DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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DAWN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIE: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Dawn Of The Dead or Zombie, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Previously, I’ve compared David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here), the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator with the B-movie sci-fi/horror Without Warning (link here)and finally the classic Evil Dead and it’s 2013 remake (link here). Now I’d like to compare two classics that are related in an interesting way. In 1978, George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead was unleashed upon the world and was called Zombi in Italy. It was a hit and in 1979, Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci made his own zombie epic, one that was sold as a sequel entitled Zombi 2. But Zombie, as it was titled here in the U.S. when released in 1980, is it’s own movie and a classic horror in it’s own right. Now decades later, let’s take a look at Romero’s horror classic and Fulci’s unofficial Italian “sequel” and see just how different…or alike…they actually are…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Romero’s film focuses on four characters (Ken Foree, David Emge, Gaylen Ross and Scott Reiniger) and their efforts to survive during a zombie outbreak in progress. Dawn is never clear whether this is a new outbreak, or if the outbreak started in the original Night Of The Living Dead has been ongoing for the last ten years and is starting to spiral out of control. Actually, we’re never sure the two films are even related as Dawn never references Night. Ken Foree’s Peter at one point announces that his voodoo practicing grandfather once said “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead with walk the Earth!”, but the cause of the zombie outbreak in the original film was radiation from a fallen satellite. Dawn never clarifies the actual cause as our characters barricade themselves inside a giant shopping mall. Romero’s tone is a bit satirical in this installment and there are moments of humor and satire throughout the film.

Zombie opens with the harbor police in NYC boarding a seemingly deserted craft. One of them is savaged by a zombie onboard who is subsequently shot and falls off the boat. The daughter (Tisa Farrow) of the boat’s owner, teams up with a reporter (Ian McCulloch) to find out what happened to her father. This leads the duo and another couple (Al Cliver and Auretta Gay) to the small Caribbean island of Matul, where they soon find, to their horror, that the dead are rising to eat the living. In Zombie, or Zombi 2, the cause of the outbreak is clearly voodoo as the drums beat continuously and characters warn that the local witch doctor has something to do with it. Aside from the dead rising, the villagers are all taking ill and dying, too…only to rise again with a hunger for flesh. Fulci makes no social commentary here and his tone is bleak and nightmarish with an absence of any humor to speak of.

Except for both films being about flesh eating zombies whose bite spreads the infection, the stories are vastly different.

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THE ZOMBIES

Dawn Of The Dead‘s zombies give the impression that we are dealing with the recent dead. Possibly due to budget limitations or artistic choices, the walking dead here are simply bluish with sunken eyes and a few show signs of being partially eaten or scarred themselves. They eat the living and there are hundreds of them wandering through the mall and it’s parking lot and they can only be stopped by decapitation or simply shooting them in the head. They seem to be mostly acting on instinct, showing only the most basic thinking, if it can be called that at all.

Fulci’s zombies are far more frightening looking, resembling decomposing corpses far more than Romero’s, with rotting flesh, hollow eye sockets and some covered in maggots. A stop at an ancient graveyard during the film proves even those long dead are rising and they too are ravenously hungry. There are somewhat fewer than in Dawn, but their appearances in fog shrouded deserted villages and their ghoulish make-up, makes them even more intimidating. They too can only be killed by decapitation, bullets to the brain and being burned completely.

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MAIN CHARACTERS

Both film’s focus on four main characters, though Zombie has some supporting characters as well, such as Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson), and his wife (Olga Karlatos).

Dawn‘s four main characters are newswoman Fran (Gaylen Ross), and her boyfriend and helicopter pilot Stephen (David Emge), who are traveling with two S.W.A.T. team members, Roger (Scott Reiniger) and Peter (Ken Foree). They are taking the helicopter and running, which brings them to find safe haven in a massive shopping mall deserted all but for the dead. While Fran and Stephen have little or no training with firearms, Peter and Roger are well armed and expertly trained, which gives the four an edge.

Zombie‘s four have no such edge. Peter (Ian McCulloch) is a newsman given the story of the deserted boat and dead cop. Anne (Tisa Farrow) is the daughter of the boat’s owner, a doctor last seen on a small tropical island called Matul. They hitch a ride to the island with vacationing couple Brian (Al Cliver) and his pretty wife Susan (Auretta Gay). Neither couple has any idea what they are getting into, as opposed to Dawn‘s four, who are fully aware and prepared for what they may face.

