Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Paul’s Choice – Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Given that between the three of us we’ll be watching 94 horror films in October (I have two scheduled for Halloween Night), it was inevitable that there would be a little duplication. So last nights film for me was also The Ultimate Movie Geek’s choice for Day 1. As far as I am aware there is only one other double up – so you can’t complain – that’s 94 unique reviews of 92 films!
Anyway, I digress – back to the film. I remember Demon Knight coming out at the cinema when I was a student and thinking it looked like a lot of fun, but I was firmly entrenched in the Christian Union at my university and enjoying that kind of thing was frowned on. It wouldn’t be until years later when I read an article by Rev. Peter Laws in Fortean Times that I realised that having a faith and enjoying horror films could actually compliment each other. I’m sure I’ll probably write about it at some point.
So, once I allowed horror back into my life Demon Knight was a distant memory and it wasn’t until putting this list together this year that I remembered I’d quite fancied seeing it. Needless to say, it was added instantly. And now, after all those years, I can happily say that I really enjoyed it (and would have when I was 20). As part of the Tales From The Crypt series, you know from the start that its tongue is going to be firmly planted in its cheek. It is a whole lot of silly fun.
Demon Knight is not particularly scary – it’s more of a dark fantasy action adventure than horror. The effects are passable in places and very good in others (the monster design being particularly memorable). The story is nothing new – a drifter protecting a powerful MacGuffin holes up in a motel with a collection of strangers and they have to survive a night under siege from an army of creatures. In many ways, it’s similar to From Dusk Til Dawn or Aliens.
What really makes the film fun though is the eclectic cast with an impressive resumé of geek credentials. Bill Sadler (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Iron Man 3), Jada Pinkett (Scream 2, Gotham), Dick Miller (Gremlins), Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3), CCH Pounder (Robocop 3, Avatar) and Charles “Roger Rabbit” Fleischer make up the majority of the group of disparate survivors. However, it’s Billy Zane (The Phantom, Back The The Future) who really stands out here – clearly relishing his villain role and hamming it up to great effect. It this great cast that elevates a B-movie creature feature to something far greater.
A lot of fun that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
(Incidentally, both From Dusk Til Dawn and Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners were considered for the second TFTC movie).
Aaron’s Choice – Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
For me, Dawn of the Dead is the pivotal zombie film. George A. Romero may have created the modern day zombie genre with Night of the Living dead, but it was with Dawn of the Dead he truly revolutionised it.
While it is again pretty much a group of survivors holding up in one location, Dawn feels like it has a far grander scope. The shopping mall is a fantastic environment for the film to take place in and throughout the film, almost becomes a character itself. The shopping mall is that safe haven people go to so it feels familiar. Yet the sadness and quietness are haunting. What life is usually about is gone, replaced with its remnants and decay.
The film focuses more on the characters relationships and their own struggles to accept this new reality rather than the actual zombies. The solitude and loneliness the characters go through, even in their small group, is powerful and relatable, even if the situation they are in isn’t. It’s the perfect representation of normal people in an extraordinary situation. Watching how the characters evolve as the story moves on is just as thrilling as watching zombies tear limb from limb (which we get lots if during the third act.
It’s also fascinating that the film has an obvious 3 act structure. Moving in, settling down and moving out. It kind of like an analogy for life; we find our place in the world, we settle down and we ultimately leave this world. The film hits on so many levels and shows that even in a world filled with mindless violence and chaos there is still some humanity to be seen.
The special effects are phenomenal and stand tall to this day. It’s proof of why practical effects will always stand the test of time longer than digital. Effects-wise this is one of Tom Savini’s greatest achievements as it works so incredibly well. The only slight issue I have is the grey/green colour the zombies turn. That looks a little naff at times.
The film works as well today as it did when it was released as it’s message is even more relevant today. With the chaos and destruction, our nation’s leaders are causing in a bid to be the most powerful something like this could happen, albeit without the zombies. The panic and confusion is real right now and if it escalates into a full blown end of the world situation, I heed you all to find your nearest shopping mall and hunker down for the long run.
Nathaniel’s Choice – The Thing (2011)
Our resident YouTuber is sharing his thoughts via a video every day. Check out his review and watch the video review of the remake of/kind of sequel to The Thing below: