avoid it with a title like this? If you think about it, how many ways can a tomato actually kill you? But don’t underestimate the proficiency of these vine-ripe terrors. The have many plump and juicy methods including devouring their prey and drowning their victims in tomato juice. Pretty scary stuff, huh? But like every ominous threat, these killers have a weakness. Their kryptonite isn’t a sharp knife or boiling water. No, it’s the song “Puberty Love”. Whenever they hear it they begin to shrink and are easily squashed. There have been three other “Killer Tomato” sequels but none have reached the B-movie cult status as the original. And let’s be honest, are there any other horror villains quite like them?

#1 – ZOMBIE ENTRAILS (“Dead Alive”)

If you haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s earlier film “Dead Alive” you’re probably trying to grasp the idea of zombie entrails. But yet it’s exactly what you think. “Dead Alive” is a nutty, off-the-wall gorefest that soaks the audience in blood and laughs. It takes the zombie and splatter films to new heights and I promise you it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. It all starts when nerdy Stewart’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey that’s carrying a disease. It ends up turning her into a zombie and you know that there can never be just one. Soon things get way out of hand highlighted by zombified entrails that attack our hero Stewart. The entrails chase him, throw him, and strangle him and it takes his greatest innovation to survive. Sounds terrorizing doesn’t it? This film has been called by some the goriest movie of all time. It’s also very funny and how can you argue with the horror of zombie entrails?

There you have them – the goofiest of the horror villains. I can think of several others that could grace this list but I think these have earned their spots. So how about your choices? Who would you include on this goofy list?

5 PHENOMENAL VAMPIRE MOVIES

Vampires has seen a rise in popularity over the past several years. Both television and movie theaters have experienced an influx of vampire movies and shows. Now I have to admit that none of the current vampire stuff have impressed me, but there have been some really great movies about these blood-sucking creatures of the night in the past. Going all the way back to the silent movie era, vampires have been a part of cinema history. So with such a vast number of movies to choose from, I decided to pick five of the best vampire flicks. Now as always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these five vampire movies are most certainly phenomenal.

#5 – “UNDERWORLD” (2003)

Underworld” isn’t a typical vampire picture. It’s a full-blown action horror movie about a boiling conflict between vampires and lycans (also known as werewolves). Kate Beckinsale stars as undoubtedly the prettiest vampire in movie history and Scott Speedman is her hybrid lycan/vampire boyfriend. The dark, gloomy gothic tone of the movie is quite effective and the grisly action that takes the place of the normal vampire horror gives the movie its own special uniqueness. Several sequels have followed but none have matched the first film.

#4 – “DRACULA” (1931)

The images of Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula were the first I ever had of a vampire. Tod Browning’s 1931 horror classic was based on Bram Stoker’s chilling novel and Lugosi portrayed the character that would become one of the famous Universal movie monsters. The movie maintains a creepy vibe from the moment we enter Dracula’s castle in Transylvania until Van Helsing puts the stake through the heart. It’s a pure Hollywood classic.

#3 – “FRIGHT NIGHT” (1985)

Sure, 1985’s “Fright Night” has some issues but it’s one of those films that holds a special place in my heart. It’s the story of Charlie Brewster, a teenager who’s convinced that a vampire has moved in next door. He spies on and later goes too far in investigating his new neighbor and soon finds himself and the people he loves in some serious vampire-styled trouble. He teams up with a low-budget horror movie actor (played by the great Roddy McDowall) in hopes of ridding his town of the blood-sucking threat. It’s a fun mix of scares, gory special effects, and fantastic humor and I still love watching it.

#2- “THE LOST BOYS” (1987)

A truly funny and sometimes creepy teenaged horror tale about a vampire problem in a small California coastal town. This is hands down the best movie of “The Two Coreys” collaborations and it was certainly different from any other vampire film I had seen at the time. It features good work from Jason Patric, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, and especially Kiefer Sutherland who I felt stole the show. The movie has a great soundtrack and a cool 80’s vibe to it, but mainly it’s just incredibly fun and features more memorable lines than any other vampire film you’ll see.

#1- “NOSFERATU” (1922)

While it was a completely unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, I still feel it’s the greatest version of the vampire classic ever put on film. While the names have been changed, the story is very much the same and the incredible vision of German director F.W. Murnau brings it to life in a genuinely eerie way. And Murnau’s ability to maintain such a level of creepiness through a silent movie is another testament to his incredible skill at visual storytelling. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is both sinister and unnerving and I will always remember the scene of him rising from his coffin. This is an incredible film that should be seen not only by horror fans but also by fans of movies period.

Alrighty, there they are. And no, it’s not a mistake, no “Twilight” movies even came close to making this list. So what do you think? What did I miss? Be sure to take time to leave your favorite vampire movie below.