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THE SETTINGS

The settings for these two film’s couldn’t be more different…

Dawn Of The Dead takes place in rural Pennsylvania, mostly at it’s massive Monroeville shopping mall which is near Pittsburg, where Romero went to college and made many of his earlier films. Here Romero uses his setting to make social commentary about class and consumerism.

Zombie‘s setting is the total opposite. While it opens and closes in New York City, the film takes place mostly in the Caribbean, on a small tropical island called Matul. Here, the only place our four have to hide is in an old church turned infirmary and that doesn’t provide them sanctuary for very long when the dead follow them there.

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THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Dawn starts the tension by showing us Fran’s news station slowly coming apart as the situation outside spirals out of control. Rescue stations are closing and people are running from their desks scared. Panic is setting in as news to report becomes scarce and what news they are getting is too horrible to believe. The dead are returning to life to eat the living! This creates an atmosphere of dread long before we see the first zombies.

Zombie‘s opening sequence goes for the jugular…literally. It opens with a gun being fired at someone, or something, rising from under a sheet, drums beating in the distance. We then cut to an apparently deserted sailboat entering New York harbor. Once boarded by the harbor patrol, one officer is savagely bitten on the throat by what appears to be a walking corpse. Fulci gets us tense and grossed out right away with a graphic and savage attack in the first few minutes. We also get some early glimpses of what’s happening on Matul at Dr. Menard’s infirmary, so we know what is waiting for the two ill-fated couples before they arrive.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s blood and gore right away, while the other, by showing us the mounting chaos before we are thrust into the S.W.A.T. team assault scene where we see our first zombies in action.

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end with down or ominous endings…

After a pitched battle with a motorcycle gang that invades their mall sanctuary and lets the zombies back in, a surviving Fran and Peter fly off in the chopper knowing they have very little gas and nowhere really to go. There fate is left uncertain, but things aren’t looking good for the pregnant Fran and the demoralized Peter. Dawn Of The Dead leaves their fate to our imaginations, but with the dead slowly gaining the upper hand, we don’t imagine much of a happily ever after for our two survivors. The film closes on a shot of the mall parking lot filled with the undead implying all may soon be lost.

As with it’s opening, Zombie‘s climax leaves nothing to our imaginations. After a bloody battle with the living dead in the old church, survivors Anne and Peter find their way back to the boat with a bitten Brian in tow. Once back in New York harbor, they are treated to a radio broadcast proclaiming the zombies are everywhere, just as the newly risen Brian starts banging on the cabin door. The film closes with a haunting scene of zombies crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into the Big Apple while things are left fairly grim for Peter and Anne. Apocalyptic and still chills decades later.

Here the films have stark similarities as both endings are bleak and present little chance or hope of our survivors finding an escape!

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IN CONCLUSION

Interesting as how one of these films was made as an unofficial sequel to the other, yet both are vastly different and both are considered classics. Dawn Of The Dead‘s success in Italy under the title Zombi gave Lucio Fulci the opportunity to direct Dardano Sacchetti’s script and have it be a sequel in name only, released as Zombi 2. He made his own movie, his way and it is considered one of the greatest zombie films of all time right next to Dawn. Despite Italian audiences, at the time, being led to believe they are related, they are completely different films with different stories and different tones. There are similarities, too. Both are famous for their abundant gore set pieces, such as Zombie‘s splinter in eyeball and Dawn‘s exploding head…not to mention both films’ zombie dining scenes. They are also both known for their haunting soundtracks, Dawn‘s by Italian rock band Goblin and Zombie‘s creepy score by Fabio Frizzi. And who could forget Zombie‘s shark vs zombie sequence or Dawn‘s zombies vs biker gang finale. Regardless of how Romero’s zombie classic may have given birth to Fulci’s in a way, horror fans got two unique masterpieces from two legendary filmmakers.

-MonsterZero NJ

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THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2013: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2013: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead or Fede Alvarez’s  Evil Dead remake, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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After seeing  Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe recently, it made me go back and revisit his Evil Dead remake. Since I haven’t done a Comparison In Horror in a while, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to compare Raimi’s classic with Alvarez’s update…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead has five young people going up to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and fun. When they get to the rundown cabin, they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations.

