When I think about zombies…*

* Of course it depends on what universe of zombies, but, in general, this dude totally nails it XD

The original zombie romance?

There’s almost always a part in zombie stories where someone is bit or infected and one of their loved ones has to face a choice: to watch them turn and become dangerous to the rest of the survivors, or shoot them while still human. This is never an easy task. Maybe this happened off screen, and you see the survivor shaken and not quite sane, shocked by what this war with the undead has made them do, and they question themselves and if live is worth living after what they have done.

There are some short stories I’ve read lately which deal with the bond of lovers or family after death. You might question if they are zombies because they might not be precisely called zombies; maybe just undead, reanimated corpses. This is not romance WITH zombies but love for the human-that-is-now-zombie (although one story by Williamson isn’t on this specific theme of love in the time it’s set).

I do think that we can’t be so direct about what a zombie is or isn’t, because authors are bloody inventive creatures and they will force these creatures we once knew to evolve. There’s been quite a few changes in the short 100ish years of the Americanised fictional zombie, and that’s a damned quick evolution from zombiing individuals to mobs (Vampires used to be hidden singular vamps or in small groups, and now are a whole known race in literature with great numbers).

Anywhoos, here’s the stories (I haven’t finished the whole compendium yet, so might add more later):

Was it a dream? by Guy de Maupassant (1910)

The Cairnwell Horror by Chet Williamson (1990)

Later by Michael Marshall Smith (1993)

Do we think too much?

I’ve finished another glorious book of essays about the meanings of zombies, movies and post-humanism. But I’ve stumbled across another book (apart from another one I want to buy) that questions all the research I’m reading and planning on doing.

In Combined and Uneven Apocalypse by Evan Calder Williams, the author questions critiques of zombie works for over-reading the text. Some of the analysis, he says, is not really in-depth but just pointing out what happens in the movie and only a surface interpretation. E.g. Dawn of the Dead being totally about consumerism because zombies are in the mall or an African-American dies by a redneck, therefore the text about race.

“Simply because a film seems to point out problems of social inequality does not mean that it is a radical film, or even one that is therefore ‘smarter’ and more aware than those films hell-bent on entertainment, social critique be damned.”

So I’m trying to think about this and my own work deeper, but I’m not sure how it’s going. Directors of some zombie movies had spoken in interviews about how the movie and zombies are very deliberately placed to examine 9/11 or consumerism or race or whatever. Dawn of the Dead is not just about consumerism because the zombies are in the mall, but about how the humans interact with being in the mall too. Maybe I’m not reading this bit properly.

I’ve seen the ‘reading too much into things’ directed at scholars and reviewers before. Is it always about the author’s intention? One of my favourites, I kissed a zombie and I liked it by Adam Selzer, has zombies reborn through the magic of a big supershop wanting free slave labour. Asking the author on twitter (ages ago) if it was relating to the original Haitian zombies as plantation slaves, he said he wanted a good reason to have zombies in our world. Does this mean that we shouldn’t read into the whole Walmart-like business wanting to use people (or zombies) for their benefit?

You can check out a review of this book here and a preview of the book here.

Movies of the Week 2

Zombies of Mass Destruction

This movie is epic. You don’t need to be a zombologist to see the links being made between zombies and real life. It compares societal panics – the ‘gay’ panic, terrorism panic, religious panics, etc – to zombies. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t smart or funny, and I can’t quite decide what I liked the most about it. I do like some politics on the side of zombies and other monsters, mostly because of how damned crazy politicians are, and this movie brings out the best (worst?) of it.

There’s a few main characters. There is the gay couple – the totally out there Lance (wearing an ‘I’m with him’ shirt, a big f you to small town minds and proud of who he is – right on!), and his partner Tom, who is returning to the small town to finally come out of the closet to his mum. There is an Iranian-American, Frida, who is constantly harassed with the rednecks of the town who mistake her for an Iraqi and use her as an excuse to go on about the war on terrorism, which clearly she has nothing to do with as she has lived her whole life in America. She wants to be seen as American, which upsets her Iranian father who is proud of his heritage. There’s Mrs Banks, a teacher and running for Mayor against Mayor Burton who has been in control of the town for some time and is a god-fearing good Christian. And as always, never trust a priest, particularly a small town priest!

As well as the story and great characters (and great acting!), there’s some awesome makeup and zombie design with skin being pulled off faces while they are still screaming – lovely (and not being sarcastic, it was beautifully done)! Unlike some comedy horrors, it’s not more depressing than funny (maybe it would have been more depressing if a certain person was still in charge of a certain oval-shaped office in a white coloured house).

This is totally a buy!

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Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

As with all zombie movies from the 70’s, I look out for boobs. The first made an appearance in 3 minutes. Actually there was less boobs in this movie than other 70’s movies I’ve seen!

While the character interaction was a bit weird, boring or misogynistic most of the time (one moral you could take from this is: women are hysterical and can’t drive!), the underlying zom plot was pretty good. Admittedly, I’d tried to watch this a few times before and had just zoned out – maybe that’s the whole generational thing of “OMG were lyk Gen Y n ned action all teh tym!” (It killed me to write that ><).

