Friday, October 16, 2020

They're Back From The Grave and Ready to Party! Zombies Take the Time Warp Drive-In

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2020 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge Return of the Living Dead
  • Return of the Living Dead
In a year when so much has gone away, there's one thing you can count on: Horror movies at the drive-in! The Time Warp Drive-In, brought to you by Black Lodge, Guerilla Monster Films, Holtermonster Designs, Piano Man Pictures, and Malco Theatres, had its origins in a Halloween program, and October remains the screening series' most popular edition. This year's theme is zombies. Who doesn't like zombies? Maybe people have a little burnout after a decade of The Walking Dead and its spinoffs, but we're not talking to them right now. We're talking to the fans of shuffling doom, of which there are hoardes.

The first film on the docket originated about the same time as The Walking Dead. 2009's Zombieland is the best kind of horror comedy: one that pokes fun at the genre while also delivering genuinely good action scenes. The cast is absolutely stacked: Jesse Eisenberg, appearing the year before he defined Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network; Academy Award-winner Emma Stone, in her breakthrough role; future tabloid superstar Amber Heard; and a pair of absolute legends in Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray. The self-aware gorefest has held up over the years, if for no other reason than its timeless advice to not skip your cardio workout.


1985 was a great year for zombie pictures, as the Warps' next two selections attest. Re-Animator was a pioneer in the horror-comedy subgenre. Loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, Re-Animator was the gory debut of filmmaker Stuart Gordon, who would go on to a two-decade career, including writing Honey I Shrunk The Kids. This film, though, is decidedly not family friendly.


The third film, also from 1985, is a collaboration between a pair of horror legends. Dan O'Bannon got his start on John Carpenter's debut Dark Star, and wrote a screenplay that would eventually become Alien. His directorial debut is The Return of the Living Dead, based on a concept by Night of the Living Dead co-creator John Russo. Made at the height of the west coast hardcore punk movement, the soundtrack features music by T.S.O.L, Roky Erickson, 45 Grave, The Damned, and The Cramps. It's most significant contribution to zombie-dom is the introduction of the concept that zombies love to eat brains. For my money, Return of the Living Dead has the best tagline ever: "They're back from the grave, and ready to party!"


And finally, the film that started the modern zombie genre: Night of the Living Dead is one of the most significant indie films ever made. It inspired generations of plucky filmmakers to pursue their dreams, no matter how messed up those dreams may be. George Romero was making industrial training films in Pittsburgh when he got a motley crew together to create an all-time classic. Ironically, many of the crew on Night of the Living Dead went on to help create Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Star Duane Jones, a theater actor who would later become the executive director of the Black Theatre Alliance, was cast because he was just the best guy to come in the door on audition day. But his portrayal of Ben, an unflappable Black protagonist in a day when the screen was dominated by White actors, is now hailed as a major milestone. In the Black Lives Matter era, the ending, which sees Ben surviving the zombie onslaught only to be killed by police, takes on new meaning. Don't miss your opportunity to see this timeless classic as it was intended to be seen: at the drive-in.




Showtime starts at sundown at the Malco Summer Drive-In. 

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