Wednesday, October 28, 2009


You knew it was coming. In fact, I'm sure a few of you were surprised it hadn't happened already. But now, here it is... my 'Shocktober' Zombie Post!

According to some Caribbean religions' mythologies, a zombie is a person under the spell of a Houngan; alive, though by all outward appearances, dead. Controlled by powerful psychotropics, the zombie was the Houngan's slave, and did his evil bidding. One of the best early zombie movies is the Val Lewton-produced I Walked with a Zombie. Creepy and atmospheric, as are all of Lewton's horror movies of the era, I Walked with a Zombie is still an effective thriller, 70+ years later. A white plantation owner brings a nurse to his Haitian estate to care for his wife, a victim of zombie-ism:

This type of zombie would be explored again in the 80's by director Wes Craven, but we'll talk about that movie, later.

It would be almost 25 years before the Zombie saw any significant change. In fact, the genre had been mostly ignored through the 50's and 60's. Of course, there was the occasional "zombie" flick, like 1964's bizarre The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies:

The "Wart of Horror?" Choo-Choo, indeed!

Then, in 1968, an indie filmmaker from Pittsburgh by the name of George A. Romero changed the world's concept of Zombies forever. Is there anything new to say about this movie? Probably not. And honestly, who cares about the political and sociological messages that pervade the film and speak so well about the times? We just want to see those zombies chowin' down! Romero and co-writer John A. Russo created a Horror sub-genre on a shoe-string and forever cemented themselves into the world's collective psyche:

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" And don't think I never used that line on my sister.

It would be another 10 years before Romero gave us the sequel Dawn of the Dead, a movie I had to go to alone because my friends were all too scared to go with me. Just sitting in the auditorium at that midnight show gave me a contact high, but the movie was amazing, especially for a 17 year-old Horror fan who was just discovering the joys of graphically cannibalistic corpses:

In 1985, Alien screenwriter co-wrote and directed a comedic take on Romero's vision with Return of the Living Dead, in which a military chemical is responsible for the resurrection of the dead. It is also the film that introduced the phrase that is post's title:

That same year, Romero returned with his third entry, Day of the Dead. In an underground military facility, a mad scientist is attempting to domesticate a zombie named "Bub," under the protection of a military cadre. Of course, things go horribly wrong (Warning: Trailer language NSFW):

The movie's best line? "I hope you choke on 'em!"

The next year, Italian director Lucio Fulci co-opted Romero's footage and made Zombi 2, notable only for the appearance of Mia Farrow's sister, Tisa:

Infamous for it's 'Zombie vs. Shark' scene, Fulci's movie is really pretty awful.

Director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) would explore the old-fashioned type of Zombie in 1987's The Serpent and the Rainbow, starring Bill Pullman as a doctor in search of a new anesthesia, only to find himself caught up in political and mystical intrigue in Haiti:

Zombies quickly went global, and in 1992, a young Kiwi director by the name of Peter Jackson put his own stamp on the genre with a little film I've talked about plenty of times, Brain Dead (or as it is known in America, Dead Alive). I won't go into details again, as it has had its own post already this month, but it remains one of my favorites in the genre:

There were plenty of terrific (and terrible) zombie movies after that, but none quite so amusing as Edgar Wright's and Simon Pegg's parody Shaun of the Dead. Pegg is Shaun, a zombie whether he realizes it or not. When the real zombies arrive, Shaun and his mates fight back the only way they can:

I was stage-managing a particularly awful production of Kiss Me, Kate and sneaked away during a dance rehearsal to a matinee of Shaun... One of the best decisions I ever made...

In 2002, director Danny Boyle introduced audiences to the concept of 'fast zombies' with 28 Days Later, a frightening tale of a virus (Rage) released on the public by animal activists. It also introduced audiences to doe-eyed actor Cillian Murphy:

Romero came back with 2005's Land of Dead, a less than successful entry in the series, starring Dennis Hopper. John Leguizamo, Simon Baker, Robert Joy and the daughter of Giallo legend Dario Argento, Asia Argento. Land of the Dead lacked the bite (all puns intended) of Romero's previous films, but further cemented his idea that they (zombies) are us:

Director Zack Snyder (300; Watchmen) remade Dawn of the Dead in 2004, starring Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, using the "fast zombie" formula quite effectively:

Next, Romero went the Blair Witch route and did a hand-held POV movie in 2008's Diary of the Dead, one of his best since Dawn....

Then there's the brilliant Canadian zombie parody, Fido:

And of course, most recently, we were treated to the hilarious Zombieland:

Where is the Zombie movie headed? Well, if anyone in Hollywood is smart, it will be my movie Army of the Dead. Of course, we all know Hollywood is run my a bunch of pencil-=pushing accountants who wouldn't know a good script if it bit them the ass. But I'm not bitter.

Like it or not, Zombies are here to stay. I just hope they don't eat yours truly...

More terrors, anon.

No comments: