Sunday, December 27, 2009

THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (Jorge Grau, 1974, Italy) George is an antiques dealer who discovers a new axiom: those who believe the past are dead and buried are doomed to be devoured by it. Writer/Director Jorge Grau evokes the spirit of both George Romero and Michelangelo Antonioni in this classic horror film, creating drama from the sludge piles and belching factories of RED DESERT, the ultra-cool and suave protagonist whose motorcycle rockets through the arteries of London, a reincarnation of Thomas in BLOW-UP, and the mystery of the rising dead and cultural clash the was so well defined by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. A chance encounter propels George and Edna upon a diabolical journey into the unknown, where they become trapped in a vault of horror. Grau devises a scientific premise for the reanimation of the recently dead as a local farmer is using ultrasonic radiation to destroy the simple nervous systems of insects: it seems to be less toxic than pesticide. But this has an effect on babies who become violent and the electronic impulses of the newly deceased…and the dead began to rise. Though interesting, the major plot fault is in the deduction that these zombies can use their own irradiated blood to create a brotherhood of corpses. The use of heart-thumping sound precedes an attack and creates a crescendo of fear, which is utilized to great effect. One chilling scene in particular has our protagonists and a police officer trapped in a basement while the dead begin to push aside their caskets: Tobe Hooper’s homage is evident in the Marsten House basement scenario from SALEM’S LOT. The police investigate these series of murders blaming the deaths on Edna’s drug addled sister and corrupting youth culture represented by George in his leather jacket and shaggy good looks. As in classic science fiction films, the young hero discovers the source of the apocalypse but his pleas fall upon the deaf ears of his elders, so he must take matters into his own hands. These zombies think and move quickly, the core of some basic reasoning still existent in their gray matter, and the disease can be passed by blood: again we see another influence that haunts Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER. George fights his way through a demented hell to save Edna, a stranger only hours before, and the nihilistic vengeful finale is reflective of the culture and social temperament of its time: the dead shall inherit the Earth. (B)

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