Am currently reading Max Brooks (Mel’s son) very serious book called the “Zombie Survival Guide.” It contains fewer blatant attempts at humor than the average Army Survival Manual, and comes across like a mix of the Anarchist’s Cookbook and the serious writings of a disturbed 18 year old. Having said that, it is of course very funny, and I had never realized how dangerous zombies underwater could be until now.

Ahh, zombies. I’m almost always disappointed by the zombie movies. Night of the Comet, even Romero’s many attempts at the genre. After 28 Days Later, I kind of thought, well this is probably about the best zombie movie that’ll come along for a while, so I didn’t bother with the James Gunn penned Dawn of the Dead rebake (Though I strongly recommend Gunn’s book The Toy Collector) or even Shaun of the Dead.

Still, after reading ZSG I think I will go rent those two, and post a follow-up. Apparently the new Romero Zombie flick – Land of the Dead – seems to be taken straight out of a Max Brooks scenario which is that the Zombies have won and taken over the world.

All those awful Uwe Boll video game movies seem to be zombie films also. In fact, that may explain the resurrection of the genre. Silent Hill, Resident Evil, House of Dead – full of zombies. Kids these days have been killing zombies for years at home now.

While those films have entirely sucked, there is some hope as Mr. Hooper returns to the fight with this: http://www.aintitcoolnews.com/images/zombiesposter.jpg

And there’s a German film playing the Newport film festival right now that looks promising:
Revenge of the Teenage Zombies (Die Nacht Der Lebenden Loser). (Germany) Mathias Dinter’s horror comedy follows three hapless teens, Philip, Konrad and Weener, who experiment with voodoo and end up as zombies following a car accident. If you think that Peter Jackson hit his peak back in the Bad Taste days and you keep waiting for him to go back to directing low-budget, gross-out zombie comedies with people’s brains being eaten and all that, here’s something to tide you over in the meantime.

And that of course brings up one time zombie-master Peter Jackson, who tackled zombies in Dead-Alive (not in Bad Taste as was quoted above).

But much as I love Dead-Alive, having a zombie film be overtly funny – as with Shaun of the Dead also – it can result in a good film; but it’s not a true zombie horror film. That’s what has made the Brooks book so enjoyable – never playing it anything less than straight. Look, that thing wants to eat you, kill you, make you one of them. You had better shoot it in the head.

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Mark Mauer likes movies cuz the pictures move, and the screen talks like it's people. He once watched Tales from the Gilmli Hostpial three times in a single night, and is amazed DeNiro made good movies throughout the 80s, only to screw it all up in the 90s and beyond. He has met both Udo Kier and Werner Herzog, and he knows an Irishman who can quote at length from the autobiography of Klaus Kinksi.

62 thoughts on “zombies”

  1. More Zombie movies coming: First, there is an Australian Peter Jackson-type comedy/gore fest coming to LA’s NuArt in July. It’s called Undead.

    Also, James Gunn, who wrote the latest Day of the Dead (and both Scooby-Doo movies), is writing and directing another zombie flick: “Slither.”

    I watched both Shaun of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Neither seemed very satisfying to me; though the cast and writers in Shaun were very good. It makes me want to see the BBC series ‘Spaced,’ which features most of the cast of Shaun.

  2. Tobe Hooper, I hear, has a new zombie flick coming, too. I liked Shaun, quite a bit. The new Dawn seemed a waste right up through to the final credits–which laid down (through a character’s video cam of events) a more pessimistic ending that was actually quite wrenching. But ’til then I found it never as … just unnervingly ambiguous in tone and dread as Romero’s. (I teach his Dawn in a comedy class, and not just as a “satire”–instead, I see it as a cross between Frye’s “green world” and Bakhtin’s carnival…)

    I might read the Brooks book.

  3. Mike – The Romero film you teach for comedy is the shopping mall one, right? What are Frye’s Green World and Bakhtin’s Carnival? I’d be interested in your take on the Brooks book: As I said before, 200 pages and he never cracks a single joke. Now THAT’S funny.

    I’m adding yet another film to the list, though it came out in Japan in 2003: Battlefield Baseball. If I may quote from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “The first and possibly last word in splatter sports comedy, Yudai Yamaguchi’s “Battlefield Baseball” is a ballpark “Rollerball” with slapstick stylings and melodramatic overkill. Part martial-arts revenge parody and part faux zombie spectacle on a field of nightmares, and directed in the overripe, hysterical style of Japan’s anime farces, it’s at once too much and too little, yet goofy fun for all that.
    The upcoming season of the powerhouse Seido High baseball team appears doomed when it is scheduled to play the dreaded Gedo squad, an undead horde of green-skinned ghouls who leave their opponents eviscerated and scattered across the field.”