Fede Alvarez’s remake has five youths going up to a old family cabin that hasn’t been visited in years. They are there as an intervention for one of their number, who is addicted to heroin. When they get to the rundown cabin they discover some spooky goings on have occurred there and find an old book in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead. Despite being wrapped in plastic and barbed wire and filled with warnings to not read from it, one curious person does and unleashes horror beyond their imaginations.

There are some differences in plot details, but basically both flicks have a cabin with five unsuspecting youths, two of whom are brother and sister, being attacked and possessed by an ancient evil conjured from reading an ominous book that has been left there by others.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

Both flicks basically have the same antagonists. They are ancient evil spirits known as Deadites that are unleashed when either the book is read from directly, or recorded reading from the book is played back. They want the souls of all those in the cabin and possess and torment the occupants claiming them one by one. There are slight differences, too. The methods in which they can be stopped are slightly varied. The original 1981 film requires the possessed victim be totally dismembered to render them harmless, while the new film offers a variety of demises such as burning, boiling water…and the old favorite, bodily dismemberment. Their origins are also slightly different as well. The Deadites in the original seem to hail from somewhere around ancient Sumaria, while the Deadites from the 2013 remake seem connected more directly to Satanism or The Devil and claiming a certain amount of souls will unleash their master, The Dark One.

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HEROES and HEROINES

Here there is a vast difference in our leads. The 1981 version has ill-fated Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell). In Raimi’s classic, the now iconic Ash is a mild mannered fellow and a little on the cowardly side, leaving it up to alpha male Scott (Richard DeManicor) to hack up his possessed sister Cheryl and generally do the hero stuff till the Deadites get him, too. This leaves Ash all alone to man-up and battle the Deadites. It’s not till the sequels that he starts to take on the mantle of a hero, although an arrogant and bumbling one.

In the 2013 version, Alvarez wisely chose not to try to recast such an iconic character and left Ash out of things altogether. Instead, we get siblings David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his heroin addicted sister Mia (Jane Levy). When Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads from the book and unleashes the Deadites, vulnerable Mia is the first possessed and David steps up into hero mode trying to battle the evil and somehow save his little sister. In it’s last act this update throws us a twist by having Mia freed of her possession, by some clever thinking by David and then having her brother killed. Mia then takes vengeful center stage against the dark ones, becoming the sole surviving heroine when she started out the film as possessed and villainous.

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THE SETTINGS

Here, settings are exactly the same. Obviously there are differences due to different creative talent, actual location and budget, but both take place in old cabins deep in the North American woods. Raimi filmed much of his epic in Tennessee and the remake filmed on locations in New Zealand.

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THE OPENING SCENES

Both movies have opening scenes that really establish the mood and tone. The original The Evil Dead opens with the camera racing through the woods with some ominous growling heard as it reaches the car carrying our main protagonists. It is quick and to the point, but sets the tone right away that something bad is going to happen to our five unsuspecting travelers.

Alvarez’s Evil Dead opens with a pretty young girl being chased by some rednecks in the woods and being violently captured. She finds herself tied to a post in an old cellar and only after some dialog with her captors, do we realize that these are her family and she is actually a possessed Deadite who curses her father as he sets his own daughter on fire. It is a shocking beginning that certainly sets the tone very well for what is in store for the remake’s group of young folk.

Both openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Raimi’s may be simpler, but Alvarez’s is no less effective and a little more shocking.

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THE ENDINGS

In terms of their climaxes, both films have endings that resonate.

The Evil Dead ends with Ash having barely escaped a vicious assault from his possessed friends by burning the book in the fireplace resulting in a roller coaster bloodbath of gore. As the sun starts to rise, he limps out the door only to have the camera race towards him growling like in the opening and coming right at his face as Ash utters  a horrible scream. The film cuts to black and ends with the credits rolling; Ash apparently not as triumphant as he believed. It is ferociously quick and very effective, a last jolt before you leave the theater.

Evil Dead 2013 has Mia, free of Deadite possession, battling the Dark One in a rainstorm of blood with a chainsaw…a battle that costs her a hand. She cleaves the evil doppelgänger of herself in half and slowly walks off holding her bloody stump as the blood rain abates and the sun rises. The last shot is of the book sitting on the ground, as the cabin burns and then suddenly slamming shut as to indicate the evil has not been completely defeated. It is not quite as effective as the original’s, but still works very well.

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MISC.

