Jobeth Williams and friend in 'Poltergeist' (1982)

For, Friday, March 6, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline above was hopeful but naïve when it ran over my May 4, 1983, “Hicks on Flicks” column in the Deseret News. The column itself is more grounded, using then-current fright flicks as examples (including “Poltergeist,” whose remake arrives in theaters in July). It also observes the early zombie-horror cycle that anticipated the 21st century glut of gory undead movies.

Will the box office failure of “Videodrome” and “The Hunger,” along with the success of “Poltergeist” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” bring home a message to Hollywood?

Gore has worn out its welcome, and audiences prefer horror movies that generate scares through stories and fully developed characters rather than random teens being mutilated and dismembered, or artsy, pretentious horror films that rely too much on makeup and special effects.

That message may indeed hit home but don’t think that’s the end of “splatter” films. Several more are still on the way.

From the individual ads and production bulletins in the trade papers, it appears that if no one produced another gore-filled blood ’n guts horror movie from this day forward, we’d still have 150 to play out before the cycle would be complete.

Of course, a lot of those will hit cable or be shelved, but you can be sure a goodly number will be opening soon at a theater near you.


  Jonathan Pryce, 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' (1983)

Speaking of gore, you may recall that “splatter” films really gained impetus, more or less, with “Night of the Living Dead,” that mini-budget gore-filled zombie picture George Romero parlayed into a 1968 monster cult hit, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Then came Romero’s sequel, “Dawn of the Dead,” with even more gore, and this time in color. That one was also a big hit.

Then came the first major blatant ripoff, that Italian mess called “Zombie” –  and now there are more clones on the way than you’ll want to think about.

Romero’s own final part of the trilogy, “Day of the Dead,” has long been planned but he’s been too busy with other projects to put it together.


Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, 'The Hunger'; James Woods, 'Videodrome'

Meanwhile, “Return of the Living Dead” has been announced as a project by Tobe Hooper (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Poltergeist”).

And cheaper copies have cropped up from time to time – the latest being “Gates of Hell,” which was titled for a short time “Twilight of the Dead.” Apparently, fear of Romero reprisals brought the change, since Romero is legally attacking Hooper’s “Return” project as damaging to his own series.

That’s OK, Tobe. There’s always “Revenge,” or “Son of,” or “Godzilla Meets. … ”