    Think I’ll miss this one, though perhaps Fever Pitch could have been salvaged by some Japanese zombies gnawing on the brains of Drew Barrymore (and of course finding cobwebs and an old IOU inside the skull of Jimmy Fallon). This film is getting a US DVD release on May 3 by the way (So I probably will see it actually).

    Funny Simpsons joke last night: “Give apes the right to vote. You won’t regret it!”

  4. Apparently none of you live in Los Angeles any longer, but if you did you could see this at the Egyptian on Thursday April 28: Zombie Honeymoon (2004, David Gebroe). A zombie ruins the honeymoon of a young couple in what John Landis calls “the first truly romantic flesh-eating corpse movie.” With Graham Sibley, Tracy Coogan.

    I will try to catch this one I think. Starts at 7:30. Plus, there’s a short film showing with it about an “enthusiastic dentist.”

    I miss online casino…

  5. In my never-eding effort to get someone to talk about zombie films, here’s the trailer for Undead:

    Looks pretty serous for an Australian film (they are of course a silly people, and it’s difficult to take them or their attempts at ‘culture’ as anything more than childish whimsy)

    As with all of my comments now, this one will sit in a queue for days on end while Arnab sits high on his throne deciding whether or not he will allow my words to show up…

  6. Frye’s Green World–in a comedy, the social order in the city is corrupt, or stagnant; a group of people reject or run from that order, into the forest (the green world), where they can play at identity, imagine new kinds of social/personal relationships, etc. The mall in Dawn strikes me as a kind of analogue to the green world.

    And Bakhtin: he argued that carnivals/festivals were also spaces of social upheaval, challenge, revision. In particular, he drew relations between the ‘body politic’ and the exuberant grotesqueries of bodies at carnivals–too much eating and drinking, lots of vomiting, farting, fucking… In a nutshell, in carnival the body’s boundaries become permeable, loose–instead of isolated ‘whole’ individuals, we have an explicitly interrelated social dynamic which produces, reproduces, and potentially revises individual identity. Or some such. And I think zombie films–heck, lots of grotesque horror–plays with such symbolic social resonance for exploding bodies.

    Here’s another fun one: “Versus” — Japanese yakuza samurai time travel zombie film. But that baseball flick sounds even better….

  7. I don’t think Slither was a zombie film, ‘though its sluggish army of space-slug-infested mind-controlled peons in some way visually echo the zombie motif. That said, the film is a kind of glorious embodiment of B-movie zeal and wit. Not, I’d caution, pastiche or sly winking parody–instead, a faithful, not particularly disruptive genre flick which never made me less than happy.

    I especially enjoyed a throwaway scene where a white-trash mother sitting with her infant (right before being quasi-sexually ‘consumed’ by newly-infested slug Michael Rooker) is watching a Troma film, turning it off as a character on screen says “Shut up, motherfucker” and patting her baby lovingly on the head.

    There’s plenty of gore–though not quite as ridiculously exaggerated and extensive as I might enjoy, despite a couple of explicit cinematographic nods to Evil Dead; it’s also plenty funny, ‘though in ways that are comfortably yuk yuk rather than the more witty stuff that made Shaun so damned exceptional. Still, if you like this stuff, and how couldn’t you, you’ll enjoy.

  8. 28 Weeks Later. I don’t watch a lot of zombie movies because they scare me, but I did like ‘28 Days Later’ mostly because of Danny Boyle’s signature frenetic cutting, and the way the lead character (an excellent Cillian Murphy) turns against the soldiers intended to protect him at the end. This film has Boyle as executive producer and is directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. The camera work is every bit as good as the original, in fact, better, but there is essentially none of Boyle’s humor, and indeed almost no dialogue at all.

    Most of the movie is fairly conventional mayhem, as scene after scene pits the infected against civilians and then soldiers, people walk through darkened tunnels (once with only a sniperscope for vision), and blood splatters everything. It nonetheless rises above a simple splatterfest for two reasons. The first is the incredible beauty of some of the shots. A lot of the movie is filmed from high overhead, above a man running for his life across country fields, or above London as the sun rises over a deserted city, or above the same city as napalm fills the gaps between the skyscrapers making orange grid marks over the dark streets. The contrast between the stillness of these ariel shots and the dizzying, chaotic scenes of terror, filmed in close up captures something about what was lost and what was gained when the plague wiped out most of the population. There is also a great shot of a sniper scanning the windows of a tower block out of boredom, and the audience catches glimpses of humdrum human life before all hell breaks loose.

