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Coroners Corner | horror | movie | column | Lollipop

Coroner's Corner

Human Viscera: A Tasty Guide

by John Bikowski
illustration by Eric Johnson

I don't know about you, but I believe any film could've been rendered more effective with the addition of flesh-ripping zombies. Something about dead and decayed people trying to eat warm, live people really strikes me as beautiful cinematography. Imagine the most dramatic moments of Titanic being brought to the next level. Disembowelment or drowning? That should've been the question. Well, now that DVD has assured itself a secure market, distributors are realizing how great zombies are and are subsequently re-releasing a slew of gory favorites. Some are currently out and some are coming soon. I've taken the liberty to guide you through a helping of some of the must sees (especially if you didn't catch them the first time around).

Night of the Living Dead: No self-respecting zombie collector should be without this ground-breaking horror film. Several budgetary limitations, such as the use of black and white photography and the inclusion of a small troupe of unknown actors, actually work in the film's favor. The basic story is that a handful of local survivors is held captive by hordes of the walking dead. Tensions mount both in and outside the old farm house they're hiding in until the film ends on an ironic note. Interestingly, no rationale is given for why the dead are attacking the living. No major gore accrues, but scenes of zombies gnawing flesh from bones and juggling intestines are graphic for their time. Love that naked walking corpse, too!

At one time, your Uncle Gus could've legally sold crappy copies of this film for 5 bucks a pop. Now, it's been remastered with THX sound and those days are long gone. Stay far away from the colorized version -- it blows.

Night of the Living Dead - The Remake: In order for George Romero, director of the original, to recoup some of his heavy losses from letting the first film go public access, he decided to team up here with F/X maestro Tom Savini. Some folks love this film and some hate it, but if you're a true fan, there's plenty here for you. The latest zombie technology helps to update this fine tale.

Night of the Dawn of the Day of the Living Dead: Basically, a bunch of morons (like your Uncle Gus from above) helped themselves to the original 1968 film, wiped out the entire soundtrack and remixed their own version. Warning: the first time you see this you'll think, "What the hell is this?!!!" But when you attempt to show someone else how lame it is, you'll be drawn in and find yourself actually yearning to watch more. Then you'll start quoting the lines in stupid voices. I kid you not, I've seen the cycle several times. Some of the new dialogue is priceless and often matches the movement of the lips. The main hero is now a jive-ass trying to get laid and hungry for pizza. Non-stop hilarity and vulgarity. Comes with an apology to George Romero and bizarre film breaks like some guy's girlfriend getting mostly naked. I actually sent a copy of this to the character who uttered the famous line "They're coming to get you, Barbara." He must've been totally pissed because he never got back to me. His performance was altered to a discussion of nude dancing ladies and sitting on the crapper. Go figure. Get this one.

Dawn of the Dead: Here we have the second installment in Romero's Dead trilogy. It begins with a full-scale alert on how the zombie armies are taking over the major cities. A group of four renegades sets out in a helicopter to look for safe ground. Unable to find any, they decide to take over and live in a giant mall. Many have touted this film as a sick social comment about consumer society. I thought it was just a holy shit zombie extravaganza. You actually care about the characters, the effects are top-notch (Tom Savini), and the humorous elements all work. This masterpiece holds your attention with a non-stop barrage of interpersonal mayhem. A screwdriver slowly twisted into a brain, an arm bitten off while in a blood pressure machine, stomachs torn open and relieved of their intestines while the owner still screams, a zombie half decapitated by a rotating helicopter blade, and so much more. Yeah!!!

Day of the Dead: This is the final entry in Romero's Dead trilogy. A military unit and a group of scientists reside beneath the zombie-infested cities. The soldiers are supposed to protect the doctors who are trying to find a way to control the undead's cannibalistic uprising. Since the soldiers are arrogant bastards, tempers peak and explode once they find that their dead friends were used to feed captive lab zombies. At this point, literally all hell breaks loose. There are numerous unsettling sights shown in sharp "I dare you to watch" detail. Guts slowly spill from an open abdomen, a cranium is bisected by a shovel, victims are alive and screaming as their innards are gnoshed on. One particularly ruthless SOB even manages to gasp out "Choke on 'em" before giving up the ghost.

