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By Dan Oliver
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2011 Dan Oliver
All rights reserved.
A IS FOR ...
ALIEN DEAD (1980)
Alien Dead is a horror movie directed by Fred Olen Ray, who also wrote the screenplay with the help of Martin Nicholas. Fred is best known for his work on the TV show The Lair and for directing Evil Toons and Scalps. He cast Buster Crabbe as Sheriff Kowalski, Ray Roberts as Tom, Linda Lewis as Shawn and George Kelsey as Emmet.
The tranquil peace and quiet in a sleepy American town is broken when a meteor strikes and hits a houseboat. The occupants of the houseboat become zombies and need to feed in order to survive. At first they eat the alligators that live in the swamp, but soon they start eating humans when they run out of alligators. They kidnap people from the town and eat them, but do it in secret so no one knows that they are zombies. As more and more people start disappearing, the local scientist grows suspicious and decides to investigate.
ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)
The third movie in the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness is a slapstick comedy horror movie, which sets it apart from the first two movies. In it, Ash is trapped in medieval England and has to fight the zombies – called deadites – to reach the present day. The movie was directed by Sam Raimi, who wrote it with his brother Ivan. It stars Bruce Campbell as Ashley J 'Ash' Williams, Embeth Davidtz as Sheila and Marcus Gilbert as Lord Arthur.
In the movie, Ash and his girlfriend Linda find the Book of the Dead and open it. Linda is killed by the satanic force it unleashes. Ash is forced to chainsaw his hand off when the force enters him and it ends up sending him to the Dark Ages along with his Oldsmobile, chainsaw and shotgun.
Ash is captured by Lord Arthur's men who strip him of his weapons because they think he has been working for Duke Henry, their enemy. He is taken to the castle with Duke Henry's men and is thrown in the Pit of Death, which contains deadites. It looks like Ash could be about to die but then the Wise Man tosses him his chainsaw. Once he has destroyed a deadite, he climbs out of the pit and gets his gun back.
He manages to get Henry released, which makes him a hero in people's eyes. Ash falls for a woman called Sheila, whose brother is one of Arthur's knights, but still wants to get home. He finds out from the Wise Man that he needs a special book called the Necronomicon.
Ash sets out and travels through a haunted forest. He is chased by something and hides in a windmill but manages to break a mirror. Things get a bit strange when his reflections climb out of the pieces of mirror and start taunting him. One manages to get inside him by diving down his throat and becomes a life-size copy of him, but Ash manages to kill and bury it.
He continues on his quest but when he arrives at the location of the Necronomicon he finds three books instead of the one he was expecting. He manages to distinguish which is the real book but when it comes to reciting 'Klaatu barada nikto' so he can take the book safely he can't. He remembers the first two words but can't remember the last one so he mumbles it, thinking that he can get away with it. Big mistake.
Ash takes the book and quickly returns to the castle. But because he didn't remember the last word he has awoken the dead, who start coming up from their graves – even his life-size copy. The deadites join the Army of Darkness and Sheila is taken by a deadite. Ash wants to go home but he can't – he has to help put things right. He wants to lead the people against the army led by his life-size copy, but they aren't sure about it. He uses some textbooks to learn what they need to do and Duke Henry helps him. They manage to defeat Ash's life-size copy and the army before Ash goes back to the future thanks to a special potion from the Necronomicon.
Ash tells a colleague in the S-Mart store what he has been up to and that he could have been a medieval king if he had wanted. He manages to mess things up again when he causes a demon to possess one of the female workers, but he manages to kill it and then kisses the woman. The voice-over declares: 'Sure, I could have stayed in the past. Could have even been king. But in my own way, I am king.'
The movie might have been set in medieval England but it was filmed in California, in the Bronson Canyon and Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. They built the castle on the edge of the Mojave Desert and the interior scenes were shot in Hollywood. The script was written while Sam and Ivan were producing the movie Darkman, an action superhero movie that Sam wrote and directed. They had been given an initial budget of $8 million but this wasn't enough to do the script justice because of the special effects needed. Happily Darkman was a success, so Universal Pictures agreed to fund half of the movie's budget and Sam, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert, the movie's producers, each gave some of their salary. They still couldn't do exactly what they had wanted to do, but that couldn't be helped.
After the movie had been finished Universal decided that they didn't like the ending, which was deemed too negative. The company wanted one where Ash was a hero, so a new one was filmed. The company also cut some scenes – including one where a deadite was decapitated – after the movie was given an NC-17 rating, which meant that no children under 17 could see it, and the company wanted it to be suitable for all. It ended up with an R rating, which meant that anyone could see it, as long as children were accompanied by an adult.
Generally, Army of Darkness got good reviews. It was given a score of 71 out of 100 (based on 88 reviews) by the website Rotten Tomatoes, although this wasn't as high as the previous two Evil Dead movies, which received scores of 100 and 98.
