Every now and then I get a day to myself at the house. And, as you might expect, when I do, I try and watch as many horror movies as possible. Last Saturday happened to be one of those days and I was able to watch two classic horror movies I'd never seen before, Maniac Cop (1988) and Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979). I definitely liked one more than the other, but you might be surprised by which one!
First of all, I actually thought that I had seen Maniac Cop as it was crossed off in my Creature Features book. I think I kinda sorta half watched it or one of the sequels one time when visiting Em back when we were dating in college. Her parents had on demand and I tried watching it but probably fell asleep. Anyway, just watching the credits was a surprise. Tom Atkits , Bruce Campbell and Richard Roundtree (Shaft!!!) all in one movie? Plus the bad ass dude who fights Eastwood for like 15 minutes at the end of Any Which Way You Can (William Smith, though he looks completely different than in that movie), sold. I could have given this movie the thumbs up just based on the credits!
But, it really is a fun movie, a great one to stumble on thanks to NetBox (that's what I call Netflix & Xbox) as there are plenty of kills, a great killer with a pretty interesting origin and such great actors. The plot revolves around a crazy cop killing people out on the streets which, as you'd expect, makes people weary of the cops (one lady even caps one who's trying to help her). Atkins is investigating and is one of the only people to believe Campbell when he says he didn't do it after his wife gets iced by the killer cop. Campbell's girlfriend/mistress, who's also a cop, forms the third point in this triangle of awesome.
In addition to the basic level of coolness that Atkins brings to all of his horror roles, I really like seeing Campbell playing a straight part. Sure he's a badass in the Evil Dead flicks, but he's a winking-at-the-camera kind of a bad ass. Here he's a regular guy trying to make sense of what turns out to be a potentially supernatural occurrence (an unkillable cop back from the dead?). Oh, also, for those who this might be an incentive for, there's a naked prison shower fight flashback scene. Hey, I call out boobs, why not a little man nudity?
Anyway, after MC, I almost watched the sequel, but didn't want to get too burned out on the series (though, in an unusual twist, the Creature Features guy gave all three movies three stars, you almost never see that kind of consistency). So, I was flipping and flipping and flipping until I discovered that Fulci's Zombie, the supposed semi-sequel to the original Dawn of the Dead I've heard so much about, got put on NetBox. I've also been hearing about the infamous Zombie vs. Shark and eye gouging scenes for years, so I figured it would be a great candidate for my mini horror fest.
And I gotta say, it's kind of boring. My experience with Italian horror doesn't stretch beyond Dario Argento's Suspiria and Mother of Tears. If you're looking for a train wreck of a blog post, please check out that Suspiria link, the only blog post I've considered deleting. Anyway, maybe I just don't get the sensibilities of Italian horror, or maybe I just haven't seen the really good ones or maybe they're just batshit crazy and that's why people like them. I'm definitely not against batshit craziness, so it's not like I'm cutting myself off from further Fulci or Argento flicks, they're just not incredibly hight on my list.
The problem with Zombie is that it's kind of slow and boring. There's a lot of people talking and sailing on boats, but when it does get to the zombie goodness it is definitely good stuff. I just wish there was more of it. The other problem with Zombie (which isn't the film's fault), is that it's reached this legendary status because of the aforementioned scenes that every horror fan talks about it. It's been on every horror list I've ever seen, so all the good parts were basically ruined. And, with the exception of the final shot of zombies running around NYC, you've probably seen those two amazing scenes online or a on a clip show before.
I don't usually like adding to the SPOILER-ness of horror movies, but here's clips of those two scenes (I recommend watching just them or reading a trade while half-watching Zombie). First the shark fight:
Holy crap this is crazy. It really does look like a zombie fighting a shark and neither one really wins. It's an amazing piece of film that I would sit through a hundred hours of boring to see, seriously, it's worth it and I can only imagine how much better it would look on DVD or Blu-ray (the Netflix file wasn't of the best quality and YouTube doesn't REALLY do it justice).
And here's the eye gouge (not for the squeamish):
Again, this moment is worth the price of admission as it's one of the most real-looking effects I've seen (though I was able to see how they did it and it's kind of beautiful in it's simplicity).
One last thing I want to comment on is the "sequel" aspect of the movie in relation to Romero's Dawn of the Dead (one of my top three favorite horror movies). Very simply, it's not. At all. It was finished before DOTD and the name was just changed. Luckily, my enjoyment didn't hinge on it's relation to DOTD.
So, in the end, I had a great time watching some classic horror movies, even though Zombie might have been a little boring aside from the tent pole scenes, but seeing two rad NYC-based movies (I didn't see anything I recognized, though things have changed quite a bit even since 1988) was a great way to spend part of my Saturday.