Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eaten by Zombies: 'Seyo's Guilty Pleasure Corner

I have a few guilty pleasures.

Soy Caramel Maquillados from Starbucks.
Lindt Dark Chocolate
Banana Chips
outrageous inappropriate shock humor
hitting the snooze button three or more times

and... four kinds of movie:
1. James Bond
2. Superhero/Comic Book Action
3. Hong Kong Kung-fu action - I'd even argue that this one isn't purely a guilty pleasure: see, it's amazing, what these dudes can do with their bodies: the athleticism and skill of choreographing and performing those things is a thing of wonder.
4. Zombie movies!!!!

Soundtrack: the Zombeatles: It's Been a Hard Day's Night Of The Living Dead. Hit play and read.

Yeah. I found this list of The best Zombie Movies ever made: a few lists., some random guy, and so forth.

I downloaded a bunch, and I've been devouring them with glee: working on other stuff while doing this.

See, Zombie movies are awful. Dramatically, the premise of zombies is incredibly limited: they all follow the same line --

1. zombies break out,
2. spread inexorably, and then the last half of the movie always, ALWAYS ends with
3. humans hiding in various buildings with boarded up doors and windows, keeping zombies out, hoping zombies don't come in:
4. at best, the good guys escape from one shelter to another shelter...but wouldn't they just be followed there by zombies as well?
5. At worst, zombies breach the shelter and everybody, or almost everybody dies (though the sympathetic ones might yet make it to some other refuge...where they STILL have to just keep zombies out).

But within those awful constraints, there's so much fun to be had: the jump scenes when Zombies burst through doors or out of shadows, the "will they get in" suspense of that endless pounding on doors, the creativity of filmmakers trying to find new, even sillier ways to kill zombies, the go-to-town delightfulness of absolute mayhem in the costume and make-up department. The creepy deaky music... every zombie movie checks the same boxes, not unlike James Bond movies.

Meanwhile, many '80s Zombie movies (Return of the Living Dead Trilogy in particular) are just goofy.

So, here are the best/most enjoyable zombie movies I've seen so far.

Creepiest: Lucio Fulci's "Zombie 2/Zombi" (1979) - the zombies in this one were the creepiest, and the atmosphere was the most ominous - which is the best you can hope for in a good zombie movie. They were so slow, yet that made their catching the good guys seem even more inexorable. The last-stand in a makeshift hospital building was thrilling, the zombies had this cool way of taking a while to die and fall over, even after you shot them in the ahead, as if they were trying to decide whether to die or to just keep coming after you. There's even some alright dialogue and !gasp! character development... Plus, before they get to the really scary stuff, there's an AWESOME Zombie/Shark fight. The undead vs. nature's purest killer. Sweetness!

(Warning: zombie)


This video gives the soundtrack: one of the best creepy ones, and shows how scary a slow zombie can be. So deliberate: so inevitable! Warning; a lot of gross footage in this tribute.

Most unique/interesting:

Day of the Dead - George Romero made this one: after first popularizing the zombie genre with "Night of the Living Dead" (1968, one of the creepiest zombie movies so far), making "Dawn of the Dead" in 1978 (maybe the best classic zombie movie; remade louder and grosser and more cynical in 2004) this one was both best and worst of the zombie genre: the scientist experimenting on zombies was interesting, and a gross way of bringing in more variations on the zombie legend. The characters were either cool or really really awful: the soldiers were some of the worst ass-munching stereotypes out there, but some of the other characters were likeable. The right people got theirs at the end. Bub is the coolest zombie out there: he's actually domesticated by the end of the movie, and demonstrates something close to feeling. Interesting take on the genre: like no other zombie movie I've seen. In fact, the central dramatic point of the film is the conflict between the people trapped in the military compound, rather than just being "run away from zombies. hide. hiding place compromised. run to new hiding place. lose a few people. repeat" the way most zombie movies go. Just for that, it's worth seeing.

28 Days Later: a modern zombie film:

it seems modern audiences don't have the attention span to allow menace to develop: the slow pacing of a movie like the 1968 Night of the Living Dead allows a lot of anxiety to build up before the climactic scene, but I guess somebody decided that modern audiences want the release without the build-up, so they just jump straight into the fast-paced stuff...and then have trouble building up any sense of dread later. The zombies can run. Fast zombies are more immediately terrifying, and seriously, they ARE frightening: the scariest zombies I've seen, but they don't make an impact as lastingly creepy as Lucio Fulci's ghoulishly slow zombies (second scariest, stay with you longer). Sorry. The scary thing about zombies isn't that the first one you see might run you down and get you. It's that if you see one, there are probably more nearby, and more, and more, and yeah, you could avoid them, but they're persistent, patient, and they don't stop, and if one of them gets its hands on you, you're probably done, so you can't let your guard down for a minute, and you better be sure there aren't any waiting behind the door on your escape route, and next time you look out the boarded-up window, there will be more waiting outside than last time you looked. On the other hand, 28 Days Later does have legitimate thrills.

before I go on too long, here's a history of the zombie genre: I still have a lot to see, but I've had myself a good start. Cheesy, but fun as heck!

Zombies. Go see one yourself. I recommend Fulci, or the original Night of the Living Dead.