Critics did enjoy the movie, however. Desson Howe from The Washington Post wrote in his review: 'There's a little Monty Python black humor at work here. There are moments of cyberpunkish mutation. You'll also find remnants of Arthurian legend, Gulliver's Travels and, uh, the Three Stooges. But the movie has an original life of its own.
'Bill Pope's cinematography is gymnastic and appropriately frenetic. The visual and make-up effects (from artist-technicians William Mesa, Tony Gardner and others) are incredibly imaginative. Ash contends with even more Books of the Dead that suck him into nightmarish hells. He has run-ins with teeth-clattering, scary skeletons that recall the great old Ray Harryhausen movies.'
Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly gave the movie only a C+ rating but still liked the movie, writing: 'The director sends his usual hero, the square-jawed wiseacre Ash (Bruce Campbell), through a time warp and back to the Dark Ages, where he comes on like a smart-ass cross between Indiana Jones and Mad Max. With his Dudley Do-Right chin and light-as-air machismo, Campbell is a walking human cartoon, and it's fun to watch him drop insults in late-20th-century slang and treat his medieval hosts, including the demons, with brazen contempt ("Yo, she-bitch, let's go!").
'There are also a few flashes of Raimi at his best: a loony-tunes sequence in which Ash does bloody battle with Lilliputian versions of himself, an encounter with the Book of the Dead that leaves his face all bent out of shape. As always, Raimi's "evil dead" are amusingly corporeal: in Army of Darkness, the rubber-faced ghouls and witchy-poos don't just spook you – they thwack you in the face.'
Army of Darkness was a big hit in the cinema and made $21.5 million. Fans loved the movie and it was nominated for a host of awards. At the Saturn Awards it won for Best Horror Film and was nominated for Best Make-Up, but lost out to Interview with the Vampire. It won the Critics' Award at Fantasporto and the Golden Raven Award at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film. It also received nominations for the Grand Prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, Best Film at the International Fantasy Film Awards and Best Film at the Spanish International Film Festival.
TOP THREE QUOTES
Ash: 'You see this? THIS ... is my BOOMSTICK'
Sheila: 'You found me beautiful once.'
Ash: 'Honey, you got real ugly.'
Arthur: 'Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?'
Ash: 'Nope. Just me baby ... Just me.'
If you love Evil Dead movies, check out the website Deadites Online (www.deadites.net) to find out the latest news and meet other fans of the trilogy in the forum. You can also hunt down back issues of several comic series featuring the Evil Dead characters and storylines.
AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2006)
A horror movie directed and written by Steven C Miller, Automaton Transfusion was released as the first in a trilogy. (Automaton Transfusion 2 is due to be released in 2012.) The movie stars Garrett Jones as Chris, Juliet Reeves as Jackie, William Howard Bowman as Scott and Rowan Bousaid as Tim.
The movie follows what happens to three best friends during a zombie attack. Scott, Chris and Tim decide to go out and watch a band in a bar. On the way there they wonder why there are no cars on the road and why they can't see anyone. It's rush hour so the roads should be packed. When they arrive at the bar they are chased by a group of zombies and have to fight for their lives.
It turns out that the US government is to blame, as back in the 1970s they wanted to find a way of bringing the dead back to life. They have recently reopened the project, but in doing so have caused a zombie apocalypse.CHAPTER 2
B IS FOR ...
BENEATH STILL WATERS (2005)
Directed by Brian Yuzna, Beneath Still Waters brings us zombies and the supernatural against a backdrop of a Spanish town. It stars Michael McKell, Raquel Meroño and Charlotte Salt.
The town is due to celebrate its 400th anniversary, but history has a hold on the sleepy place and the celebrations are destined for terror. Four hundred years earlier, the leaders of the town flooded a nearby village, leaving Satan-worshippers chained inside the local church, thus burying them forever under water ... or so they hoped. But what they hadn't planned for all those years ago was two teens deciding to take a look around the doomed village and getting trapped as it flooded.
In the present day, the townspeople are preparing for the celebrations when a local boy goes missing while swimming with his girlfriend. The ancient village is behind the boy's death, but it's left to a newbie reporter and diver to solve the mysteries of the zombie village and its victims.
THE BEYOND (1981)
An Italian zombie movie, The Beyond was directed by Lucio Fulci, and is the second in the Gates of Hell trilogy. A blood-filled horror-fest, it has gained cult status with horror fans despite being heavily censored because of its extremely gory scenes.
The story follows Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), who has arrived in New Orleans from New York to claim her inheritance of a hotel out in the swamps of Louisiana. But what she doesn't know is that, years earlier, the cellar of the Seven Doors hotel was the scene of the gruesome lynching of an artist called Schweik, who was believed to be a warlock. The torture consisted of a beating, a dousing with acid and a crucifixion, despite warnings by the artist that he would unleash evil on the attackers.