Two young (one very lefty/hippy like) people are being stalked by the coppers (the bad authority who don’t know nuffin!) for murders that were actually caused by the walking dead. These zombies are different from typical zombies, and although the cause is explained, there’s something that bugs me about them. One, a man who died from drowning, is shown wet and dripping in every scene, very ghost like. Of course, Romero had only made Night of the Living Dead a few years before this and although brought back in the interest in zombies, not everyone made Romero-esque zombies yet (you see a lot of people who comment on Youtube that zombies are ONLY like X and can only be killed with Y etc etc. but either ignore the evolution of creativity or don’t know the actual evolution of zombies. I used to be one of those ignorant fools! Except I don’t comment on Youtube :P)

As a relatively early modern zombie movie, it’s pretty good. It doesn’t have the absolute gore of other zombie movies in the era (perhaps this lead to a lighter rating?) and the makeup is okay for the time. They have the zombie shamble  and dead eyed stare down pat!

I’m considering getting this, being an example of X causes zombification and X was a concern of the time and looking at historical context etc etc, but it’s not action packed and seems to go on for longer than it really does.

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Resident Evil

This is one of the prominent zombie movies of noughties and for good reason. Admittedly, I’ve never played the game, but I love the old evil corporation and bitch-crazy AI.

I am a fan of Milla Jovovitch, she does some damned good movies and she acts damned well too, and it did take me some time to place James Purefoy (he gets his kit off as Mark Antony in HBO’s Rome – helloooooo!) – he’s not as crazy famous as some, but he’s a good actor and … Michelle Rodriguez plays Michelle Rodriguez. ‘Nuff said.

A top secret bad virus is kept in a totally breakable container which is broken, and entire offices are flooded and people killed with gas. We learn soon enough that it was the AI of the complex that directed this and a group of soldiers are directed to go in and find out wtf happened. In the meantime, Jovovitch/Alice wakes up, apparently having collapsed in the shower. She doesn’t remember a thing, but is told she works for Umbrella too. Flashes of memory start coming back, and she’s not so sure she was a loyal employee…

I do like the story, it’s totally a classic and I am very much looking forward to the next one in the series when it comes out later this year. This is very much a modern zombie movie with lots of action, a bit of plot, and loads of zombies and fake blood.

I have half the series already, just need to find this one and Extinction, so clearly it’s a buy for me.

DON’T LOOK BELOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES!

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Resident Evil: Apocalypse

How could we make something good so bad? With Apocalypse! It makes sense in context of the series and how the zombie plague plays out, but the ‘plot’ is downright horrid. I’ve seen on the net that the writer (same as the first movie) blamed the director, but I really don’t believe any director could have saved that script or those characters.

Some things just downright didn’t make sense. So we know the zombie infection is spread by bites and scratches, but how do the long-dead in the graveyard come back to un-life? In the first film, the virus was created for military application, where this one has a different story. The other characters – anyone not Alice – were crap too. There’s the hardened ex-cop who dresses in boob tubes, miniskirts and platform shoes, and decorates her apartment in the newspaper clippings of her own dismissal (why?), then there are some soliders with a really bad sense of one-liners, a black guy who plays a stereotypical black guy – although there is a man of African-American appearance who plays a cop as well, so it’s not completely racist.

Alice is asskicking, as usual, and Milla Jovovitch doesn’t bow to the terribleness of the story. If it wasn’t for her and the movie being a part of an overall good series, this would be totally unworthy. This is the B-Grade of the series, although it does pack some important information right in at the end.

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Resident Evil: Extinction

So after being saved again, apparently they all decide to split up and Alice is biking her way across the desert and showing some strange powers. Somewhere in that desert there’s an Umbrella lab where they are trying to work on clone Alice’s, putting the clones through rigorous testing and leading to a huge pile of dead Alice’s on the surface that make the horde of zombies rattle the rather weak looking fence for. But there are other survivors tracking across the country, low on fuel, low on food, and Alice shares with them a possible escape – Arcadia in Alaska, the promised land, free of infection and safe with food and shelter. They have to get there first, and Umbrella wants Alice back and doesn’t care who they kill in the process.

Apart from the bad guys being totally evil with no morals, no emotion, no care for humanity and totally stereotypical, this movie does improve on everything else that Apocalypse lacked. There’s still a few strange things that don’t quite make sense (Oh, I didn’t mention this before, but I’m an expert helicopter pilot. Could that possibly, at all, be of use in a zompocalypse?) but less of them.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife

And to the last one that came out! Apart from screwing up an Umbrella lab in Tokyo, Alice has gone to Alaska to find Arcadia and found nothing, nothing at all except a crazed up Claire with a strange device attached to her chest. They escape the island and find a prison with a few survivors and thousands of zombies outside the gates. Alice decides to stop in, and finds out that Arcadia is not what they thought it was at all. And the prison won’t be safe for much longer, with zombies digging through the ground and a big ass executioner looking zom with a ginormous axe/mace/thing.

Again, typical bad guys who wear sunglasses inside and underground, but also some unexpected enemies (but should be expected from a zompocalypse) from within the survivor group itself. The last group of survivors all worked together for a common purpose, and apart from LJ who hid his bite (totally in denial), they were loyal to the group. This group is a bit more diverse. Keeping together with the same people for so long must drive you nuts, but some people cling to the falsities of what used to be reality and don’t realise that what was important then means crap all now.

Still cool action sequences. Was shot in 3D, and although I didn’t watch it in 3D, some of the scenes looked brilliant – like the first, a girl standing in the rain in Tokyo, lots of slow action movement to show every breath, every drop of rain. I like that detail. A lot of 3D done today is postproduction, and really not worth being called 3D, compared to something so highly detailed (in design, not plot) as Avatar (which of course started the 3D trend.)

But anyway, good zombie movie!