'cause if you're gonna watch a crappy movie, watch a crappy zombie movies: crappy action, suspense, comedy, and drama films are just abominable: no fun to be had whatsoever, but with a crappy horror or zombie movie, you at least get the fun of some shameless attempts to frighten you, some fun make-up, and the joy of mocking the filmmakers if they fail to actually frighten you...and the fun of a good scare if they DO!

Oh by the way, one last thing:

Don't you love it when, at the end of the credits of a movie titled something like "Rock Zombie Elvis Impersonating Detective Agency From the Fifth Dimension and Their Loyal Zombie Space-Dog Poofnark... The Musical!", there's a little disclaimer: "Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental"


Paul Ajosshi said...

You must see Shaun of the Dead (if you haven't already), the best modern zombie movie and also the funniest. A rom-zom-com (romantic zombie comedy) that is hilarious, touching and in parts just a little bit terrifying. Worth watching for the best zombie pub fight ever shown on the silver screen.

Dawn of the Dead (the original) holds a special place in my heart and Peter Jackson's Braindead (Also known as Dead-Alive) is absolutely brilliant (especially the vicar who "kicks arse for the Lord").

I too love zombie movies wholeheartedly and can't wait to see "Dead Snow"... Norwegian Nazi zombies anyone?

Jen said...

OMG, Paul Ajosshi, great minds think alike--I just talked Stafford out of his plan to take me someplace "swank" for my birthday, in favor of a movie marathon featuring... Shaun of the Dead and Braindead! I am kind of bitter that he doesn't have Zombie vs. Shark, though, because that would be a pretty stellar line up.

Lindsay said...

Oooh, one of my favorite topics! Please allow me to recommend a few of my favorite zombie movies (I'll limit this to movies that were mostly overlooked in the lists you linked to):

1) WILD ZERO (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 2000, Japan). Japanese punk rock band Guitar Wolf saves the world from invading zombies with the power of ROCK 'N' ROLLLLL!!!!

2) VERSUS (Ryuhei Kitamura, 2000, Japan). Zombies, yakuza, and a millennia-long battle between good and evil in the Forest of Resurrection. What's not to love??

3) BIO-ZOMBIE (Wilson Yip, 1998, Hong Kong). Kudos to for mentioning this one! Inspired by DAWN OF THE DEAD, this movie stars Jordan Chan and Sam Lee as wanna-be gangsters who accidentally infect someone with a biological weapon that zombi-fies people. They face the resulting zombie incursion in an HK shopping mall.

4) BIO-COPS (Wai-Man Cheng, 2000, Hong Kong). Truly terrible (in a wonderful way)! If I recall correctly, it opens at a military facility in Texas (it doesn't bother to explain why everyone is speaking Chinese), where an experiment Goes Horribly Wrong. Sam Lee's in this one, too, along with Stephen Fung.

5) DEATHDREAM (Bob Clark, 1974, USA). Reminiscent of W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw," this isn't your typical zombie movie. An older couple is delighted when their son returns home from the Vietnam War, but he's... changed. Legitimately dark and creepy, this one doesn't have much levity.

Happy viewing!

kwandongbrian said...

Tim Cahill, a writer for some outdoor sports magazine (forgot the name), described interviews with some movie people in Mexico making a zombie vs shark scene. I guess it was the same one - how many can there be?

The zombie character was heavily weighted down and between scenes would share a SCUBA tank with support crew, but had to hold his breathe during each scene, unable to make it to the surface if something bad happened. Making the movie would be at least as scary as watching it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was going to recommend Dead Alive, Bio-Zombie, and Versus only to see they've already been nominated by others. Great to know I'm not the only one who enjoyed those ones!

Will definitely have to check out some of those other movies when time allows.

Jens said...

There is no guilt in these pleasures.

Brian Dear said...

Lindt chocolate.. especially the high percentage dark is AWESOME!

The Bobster said...

Great job, Rob. I've often told my friends that more needs to be said about the problems caused in the world by reanimated corpses. Do they listen?

Max Brooks has a couple of books on the shelves right now, and I'm wading through them both with something like glee. "Zombie Survival Guide," and "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War." Both have only occasional descriptions of gore and carnage, and instead describe the whole thing in the way of epidemiology and the worldwide spread of disease - made more interesting at the present moment with all the H1N1 news going on - along with practical data about survival, and the social and (alternate) historical forces that reshape a world undergoing spasms from conflict with the undead. What I like is that his tongue is never anywhere near his cheek, not even once. ["Do not discount any section of this book as hypothetical drama."]

Another good read for zombie lovers is a fat anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, "The Living Dead," with 34 stories from the likes of Clive Barker, Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, etc.

Picked up all 3 of these at Kyobo, so they're not stuff you have to special order form overseas or anything.

John from Daejeon said...

My favorite zombie movies are "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns" with Rachel Weisz.

Aren't mummies technically zombies?

Roboseyo said...

Mummies don't follow the rules of, which george romero's movies outlined.

1. you don't become a mummy if a mummy bites you. Zombie bites kill you and raise you as a zombie.

2. mummies don't want to eat people (especially brains)

3. can't the mummies in The Mummy be controlled by a master-mind and organized? Zombies would never mobilize into ranks (though they come close to following a leader in Land of the Dead). They're still not very intelligent. Even the smartest zombies can barely manage rudimentary tools and gross motor-actions.

Close, though.