    The second reason I was entranced by the film is the political allegory. It is obvious, but powerful nonetheless. SPOILER. Six months after the last of the infected is dead, Britain is under a US-led NATO force which is slowly re-populating the country. It starts in the Green Zone (get it?) in the Canary Wharf section of London, which is heavily fortified and patrolled by American forces. When the plague returns, the occupying soldiers have to kill the infected and contain the outbreak, and when that fails, they are prepared to wipe out the entire civilian population to regain control. There is an astonishing scene (as good as anything in ‘Black Hawk Down’) when crowds of people flee, some infected, most not, and American snipers have to try to figure out which is which. Eventually they give up and shoot indiscriminately. One immediately thinks of Iraq, and the dilemma of any occupier: how to tell those who want to hurt you from those that don’t? The logic of total destruction, whether it is London over-run by zombies or Fallujha, is utterly compelling. It is the logic of the situation which dictates the tactics, not the morality of those in charge.

  9. I had not seen this thread in a long time, and I realize that I talked about upcoming zombie films, then saw them, then never posted anything about them.
    So before I get to the quite good 28 Weeks Later…
    Undead – not very good at all. It deos take a couple of unexpected / absurd turns, but really, a triple-barreled shotgun isn’t THAT cool. Could have used Rupert Everett. Seriously. In Cemetery Man he turned in an almost Bruce Campbell-level performance.

    Zombie Honeymoon – Probably the goriest romantic comedy about vegetarians I’ve ever seen. A lot of amateuriishness – acting, production, writing, directing, but not unenjoyable. Points for spending a lot of time with something most zombie movies don’t – trying to continue your relationship with a loved one after they’ve become a zombie.

    28 Weeks Later I was suprised this was as good as it was. I agree with Chris the sequel made good use of Boyle’s own style. The blurry close-up fight scenes, so that you can’t really tell who is doing what to whom is getting a little played out. I’m sure it’s trying to make you feel as confused, panic-y as the people trying to escape. The same kind of thing was done in Batman Begins. But I much preferred the chase. The scene of Robert Carlyle running (with a sprained ankle) running across that green field as 100 or more insane Ragers come after him was really impressive.
    But that decision that Carlyle’s character makes in the first sequence of the movie is a superb set-up. It’s horrible, yet believeable, and great for it.

    There are several points where a character or two makes terrible decisions. Usually in movies like this, it’s something that defies belief (going into the basement, opening the box, etc.) but is necessary to move the story along or to get a cheap scare. For example, I quickly lost a lot of goodwill towards those kids when they escape the Green Zone to visit their family home. And then they split up. Why? Why would do that? It annoyed me to no end with Pan’s Labyrinth. But here, for the most part, I could understand why these characters made these mistakes, why Carlyle kisses his wife, why the general gives the order to abandon targeting the infected and so on.

    Carylye shows up far too often in the movie at appropriate points to be plausible, and there is simply a lot less of that hunkered-down survival mode aspect here. I’d like to see the original again, I’m sure this would seem less good than I currently find it. There’s an unfortunate scene with a helicopter that is almost identical to one in Grindhouse.

    On the plus side, 28 Weeks Later makes good use of the societal critiques that Zombie movies are so excellent at framing (minus the wasted protential of Romero’s most recent ham-fisted mess). The militarization of society, the hope that there might be a child savior, and just the raw fury of what’s happening on screen invite comparisons to Children of Men. It seems that 6 years into the Bush administration, we’re in a new golden age of apocalypse/fascist films getting made.

    Finally, a quick note about Max Brooks’ World War Z. Like Zobie Survival Handbook (and 28 Weeks Later), not a second is spent explaining why this happened. Vignettes from around the world of how it spread, how we lost, how we regrouped, and then finally make progress. Brooks has taken the Zombie-story-as-framework-for-society to a whole new level. Each chapter is about one of these: Consumption, local politics, geography, greed, bureacracy, interdependence, over-specialization, and anything else you can think of.

  10. I liked this film a lot (though the third act was lacking that certain something . . . and Carlyle’s reappearances stretched credibility). Still, it was a fun, frightening ride. The opening sequence is about as good as it gets and there are many more similarly exciting scenes and moments. As political allegory, I completely agree with Chris but I thought the film to be much more pro-American than expected. I didn’t pick up any anti-American critique as American military officers and administrators, across the board, come across as pretty good folk. Where Mauer reads fascism, I read pragmatism (I think); though I must admit the politics of the film were more conservative than I imagined.

  11. Hmm. Well, while Carlyle makes a decision at the begninng of the film that is reprehensible but forgivable, the decision that the American general makes is simply “war crime” territory. Yet, both involved sacrificing those they should be responible for.

