**Please note the films mentioned in this post are not appropriate for all ages.**
EVPL is proud to have Kanopy, a free, digital streaming service for libraries. Watch great movies with the click of a button but without the monthly fee of most streaming services. The app, available to download on evpl.org, works on phones, desktops, Roku, and Amazon Firestick. As an EVPL user, you will have access to 20 films per month. This feature looks at some of what Kanopy has to offer, highlighting a particular filmmaker, actor, studio, genre, or theme.
This time, the spotlight is on George A. Romero, an independent Pittsburgh filmmaker who invented what we know of as a “zombie.” The term “zombie” comes from Haitian voodoo culture, an undead slave brought back by a necromancer, but the idea of someone who returns from the dead, bites and infects other humans, and can only be killed by destroying the brain comes out of a small, black and white, independent film directed by Romero named Night of the Living Dead. From there, Romero went on to other huge successes, both with zombies (Dawn of the Dead) and without (Creepshow), usually filmed in or around Pittsburgh or later Vancouver with small crews that treated each other like family.
Director: George A. Romero
Runtime: 96 mins.
Rating: Unrated (Contains Minor Gore)
As stark and powerful now as it was in 1968, Night of the Living Dead is a black and white, low budget horror film that changed the genre forever. Starting with a normal brother and sister visiting their grandfather’s grave in an out of town cemetery, the danger escalates almost immediately when a corpse attacks them and one of them finds themselves in an old house in the middle of nowhere, huddled with other survivors. But when various men in the group vie for leadership by choosing which part of the house to hide in, it makes you wonder who is worse: the monsters outside or the humans inside…
Inspired by Richard E. Matheson’s vampires in the novel, I Am Legend, Romero wrote a treatment named Night of Anubis featuring living corpses originally called “ghouls,” and later expanded it into a screenplay named Night of the Flesh-Eaters with John Russo. Unfortunately, that name change also resulted in the film accidentally being put into the public domain; when they got a new title, they didn’t put a copyright symbol on the title card. The film made an immediate impact, not only for the shocking content for the time, but for having the strong male lead played by an African American actor, Duane Jones, and its brutal, tragic ending that paralleled the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. which happened the same year.
Director: George A. Romero
Runtime: 100 mins.
Rating: Unrated (Contains Extreme Gore and Language)
Continuing on several years after Night of the Living Dead, the film Day of the Dead shows a society completely overrun by zombies, where Florida streets are empty save the undead and a few surviving alligators. The film covers some of the last human survivors on the planet: a handful of scientists and barely more military personnel huddled in an underground bunker, there to research and possibly reverse the problem. The interpersonal conflicts over dominance from Night are exacerbated in this environment, however. The military start to become tyrannical dictators, while the scientists investigate whether zombies have the ability to learn…
Day of the Dead is the final part in Romero’s original Dead trilogy: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. Kanopy does not have Dawn of the Dead on their streaming service, but all of Romero’s zombie films are standalone and can be understood on their own. Originally planned to be a much larger film with a bigger budget, the more modest and atmospheric final film received criticism from Romero fans in the ‘80s. Now though, the movie is considered one of the best horror movies of the decade and possibly the best zombie film, with certainly the best prosthetics, make-up and visual effects of the series, courtesy of Tom Savini.
Runtime: 120 mins.
Two Evil Eyes is an anthology horror film with two segments by two directors, each adapting a story of Edgar Allan Poe. In the first part directed by George A. Romero, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” a gold digger tries to hypnotize her rich husband to give her his fortune, but things go terribly wrong when he dies and gets put in their freezer, now hypnotized into a void between life and death. In the second part directed by Dario Argento, “The Black Cat,” a jealous man kills his girlfriend’s cat and soon watches his life spiral out of control as the cat continues to haunt him, alive or dead…
A previous Kanopy Spotlight was written about Dario Argento and the end of the article mentioned that one of his other films on Kanopy, Two Evil Eyes was an anthology partly directed by Argento and partly directed by Romero. The two directors had worked together as director and producer in the past, Argento produced Dawn of the Dead and edited his own version for Europe, but this was the first project where both horror icons directed part of the film. While not the most accurate adaptations of Poe, each segment gives you an idea of the filmmakers’ style, more character-based in Romero’s case, and more visual-based in Argento’s. Both stories evoke the mood and feel of Poe in their own ways for a modern-day setting.
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