There are other similarities and differences. The original was shot at a cost of around $400,000 dollars,  while it’s remake benefited from a budget of around $17 Million. Sam Raimi’s classic has some stunningly original camera work concocted on a shoestring budget by Raimi and cinematographer Tim Philo, while Alvarez’s re-imagining has some sumptuous and spooky visuals captured by Aaron Morton.

Also adding atmosphere for both films are their scores. The Evil Dead has a truly unsettling score featuring frantic strings mixed with disturbing growls and sounds concocted by Joseph LoDuca. Evil Dead 2013 has an equally unnerving score also featuring some glaring sounds and sound FX by Roque Baños. Both are really good at setting mood and atmosphere.

Raimi’s masterpiece is infamous for it’s ‘tree rape’ sequence featuring Ash’s sister Cheryl and while Alvarez pays homage to it with Mia, it’s not nearly as shocking as what Raimi did in 1981 and wasn’t trying to be. He also pays homage to Ash’s hand loss in Evil Dead II with Mia losing a hand in her blood soaked battle with the Dark One.

The 1981 film does have a bit of a twisted sense of humor, while the 2013 remake seems to take itself very seriously, though not too seriously that we don’t have a blood spattered good time.

Speaking of blood…Raimi’s flick is filled with some wildly inventive low budget gore FX, mixing prosthetics with stop motion animation and tons of blood. It was released unrated. Alvarez’s flick is extremely violent and gory, but does so within the restraint of it’s R rating…though it does push the boundaries of that quite a bit. Raimi’s inventiveness with his gore has a charm that the top of the line FX of the remake just don’t have, despite being excellently executed by the FX team and quite effective in their own right.

As with all Raimi associated flicks, Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 appears in both Evil Deads with it being Ash’s car in the original and a junked heap at the back of the cabin in the remake.

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So, we have one flick that is a horror masterpiece and one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and a remake which is a solidly effective horror and while it pays tribute to the original quite well, also has it’s own identity, too. Both films have basically the same plot, but differ when it comes to it’s characters and climaxes. Original director Sam Raimi went on to an illustrious career in movies, including making two classic sequels (see our reviews for Evil Dead II HERE and Army Of Darkness HERE) and three Spider-Man films, while Fede Alvarez is off to a good start with Evil Dead 2013 and Don’t Breathe.

In conclusion, the remake may not be on the same level as the classic masterpiece original, but it is a scary and bloody good time that can stand on it’s own and also makes a nice companion piece to the Ash and Evil Dead saga…which includes the new series (yup, review for that HERE!).

-MonsterZero NJ

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WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Without Warning or Predator, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Last time around I compared the similarities in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here). Now, I’d like to have a little fun comparing the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator and Without Warning, a B-movie sci-fi/horror with a very similar plot that predates Predator by seven years. So, how does 1980’s Without Warning measure up to 1987’s Predator? Read on to find out!

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Greydon Clark’s cult favorite Without Warning tells the story of a group of teens who go up to a mountain lake to party in an area that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. The surviving teens’ only hope is a local hunter named Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) whose own hunting skills make him a worthy adversary for the extraterrestrial big game hunter. This pits hunter vs. hunter in a battle for survival.

Directed by John McTiernan, Predator tells the tale of a group of special ops commandos who are dropped on a rescue mission into a section of the South American jungle that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. As his squad dwindles, it’s up to team leader Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to use his every skill as a solider to try and stop this big game hunter from another world. This pits hunter vs. soldier in a battle for survival.

Except for some story details, the similarities in the basic plot are quite obvious between the two.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

The alien hunter of the low budget Without Warning is a modest looking creature made by make-up FX legend Rick Baker and played by the late Kevin Peter Hall who was 7′ 3″ tall. The creature stalks it’s prey day or night and it’s only weapons are star-fish shaped creatures that it throws at it’s victims. These little buggers latch on to prey with their pointy fangs and finish them off by digging their tentacles deep under the victim’s skin. When wounded, the creature seems to be able to heal itself with a mere touch of it’s own hand, though, doesn’t really seem to feel pain anyway. It keeps the bodies of it’s victims, temporarily in an old shed, to keep as trophies…or possibly food. The creature is malicious and has no sense of honor and will attack basically anyone, whether they can defend themselves or not. The creature growls but never speaks.