    We never get to see any consequences of the decision, but I was left feeling sick about it, and knowing clearly it was wrong. Who is the terrorist and who is the innocent Ieqi caught in the crossfire?

    Quite frankly, the fact that the virus appears to have gone beyond the UK indicates that the decision the general made – to kill all civilians, regardless of being infected or not – might have been the correct one. More likely, the reason the virus spread to France was because the “good” soldier decided to disobey orders, and attmpted to protect the kids. The kid most likely infected someone in France inadvertently (the blood stain on his face through the whole second half of the movie was a nifty bit of foreshadowing, he was a carrier even then, physically carrying infected blood on his skin). If the American general had his way, then that would have been avoided. the scenario in 28 Weeks Later is a Lose-Lose situation. And that is exactly what Iraq is too.

    This isn’t to say that the filmmaker had a conservative agenda for the sake of this example. If this parallels Iraq, it indicates that someone in power made a decision to go in too early, without all of the correct information, without air-tight contingency plans and by ignoring more level-headed and cautious advice (the chief medical officer).

    While talking to someone about the movie yesterday it dawned on me that there are also similarites to Alien/Aliens. The first is about discovery of the threat and outright fear, and both first movies are filmed in truly original ways that made excellent use of their environments. The second flims depict the flawed military solutions to the problems. Americans can be nice guys, even the soldiers, but our clumsy power, wielded unwisely, quickly creates problems too big even for anyone, that start spilling over borders.

    As I’m sure it’s painfully clear from my posts, I rarely think out any of this before vomiting it out on this blog.


    David Ansen writes: “The Iraq metaphor that Fresnadillo and his screenwriters (Rowan Joffe, E. L. Lavigne, Jesus Olmo and the director) set up is initially intriguing, but doesn’t bear much scrutiny. Indeed, if you try to parse the movie’s logic closely (zombies = terrorists) you might come to the conclusion that the U.S. military strategy—kill everybody to stop the contagion—proves to be the correct one, which is not, I think, what the filmmakers intended. The movie’s politics thus come off more as fashionable frosting than meaningful metaphor.”

    David Edlestein writes: “Is the movie a classic? I don’t think so, but it’s terrifying—and a necessary gross-out. Fresnadillo and co-screenwriters Rowan Joffe, E.L. Lavigne, and Jesús Olmo certainly rub our noses in the gory mess of reconstruction under a desperate occupying force: With his whiplash subjective camera, Fresnadillo rouses our fight-or-flight instincts and makes us loathe the brutality. All I could think was, What has our government wrought? Although I suspect that he, along with most of this country and the world, could not be more sickened by the mayhem in Iraq, one could take a pro-surge view and argue that 28 Weeks Later makes the best logistical case for inflicting massive amounts of collateral damage. Zombie cannibalism, Islamofascism—both highly contagious. Alas, the Bush-Cheney administration has proved more adept at spreading the virus than inoculating against it.”

    More fun: the little boy with the large noggin and wavy alterna-hair at the center of the narrative is played by an actor named Mackintosh Muggleton (his sister is played by an actor named Imogen Poots). Go England!

    Even funnier: Nathan Lee in the Village Voice writes: “Cached in a rural farmhouse under zombie assault, Don abandons his wife in a panic of self-preservation. Later, in London, once he’s reunited with his daughters Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), this will come back to bite him—though not, as might be expected, in the literal sense.”

    Poor old Macky Muggleton. Middle school must have been hell during the reign of Rowling but when the Village Voice can’t even figure out your gender, you know it’s time for a makeover.

  13. The more I think back on the movie, the more I like the opening sequence: the claustrophobia inside the farmhouse; tenderness and a little humor from those hiding; the sheer horror of Carlyle choosing to leave his wife behind; and then the glorious shot of him running across open fields as zombies converge on him from every direction, followed by the frenetically cut scene on the boat as he gets away. Nothing later in the movie can live up to that promise.

    I did not read the Iraq metaphor in terms of justifying killing the entire civilian population. The point is that when an occupying power cannot tell the difference between the infected/terrorist and the civilians, the logic of occupation leads to annihilation or genocide. It is not right or wrong, it is just logical. The American general (nice to see Stringer Bell finally getting some air time after ‘The Wire’) is simply pursuing occupation to its logical conclusion. I also agree with Jeff that the Americans come off as generally benign, not least because all three that get any attention sacrifice their lives for the children.

