Tag Archives: zombie

SHARK VS ZOMBIE: Ramón Bravo, the Man Behind the Stunt

This piece originally appeared on iHorror.com

Even if you’ve never actually seen Lucio Fulci’s 1979 Video Nasty Zombi 2 (aka Zombie), odds are pretty good that you’re at least familiar with one of its most talked about scenes, wherein an underwater zombie fights and bites an actual shark. This single scene was the main reason I sought the movie out many years ago, and I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of horror fans.

The story goes: Lucio Fulci actually wasn’t too keen on having a zombie versus shark scene, but producer Ugo Tucci insisted after having seen Tintorera: Killer Shark a few years earlier. Tintorera was one of the many cheapo sharksploitation movies that popped up in the wake (sorry) of Jaws. It was a Mexican production, directed by René Cardona Jr., based on the synonymous novel by Ramón Bravo.

Bravo was, in real life, a shark trainer and underwater photographer and filmmaker. His interest in all things aquatic started early, with Bravo competing in the 1948 Olympics – swimming, naturally – when he was just 23-years-old. From there, he developed an interest in underwater photography, with a specific focus on sharks. He gained some notoriety for the discovery and photography of “sleeping sharks” in the Caribbean. Bravo would eventually serve as Jacques Cousteau’s dive guide, assisting exploration of these caves of sleeping sharks. He would later write a series of ocean and shark-related novels, and would shoot the underwater footage for many water-related films from director René Cardona Jr.

But back to Zombi 2: Fulci, finding the idea of an underwater battle between fish and ghoul too silly, refused to shoot the scene, so a second unit stepped in to get the footage. Long before CGI was available and working on an extremely low-budget (less than $240K), the only option the filmmakers were left with was to film the scene using a real, live tiger shark – a breed known as “the most dangerous shark species”, due to its high number of fatal attacks.

According to lore, the production planned to hire René Cardona Jr. to act as the zombie who fights the shark. However, Cardona Jr. was unavailable on the day of the shoot, so Ramón Bravo – the shark’s trainer – stepped in to play the role of the zombie. Bravo was able to accomplish the death-defying stunt by feeding the shark prior to filming, as to satiate the gilled beast’s bloodlust. Bravo also doped the shark up with a dose of tranquilizers, just to be safe.

The end result is jaw-dropping to say the least. (Jaws-dropping? Sorry again.) A real human – dressed as a zombie – wrestling a real shark, deep underwater is just something movies don’t dare to pull off these days. The battle – which culminates with the shark ripping the zombie’s arm off – is easily one of the most iconic scenes in all of horror history.

Sadly, Ramón passed away in 1998, and – unbelievably – his performance in Zombi 2 went uncredited. However, I wanted to shine a spotlight on the man who helped create such an awesome and memorable scene, and say Bravo.

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SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Gregg Harrington)

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For last year’s Drive-In Double Feature, Anthony Paparo submitted a piece that began with him professing his love for all modern horror remakes – including Zack Snyder’s take on the George Romero zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead. Though, to be fair, he didn’t need to convince me; I love the 2004 remake as much as *cough*ifnotmorethan*cough* the original.

This year, we have another Dawn defender in Gregg Harrington. And if anyone knows what they’re talking about on the subject of Romero’s zombies, it’s Gregg: he’s a Pennsylvania boy who grew up just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Monroeville! So without further ado, here’s Gregg with his summertime scare, Dawn of the Dead! Continue reading SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Gregg Harrington)

HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH — Eddie!

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I was originally going to start this piece, “Eddie McCarlo is a poor writer’s idea of a nerd if there ever was one.” Within this one character exists too many clashing ideologies, I thought. He makes fun of a girl for ‘being crazy’, he likes to get high with the sleazebag character — all while purporting to be this big sci-fi and fantasy geek. It just didn’t seem to jibe. However, the more I looked at the character and thought about his actions the more I realized: not only is he an amalgamation of different nerds but, as it turns out, I’ve known many Eddie McCarlos in my life. In a way, Eddie McCarlo is a Super Nerd. Continue reading HORROR NERD OF THE MONTH — Eddie!

“Spring” (2014) & “Maggie” (2015) REVIEWS

I wasn’t going to review these movies together for any deep reason — I simply watched them back-to-back and thought I’d kill two birds with one review. After all, these were two very different films — tonally and stylistically — and I really liked one and kinda hated the other one. Pretty different flicks altogether.

But the more I thought about it, the more I drew parallels between the two films: both were fairly under-the-radar VOD films about having to accept the fate bestowed upon a loved one while helplessly watching them turn into some awful thing. So maybe reviewing them together does make sense in some loose way.

I knew very little about each film prior to watching them, but I’d seen nothing but praise and warmth for both films circulating online. I’d watched a trailer for Maggie and knew Arnold Schwarzenegger was putting in a dramatic performance as a farmer who watches his young daughter slowly succumb to a zombie bite. As for Spring, I’d only seen its poster and the head-scratching Rastafarian color scheme. I also had a friend who’d seen Spring and said he enjoyed it, but that the writing was “very college”, and it was a bit sappy. And I knew from reading a brief synopsis on iTunes that a guy goes on a roadtrip to Italy, falls in love, blah blah blah. At this point, I was totally on board for Maggie and couldn’t care less about Spring.

