20 September 2012

September 20th

The Munsters 2.09: "John Doe Munster" (1965) directed by Earl Bellamy
What better way to kick off Halloween-watchin' season than by sitting down with the elder daughter to enjoy a 47-year-old sitcom filled with goofy monsters?  This one was their obligatory amnesia episode (by federal law, all sitcoms must have at least one amnesia episode... whether before or after the required "two characters trapped in a small space" episode, it doesn't matter).  When a 300 lbs. safe lands on Herman's head, he forgets who he is and begins acting like a child.  Best bit that had me cracking up: Grandpa transforming into Rudolph Valentino in order to pretend to romance his own daughter in order to make Herman jealous in order to hopefully snap him out of his forgetful state.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) directed by Dan O'Bannon
I'd argue, the second most influential zombie movie ever made after Night of the Living Dead for mostly one reason: brains.  Zombies wanting to eat your brain is something that has just clicked with people in a way that zombies as general cannibals did not (to poor George Romero's eternal confusion).  Maybe this is because it gives zombies a little bit more personality?  Instead of mindless animals munching on whatever body part gets into the vicinity of their mouths, they now have a goal: get to the chewy center of your noggin.  Also, you can't deny that it's fun to hear zombies moan "braaaiiiiiiinssss."

Beyond that contribution to pop-culture, The Return of the Living Dead is simply a great horror movie.  The punk rock atmosphere pumps the movie full of energy (seeming to scream: "this ain't your grandpa's living dead!").  I love Clu Gulager's over-the-top acting as hapless Burt.  The special effects are fun and gooey and funny and gross.  The way the tarman moves is creepy.  The idea of having the trioxin-245 chemical as a sort of unstoppable monster itself is brilliant.  I think the most horrifying part of the movie is this chemical that cannot ever be contained and never stops reanimated any dead tissue it touches.  It's even nuke-proof.

Most zombie movies, once the SHtF, become a series of scenes of running and nailing boards to windows.  While there's a lot of that in this movie, it also takes a break in the middle of the chaos that is really pretty special.  When the gang yanks half of a zombie lady through their barricade, mortician Ernie has them hang onto her.  Here, the film takes a slight pause while Ernie interrogates the poor creature.  We learn about the zombies' reason for their dietary choice and we get a glimpse at how crappy being a zombie really is ("the pain...").  All the while, the severed spinal cord of the half-zombie wiggles around and leaks spinal fluid.  It's a pretty amazing way to get in some exposition, expanded on zombie mythology, and break up the running-and-nailing scenes.

I don't think there's any kind of deeper story here -- slight commentary on how we imagined Reagan's America would deal with a zombie outbreak? -- but as a purely entertaining zombie tale, this flick is hard to beat.

Watched: blu-ray from Second Sight (featuring the original soundtrack).