Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dan O'Bannon

Dan O'Bannon. Not a household name. But a name in Sci-fi and Horror that I put right up there with George Lucas, Stephen King, George Romero, and many others. You may not know him, but you've undoubtedly seen some of his work. He passed away last week. And while everyone is talking about the death of Brittany Murphy (god rest her soul) Dan O'Bannon was someone that actually and directly influenced me, and whether you know it or not, he influenced Sci-Fi and Horror.

I remember the first time I saw this poster. It was 1985, and I went to see a movie at the General Cinema Six Flags Mall. Back before asbestos would shut the theater down and back when Six Flags Mall was the place to be.

Not sure what movie it was I went to see. I just remember coming out of the theater and seeing this poster. I was 10 years old and I hadn't quite yet started my obsession with horror movies. That wouldn't come for another 2 years. This poster scared the crap out of me. It was strange and avant garde, and it made me wonder what kind of people would go see a movie like this.

The commercials for it scared me as well. Running Zombies! Punk music, or what I thought at the time was Punk. Alot of chaos and people being chased down by cannibalistic moving corpses.

By the time I was deep into my horror obsession, this movie was on VHS. I rented it often and then eventually owned it.

It was this odd blend of humor and scares. Til this day I'm actually not sure if it's straight up horror or comedy. It was one of the first times a movie featured running zombies. And although it is somewhat connected to Romero's Dead Trilogy, these zombies just couldn't be killed AT ALL. Oh unless of course you burned them, then the fumes would go into the air, then it would rain into a cemetery, then you'd get more unstoppable running zombies.

Dan O'Bannon was the writer and director of this movie, and it further pushed the zombie genre into popularity. It would be the first time I would really hear the name, and later I would realize that this was the man who wrote one of the scariest movies of all time. ALIEN.

If you research Dan O'Bannon, you learn he worked for Lucas doing some visual fx and animation for Star Wars, he wrote and directed Night Of The Living Dead, and he wrote Blue Thunder, Invaders From Mars, and Lifeforce, and he made the merger of Sci-Fi and Horror popular with Alien. Alien got the ball rolling on strong female leads in movies, thanks to O'Bannon making the characters in the script non-gender specific.

Back in the day me and my friends actually got a copy of O'Bannon's first movie that he worked on with John Carpenter, a sureal Sci-Fi comedy called Dark Star. O'Bannon also starred in it as the character Pinback.

Watching Dark Star helped me as an indie. To see where it all started with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon. To understand what could be done on such a low budget. To see how the greats like Carpenter and O'Bannon could start out with something smaller like this, and then blow up big enough to make the great movies they made.

O'Bannon specifically always felt like one of us. Like a guy I'd hang out with and talk to. If this guy can make it then so can the rest of us. Not only did he create a cult classic that helped further the zombie genre, but he started the Sci-fi / Horror ball rolling with Alien, a true movie classic that would help change the genre movie landscape. I think mainly for me, Dan O'Bannon helped make my dreams of making movies seem more accessible.

Thank you for that Dan.

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