Once again I do a dual review, one of a classic horror film and then one newer one that was overlooked although in this case maybe I overlooked it since a sequel is coming for it.
This being remake of the 1973 George Romero flick, The Crazies.
The Crazies (2010)
..I am someone who should hate remakes because they usually mean that Hollywood does not have a new idea. However with Horror its a little different. There were many remakes within just the few couple of decades of cinema starting. Talkie remakes of silent classics, and even remakes in the 1980's that were effective like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing.
I caught a cut version of George Romero's The Crazies on television when I was a kid and am loathe to admit that I did not get to seeing it during the DVD revolution in the 90's/2000's which
put the work of many horror directors (some already passed on) in a new critical light. In fact I had no desire to see this remake when it came out in 2010 and caught this on television of all places.
This remake is nothing too astounding but I really liked the major concept of the horror not even being the virus that turns people into psychopathic killers but rather the dual totalitarian and incompetence of the government in dealing with the outbreak.
Basically an army plane crashes with an experimental virus that turns people into murderous psychopaths, like a hyper rabies in a small town in the midwest. While the sheriff and his girlfriend try to figure out what is going on, the military comes in and goes all heavy handed on the populace, herding them into camps. Then all hell breaks loose and the military bails leaving the people to fend for themselves while killing and incinerating those they think are infected (whether they are or not) and even those that just resist.
One chilling scene is when a camp gets overrun and the military pigs leave a whole tent of infected people helplessly strapped to gurneys. Most are infected and ignored by a 'crazie' who comes in with a pitchfork but three women who were mistakenly tagged as infected are left to their fate (one of them being the hero's girlfriend). Two are saved but one is impaled with a pitchfork after begging for help. This scene is tough to watch because the the womans real killers were the failed men who left her behind.
As the situation spirals out of control, the government decides on a 'cleansing' option with a nuke..can the heroes (whats left of them) escape in time?
I am surprisingly not as anti military as I am antipolice (of course I am even more anti criminal so its all moot anyhow), and their is a scene where a sympathetic (and horrified) soldier does the right thing but overall that aspect of the film is what made it work as horror. The infected are actually not that impressive when compared to 28 Days later or other infected/zombie films.
Once again the real enemy is man himself.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
starring Lon Chaney
I have heard this described as the greatest silent horror film ever made and I am not inclined to disagree. In many ways this is not a true horror film and it is as big budget as Nosferatu was low budget. I have both movies on a split DVD I got for cheap a few years back.
The version I have is all black and white with some bad transfers on some of the reel but I have seen a remastered version with different color tints as well as the infamous early technicolor
scene at the Masquerade.
I have never read the book, so I am only going with this film.
An Opera house in 19th century Paris is haunted by a mysterious Phantom who takes a liking to an up and coming singer but who gets pissed if anyone else gets in the spotlight. One of the most infamous and shocking scenes is a giant chandelier being released on a full opera house full of people! The phantom is obviously a psychopathic killer but he is also a talented musical genius.
Basically this is like a mystery story with a disfigured villain who is like a prototype for Batmans Arkham rogues gallery(in the film he has escaped from an island asylum). And here is what has made this film immortal, the performance of the famous man of a thousand faces, Lon Chaney.
The unmasking scene is truly a shock and once again I can picture people back then gasping in terror at the reveal. Lon Chaney really put his face through torture to achieve a makeup job without any appliances or latex. He used devices to contort his face and the visage of the Phantom is still effective almost a century later. His pantomime is also effective, this evil genius
is also quite tragic and you can feel his pain and rage at the world for forsaking him.
I can relate!
There are also many well shot scenes, like Chaney dressed as the Red Death (ala Poe) at a masquerade. Him lurking among a statue with his cape waving in the night (again the Batman creators had to be influenced!) with his face conveying despair at his 'beloved' forsaking him (beloved in his own twisted mind, the beautiful singer is terrified of him although she likes his
This is an amazing film and put Universal on the map with its future horror/thrillers to come.
Unfortunately Lon Chaney was not to join their 1930's glory as he died of throat cancer in
1930. He was slated to play Dracula, which of course is the role that made Bela Lugosi a
star. Lon's son, the hulking Lon Chaney Jr (a favorite of mine, a vulnerable and brawny actor)
went on to stardom in the 40's as the tragic Wolfman, maybe my favorite monster character.
On TCM I saw a segment with some hipster types lauding silent movies, and my gut reaction was of disdain but then I understood what they were doing. Silent movies are so removed and almost surreal from this modern time that any younger fans who can get into Silent films should be encouraged. This cinema is our history and from a time when the West still had some vitality although about to be smashed by world wars and cultural inversion.
And in the end the silent film format as well as black and white (or sepia) is especially suited to the dreamlike and surreal qualities of horror films. I would like to see a Neo Silent revival in horror and that is suited to the no budget digital arena.