  14. Generally benign in person, generally malignant in consequences to others. Carlyle’s an awful nice guy, and he basically causes the death of his wife, the reintroduction of the disease, and–by extension SPOIILERS–the deaths of his kids and the world. I agree with all the ins and outs noted above about the film’s politics, yet the key is, as Chris notes, the necessary end-game logic. Niceness isn’t a factor; it’s actions, and on the part of the Americans an arrogance and certainty about their ability to control those actions, that lead inexorably to mass destruction.

    I dug this, too–haven’t much to add, except a comment I’ll steal from a friend Jeff and I saw it with: the film seems to set aside more tricky plotting to emphasize/highlight its own relentless energies.

    We could probably also read this film up against the director Fresnadillo’s earlier Intacto, a more coolly-composed film, but also about fate, will, and inevitability. The characters in that film play games of chance as tests of their own strange abilities to win, to avoid defeat, disaster, death. Plot is all arbitrary mechanics, coincidence–not meaningful per se. What’s meaningful is the roll of the dice or the gun-barrel. I tend to forgive 28 Weeks its overdetermined father-plot because it seems so much more interested in that opening choice, the way such choices are forced (and perhaps not really choosing in any real sense), and how even our best-defended choices can lead to disastrous horror. I.e, we’re screwed. My favorite kind of escapism: the genre of hermetic containment.

  15. I just saw this–perhaps someone can explain to me the (nearly) last shot of the drawing of the helicopter–where is it? does it indicate something about the fate of the children?

    as for the allegory, I’m not sure I find it particularly compelling as any kind of commentary on Iraq–partly for the same reason that Camus’ The Plague is flawed as an allegory of Nazism and Resistance. Politics can’t be translated into biological terms without suggesting some kind of fatalistic overdetermination; the plague arrives out of nowhere,from “above,” which political/historical events never do. Allegories that depend on conceptions of sickness can’t help but suggest a relationship between the normal and the pathological that tends to naturalize as “organic” political events. It’s hard to borrow from fascism the methods by which to critique fascism. The general’s extreme orders to kill everyone, in order to effect a complete containment, would, if carried out successfully, have been entirely effective, from a biological point of view; while any kind of similar order in political terms would never have that kind of justification/outcome. biology can often be considered in terms of ideology, but I don’t think ideology can ever be considered in biological terms.

    two other points: I thought Muggleton was a girl, too, for the first part of the movie. What, they don’t have barbers in post-apocalyptic Britain? get that kid a haircut! Is the actor related to old blowhard Malcolm Muggeridge? now there’s a British zombie.

  16. Well…. to some degree I buy your critique of illness as politics. But I’d push. It is possible that, as you put it, the general’s orders for massacre could create a containment wholly unimaginable in terms of real politics. But the point–particularly in zombie movies?–seems to be that the imagined closure and order possible is never actually realized. The quest to stop, corral, keep out, expunge the zombies is never accomplished. And any person seeing the films–even non-fans–have a pretty strong sense of that generic template. So the allegory might actually hold some weight?

    Further, our politicians routinely imagine containment in almost-viral terms, imagining ideology as something to be ruthlessly suppressed and routed out or killed. Horror films like this one don’t so much allegorize politics into illness as literalize the allegories that already infect our thinking.

    The kid’s drawing was something the helicopter pilot had on the roof of his chopper, to remember his own kid. I think the last shot was simply to show us that the chopper got to France, but he and the kids were gone, dead, his drawings left behind. And now the zombies are out, again, shuffling for baguettes and Gitanes.

  17. good point,Mike. Genre considerations complicate the politics a great deal. and perhaps the zombie film gets the most mileage from the sickness–social disorder metaphor–but I need to give this more thought.

  18. My 14 year-old has developed an obsession with zombies. It began with repeated viewings of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and he has committed to memory the ‘Zombie Survival Guide’ which he got for his birthday. He introduced me to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnGROEPQf3I
    and there is useful information at: http://www.zombiesurvivalwiki.com/

    So I need to identify more zombie movies that might not freak out a young teenager (ruling out Romero and the 28 series). After Shaun, we watched ‘Fido’ and ‘The Omega Man’ (which was way worse than I remembered and not really about zombies). Any suggestions?

  19. Well, if he doesn’t mind a few classics: Jacques Tournier’s I Walked with a Zombie and Victor Halperin’s White Zombie

    A Hammer classic: The Plague of the Zombies

    They Came Back is gore-free but smart. French zombies. Mais oui!

    Would he like Army of Darkness?

    Maybe in a few more years he can watch Cemetary Man, which is an Italian zombie film with Rupert Everett.

    And you can’t forget Michael Jackson’s extended music video, Thriller, which is actually pretty good.