The alien hunter of the larger budgeted Predator is a now iconic movie monster made by make-up FX legend Stan Winston and is also played by the late Kevin Peter Hall, who became a film icon himself for portraying such roles. The Predator hunts it’s victims day and night using a cloaking device to remain hidden. Once it has it’s prey in sight, the better equipt hunter uses a variety of retractable blades and laser weaponry to finish off it’s victims. When wounded, the predator has some impressive self-surgery skills to mend it’s wounds and keep on going, though, it does seem to feel pain and can be hurt. It keeps it’s prey’s skulls as trophies and leaves skinned bodies hanging around to evoke fear in potential game. It is a fair creature, that seems to like a challenge and will only attack prey that is armed and can put up a fight and defend itself. The creature doesn’t outright speak, but communicates by mimicking voices and phrases it’s heard.

While budget advantages make our Predator far more effective than the simply designed hunter of Without Warning, in terms of character, The Predator uses far more technology and weaponry than his 1980 counterpart and seems far more susceptible to pain and injury. Though in terms of the type of hunting they do, The Predator likes a challenge and only attacks armed prey, while Without Warning‘s alien hunter will attack anyone whether they are armed or not…though there is subtle implication that it does not consider children fair game.

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HEROES and FINAL GIRLS

Without Warning has both a hero, our local hunter Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) and a final girl, Sandy (Tarah Nutter). Joe is a bit of a recluse who has lived in the mountain area setting all his life. He’s a hunter who lives off the land and runs the small town’s only gas station. He seems to keep to himself, but has a strong sense of nobility and when the creature sets his sights on the helpless teens, Joe takes up his hunting rifle and takes on the alien invader who’s hunting on the local man’s turf. Final girl Sandy is a sweet girl brought on the lake excursion by her friend Beth (Lynn Thell) as a blind date for her boyfriend Tom’s (David Caruso) bud, Greg (Christopher S. Nelson). She’s sweet and timid, but does rise above being a damsel in distress, when placed in the middle of the life and death struggle between the hunters from different worlds.

Predator has a hero and a final girl (technically, the only girl), too. Our hero is Dutch, the leader of an elite black operative’s team played by action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a highly skilled soldier and when faced with a creature more powerful and far better armed, Dutch must use every skill he has to outwit his alien adversary that is slaughtering his men. Our final girl is Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), a rebel soldier captured by Dutch’s team that has encountered the creature before. While she is a soldier, the film never let’s her rise about being a captive damsel as Arnie takes center stage for a one on one climactic confrontation with The Predator.

Joe and Dutch are from two different worlds (figuratively), but are the best at what they do in their respective ways of life. It’s in our ladies that there is a bit of a difference. Ironically, while she’s the far more timid character, Sandy gets to show a bit more moxie than Anna who is actually a resistance fighter, but never given a chance to show it in the film.

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THE SETTINGS

Here there are equal parts similarities and differences. Without Warning takes place in a rural mountain area, here in the U.S., surrounding a lake. There is a very small town located in it, but the alien creature seems to track and kill anyone that enters the surrounding woods only. The fact that the locals are unaware of it’s existence, except for crazy army vet Sarge (Martin Landau), it would seem that the creature avoids the town and only enters to pursue prey that has gotten away.

Predator takes place in the thick jungles of South America where there is a lot of military conflict going on between government soldiers and rebels with clandestine U.S. and Russian support on the opposite sides. The Predator not only uses the conflict to mask it’s presence, but to provide it with abundant and heavily armed targets to prey on. It’s also implied that the creature prefers the heat.

While both aliens hunt in remote, dense areas, Without Warning‘s hunter seems to prefer a quieter, less traveled place to secretly hunt while The Predator prefers it’s remote jungle to be a hotbed of chaotic activity and fighting, to cover up it’s big game hunt and provide a numerous selection of aggressive and armed adversaries to prey upon.

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THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Without Warningin 80s horror fashion, starts us off right away with the slaughter of an argumentative father and son (movie vet Cameron Mitchell and former child actor Darby Hinton) on a hunting trip. It establishes right away that there is something wrong in these woods and opens the flick with some blood, gore and a good glimpse at the star fish-like creatures our hunter uses. It sets the stage for what’s to come.

Predator opens with a quite different approach. It introduces us to Dutch and his team and then their insertion into the jungle. It takes a while for the film to start letting us know that there is something wrong here and quite sometime before we begin to realize that there is something otherworldly lurking in the trees. The air of mystery works very well at pulling us in and keeping us interested.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s bloody hand right away, while the other, by keeping us in the dark as to what exactly isn’t right with the situation.

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end with a bang, thought one is intentional, the other a final F*&K YOU from a defeated opponent.

