If it all ended with a zombie apocalypse, I’d spend the last days shacked up in Costco. There are enough supplies to last me a while, a gazebo to camp in and every Friday I’d have first-in-line access to the free samples. Until that fateful day when the dead walk the Earth, the closest we have for preparation is a genre of movies that has inspired both cult and mainstream followings. The Majestic Theatre taps into this zeitgeist with its short, and anything-but-sweet, Hallow’s Eve Zombie Film Festival, featuring three classics from the genre. Here’s a taste of what’s to come knocking on your safe-house door.
You’re Welcome, Rob Zombie
Not only the namesake for Rob Zombie’s first band, White Zombie (1932) was the first full-length zombie film and is regarded as the model for all zombie flicks. It’s based on the memoir The Magic Island by Lost Generation writer William Seabrook, who notoriously cooked and ate human flesh while researching a book about cannibalism. The story follows a young married couple torn apart by an evil voodoo master, Murder Legendre (an excellent villain name), who uses his powers to transform innocent people into mindless, controlled slaves. Horror maven Bela Lugosi (known for his 1931 depiction of Count Dracula) plays Legendre with a hypotonic thousand-watt stare beneath that iconic widow’s peak.
Revolt of the Zombies (1936) is a loose sequel to White Zombie and tells the tale of an expedition that heads to Cambodia to destroy an ancient formula that brainwashes people into zombies. The variations in shot techniques and heftier plot show just how far the zombie canon advanced in a mere four years. The final line, “those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad” (a nod to ancient Greek playwright Euripides), is just the kind of campy revenge that makes these films sparkle. Not to mention that the tagline on the original film poster screams “Sex and Horror in One Gigantic Thrill Show!”
They Won’t Stay Dead!
In 1968, shit got real. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was the gory zombie film that made a formerly quaint nightmare seem all too plausible. What started as an innocent trip to their father’s rural Pennsylvania grave ends in a night of horror for siblings Barbra and Johnny, and since that fateful night, the zombie film formula was forever changed. At the time, Dead was the highest-grossing independent horror film ever made and has since gained much critical acclaim, including a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Maverick Movies in the Last 100 Years.”
The Zombie Film Festival screens 7:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 31, at The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis: $6 students, $8 general.