  20. I spent years working with fourteen year olds as a summer camp counselor as well as a middle school and high school teacher. It really depends on how you define his ability to think abstractly and critically engage film as useful texts for pursuing larger cultural discourses. I’d argue he has the potential to handle 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later (they are smart about the politics of social systems not to mention issues of moral integrity in the face of social breakdown) . . . and Romero’s first film in his series is considered to be a highly significant socio-cultural American text and might allow for some interesting conversations between the two of you on civil rights, American political dissent during the 1960s, etc. I think They Came Back would bore him.

  21. Good suggestions, thanks. I especially think he will like ‘Army of Darkness.’ My concern with the 28s and Romero is not my son’s cultural-critical abilities, but ensuring he sleeps through the night with the light off! Hell, I had nightmares after ’28 Weeks Later.’ Kid-friendly zombie movies is probably not a large category.

  22. Night of the Comet was an ‘eighties, kind of comic/silly “scary” version, with two late-adolescent girls as the heroes. I don’t see a rating on Netflix, but I half-recall it as being pretty tame, PG13 maybe.

    Dead Alive, Peter Jackson’s crazy gory zombie film has the benefit–like Sam Raimi’s later two Evil Dead films–of being far more interested in outrageous gory humor than scares. I think, if he has a good stomach, he’d dig the heck out of that one. Nothing otherwise objectionable about it, beyond a sick silly pleasure in the goriest physical humor. (John’s rec for Cemetery Man would get the same props from me–equally funny, maybe a bit more interested in scares though…)

    Dead Heat is an awful, awful film, but unobjectionable. It’s a cop buddy movie with Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo. It might be fun just for how friggin’ strange it is.

    My Boyfriend’s Back is another teen ‘comedy’ zombie film, maybe with a bit more satirical bite (directed by Bob Balaban) that I recall liking well enough.

    A Japanese film–hyperkinetic, tons of fun–called Versus softens the relatively mild “horror” with its yakuza/samurai/zombie mash-up — the plot involves time travel, ridiculous high-flying martial-artsy gun battles and swordplay. I think that’d be a big hit. Again, it is bloody, but nothing too frightening.

    Good gravy–I doublechecked Wikipedia and saw this long, long list.

  23. I also watched ‘The Omega Man’ recently, and thought it was crap, but then again, it’s Heston. So of course it’s crap. What an amazing display of macho arrogance though. Crashing around the streets of 1970s LA was pretty cool.

    And to my mind Will Smith is the Charlton Heston of the ’00s. The surface may seem more acceptable to our sophisticated sensibilities – this charming black man – but no. His movies are terrible, whether genre or comedy or “important,” and they age as well as potato salad in the noon day sun.

    So I was completely unsurprised to see him as the star of I Am Legend, which is the same Matheson story as The Omega Man. It will be not just awful, but Willsmithawful, and will be the first zombie movie I’ll actively avoid in a long time.

  24. It does look good, and the title alone makes it worth a try. So it is in the queue. We are just watching ‘Fido’ again; that is one funny movie.

  25. ‘Boy Eats Girl’ is indeed fun. It starts a little slowly (and the whole thing is only 78 minutes long), but it riffs off the typical high school movie very well, and by the last ten minutes there are body parts all over one of those hedge-trimming tractor thingies. There is a sly sense of humor as well; after the male lead describes his zombie condition (super-strength, no blood pumping, ravenous hunger), one of his friends asks: “can you fly?”

  26. So I finally read Mauer’s original post for this thread and see that Max Brooks is Mel’s son. I tell my kid (who has moved beyond ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’ and is now reading ‘World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars’ also by Max Brooks). He vaguely knows of Mel Brooks from ‘Young Frankenstein’ and ‘Blazing Saddles.’ His first words are: “is Mel Brooks still making movies, because he could make a zombie movie?” A marriage made in heaven!

  27. I’ve got a spare paperback copy of World War Z lying around if someone (or someone’s kids) wants to check it out. Talk about your political allegory: this one is overstuffed with it. The scenarios the people in this book face are the ones our children (hopefully not us) might face: Societal breakdown, lack of food and fuel, communication and transportation. Nature amuck.

    As books go, it’s a fine double feature with Wiseman’s The World Without Us. Alas, the scenarios presented in World War Z are much, much more likely to come to reality than those in the other book…

  28. There’s a 10-minute zombie short over at Netflix you can “watch instantly,” and I say do so cause it’s nearly perfect. It’s called I Love Sarah Jane and it’s from Australia and, I think, it was a 2008 Sundance short. Anyway, check it out (though Netflix says G, the film’s definitely “Rated R” but mostly for language and general zombie cruelty inflicted by teenagers).

