This week's picks honor the great George A. Romero, who thankfully has a lot of movies available for streaming. I miss you, George, but your movies help.
Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear (1988, dir. George A. Romero) One of the few things I hope happens in the wake of George A. Romero's passing is that horror fans (or anyone, really) start to discover some of his non-zombie movies. This one, about a quadriplegic whose helper monkey begins acting out his angry fantasies, which leads to murder the way it always does with a helper monkey. Romero made a horror movie that's very much for adults during a decade when there weren't a lot of horror movies being made for adults, and even though it doesn't all work there's enough of his artistry and psychological complexity for Monkey Shines to be overdue for a rediscovery. (Watch on Hulu)
Knightriders (1981, dir. George A. Romero) This was the movie I really wanted to watch after hearing the news that Romero was gone, but also the movie I'm most afraid to watch because I don't think I'll be able to handle it. Ed Harris gives a great performance as the stubbornly principled leader of a group of Ren fair actors who are very, very committed to their way of live. Tom Savini is really good in a supporting role as Ed Harris' lieutenant and the movie is an epic of an emotion, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes very serious. This will always seem to me to be Romero's most personal movie because he really is Ed Harris -- a guy who refuses to compromise to the very end. What a messy, beautiful movie. It's available for free on Shout!, no subscription required. (Watch on Shout! Factory TV)
Day of the Dead (1985, dir. George A. Romero) While he made several more very good movies, this third installment in his original Dead trilogy is probably his final masterpiece. It has become, over the last 30 years, the preferred entry for a lot of fans; I can't say I blame them. Yes, the movie is bleak. Yes, it is insanely gory. But like most of Romero's movies, it manages to be progressive and even find a sliver of hope amidst the crushing cynicism. Three decades later, I would also argue that Day still features the best practical gore of effects of any more ever made. And I know this one can be streamed in a number of places; I'm linking to Vudu for the sake of changing it up and because it's a free service that requires no subscription, provided you can put up with a few ads. (Watch on Vudu)
Two Evil Eyes (1990, dir. George A. Romero & Dario Argento) Two giants of horror, Romero and Argento, reunite after first collaborating on Dawn of the Dead for a film that's basically just two 60-minute features smashed together. Neither is entirely successful, but I still think there's a ton of good stuff in each and like them both a lot. Both are Poe adaptations; Romero's installment is based on "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (previously seen in Roger Corman's great Tales of Terror) and finds him working again with Adrienne Barbeau ("Just tell it to call you Billy!") in a story about greed and betrayal. Argento's is yet another version of "The Black Cat," this time with Harvey Keitel as a crime scene photographer who graduates from killing a cat to killing people. More an exercise than a totally satisfying movie experience, I can recommend Two Evil Eyes just for the opportunity to spend two hours with two of my favorites. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Night of the Living Dead (1968, dir. George A. Romero) This might be a little more obvious than I originally set out to be, but there's a reason it's a classic and a reason it changed the face of horror forever. Because of that stupid copyright error, it exists in the public domain all over the internet. This is the best-looking version I was able to find and appears to be in 720p HD, available to watch for free without commercial interruptions. (Watch on Archive.org)
Night of the Living Dead (1990, dir. Tom Savini) Romero didn't direct this one, but he did write the screenplay for this remake to his original classic. Directing duties went to his friend and longtime collaborator Tom Savini, making his feature debut behind the camera. As remakes go, it's not bad; Romero understands the need to change some things up to keep with the times and Savini does his best to serve the material. If I have a complaint, it's that not enough has been changed. If you've seen the original, there's not much reason to return to the remake save the fact that the zombie makeups are a little more sophisticated and it's in color. Still, if it was announced in 2017 that someone was remaking Night, the internet would probably lose its collective shit so I guess we need to give Savini credit for not screwing things up. I like the remake enough, but it's not the Night I take off the shelf when I'm in the mood. (Watch on Shudder)