The hotel is creepy from the outset. The spooky servants, Arthur (Gianpaolo Saccarola) and Martha (Veronica Lazar), look otherworldly. It's not long after Liza starts her renovation that strange things begin to happen. The first victim is a painter working on the building, who suffers serious injuries when he falls off his rig. Coughing up blood and speaking in tongues, he starts speaking of 'the eyes', but no one knows what he's talking about. It's not long before another workman falls victim to the hotel. This time it's a plumber, Joe, who, when trying to repair a leak in the cellar, is murdered by a mysterious creature after he opens up a hole to the supernatural underworld. The body is discovered by the creepy Martha near the corpse of the warlock artist, Schweik.
The spookiness continues when Liza finds a blind woman called Emily wandering down an empty highway. She tells Liza that she's been waiting for her, and that she must leave the hotel while she still can.
Meanwhile, at the morgue, Joe's wife Mary-Ann has arrived to prepare her husband's body for the funeral, when she is burned with acid and murdered. Her daughter is then attacked by Schweik's corpse after Dr John McCabe's assistant, Harris, inserts an EMG machine into the body to measure electrical activity in its muscles.
Liza tells Dr McCabe of her worries about the strange goings-on in the hotel, including the weird staff. He tells her he's never heard of either of them, and he knows the people of the area well. The two then find out about the death of Joe's wife, and that her daughter was found petrified in the morgue, too scared to talk. After Liza goes to their funeral, she is again warned by Emily about the paranormal activity at the hotel. Emily tells Liza about the dead artist, about room 36 where he stayed, and about a supernatural underworld the hotel conceals. Suddenly Emily is scared by one of Schweik's paintings, and rushes out of the hotel. Liza notices that she floats above the floor.
Liza decides to confront her fears of the hotel. She takes a look around the supposedly haunted room 36, where she finds a skin -covered book called Eibon, and Schweik's corpse nailed to the wall of the bathroom! She runs to John McCabe, who goes back into the room, to find only two nails in the wall. He then tells the frightened Liza that there is no woman called Emily living where she describes.
John decides to investigate Emily's house, but when he goes to the area Liza tells him about, he finds an old derelict building, with nothing inside apart from the book Eibon.
Meanwhile, Liza goes for a walk with Martin Avery and she sees a copy of Eibon in a bookshop's window, but when she goes inside the book has disappeared. Martin goes alone to the local library to find the blueprints of the hotel but dark forces knock him off his ladder as he searches. He breaks his neck and huge supernatural tarantulas eat his face.
Back at the hotel, Arthur is killed as he tries to close the hole in the cellar's wall and a zombie of Joe the plumber appears when Martha is cleaning room 36. She is impaled on a nail in the bathroom. The next victim is Emily. Back at her house – which is once again filled with expensive furniture – zombies of Arthur, Joe, Mary-Ann and Schweik appear to force Emily back to hell. She doesn't want to go and sets her guide dog Dickie on Schweik, but the dog turns on her and rips her throat out.
On his return to the hotel, John rescues Liza and reveals to her that the hotel is one of the seven gateways to hell. As he speaks the flooded cellar becomes overrun with the undead, as the gates have opened. John and Liza manage to escape, only to find the city desolate. The pair head to the hospital so John can get his gun. They encounter gangs of zombies and John finds Harris, but his colleague is killed when a window shatters and the glass impales him against the hospital wall.
Forced into the morgue by the zombies, John and Liza join Joe's daughter Jill and start to fight the zombies off. Suddenly Jill turns on them and it appears that, like Emily, she is working for the dark forces. John shoots her but then is forced downstairs with Liza by the corpse of Schweik.
Unbelievably they find themselves back in the cellar of the spooky hotel, where they walk through a hole in the wall and find themselves in one of Schweik's paintings, trapped forever in the land of the undead!
BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003)
The third movie in the Re-Animator series, and the second directed by Brian Yuzna, Beyond Re-Animator catches up with Dr Herbert West, 13 years into his prison sentence following the death of a girl in one of his zombie experiments.
Despite his incarceration, Herbert (Jeffrey Combs) has been continuing with his experiments, performing them on rats in the prison. He believes the experiments, although basic, have unearthed what was missing in his earlier reanimation process, and he starts working with a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry). The missing link in Herbert's earlier experiments is nano -plasmic energy – the energy released at the moment of death – and the mad doctor has managed to store this energy in capsules through his continued work.
When the prison warden (Simón Andreu) finds out what Herbert and Howard are up to, the two doctors kill him. Herbert then uses the nano-plasmic energy from a rat to reanimate the warden, creating a human-looking zombie with the tendencies of a rat! As a result the prison turns to chaos as the inmates get their hands on Herbert's reagent, until it becomes hard to distinguish the dead from the living.
Again, Herbert seems to escape most of the madness, leaving his new sidekick weeping over the severed head of his girlfriend, and managing to get out of the prison as the movie closes.
Excerpted from Zombies A-Z by Dan Oliver. Copyright © 2011 Dan Oliver. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
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