  29. This really is good. It’s beautifully filmed, with some lovely little details that the camera passes over without insisting that you pay attention (a severed body in the street, lettering on the walls), and the R-rated dialogue fits the mood perfectly. The moments of poignancy never grate and the final smile, as we realize that adolescent love can be all important even in world in which your parents either are zombies or were killed by them, is perfect. I hope someone at Sundance gave the director money for a full length film.

  30. Yes, I was quite impressed with the production design. For such a short film, the director and his collaborators certainly marshalled a lot of folks (and their property I’m assuming) to pull this off. And you are absolutely on target when it comes to the small details (set decoration, make-up, special effects). The line producer for this project must be a genius at organization.

  31. For those who like graphic novels, the ‘Walking Dead’ series by Robert Kirkman (and others) is pretty good; a well-written account of the travails of a group of survivors, with only occasional bouts of zombie violence. And, because this is a movie blog, I recommend the afterword to the second volume, written by Simon Pegg (of ‘Shaun’ and Hot Fuzz’ and the just released ‘Run Fatboy Run’). He betrays some film school training…

  32. So my older son sketched out an idea for a movie today while riding to get new soccer cleats. It is a zombie movie set in a Nazi concentration camp. Nazi doctors perform medical experiments on Jewish prisoners, and in so doing inadvertently create a virus that brings back the dead. The dead who come back, of course, are the Jews exterminated in the gas chambers. They turn on the prison guards and Nazi officers. The hook, of course, is that we cheer for the zombies. I explained that the concentration camp concept might be a tough sell at Sundance, but what do I know? He is still struggling with two things: the ending and the title. Does it end with the Americans coming across the camp, expecting to arrive as liberators but surveying the zombie hordes, or do high level Americans try to bring the virus back to the United States as a WMD (with obvious results that permit a sequel)? And ‘Nazi Zombies From Hell’ is too B-movie, I think.

  33. Intriguing concept. I can already see the images raising some hell–I mean just picture those shots of the emaciated prisoners burned into our memories, and how this film would resonate so uncomfortably. Pretty damned intriguing.

    “Aw Shitz!”
    “That sure ain’t kosher!”

    I don’t think those titles are helping.

  34. where the film will run into problems is when the jews and the nazis become one in zombie-dom. unless the twist is that the jewish zombies and the nazi zombies form opposing camps. and perhaps a couple of predators could hunt them for sport.

    given the jewish resurrection theme, perhaps the title could be “zombies for jesus”*? and perhaps jesus could rise too? perfect for an easter release.

    more seriously, there is precedent for this in the golem stories, which have strong jewish connections. that right there is the answer to all censorship worries.

    *i do actually have the greatest possible title, but i think i might be fired if i posted it.

  35. I wonder if participants on this blog have movie ideas they have been batting around for years. If so, that might make a good thread.

    I should have thought of the golem; that is a good precedent. As for the resurrection, believe me, the kid has long advocated for a breakaway church of the zombie christ. Thank god he’s an atheist.

  36. a lad after my own heart. every easter i serenade sunhee with cries of “zombie jesus!” to the tune of the alleluia chorus, so often heard in movies about satan.

  37. There’s something interesting about this zombie Christ. I mean some people actually do drink his blood and eat his body. Still, Arnab’s observation that the Nazis would become zombie pals with those whose names didn’t make it to Schindler’s list is something of a roadblock (at least for the Jewish cabal which supposedly runs America foreign policy). I have a number of screenplays lurking in the back of my imagination. Most, sadly, are absolutely Sundance, but there is one involving teenagers, suicide, vampires and a plucky young educator that holds a special place in my heart. I’ve got another, inspired by my love for all things Winona Ryder, that features her as a car mechanic who falls for a slacker/stoner masquerading as a high school social studies teacher. If I recall Fredric Jameson makes an ambiguously oblique cameo appearance. That particular narrative plays around with class issues as well.

  38. Romero’s Diary of the Dead is awful.

    Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful.
    Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful.
    Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful.
    Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful. Awful.

    I gave Land some minor credit when Mauer didn’t but this is abysmal, amateurish. Did I say awful? In a nutshell, the shtick is that some young whippersnappers are filming a bad horror movie–when what they really wanna do is documentaries (huh?)–at the moment of the first outbreak. In other words, it’s kind of 1967 again. And, hey, guess what? If it were 1967, and this was filmed on the cheap and amateurish like that first great film, much would be forgiven. Like the many (many, repetitive, redundant) comments on media culture, lines about events not happening unless they’re filmed, that might have been cutting in 1967.

