RIP: George Romero creator of "Night of the Living Dead"

George Romero was 27 when he made the zombie movie Night of the Living Dead on a $114,000 budget. He went on to make over 20 movies, many with a horror or zombie apocalypse theme. He died today at age 77 from lung cancer.

From the LA Times:

In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of “The Walking Dead,” but had no interest.

“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”

Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.

“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them.... [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification.

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Watch this vintage horror film's HYPNO-VISTA intro

HYPNO-VISTA was an experimental opening sequence used in the late 1950s on a few horror movies. The film would be spliced to start with a hypnotist practicing that dark art. Read the rest

The 13 best Japanese horror movies

Japanese culture website Tofugu has a rundown of the best Japanese horror movies of all time. Number 6 on the list is Hausu, a cartoonishly gory flick from 1977.

This is what makes Hausu great. It's an absolutely childish horror movie. So much so that the characters are one-dimensional (their names even indicate their behavior). But it all plays into the experience. Watching Hausu as an adult means you're forced to think like a child and find scary the things children find scary. This makes for gory fun when the piano starts dismembering people, blood gushing out its sides.

Sometimes Hausu's blend of silliness and gore is perfect. Other times not so much. But despite the film's imperfection, it works because it's authentic. Though people in 2010 praised Hausu for its "wackiness," I think affection for the film comes from its authenticity. Hausu knows exactly what it wants to be and goes for it full force. Combine that with a childlike perspective and you've got a film worth falling in love with.

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Krampus trashes the horror potential of traditional mythology in a film that's neither funny nor scary

In German-speaking Alpine lands, as Americans are increasingly aware, St. Nicholas is accompanied on his gift-giving rounds by the devilish Krampus, who’s said to punish naughty children with stinging blows from birch switches, by stuffing them in a sack and carrying them off to hell, throwing them in a lake, or even eating them -- punishments that all seem infinitely more pleasant than sitting through Michael Dougherty’s horror-comedy Krampus due in theaters December 4.

I am not a film critic. I was invited to a preview screening because of my involvement in co-producing Krampus events in Los Angeles since 2013. Over the course of these events and in writing a book on the subject, I’ve had conversations with dozens of Europeans who don the suits annually. I’ve talked to mask-carvers, and Austrian cultural anthropologists, and gotten close enough to Alpine Krampuses to smell their animal pelts and steamy, schnappsy breath. I know the Krampus pretty well, well enough to say this film has almost nothing to do with that old devil.

Even from the trailers I already knew we weren’t exploring authentic traditions. I expected some creativity with the tradition and wanted to be entertained. I was there as a horror fan. I’ve been one all my life. By the age 10, I could tell you the release date, directors, lead players and usually the make-up artist behind any of Universal’s classic horror films. But sitting in the Carl Laemmle building watching this, I could hear the old man cursing the very first pfennig he dropped in a nickelodeon. Read the rest

The Thing is now recognized as a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror

Halloween is almost upon us; apropos of the season, here’s a tale of terror in a Manhattan movie theater, and a horror film that changed cinema.

Living in New York City in my 20s, I was one of those geeks who saw a helluva lot of movies on opening day, back when you had to wait in line for an hour in order to make sure you actually got into the theater. Benefits? I saw the cut scene at the end of The Shining where Shelly Duval is in the hospital; saw Heaven’s Gate twice at its full length before it got the chop; saw At Long Last Love before it got the chop; and so on.

As an aside, I saw E.T. on opening day on June 11, 1982. Yuck … thought it was a bucket of emotional diarrhea for kids. A genuinely awful movie that was beloved by many, and why that is so remains a complete mystery to me, even today. It’s just bleh.

Also saw lots of films previewed before they were released, including a completely different cut of Capricorn One that was almost an hour longer than the final edit. These types of previews were always “blind” — you never knew what film you were going to see. However, the rumor got around that a new film by John Carpenter was going to preview at the Kips Bay Cinema on Second Avenue at midnight on June 24, 1982. Before the Internet, there were only rumors, but the dedicated knew it was a pretty good bet that it was going to be his remake of John Campbell’s novella Who Goes There? Read the rest

17 facts about "The Blair Witch Project"

Shot on a $25,000 budget and a 35-page script that called for lots of improvisation, 1999's The Blair Witch Project made an astounding $248 million in theaters. Mental Floss put together a fun list of 17 facts about the horror movie classic. Read the rest

Wouldn't it be great if Ellen Ripley from Alien was your therapist?

Think through trauma and anxiety in a therapy group of film "final girls."