The Last Horror Blog: Remembering George A. Romero, 'Leatherface,' 'Rawhead Rex,' 'Killing Ground' and Home Video Picks

The Last Horror Blog: Remembering George A. Romero, 'Leatherface,' 'Rawhead Rex,' 'Killing Ground' and Home Video Picks

Jul 20, 2017

Diary of the Dead

The dog days of summer may be upon us, but we've found movies that will offer solace to horror fans. First, though, let's pay tribute to an iconic figure.
 

Horror News

Remembering George Romero – The horror world suffered a huge loss this past Sunday when filmmaker George A. Romero lost his battle with cancer. I thought about making this week’s entire column about Romero (and with his filmography, that would be pretty easy to do….), but ultimately decided that it would probably be best to share a few thoughts on what he meant to the genre and its fans. 

George Romero was a real deal maverick -- a guy who made the films he wanted to make whether the studio system wanted to back him or not. And while not all of those films turned out to be huge successes, there's no way to overstate how important films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were -- not just to horror cinema, but cinema as a whole and to the entirety of popular culture. Without Romero, zombies look very different – and it’s unlikely your favorite zombie shows and movies even exist. That’s how profound a film like Night of the Living Dead was. It changed everything.

But to pigeonhole Romero as simply a zombie filmmaker does him a huge disservice. For as great as his early zombie work is, Martin (not safe for work trailer below) may well be his best film overall -- and there's nary a zombie to be found in that feature. It's all but impossible to imagine someone making something like Knightriders today -- but Romero did it anyway. That was the beauty of George -- he did what he wanted, and he had fun doing it. We should all be so lucky.

When you spend years writing about actors and writers and directors, you soon learn that all your idols are really just human beings with foibles and faults like the rest of us. Sooner or later, you're going to hear a story about every celebrity being a jerk -- it's just how the system works. That being said, I've never heard of anyone having a negative encounter with George Romero. George loved his fans as much as we loved him, and you could feel that in every interaction. If you ran into him at a con or out in public somewhere, he always made you feel like he was happy to see you.

We tend to toss the word "icon" around way too loosely these days, but in the world of horror cinema, there are few filmmakers more iconic than Romero. While his output had slowed in the past decade or so, his passing leaves a void that will be hard to fill.

Rest in peace, George.

 

Leatherface trailer promises blood and chainsawsInside directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo bring their gory sensibilities to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise in the upcoming prequel, Leatherface – which looks pretty good, based on this nearly two-minute red band trailer.

The new film (the eighth in the series to date) takes us back to the origins of the iconic Leatherface – showing us how he got his chainsaw and crafted his first mask made of human flesh. The clip is gory, grimy, and unapologetically violent -- which is a good sign. This is the first TCM film I’ve been interested in since part three of the original series.

Will the finished film live up to the trailer? I’d not bet against Bustillo and Maury. We’ll know for sure one way or the other when the film debuts on DirecTV on September 21. Enjoy the NOT SAFE FOR WORK trailer below.

 

Rawhead Rex gets a 4K trailer – Much like Halloween III, George Pavlou’s 1886 adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story Rawhead Rex has long been cited as a terrible movie -- only to finally find an appreciative audience years later (although, to be fair, some of us dug it way back in the late ‘80s because it was fun in a campy and gory way). To celebrate this newfound popularity, Kino Lorber is releasing the film on Blu-ray –- and, astonishingly enough, with a 4K restoration. 

To help get you ready, they’ve released this new trailer. Still no official release date, but we’ll keep you posted.

 

New Mr. Mercedes trailer focuses on the duel between good and evil – I’m looking forward to the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. It’s got a great cast (including Brendan Gleeson and Penny Dreadful’s Harry Treadaway), and the source material about a retired cop coming back to chase down a malevolent madman seems perfect for a compelling television series -- as this new trailer seemingly confirms. 

This new clip focuses on the central showdown between Gleason and Treadaway as the beleaguered former detective tries to stop the killer. Mr. Mercedes debuts on August 9 on the AT&T Audience Network.

 

Horror on the Horizon

As has been the trend for most of this summer, there’s not a whole lot of horror movies to choose from at your local theater over the next fortnight. This Friday sees the limited release of IFC Films’ Killing Ground, which has a sort of Wolf Creek vibe early on. Here’s the plot breakdown:

“Ian and Samantha (Sam) head to a national park, hoping the bush will give them space for some quiet time together. They arrive at an isolated campsite to find an SUV and a tent – no sign of the occupants. As night falls and the campers fail to return, Ian and Sam grow increasingly uneasy. The discovery of a distressed child wandering in the woods unleashes a terrifying chain of events that test the young couple to breaking point.”

The film wowed audiences at Sundance earlier this year.

 

Horror on Home Video

Things are looking brighter on DVD and Blu-ray, at least, where the end of July and start of August offer up some tasty treats for fans of the macabre.

July 25 brings us a Blu-ray version of the beloved Batman animated feature, Mask of the Phantasm. While it’s not technically horror, it is revered by a lot of horror fans. The fact that it’s finally getting an HD release is certainly something to get excited about.

For those looking for actual horror content, fear not -- this week has you covered.

Vestron continues to please retro fans with new collector’s sets of classic franchises. This time up, it’s the Warlock series, featuring all three films about the malevolent witch. The first film, in particular, still makes me smile every time I see it.

Italian horror fans get a double dose of gory goodness this week with two new releases. The first is Italian sleazemeister Joe D’Amato’s classic Beyond the Darkness. Gruesome, gory, and featuring another classic Goblin score, Beyond the Darkness is every bit as amazing as Italian horror fans have been proclaiming it to be for decades.

D’Amato is joined by Italian icon Dario Argento this week – our friends at Blue Underground are releasing the maestro’s The Stendhal Syndrome – which finds Asia Argento tracking a deadly killer while also having strange reactions to any painting she looks at. The new 3-disc set is jam packed with goodies, meaning this is probably the definitive edition to own.

Trailer is NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

August kicks off with a bang as well – so get your wallets ready.

First up is the long-awaited home video debut of Shin Godzilla, the newest entry in the classic Godzilla series. If you love the giant green lizard, you’ll want to own this one.

If that weren’t enough, this week also sees the release of three classic John Carpenter films in fancy new steelbook cases courtesy of our pals at Scream Factory. Fans can choose from They Live, The Fog, and Escape from New York on August 1. If you don’t already own these, or you just like to double dip for steelbook cases, you’ll want to be sure to grab all three of these legendary titles from one of my favorite directors.

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