    There’s a cynical alcoholic prof, who like me is good with a bow and arrow, a character that made me want to weep. I couldn’t believe how bad in conception and execution that character was. I still can’t. I mean, I am a cynical alcoholic prof, predisposed to liking such a fuck, and … no.

    Ah, man. This is like your grandfather’s horror movie, equal parts tired, boring, and scolding.

  39. Grace Lee is a noted documentary filmmaker, who suddenly pops up as the director of a “mockumentary” called American Zombie. (Good luck finding her other films. I’ve had my eye out for The Grace Lee Project for years now.) It’s a good film, no shattering revision of mythology, nor a mocking satire, but worth seeing for the zombie fans among us, and for others.

    Its pitch is that Lee, playing herself in the film, is convinced by a friend to do an ethnography of the marginalized zombie culture, and they follow/interview four subjects–a convenience-store slacker, constantly falling off his skateboard; a zombie activist (“We’re here, we’re dead, get used to it”); a bright-eyed salesclerk for organic foods, trying desperately to assimilate; a middle-aged woman whose rage lies clearly visible just behind her attempts to use art and new-agey blather to repress. This stuff is quite interesting, and the film exploits the metaphorical oomph of zombies in ways about a thousand times more subtle than Romero’s last misbegotten Dead film.

    But the film does take a turn toward the more conventional when the filmmakers are allowed to attend Live Dead, a no-human burning-mannish event in remote SoCal scrub country. What’s the zombie agenda, etc., etc. Even this is fairly enjoyable, with the necessities of low budget keeping the film more suggestive, avoiding the fangoria-fanatic spectacle of most of these sorts of films.

    I liked it; and it’s not scary as much as thoughtful, occasionally spooky, and slyly funny. Again, lower expectations: AZ won’t surprise anyone, much, but it is worth seeing.

  40. Anybody seen Zibahkhana (Hell’s Ground), a Pakistani zombie-slasher flick that’s like the Islamabad Chainsaw Massacre. It’s said to borrow just about every trope from American horror, which reveals, supposedly, a great deal about the generational rifts in Pakistani culture.

  41. AMC’s The Walking Dead had some well-defined, classically-composed and -edited sequences worth raving about — at its best, full of dread. But, alas, pretty rarely at its best, the show stuck to competent, with an emphasis on generic melodrama and serious serious serious affect.

    Dead Set, a five-episode mini-series from Britain, is way, way better — equally adept at wringing every bit of suspense out of the constrained possibilities of the zombie-outbreak genre, but coupling the aftermath/survivor story with ongoing snarky riffs on reality television. The show begins on a show–“Big Brother”–and the pitch is that the narcissistic inhabitants are some of the few folks to make it through the first wave of attacks. I imagine the gags will work better for Brits (I had to google Davinia McCall to realize why her cameo as herself was some kind of big deal), but this is good stuff.

  42. We were also disappointed by The Walking Dead. At some level, the writers made a brave choice: to highlight the human bonds that were shattered by the outbreak, more than the zombies themselves. So there was a great deal of emphasis upon the Grimes family dynamics and whether Rick would find out about his wife’s relationship with Shane, and similar backstory elements for other characters. But I think you need the occasional zombie just to liven things up; whole episodes went by with barely a sighting.

    The slow pace was also problematic; of course the TV show was under no obligation to be faithful to the graphic novels, but it moved at a glacial pace, extending every scene (and inventing several new ones) just to keep them in Atlanta until the end of the first series. And melodrama? Jesus, kill the younger sister already. She’s bitten. There is only one way this can end.

    I don’t see Dead Set on Netflix. Where did you find it?

  43. My eleven-year-old loved “The Walking Dead” (perhaps she hearts serious serious serious affect); I’m closer to Chris and family’s reaction (by the way, I told Cate she couldn’t/shouldn’t watch but she did anyway . . . damn you DVR with your 21st century conveniences). I did encourage her to watch Zombieland with me the other day, but I forgot how bloody the first fifteen minutes are (lots of gore). She didn’t understand why I described it as funny and walked out of the room.

    I tried “Dead Set” on BBCA but was not amused. Perhaps I should give it another go.

  44. We loved Dead Set here. It got stronger as time went on, and the ending is just brilliant. I’m astonished it was shown on network tv in Britain. The glimpses of life after, over the final credits, are especially poignant.

  45. Rammbock doesn’t add a lot to the zombie mix, but it’s a fine low-budget effort from Germany. They opt to contain their attention to the residents of an apartment complex, and through much of the movie (and outbreak) the characters connect with one another, cautiously, by yelling from window to window over the shared courtyard. It’s slight (and clocks in at just about an hour), but effective. Zombie completists take note.

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