No horror tribute, would be legitimate without one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead. His 1968 independent film about a group of people trapped in an isolated farmhouse while marauding undead cannibals try to eat their brains is considered the turning point for horror films. Rather than a classic ghost story, Romero’s inspiration came from the real-life political and racial upheaval of America in the late ’60s. As well as being the first splatter film, Romero introduced the idea of using horror as social satire.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.” src=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_1.4%2C$multiply_0.4233%2C$ratio_1%2C$width_378%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_86%2Cf_auto/85317f11c9a8244dec719c42465dee579bd64211, https://static.ffx.io/images/$zoom_1.4%2C$multiply_0.8466%2C$ratio_1%2C$width_378%2C$x_0%2C$y_0/t_crop_custom/q_62%2Cf_auto/85317f11c9a8244dec719c42465dee579bd64211 2x” />
Peter Weller in cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
He also cast black actor Duane Jones as a lead, which was unusual at the time. As Ken Foree, who starred as the protagonist of Romero’s sequel Dawn of the Dead says, “It’s considered in the African-American community a major accomplishment that I survived the first five minutes of a horror film!”
Foree also starred in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, widely regarded as one of the goriest films of all time. With a small budget, director Tobe Hooper shot the film on weekends, using borrowed equipment, and while it was banned in several countries due to its violence, most of the gore is implied through suggestion.
A highlight of this episode is Hooper, who died in 2017, recounting how he called the film classification board to ask if he could “hang a girl on a meat hook and still get a PG rating”.
Other classics profiled include Death Race, the 1975 dystopian film about a cross-country car race in which contestants earn points for killing pedestrians, which almost predicted the reality genre and stories such as Hunger Games; A Clockwork Orange, which needs no explanation (Malcolm McDowell tells a great anecdote about that Singin’ In The Rain scene ), Sam Raimi’s slasher The Evil Dead, which Stephen King called “the most ferociously original horror movie of the year” in 1983, and which pioneered the much imitated frenetic “shaky camera” device and schlocky titles such as Reanimator, The Brother From Another Planet and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
It’s not all early 80s VHS slasher films – there’s the work of musician and director Rob Zombie’s black comedy-horror The Devil’s Rejects and one of the most controversial films this century, The Human Centipede – so tasteless it even shocked John Waters.
It’s the story of a deranged scientist who – for reasons never explained – stitches people together mouth-to-anus to create a “centipede”, and its Dutch director, Tom Six, looks like something from a B-grade film himself.
In a doco filled with great interviews, Six is a standout, defending his film as “medically accurate”, because he “consulted with a surgeon”, before revealing he only told potential investors that the story was about “people being stitched together”.
I’m still not sure if Six is serious, but the ambiguity is brilliant – much like the films in Time Warp.
Kylie Northover is Spectrum Deputy Editor at The Age
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