Zombie (Movie) Apocalypse: The Beginning
I love zombies. You love zombies. Zombies are the man. The shambling, decomposing, insatiable-for-human-flesh man, but still. When portrayed correctly, zombies are the scariest fictional monsters
in movie history; not as prone to pallid wussification as vampires, or to maudlin self pity as a Frankenstein (I’m looking, specifically, at you, DeNiro), or as, well, just plain rubbery and silly as your average mummy or lagoon creature, the zombie just is. It walks, it stalks, it has no concept of fear, or pain, or doubt. It simply pursues you because you are food. And if it kills you, you rise from the (gnawed, mangled) dead, and are then one of them. A mindless, yet single-minded army whose every victim is irresistibly compelled to join, pursuing former friends, loved ones. Unable to be reasoned with, only stopped by destroying its brain, the source of its ravenous, implacable need to hunt, and eat, and kill. How could anyone mess up a zombie movie?
Oh, you poor, sweet kid…
The zombie film is a crapfield of lame ideas, lazy execution, and rampant, ignorant monkeying around with the essential elements that make zombies the most terrifying filmland supernatural bad guys. I mean (and I’m saying this as a lifelong fan), while I’d estimate fully 77% or all horror movies are pure, unwatchable crap, the percentages shift even more into the poo when zombies are involved. Maybe it’s zombies’ pervasive popularity in the horror geek community that prods every would be Romero and his brother to throw on some crappy dead guy makeup and break out the digital video camera regardless
of any qualifications, of any kind, whatsoever. Or maybe it’s dim filmmakers completely misunderstanding what makes zombies frightening on a fundamental level and deciding to dive into the gore pool anyway, defeating their half-baked ‘zombie’ flicks before they even start. Whatever the reason, the zombie field is strewn with more than any other horror subgenre’s share of cinematic cowpats.
But I’m here to set things aright…
I’m gonna take on the zombie genre, one film at a time. I’m gonna watch ’em all (usually not for the first time) and I’m gonna lay out the right, the wrong, and the ‘jesus christ on a pogo-stick, you’ve got to be kidding me, Pyle’.
And thus shall I make the world better. For all of us.
Each review will have a few sections, including:
1. A standard plot synopsis.
2. A review of the film, filled with that trademark blend of Videoport Jones snark and wisdom that’s turned this blog into the nigh-double-digit daily hit machine you accidentally stumbled upon when you googled the phrase, “Pam Grier’s boobs.” (Sadly, this site does not contain any pictures of Ms. Grier’s naked breasts at this time.)
3. A list of zombie crimes. This will not be a body count, but, instead, an enumeration of all of the crimes against the zombie rules. And what are those zombie rules, you ask?
Glad you asked. The zombie rules are the rules under which a truly good zombie film must abide in order to be considered a great zombie film or (in some very popular cases) a zombie film at all. And who makes up these rules, you ask, all haughty with nerd/geek rage? Well I do, of course. I’m the one writing the thing here, and, quite frankly, I’m the one who knows what’s best. I’ve seen ’em all, I’ve judged ’em all, and now I’m here to, as I said, set the world to rights. In compiling these rules, I have
called upon all of my nights spent watching the innumerable zombie movies made over the years. Plus, I’m wicked smart. Just trust me, okay.
While a lot of these rules were self-evident (to me, of course), I can’t more strenuously recommend (yes that’s good grammar) Max Brooks’ ‘Zombie Survival Guide’ and, especially, his ‘World War Z’, which crystallized some previously-nebulous ideas in the zombie-rena. (But even there, I’ve got some issues…)
And while some of my favorite zombie films come close to undead perfection, none can claim to have obeyed all of the zombie rules. That doesn’t disqualify them from greater or lesser degrees of awesomeness, but believe me that I shall call even them on…that…business.
At any rate, here they are- THE ZOMBIE RULES!!!!
1. Fast zombies are not zombies. If I may quote myself from my review of ‘Zombieland’: FAST ZOMBIES ARE AN ABOMINATION. Not in the sense that they’re walking (or running, in this case) around, in defiance of god and nature, but that they, the recently reanimated, mindless corpses of horribly-mutilated zombie victims, are sprinting like Usain Bolt and leaping around after people like ninjas. The recent trend towards Carl Lewis-ing up the zombie threat is symptomatic of the Red Bull-addicted, short attention-span-addled PS3 generation of horror fans
(and the ‘who gives a crap’ movie execs who cater to them), and it is WRONG WRONG WRONG! See if you can follow me: The true horror of the zombie phenomenon in horror (as it will be when it actually occurs, probably in 2012, if the Mayans know their lionclothed backsides from a plucked cockatoo) is not that a zombie is gonna chase you down like a puma or leap down on you like Spider-Man, but that it is inexorable. Sure, one zombie is slow, uncoordinated, stupid and easy to dispatch (assuming you’ve got a suitable weapon, lots of open space to maneuver, and don’t get even a drop of its blood into any open cuts). But there isn’t just one zombie. There are thousands. They are everywhere. And, as they sweep over your town in a shambling, single-minded mass of murder, their numbers are growing. Soon there won’t be one, or thousands, but millions, and then billions. And sure, maybe you can seal yourself off in a boarded up house (or shopping mall), but once they know you’re in there, they will never leave, and the noise they make as they try to get you will attract more, and more. And even if they can’t get in, you will eventually have to get out, once you need food, or water. And then you’re on the run, always looking for somewhere to rest, to hide, and they keep coming, and they are everywhere, and they will…never…stop… Now that’s scary. This fast zombie stuff is for the unimaginative. Now GET OFF MY LAWN!!!”
You see my point.
2. Zombies do not feel pain.
3.Zombies do not feel fear (even of fire).
4. Zombies do not feel anger.
5. Zombies do not (and here I’m gonna piss of the Romero faithful) remember anything about their previous lives.
6. Zombies do not learn. Not to use tools, not to fear weapons, or humans with weapons. Zombies are. They are reanimated corpses with only one, singleminded goal. That is what’s scary.
7. Zombies never stop, for any reason, until they eat you.
Come. Let me show you…
And remember to support your local, independent video store. Like, say, Videoport (151 Middle St. Portland, Maine 04101. (207)773-1999!)
For more bloggy, pop culture-y goodness, check out Dennis and Justin in Brannigan’s Law!