Oh, how wrong I ended up being.

I watched Maggie first, as I was more interested in it than Spring. It starts out promising, if not completely trite: muted color palette, desolate fields with arbitrary fires burning, governmental warnings being delivered in fuzzy bursts through an old truck radio as it ambles down a lone, vacant highway — the apocalypse, baby!

Maggie

But boy it loses steam, and quick. It took me three tries before I was able to make it all the way through this 95 minute movie. It is rough. It’s fairly void of any dialogue, and the lines we are gifted are so brutally hackneyed. An incredibly miscast Arnold Schwarzenegger (playing a painfully earnest farmer) gives his daughter the old “you remind me so much of your mother” speech while he works on his truck; they laugh, they bond; it’s technically a ‘scene’. And when the film isn’t being incredibly cliche, it’s being incredibly oversentimental. Laughably, shockingly oversentimental. I almost want to spoil the ending because of how downright ridiculously saccharin it is, but where’s the fun in that? And then there are several ‘slo-mo traipsing through a field’-style shots from the Terrence Malick handbook which just end up feeling more like an anti-depressant commercial. There are so many of these shots, too many, that it feels as though they were included simply to pad out the runtime versus any real artistic or stylistic reasons. Also, when is this movie set? Their clothes, their house — they look like they’re from the 1800s. Yet everyone and everything else — Maggie’s teenaged friends, the local police — are modern. I mean, sure, I get it, “they’re farmers! Haha! Farmers always look that way, right?” It just furthers the uninspired laziness of the film. Also, this film apparently cost $8M to make when all was said and done, yet nothing happens at all. No explosions, no elaborate choreography or big set pieces. There is some (and I stress some) zombie make-up and very little CGI. Other than that, it’s all handheld camerawork on a farm. That’s it. Where ever that money went, it did not end up on the screen.

And for the people commending Schwarzenegger’s dramatic acting, c’mon, give me a break. I got more chills from the scene in Terminator 2 when he gives the thumbs up as he’s being lowered into molten metal than I did from his whole performance in Maggie. And I know that sounds funny and snarky, but I’m being serious. I’ve seen Arnold play the ill-fated lead quite effectively before, but that is not the case with this film.

So after the incredibly disappointing Maggie I was fairly hesitant to watch a film I had no real interest in watching to begin with. But I turned on Spring and holy shit I was blown away! Beautiful and competent cinematography, gorgeous locations, believable and engaging leads, effective and well done practical and CGI effects. Not to mention a smart script and original premise. I really, really enjoyed it.

Spring-Alley

I immediately got a Before Sunrise meets The Thing type vibe from it, and upon doing a little research have since found people calling it “Richard Linklater meets H.P. Lovecraft” — so my initial reaction was pretty on point. I won’t spoil it, but basically a burnt out American runs away to Italy where he meets and falls for a girl with a pretty heavy duty secret.

One of the many things I enjoyed about the film was that it didn’t let me down. Maybe that sounds silly and obvious to say, “I liked it because it was good!”, but horror movies these days so often find a way to ruin all the momentum they’d been building by tacking on a copout of an ending, or they blow it by throwing some unnecessary curveball in the middle that immediately evaporates the movie’s credibility. Not so with Spring. That’s not to say I wasn’t waiting for it at every turn, with every advancement; I was. But no, it keep moving along, sensibly and fluidly. And I just kept liking what was happening more and more. It’s great.

There is one, single scene early on which features a rapey dudebro type that feels forced. It only stands out because everything else is done so flawlessly. But thankfully that single scene is quite fleeting — seconds long, really — so it doesn’t distract too much.

At just shy of 2 hours, Spring is a long horror-ish flick, but it never feels long — and that’s a sign of skillful filmmaking.

Spring and Maggie may be similar films, but it’s the reasons they’re dissimilar that make all the difference.

Bub Discovers New Music!

One of the great things about 80s horror flicks (versus today’s pedigree) is they didn’t take themselves so seriously. They weren’t afraid to inject lots of humor right alongside the buckets of blood. Everything from Evil Dead to Creepshow, A Nightmare on Elm Street to The Lost Boys, there was an art to the balance of humor and horror – something that is most certainly lost on 99.98% of today’s spook movies.

George A. Romero was no stranger to having fun in his movies, especially them zombie ones that made him so famous. Hell, Dawn of the Dead (1978) has a pie fight! By his third zombie film, Day of the Dead (1985), the slapstick got toned down a bit but there was still lots to smirk at – one of the main ones being the childlike “Bub”, a zombie who we see being ‘taught’ by Dr. Logan. Bub is iconic, as are his interactions with Dr. “Frankenstein” Logan, so I thought I would take a familiar scene and update it a bit – contemporize it for the year it was released, 1985.