Sunday, 27 August 2017

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper

Very sad to be posting again so soon on the death of another Horror icon. Tobe Hooper has died at the age of 74. His career trajectory, going from a notorious breakthrough work to Hollywood exile, earned comparisons with Orson Welles and there are some striking parallels between the two. Like Welles there are neglected works that have been resdiscovered (thanks to some terrific special edition DVDs/Blu-Rays from labels such as Arrow and Shout Factory) and previously unavailable offerings such as his early short film The Heisters (1963) and feature debut Eggshells (1969) have been restored  and made available to new audiences.

Although he was often mentioned alongside fellow genre masters such as George A. Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter I feel he was in some ways closer to European directors such as Jacques Tourneur, Mario Bava, Roman Polanski and Dario Argento with his macabre humour, surreal flourishes and brilliant control of atmospherics. Hooper understood that Horror was as much about shadows, mist, broken mirrors and old dark houses as it was about monsters. He was a frequently maligned and misunderstood filmmaker whose reputation rested on a small quantity of his output but for me his entire oeuvre has been a source of endless fascination and rewards.

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)

Monday, 17 July 2017

R.I.P. George A. Romero

Heard the sad news this morning. The legendary director George A. Romero has died at the age of 77. One of the great icons of Horror and American Independent cinema, I've been a huge fan of his work since my teenage years. He made many great films starting with his extraordinary debut, the classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its various sequels.

Subsequent features include the suburban witchcraft tale Season of the Witch (1972), paranoia/contagion chiller The Crazies (1973), the remarkable modern vampire tale Martin (1978 - my own personal favourite), cult oddity Knightriders (1981) - which he regarded as his most personal film, the EC comic-style anthology Creepshow (1982) on which he collaborated with fellow Horror legend Stephen King, suspense tale Monkey Shines (1988) and the revenge thriller Bruiser (2000).

His career had many setbacks. He had a fraught relationship with Hollywood studios over unrealised projects - including a Poe adaptation with Isabella Rossellini and rejected scripts for new versions of The Mummy and Resident Evil that would be eventually made by other hands. There was a long period of inactivity during the 1990s where he spent most of the decade in development Hell and would only make one feature (1993's The Dark Half) which created a frustrating gap in his filmography. Despite his fondness for the genre and his cult following he was never able to escape his being typecast as a 'Horror director', to his occasional frustration. His last 3 films (Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009)) were all returns to the zombie series that made his reputation. They allowed him the free-reign and creative control that he fought hard to maintain throughout his career.

I got a chance to see Romero in London at the UK premiere of Land of the Dead in 2005 and it was a huge thrill. I still feel that film has never got its due recognition and was ahead of its time with its focus on growing inequality and social divides in the 21st century. He brought humour, satire, thought provoking social commentary and a sharp and distinctive eye for human frailties to his films. Discovering his output in the early years of my cinephilia was a huge deal for me and more than any other filmmaker made me aware of the vast possibilities of Horror cinema. I really felt like I'd found a kindred spirit through his work.

A fearless maverick, an undisputed icon and a true inspiration. Thank you George Romero for the incredible body of work and the indelible impression it has left on me and countless other filmgoers.

R.I.P. George A. Romero (1940-2017)