Horror Hits the Mall, GREG NICOTERO’S Birthday, and More!
In this Issue:
- Horror History: Horror Hits the Mall
- Image of the Week: Creepy Birthday 2 U
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- The States of Horror: Vermont + Virginia
- Things We Love: Monstrous Masks
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
HORROR HISTORY: HORROR HITS THE MALL
By Jeff Strand
“What the hell is it?”
“Looks like a shopping center. One of those big indoor malls.”
This exchange is an amusing reminder that one of the many ways Dawn of the Dead (1978) was revolutionary was its setting. In today’s world of same-day Amazon Prime delivery, the mall doesn’t have the same mystic allure it once did, but part of the genius of this film is that it makes a dire predicament look kind of … fun.
Sure, this particular mall is packed with flesh-eating zombies, and lots of people have their guts devoured, and, yes, we get that Romero is wagging his finger at consumerism, but c’mon, they’ve got their own ice rink! Their own video arcade! They can take whatever they want! Remove the gory deaths and the movie plays like fantasy fulfillment.
Dawn wasn’t the only movie to make shopping horrifically fun. The other classic is, of course, Chopping Mall, which is celebrating its 33rd anniversary this week. Would this movie be a cult classic if they’d stuck with Killbots as the title (sneaking around the mall after-hours with your friends is great fun until the murderous security robots begin their rampage)? Maybe. It’s a great little flick, but it’s the title and the gruesome VHS box art that turned this into a must-see.
In 1989 we got Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (yes, it’s the mallrats version of Phantom of the Opera.) And while the spiders are the star of Eight-Legged Freaks, much of its finale takes place in a mall.
Night of the Comet has a sequence that echoes the theme of the mall being a wonderful place to hang out after the apocalypse, but again, the fun doesn’t last. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama mostly takes place in the bowling alley, but that bowling alley is in a mall, so it counts—plus, one should never pass up the opportunity to name-check Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama.
It’s not just Americans who love horror at the mall. Overseas, we’ve got the Hong Kong horror/comedy Bio-Zombie, and the Indian film Darr @ The Mall.
Of course, the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake kept the mall location, but was criticized for not being a savage satire of American consumerism. By then, the mall had become a shadow of its former self, no longer the reigning symbol of mindless consumption run amok. One year later, Amazon introduced Prime Shipping, super-charging a transition from brick-and-mortar retail to online commerce. Then America’s mortgage crisis trigged the country’s worst recession since the Great Depression, a one-two blow from which shopping malls still haven’t recovered. Maybe the new horror at the mall won’t be shopping zombies but the ghosts of shoppers past.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Creepy Birthday 2 U
Last week, the crew of the new Creepshow TV series suprised “head” honcho Greg Nicotero with a birthday cake inspired by the “Father’s Day” segement of George A. Romero’s original. There’s video, too—see if you can spot a couple of other classic Creepshowmonsters around the table.
ROB ZOMBIE’S SNEAK PEEK, JORDAN PEELE’S PEFECT SCORE & MORE
Dario Argento announced his as yet unnamed next project will be “a film divided into eight episodes.”
Meanwhile, Jason Blum reveals there’ll be no more sequels to either Sinister or Happy Death Day.
These 10 great films from the ’70s helped prove horror was “more than just a trash genre.” (We all knew that.)
These are the saddest deaths in horror movie history. (We still haven’t recovered from A Quiet Place.)
Here are 20 awesome fan posters for Jordan Peele’sUs.
If you grooved to the gruesomeness of Ghoulies andTroll, thank director and FX artist John Carl Buechler, who passed away Sunday.
To prove it’s still possible to make a movie on the cheap, Robert Rodriguez created the horror movieRed 11 for only $7,000.
Rob Zombie served up a sneak peek of his upcoming Three from Hell while hard at work on sound mixing.
Here’s the first teaser trailer for Depraved, Larry Fessenden’s modern-day reimagining ofFrankenstein set in Brooklyn. (There are a lot of stitches in this trailer.)
STATES OF HORROR: VERMONT + VIRGINIA
This week’s States of Horror takes us to a stormy New England and puts the “virgin” in Virginia.
Vermont: The Spiral Staircase
I admittedly have little to say about Vermont itself, as I’ve never been. But allow me to monopolize this space to tell you how good a lot of 1940s horror is. Just as a decade of fear, devastation, and aftermath bred noir, the horror films of the 1940s are similarly shadowy and downbeat. The best are eerie, layered works such as Val Lewton essentials Cat People andThe Seventh Victim, Ealing’s influential anthologyDead of Night, Universal’s classic The Wolf Man and this: The Spiral Staircase. One of the great horror movies of the ’40s, Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase is a dark serial killer thriller which shares cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca with the aforementioned Cat People and Seventh Victim. Based on the novel Some Must Watch by Edith Lina White, the film is set in early 20th century Vermont, where a young mute servant in a Gothic manor faces off against a killer targeting young disabled women, during a thunderstorm. Frightening, tense and stylish,The Spiral Staircase transcends simple thriller tropes and pioneers elements and imagery we’d later see take full form in slasher and giallo films.
Virginia: Cherry Falls
Set in the fictional Cherry Falls, Virginia, but lensed in and around Richmond, Cherry Falls is an offbeat slasher comedy that hit two major snags. It faced off against MPAA scrutiny for its violence in a post-Columbine landscape. And it arguably arrived too late in the cycle of teen slashers of the 90s. The film — a quirky horror about a killer who targets virgins specifically, so the town’s kids throw cherry-popping party — ended up going the route of a TV film, destined to then build its audience as a cult title. And so it has! Recently released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory, the stylized, satirical film has been able to renew interest and find new eyeballs.
THINGS WE LOVE: MONSTROUS MASKS
It might only be March, but it’s never too early to start planning what to wear on Halloween — and this year we’re thinking of letting a master take charge. Tom Savini, the legendary FX artist responsible for Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, and many other classic films, has created three gruesome Faces of Horror masks — Graves, Mort, and Tombed — which are now available for pre-order. The only challenge now is deciding which to wear.
HEY, THAT’S US! – SHUDDER IN THE NEWS
What do US horror films say about blackness? (Horror Noire)