Burial Ground: Here we have your basic Italian zombie munch-o-rama. A group of people gathers in an old castle in order to be eaten by walking, rotten corpses. These dead guys are funny as hell because their faces are decayed in such a way that you can distinguish one from another. You can choose your favorite, name him, and cheer for him as he grabs handfuls of grue. An inspired bit of casting gives us a small boy who's so screwed up, you have to see him to comprehend his stupidity. Being such a whimpering Mama's boy leads him to a scene in which he returns as a wuss-zombie and tooth-shreds (in graphic detail) his mother's breast to gory pieces. Everyone else dies too -- I love happy endings.

The Beyond: One of Lucio Fulci's best and bloodiest films. A woman (Katie MacColl) inherits an old hotel that unfortunately was built over an entrance to hell (gotta watch that annoying small print). In reopening the building, she lets loose the spirits and zombies within. To hell with the story line -- just sit back and watch some outrageously violent stuff in up-close, gory detail. Tarantulas attack a paralyzed victim and eat his tongue, eye and lip. One zombie slowly squeezes out an eye, a zombie dog bites out the throat and ear canal of a blind woman resulting in geysers of blood drowning the camera, a zombified little girl has a grapefruit-sized hole blown in her face from a point-blank gun blast. The DVD is due soon -- get it!

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie: Agriculturists begin using a specially designed weedwacker that has built-in pest control sonar. Little do they know that the machine is bringing the dead back to life accompanied by an appetite for destruction. This film is excellent because it adds some new twists to the zombie myths. For one, a lead zombie can revive other corpses by rubbing blood on their eyelids. Also, these corpses have memories and the ability to use tools and weapons. One highlight includes a receptionist who's simultaneously debreasted and disemboweled by two ghouls. Another unforgettable scene involves an autopsy ghoul who's incised from groin to neck but walks around killing, wearing only a small bandage over his privates and his noggin. On Anchor Bay's slate for next year.

Zombie: Lucio Fulci is at it again. Here he proves that Italian zombies are a hell of a lot more frightening than homegrown walking corpses. This film involves an island where a strange voodoo curse creates a cadre of living dead. These folks look as if they have dried oatmeal on their faces and they move slower than dirt, but they're scary as all shit... and God help you if they grab hold of your ass. Several scenes in this film will sink into your memory: An underwater zombie battles a shark, a woman gets a 10-inch splinter slowly broken off in her eye, and a cop has his throat savagely bitten out by a fat, slobbering pustule-infested sack of monster-lard.

City of the Living Dead (aka Gates of Hell): Your humble editor and I saw this fine feature film at a very impressionable age -- now we're screwed for life. Definitely not for the squeamish, the story concerns a pale-mugged priest who hangs himself, thereby opening the titular gate to hell. Shortly after, zombie infestation runs rampant. Make sure you aren't eating anything when you watch the scene where the girl in the truck begins bleeding from her eyes because you'll lose your lasagna as she pukes up her intestines, stomach, and a kidney or two. Other numbing effects include a slow, painful brain drilling with a rather large bit and plenty of ghouls ripping handfuls of scalp and gray matter. Come to think of it, I don't recommend eating before, during or after this fine flick.

Return of the Living Dead: Brrraaaiiinnnz!! This film is much more entertaining than you'd expect because it's actually a horror-comedy that works. A group of unlikely friends hang out in the graveyard waiting for their pal Freddy who is working in Uneeda Medical Supplies. Unfortunately, some tanked up zombies thaw out and run rampant. After one of the carcasses is incinerated, the smoky remnants rain down on the graveyard and activate the minions of the dead. Highlights include a half-melted brain sucker in the basement, a legless zombie who hobbles quickly after a potential victim, and the shenanigans of Freddy and his boss who are upset because they're dead. Classic and funny!


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