Saturday, 25 December 2010

Zombie mini-season

Yes, it's yet another mini-season idea. As before, the idea is to showcase some of the less well known films out there...

The Zombie
Mention the zombie film to most people and they’re likely to think of George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and its ever-increasing list of sequels, remakes, re-interpretations and so on. While Romero’s impact on the zombie film is hard to overestimate, there were zombie films before him and since which have taken a different approach. In this mini-season we showcase something of the history and diversity of the movie zombie, with films from the US, UK, Italy, Spain and France ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s.

White Zombie
Victor Halperin | USA | 1932 | 69 minutes
The earliest zombie film foregrounds the voodoo aspect of the zombie legend, blending German Expressionist inspired visuals and design with a Haitian setting. Bela Lugosi stars as the evocatively named Murder Legendre.

The Plague of the Zombies
John Gilling | UK | 1966 | 91 minutes
Two years before Romero’s epochal The Night of the Living Dead, Britain’s Hammer films presented their take on the traditional Haitian zombie legend, as a Cornish Squire uses voodoo to murder villagers in order to reanimate their corpses as labourers for his tin time. Colonialism, exploitation, the return of the repressed – this one has subtexts galore.

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue
Jorge Grau | Italy / Spain | 1974 | 95 minutes
One of the first and best films to show the influence of Night of the Living Dead, this Spanish-Italian co-production, set in the Lake District, is felt by some to actually surpass its model in imagination, direction and gore.

The Grapes of Death
Jean Rollin | France | 1978 | 85 minutes
Jean Rollin made two zombie films around the time of Dawn of the Dead. While there is little good that can be said about the Nazi zombie themed Zombie Lake, The Grapes of Death sees the French horror auteur combine personal and commercial concerns to good effect. Horror/porn crossover legend Brigitte Lahaie stars.

Lucio Fulci | Italy | 1979 | 91 minutes
Dawn of the Dead inspired numerous imitations in Italy. The most famous of these - although the exact degree to which it is a rip-off has long been debated - is probably Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. Coming across as simultaneously a quasi-prequel to Dawn of the Dead and a return to the voodoo zombie, Zombie features two of the most iconic set piece moments in horror history in a shark vs zombie underwater duel and an enucleation by wooden splinter that was enough to see it banned in the UK as a “video nasty”.

Return of the Living Dead III
Brian Yuzna | US | 1993 | 97 minutes
The 1980s saw the emergence of the Living Dead franchise alongside Romero’s Dead films. Their theme of fully conscious zombies who find some relief from their pain by eating brains reached a point of surprising sophistication in this early 1990s crossover with the teen romance genre from Brian Yuzna: After the girl gets unwittingly turned into one of the living dead she finds that body piercing and self-mutilation provides a way to stave off the cravings for the boy’s brains. No, really.

Other contenders: The People Who Own the Dark, Shock Waves, Bio-Zombie, City of the Living Dead.

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