After a cat and mouse chase in the woods, Without Warning has Joe Taylor rigging explosives to the shack where the alien is storing it’s trophies. When the alien returns, Joe sacrifices himself to lure the alien close enough for Sandy to blast it. The creature…and Joe…go up in a ball of flame.

The Predator, on the other hand activates a self-destruct device after being mortally wounded by Dutch during a vicious battle. Dutch barely escapes the conflagration as the alien hunter laughs at the prospect of having the last…well, laugh.

Both endings are dramatic and provide fireworks, but obviously Predator’s budget and star provide far more action than the very low budgeted Without Warning. Joe Taylor and the alien trade a few shots before the explosion and destruction of the shack and an obvious alien dummy. Predator treats us to a last act cat and mouse game between Dutch and The Predator before a brutal physical encounter which has the alien game hunter coming up short and detonating the surrounding jungle to take his victorious opponent with it. Either way, both films have their alien critter going boom.

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IN CONCLUSION

The similarities in these two flicks are extremely obvious. The biggest difference is that Without Warning is a very low budget B-Movie horror flick that plays more like a slasher movie while Predator is a big budgeted studio action film with a major star and gives us one of the screen’s most iconic monsters. Predator’s budget gives us much bigger and more extravagant action while Without Warning works with what it’s got and gives us a flick more like the slasher/horror flicks of it’s time…and it did come first. Greydon Clark was a fairly successful exploitation filmmaker (Satan’s Cheerleaders) while Predator’s John McTiernan would go on to become a renown action movie director with the classics Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October under his belt. Without Warning can’t compete with Predator for action or it’s make-up and gore effects, but does splatter the red stuff frequently and while it’s costume is much simpler, the alien does have some personality and menace. Kevin Peter Hall gave both creatures a presence and while Without Warning does’t have a big marquee name like Arnold, it does have long-time veteran actors like Palance and Landau (along with fellow vets Cameron Mitchell and Neville Brand) to ham it up just enough to make the proceedings fun. Two very similar movies made at different times and at different ends of the filmmaking spectrum, but both provide their own brand of entertainment in their own way. One is now a cult classic and the other a bonafide action movie classic. Win win for us!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HALLOWEEN and IT FOLLOWS: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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HALLOWEEN and IT FOLLOWS: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen John Carpenter’s Halloween or David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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When sitting in my seat at New York’s Angelika Film Center and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows was about to begin, I was wondering, based on all the hype, if I might be witnessing today’s generation find their “Halloween“. Once the film was over and now after repeat viewings, I feel that these films are a lot alike in many ways. Whether Mitchell’s flick will someday be considered a true classic, like Carpenter’s masterpiece, only time will tell. The two films, though have a lot in common and whether they are revered on equal levels at some point, it is worth looking at those similarities now…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

John Carpenter’s classic Halloween has a young boy murdering his own sister on Halloween night. Fifteen years later Michael Myers breaks out of Smith Grove Sanitarium and returns to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois with his psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence) in hot pursuit. Michael randomly picks high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)…remember, it wan’t until Halloween II that we found out she was Michael’s baby sister…and begins to relentlessly stalk her and her friends. Michael leaves a trail of bodies in his wake as he tracks down young Laurie while she babysits on Halloween night.

It Follows has some sort of vengeful entity passed on to pretty college student Jay (Maika Monroe) through sexual intercourse. This demonic entity relentlessly stalks Jay, taking the form of anyone it wishes and only she and the one who passed it on to her can see it. It will stop at nothing to kill Jay…unless she passes it on to another through sex…as she and her friends seek to somehow evade or destroy it.

There are stark differences in plot details, but basically both flicks have a young woman targeted and stalked by a relentless, malevolent force.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

One of the things that makes Halloween so effective is the randomness of it’s killer. Evoking the feeling it could happen anytime, any place, to anyone. Michael Myers is an average little boy who on one Halloween night, takes up a knife and slaughters his sister. He is immediately incarcerated and over the years, remains a silent vessel of some kind of growing, intense evil that is never explained. For no outward reason, he chooses to escape and return home the night before Halloween, 15 years later. He picks Laurie Strode at random and just starts to follow her relentlessly, then murdering her friends before finally coming after her. He can be slowed down and injured, but apparently not stopped. Whatever Laurie and Dr. Loomis throw at him, he keeps getting back up. He wears an ominous Halloween mask and never speaks, nor seems to take any outward pleasure out of his violent acts. He is just an malevolent juggernaut that won’t stop until he gets what he wants. His motives and what drives him are a mystery.

