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Horror of AMA: Part I

October 14th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

I’m gonna hit up about the first two weeks of AMA in this blog post, so try to keep up. I had a hell of a good GI fundraiser last night, hope you could join us. Now, on to the spooks:

MON the 14th

Damn, this film deserves to be on a list of under-appreciated movies to be sure. KILLER KLOWNS simultaneously celebrates the clown as an object of fear while subverting horror flick expectations. The clowns themselves end up being primarily a source of laughs, and the mundane objects one associates with carnivals (balloon animals, cotton candy, popcorn) all take on the more deadly and sinister roles. I enjoyed watching this movie again, and I can think of very few horror films that play for laughs while maintaining such an undercurrent of creepiness.

"What are you going to do with those pies, boy?" Best line in the movie.

“What are you going to do with those pies, boy?” Best line in the movie.

We’re starting AMA off with a special event, being this rare 35mm screening is part of Robert K. Elder’s book tour and will feature a post-film Skype Q&A with KILLER KLOWNS director Stephen Chiodo. Chiodo’s work has been primarily in puppeteering and special effects (including a certain cat that can eat a whole watermelon), which shows in KLOWNS as the top-notch special effects and clown costumes pre-date the horror film CGI nightmare of the 1990s and 2000s.

I don’t want to say much more about KILLER KLOWNS because the movie (while following the framework of your standard horror movie) is really a serious of gags (which one would expect from clowns) and should be seen to be enjoyed. And be sure to ask Stephen for me about the upcoming announced sequel!

TUE the 15th

I haven’t seen CRONOS recently, though I own the handsome Criterion Collection Bluray with artwork by Mike Mignola. Speaking of Mike Mignola, 1993 was the year Hellboy was first published, and CRONOS director Guillermo del Toro would go on to director both Hellboy features. Coincidence? Perhaps not, as these two have become very important to me as genre creators. What a great year for me and all fans of gothic and mythic horror.

Immortality. Ah yes.

Immortality. Ah yes.

Even if you just know del Toro from PAN’S LABYRINTH (though you would have missed the best big-screen film of the summer, PACIFIC RIM), you will like CRONOS. Though made with a much smaller budget and tells a much smaller story, the attention to the details of the Cronos device foreshadow the lavish production design and prop work that has come to be the hallmark of del Toro’s films.

WED and THU the 16th and 17th

Though I don’t know if any of us will love any of Fulci’s films like ZOMBI 2, THE BEYOND is certainly better than your average horror film. With an almost Lovecraftian premise, THE BEYOND whisks past its prologue to its modern setting of a haunted hotel. The movie is complete with the horrifying prophecies of a murdered madman, strange paintings of the damned, undead that would be right at home in ZOMBI 2, and perhaps too many shots of people being dissolved by acid and lime.

A succession of people get blinded, and then therefore can see through to the afterlife. Hey, it was the 80s.

A succession of people get blinded, and therefore can see through to the afterlife. Hey, it was the 80s.

FRI thru THU, the 18th thru 24th

I’m going to fold both NOTLD and BOTLD in together here. For one, I’ve blogged about NOTLD before, and we show it here at the GI on a pretty regular basis. Hey, we own a print, and it’s not under copyright! Want to know why it’s not under copyright? Watch BOTLD and find out!

I was pleasantly surprised to find that BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD spends so much of its running time actually talking about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD specifically. Having watched the stiff and lifeless SIFF 2013 doc DEAD MEAT WALKING (ha! a zombie doc that’s stiff and lifeless), I was pleased that this film recognizes so many aspects of the zombie phenomenon sparked by NOTLD, but mostly spends its time talking about how the movie actually got made in the first place and its mirroring of the societal upheavals with the race riots and Vietnam war plaguing the late 60s. Even when I saw NOTLD the first time as a young teenager in the early 2000s I realized how weird it was for a black man to be the hero of the movie, and for him to just be a normal guy and not a swaggering blaxploitation figure as seen to follow in the 70s. The other normal black guy I had seen in 60s movies is Sydney Poitier, and the film fully explores that as well.

Duane Jones, still the best zombie movie hero in my book.

Duane Jones, still the best zombie movie hero in my book.

I’m glad that someone had the smarts and cultural foresight to make this documentary so fully formed and well rounded. It’s a documentary about NOTLD and its place in the culture of its time. The fact that zombies are bigger than ever with The Walking Dead being the most watched thing on TV yesterday (beating out football!) is of course all owed to Romero and his guerrilla NOTLD team, but BOTLD takes a much more focused approach. Were this documentary made 10 years ago before the 2004 DOTD remake heralded the pop culture zombie obsession, it wouldn’t seem so strange for the film to stay on track. A lesser filmmaker would have been too distracted with the current phenomenon, and so I give a big tip of the hat to Rob Kuhns for keeping it all together.

—watching MANIAC COP 2, priming for blog Part II, dan

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