Night of the Living Dead
George A. Romero made a defining moment in cinematic history when he directed his first feature-length film, the indie film, Night of the Living Dead. A group of people become trapped inside a home in rural Pennsylvania and have to fend off reanimated corpses who are hungry for human flesh. Romero filmed the entire movie on 35 mm film due to budget restrictions, giving it the familiar raw, gritty feel. The special effects and makeup also needed to be conscientious of the $114,000 budget. Most of the movie was filmed around Evans City, Pennsylvania. Romero was coaxed to cut some of the more graphic scenes and reshoot another ending by film companies, but he refused and finally found a distributor. After it was released in theatres, Night of the Living Dead was met with much controversy. The shocking premise and taboo subjects of cannibalism combined with a non-Hollywood ending were met with some resistance. However, the film did well at the box office, earning upwards of $15 million in a decade. In 1999 the movie was inducted into the National Film Registry, and along the years has been added to many prestigious “Best of” lists. Romero has discussed coming up with the original idea for the film as a knock off of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend. Where Matheson used vampires for his antagonists, Romero wanted something different that would induce fear and horror into the viewers. Eventually he came up with the idea of the dead not staying dead. Now considered one of the classics in horror, Night of the Living Dead has a large cult following, generated five more films in the Living Dead series, has been remade twice and has influenced countless movies since. Romero truly earned his title of “Godfather of all Zombies”.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you… Wes Craven introduced America to Freddy Krueger in 1984 with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven began writing the script in 1981. There were many influences, but one in particular was a rash of articles in the LA Times during the 70s that spoke of Khmer refugees who after fleeing to America would suffer nightmares and some died in their sleep. This helped to form the basis for the movie. Teenagers in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio, began having troubling nightmares featuring Freddy, a disfigured man with knives on his gloved hand. If the kids died in their sleep, they died in real life. After many failed pitches, Craven finally landed New Line Cinema as a distributor for the film. Filming lasted from June to July in 1984, and the movie was released that November. With a budget of $1.8 million, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a commercial success grossing over $26 million. Over the years there have been six sequels, a tv series and tons of merchandising. Freddy is still a popular Halloween costume over 25 years since its introduction.
Nosferatu is a 1922 silent film that was based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Directed by F. W. Murnau, The screenwriters were instructed to write a screenplay that would follow the novel, but needed to be changed in subtle ways because Prana Film had not obtained the film rights. The setting was changed from Britain to Germany, the names of the characters were changed, for example Count Dracula is called Count Orlok, and Orlok kills people and can be killed in sunlight. There have been many rumors over the years concerning the actor who played Count Orlok, Max Schreck. In 2000, the movie Shadow of the Vampire referred to Max Schreck having been an actual vampire. The estate of Bram Stoker sued Prana Film for copyright infringement when the movie was released. Prana Film declared bankruptcy and the court ordered that all prints of Nosferatu were to be burned. One copy was reported to have been distributed and duplicated, resulting in the film we see today. The film garnered many positive reviews and has a huge fan base.
Night of the Comet
When Earth passes through the tail of a comet, it turns almost everyone to dust, and the one’s that are left behind become zombies. Reggie and her sister Sam have made it through because they spent the night in steel covered locations. Now they must protect themselves from the zombies who want to eat them, and the scientists who want to harvest their healthy blood. Directed by Thom Eberhardt in 1984, Night of the Comet performed well at the box office. The film pays homage to various science fiction B flicks, and relies on fewer scares and more hard-hitting themes.
I’m breaking the rules a little bit by bringing you a television series instead of a movie, but that’s ok, they’re my rules anyway. ;) Rod Serling followed up the successful show, The Twilight Zone, with Night Gallery, a show where Serling would still be the host and would write scripts, but he had less control over this show than he did with The Twilight Zone. The premise was that Serling would unveil a painting for each episode that would introduce the tale. The painting occasionally played some part in the story. The series ran for three seasons from 1970-1973.