Archive for the ‘Zombies’ Category

 

fred-dekker

The eighties in a single picture.

I’ve touched briefly upon director’s in my previous posts, greats like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Jackson, as well as a few lesser known names like Henenlotter, Solet, and Craig.

Today I’d like to introduce you to another relatively unknown name, a man responsible for two of my all time favourite horror films, and a handful of episodes from the groundbreaking HBO anthology series, Tales From the Crypt. The one, and only, Fred Dekker.

Fred Dekker was born in 1959, in San Francisco, California. A comic book fanatic, cinephile, and horror nerd from an early age, Dekker applied at USC, and UCLA for film studies, and was subsequently rejected by both. He attended UCLA,  majoring in English instead, and it was there where he met frequent collaborators Shane Black, Ed Solomon, and Chris Matheson.

His big break in the movie industry came after writing the Steve Miner directed, Sean S. Cunningham produced horror-comedy House, and from there he went on the write, and direct the two cult classics I’d like to talk about today, Night of the Creeps, and Monster Squad.

     Night of the Creeps.

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Released in 1986, Fred Dekker’s directorial debut is a loving homage of B-movies that mixes the best bits of zombie, slasher, alien invasion, and creature feature films into a unique, and thoroughly enjoyable picture.

The film follows a couple of loveable university dorks, who unwittingly release a horde of alien slugs after stealing a cadaver in an attempt to join a fraternity. Aided by a haunted detective, the three must fend off an army of zombie-like creatures infected by the slugs before their quaint little own is overrun.

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Night of the Creeps is one of those rare films that makes you smile from start to finish no matter how many times you’ve watched it. The chemistry amongst the cast is wonderful, with a standout performance from the legendary Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron, who chews up every scene he’s given, and the creature effects hold up surprisingly well, thanks in part to Dekker’s reliance on prosthetics, and practical effects.

Although I’ve never seen him admit it out loud, or in an interview, Slither, by James Gunn can be seen as a spiritual successor of sorts to Night of the Creeps, and if you haven’t seen it either, I recommend you watch it immediately, and note the similarities between the two.

Monster Squad

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To put it plainly, Monster Squad is essentially the Goonies meet the Universal Monsters.

The story is every child whom grew up loving horror’s fantasy come true, and follows the Monster Squad, group of preteen friends who idolize monsters, and get more than they bargain for when Dracula aided by the Wolfman, Mummy, and Gill-man show up in their picturesque town searching for an amulet capable of helping him take over the world.

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Monster Squad is an important film to me. Back when I was fresh out of diapers my grandmother taped it off cable, and I’d watch it for hours while visiting the old farm house where I was born, eventually playing the damned thing into oblivion. It wasn’t until 2007 that I’d get a chance to watch it again after the release of the 20th anniversary DVD, and little has changed since those early days of my youth. Like all of Fred Dekker’s work there’s an inherent playfulness at work, almost as though conceived through the imagination of a child.

Unfortunately Dekker hasn’t written or directed anything like his first two films in quite some time, thanks in part to their lukewarm critical reception, and box office returns, but if the 2010’s have taught me anything it’s that nostalgia is a goldmine, and there’s always the possibility that the long talked about sequel to Monster Squad might be just around the corner, provided his work with Shane Black on the new Predator film is successful.

So I ask of you this Mr. Dekker,

thrill-me

 

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Over the last few weeks I’ve focused on horror mainly in film, television, and literature, but today I thought I’d shake things up a bit, and take a look at a medium I’ve always found to be a fertile ground for the genre, video games. There’s something effective about placing people in control of characters surrounded by danger, and terror, and developers have been trying to capture that magic for nearly forty years.

I could talk to death about mainstream titles like Resident Evil, Doom, and Silent Hill, and their impact on horror gaming, but everyone knows them. Instead I’d like to take a gander at a few obscure titles.

Monster party.