The unnamed entity of It Follows is similar in many respects. Jay is seemingly picked at random by Hugh (Jake Weary) to have the entity passed onto. Once it has been, it pursues Jay relentlessly. Unlike Myers, it can assume any guise as it does. Sometimes it is in the form of an old woman, sometimes a tall man and even appears as Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and his mother, when Jay passes it on to him and it comes to kill him. It’s true form may be more demonic as the wound it gives Paul (Keir Gilchrist) appears to be claw marks. While the entity seems far more supernatural than Myers, and can only be seen by it’s victim, it also seems like it can be physically wounded and slowed down, though not stopped. It is methodical and patient much like Haddonfield’s infamous killer and also never speaks or seems to truly revel in it’s acts. A big difference, though is the entity will only kill it’s target. It only harms someone else, as with Paul, if they directly get in it’s way. In this, Halloween‘s Myers leaves a far larger body count.

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THE FINAL GIRLS/HEROINES

Here is a point where there are some vast differences, probably more due to a sign of the changing times, but Jay and Laurie are very different young women, despite their mutual resilience. Laurie Strode is the quintessential girl-next-door. She’s dedicated to her school work, very pretty, but dresses conservatively and she is still quite the virgin. She is also very shy around boys. Jay Height, on the other hand, is a few years older and is not only a sexy young woman who is very comfortable around boys, but very sexually active as well. The whole plot of It Follows is started with a sexual encounter she has in the back seat of a boy’s car…on only their second date. Again, it’s almost four decades after Halloween, so the portrayal of women and youths in movies has changed and the society they grew up in, is a lot different than it was in 1978. For example, from the brief meeting with Laurie’s dad, we can see she comes from a good, loving home with caring parents. She’s courteous and polite. Jay, in contrast, comes from a broken home with an alcoholic mother. She curses and is promiscuous and rebellious. With her mother almost always in a stupor, she has only her friends to turn to. Unlike Laurie, there is no Dr. Loomis waiting in the wings to save the day, either.

Both films carry the time-honored horror film themes about the dangers of casual sex, that their respective heroines’ peril represents. In contrast, the virginal Laurie survives, while her horny friends die, while not only does promiscuous Jay’s fate remain uncertain, it is casual sex that got her in trouble in the first place.

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THE SETTINGS

Here there are equal parts similarities and differences. Both film’s have a suburban setting, but very different suburbs. Haddonfield is more of a Norman Rockwell all-American neighborhood with white picket fences, well manicured lawns and trees everywhere. Jay lives in rundown, suburban Detroit where paint is cracking, there are old beat-up cars in the driveways and not every house looks lived in. Where Carpenter used the Halloween time of year to establish a mood, with leaves blowing and cloudy fall days giving way to nights filled with pumpkins and trick-or-treaters, Mitchell uses the desolate look of a dying community to give his chiller it’s feeling of desolation and isolation. Jay’s neighborhood is disturbingly void of activity both day and night while Haddonefield is filled with playing children. It gives us the feeling that Jay and friend’s are all alone…we rarely see an adult…while Halloween gives us an almost idyllic family community unaware and unprepared for the evil that has entered it’s peaceful streets. Two separate methods of using settings to establishing fear and dread, which both films have in abundance.

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THE OPENING SCENES

Both movies have great opening scenes that really establish the mood and tone. Halloween opens on October 31st, 1963. We see pretty Judith Myers being watched as she makes out with, then makes love to, her boyfriend. After he leaves, the observer takes up a kitchen knife and we find it is Judith’s little brother Michael, who then brutally slaughters his nearly naked sister for no apparent reason. His horrified parents arrive home in time to see their little boy standing outside the house holding a bloody knife and staring blankly into space.

It Follows opens with a pan across the Detroit neighborhood as the sun sets when pretty Annie (Bailey Spry) in lingerie and heels bursts out of her house. She looks terrified despite assuring her inquiring neighbor she’s fine. The girl runs back into the house and emerges with her keys, blowing past her concerned father and getting in her car and leaving. We then see her alone on a beach, lit only with her car’s headlights, tearfully telling her father on the phone that she loves him. As she looks in the distance in terror, at the tree line lit by her car’s red break lights, we get an intense feeling of dread even before we cut to the following morning with Annie’s body lying in the sand in a horrifyingly brutalized condition.