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Monster Party is one of the most  brilliantly nutty 8-bit gems on the NES. The game follows Billy, who after being confronted by a sentient gargoyle requesting his help sets off on a quest with his trusty baseball bat to save its world. Along the way Billy battles punk-rock zombies, singing plants, cow hurdling minotaurs, and…floating breaded tempura shrimp, and onion rings? I get the feeling drugs were consumed during development, (Billy transforms into a gargoyle after picking up a pill for Christ sakes!) because the whole game is a gleefully dark, and bat-shit experience. Monster Party is about as scary as you’d expect an 8-bit title to be, (not very) but credit however must be given to the atmospheric soundtrack, and imaginative first stage of the game, which effectively sets an eerie tone right from the get go. Also, the cover art was the stuff of nightmares, guaranteed to mortify any child unlucky enough to stumble upon it while shuffling through the game rack of his local video store during the eighties.

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Just look at this shit. LOOK AT IT!

                                                           Zombies Ate My Neighbours

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Lucasarts made a name for themselves in the late eighties, and early nineties developing point and click adventure games like Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Day of the Tentacle for the PC, but during the 16-bit era they ventured into the action-adventure realm with a little horror gem called Zombies Ate My Neighbours.

ZAMN as it will be called for the duration of this post, because the title has too many damn letters for me to keep typing, is a top-down, co-op, run-and-gun game that tasks players with rescuing their neighbours in a variety of horror inspired settings while trying to survive an onslaught of horror-movie monsters like werewolves, mutants, giant babies, squid men, blobs, aliens, and of course the titular zombies. To progress through each level players are required to rescue at least one neighbour, and if all of them die, it’s game over. To do so, players have a number of inventive weapons at their disposal, such as dishes, UZI water guns, weed-whackers, Soda-pop grenades, and many more.

ZAMN is a noteworthy title, because of the heavy censorship it received upon release. Nintendo, having a strict policy against excessive violence in their games ordered all depictions of blood, and gore to be replaced with purple ooze, a similar fate that befell the original Mortal Kombat when ported to the SNES. Many European nations censored even more of ZAMN, changing its name to simply, Zombies, and replacing the chainsaw wielding enemies with lumberjacks sporting axes.

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                                                                 The Souls series

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I know I said I was going to avoid mainstream titles for this post, but I couldn’t help myself for the last entry on the list. No series captures what makes a horror game effective so much so as FromSoftware’s Souls titles, Demon’s, Dark, and the most recent, Bloodborne. Each entry contains a dark, and atmospheric world with little reason given as to why you’re there, adaptable monstrosities lurking around every corner, limited resources at your disposal with which to slay them or survive their relentless attacks, and death actually matters, serving as a method of increasing the game’s difficulty.

You are never so close to sheer terror as you are while playing a Souls game, and that’s why it rounds out this list.

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That’s all for today skiddlets. Please feel free to comment, and share some of your favourite horror titles.

I’m always up for a new scare!

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After yesterday’s post about the Frank Henenlotter sexploitation film, Bad Biology, (and a number of others for that matter) I feel I may have given all you darklings out there the impression that I’m a depraved, gore-crazed lunatic who showers in blood, and eats his liver with fava beans, and a nice chianti while marathoning snuff films. Now, although most of that is true, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a softer side. In fact, I’m actually quite sensitive when you peel back all the layers of murder, monsters, and viscera, and happen to enjoy the occasional bad romantic-comedy as much as the next mildly insane, socially awkward purveyor of fear. One of my favourites being the much maligned 1993 classic, and original Zombiedy, My Boyfriend’s Back.

Directed by sometimes actor, sometimes writer, Bob Balaban, (known for Parents, and Gosford Park) My Boyfriend’s Back follows Johnny Dingle, who, after a foiled attempt to impress his crush, Missy McCloud, is shot and killed during a robbery, only to come back as a zombie. Now a member of the living dead, Johnny must reintegrate with society, struggle with his burgeoning cannibalistic appetite, and anti-zombie discrimination, all while trying to woo his beloved to take her to prom.

My Boyfriend’s Back is a ripe slice of early nineties cheese. The story is cornier than a thanksgiving bowel movement, and the special effects make Plan Nine From Outer Space’s look revolutionary by comparison, but I still love it. Despite its many faults, the film is intoxicatingly charming, held up by surprisingly strong performances from a cast that knew what they were starring in.

Fun fact, My Boyfriend’s Back was the first movie role for Matthew Fox, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, and Renee Zellweger, despite Zellweger’s only scene being cut.