Both openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding.

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THE ENDINGS

Here’s where Halloween really comes out on top. Carpenter’s classic and Mitchell’s films both have ambiguous endings, but only Halloween really pulls it off. After a very intense battle with Michael Myers, Dr. Loomis comes and shoots the masked killer repeatedly till he falls off a balcony and hits the ground…presumedly dead. As Loomis tries to comfort Laurie she asks if it was the ‘Boogie Man’…Loomis replies with an ominous “As a matter of fact it was.” We then see that Michael’s body is gone. It’s very effective and leaves us chilled long after the credits roll. He’s still out there…somewhere. A perfectly spooky open ending with a classic line that still resonates.

It Follows drops the ball a bit by not quite knowing when to stop. Jay and friends have an intense battle with “It” as they lure it into the high school pool where Paul finally shoots it while it’s underwater and trying to drown Jay. Jay looks over the edge of the pool to see it ominously filling with an expanding cloud of blood. Is it dead? We’re not sure. Then the film goes on, having Jay return home and finally sleeping with Paul, who has crushed on her for years. They ask each other if they feel ‘different’ and decide they don’t. After Paul’s declining to pass it on to a pair of hookers…if it’s even still following them…the film cuts to Paul and Jay walking down the street holding hands while there is another person in the distance behind them…and then just ends. It’s supposed to leave us feeling unsure if the entity was defeated or not, but just seems abrupt. The added sex scene with Paul is motivationally unclear, especially after Jay was so guilty over what happened to Greg. It gives us the impression that the story is going to continue, but then just ends. It’s more abrupt than ominous and personally, left me unsatisfied. In my humble opinion…and while I respect the filmmaker’s vision…I would have ended it as Jay looked into the blood-filled pool. The sex scene with Paul doesn’t really add anything and doesn’t further the story. It also gives the intense pool scene a feeling of not having gone anywhere and deflates it’s impact as the film continues on with a new plot point that doesn’t resolve anything either.

Carpenter knew to end Halloween at the right point, while we’re still catching our breath. Mitchell let’s us wind down and then continues the story a bit before his ambiguous ending and thus it gives the appearance of just ending suddenly…and un-satisfyingly. Basically the only real stumble he makes with this film.

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MISC.

There are other similarities. Both films have excellent cinematography and shot framing. John Carpenter’s shot framing has always been impeccable and the moody yet vibrant cinematography of Dean Cundey really makes it effective. Cundey uses shadow brilliantly and Halloween truly looks like the holiday it represents. David Robert Mitchell sights Carpenter as an influence and it shows. Much like Bereavement‘s Stevan Mena, Mitchell has learned well from the master and he frames his shots exceptionally. He is backed up by some sumptuous digital cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, who like Cundey, knows how to use light and shadow to his advantage and he gives the rundown streets of Detroit a sense of hopelessness that fits along with the film’s mood.

Also adding atmosphere for both film’s are their electronic scores. Carpenter’s score for Halloween is legendary and it brilliantly highlights what’s going on in the film, setting the mood for every frame. The same can be said for Disaterpeace’s electronic score for It Follows. A bit more complex than Carpenter’s perfectly minimalist score, it also adds a lot of mood and atmosphere even adding ominous touches when the film is in quieter moments, as Carpenter did with his keyboards.

Finally, both films got gradual releases that slowly expanded from the weeks of their premieres. Staggered releases weren’t uncommon in the 70s and Halloween slowly expanded it’s release and thus it’s reputation grew and began to precede it, as it was regionally released across the country from late October through November. It Follows was supposed to have a small four theater release in mid-March…which is when I saw it in NYC…and then open on VOD a week later. It did so well in those four locations that the VOD release was postponed and the film added more and more theaters over the following few weeks till it achieved a full wide release on 3/27/15 and a solid gross for a low budget film originally slated for VOD.

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So is It Follows the Halloween of today’s generation? By way of comparison, in many ways, it is. The true test will be years from now when we see if horror fans still revere and talk about it or…if it turns out to be a ‘horror of the moment’ and fade away with the next big thing. Only time will tell. Personally, I think it falls a few steps short, but is still a solid and refreshingly offbeat horror flick that should stand the test of time well, if not quite as importantly regarded as Carpenter’s classic masterpiece.

-MonsterZero NJ

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