Monday, July 29, 2013

Five Fave Zombie Tales

During our discussion following seeing World War Z, the attending Blades all digressed into geeking out over our favourite zombie works, referencing classics of the genre, and generally highlighting the giant shoulders WWZ stands upon. So here's some of the Blades' lists of fave zombie tales from the broad scope of possible narratives.


Samantha's List:
1. Deadgirl (Film) Deadgirl is not a typical zombie flick. It concerns only a single, female zombie who is somewhat non-threatening. Throughout the film, she is chained, naked, to a surgical table and kept imprisoned by two living boys ... the story escalates from there. Directors Gadi Harel and Marcel Sarimiento manage to take a done-to-death genre and make it fresh and terrifying while also addressing rape culture. They explore the idea that zombie flicks are less about the zombies and more about how the living act when no one's watching. Despite Deadgirl's serious message, it still has plenty of that campy gore and scare we've come to expect from zombie movies. 
2. Cabin in the Woods (Film) It is incredibly difficult to make a horror-comedy that doesn't suck. Cabin in the Woods succeeds in walking the line between hilarity and horror. It is self-aware and smart. Plus, it pays homage to some of the best horror stories ever told, including international terrors that usually don't get much credit in Hollywood (Japanese horror is unbeatable--literally in CitW) 
3. Cell (Novel) I like Cell for two reasons. First, like The Ring, Cell plays on the fear of technology--phones, in this case. Secondly, it reworks the zombie monster. Stephen King never calls his zombies zombies, he calls them phoners. And, unlike zombies, phoners quickly begin to group into flocks where they share one mind and communicate telepathically. What's scarier than a zombie that can communicate with its group...? ... The dentist. But no one would read a book about the horrors of a root canal (unless Stephen King writes it, then it'll be a best seller). 
4. Resident Evil (Film) Resident Evil is fantastic because it's both a zombie horror story and a mystery. Usually, film viewers are thrown into the zombie apocalypse after the infection has already spread to a large segment of the human population. Viewers get a half-assed origin story for the infection (aliens, government experiments, mutated rabies virus, broken photocopiers that finally induce incurable rage among coworkers, etc.). That's not the case with Resident Evil. We get to see the origin story unfold before the Earth is overrun. Resident Evil also combines some of the best horror elements without becoming contrived. There's a creepy little girl (who's also a computer bent on killing the humans it once protected), mutated monsters, dark hallways, an infection, decapitation, flickering lights, packs of vicious dogs, lasers, and an evil corporation. It's definitely worth a watch or two. 
5.World War Z (Novel) Through a series of realistic (fictional) interviews, Max Brooks manages to give readers a plausible look at what a zombie infestation would mean for the world. Brooks, like most zombie writers, has his own take on what a zombie would act and look like--which is interesting, no doubt--but it's his living characters who are truly compelling. I also found the *SPOILER* (somewhat) utopian ending very different from most zombie narratives *END SPOILER*. Plus, Max Brooks is Mel Brooks's son...bonus points right there.

Courtney's List
1. Shaun of the Dead-I don't think I can justify this with an explanation. It's one of my favorite movies. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Dylan Moran (the guy who looks like a grown up version of Harry Potter) work so well off one another.
2. Zombieland-The film had a great balance of action, comedy, and gore. Every time I see a zombie film now, I find myself referencing the set of rules that Jesse Eisenburg's character lists. Brilliant.  
3. 28 Days/Weeks Later-Epic scores composed by John Murphy. Any movie he has worked on, he creates haunting scores--again epic, and beautiful. I'll just say epic once more because I LOVE John Murphy's work.
4. Dawn of the Dead (both--but, leaning towards Zack Snyder's remake)-The opening and ending sequences to the remake are the main moments from the film that stick with me. The use of Johnny Cash's "When the Man Comes Around," and The Jim Carrol Band's "People Who Died" compliment the movie so well. And Sarah Polley was a pleasant surprise also. 
5. Resident Evil (games)-Having I have seen all the RS films (non-animated), I prefer what I have seen and played in Resident Evil 2 for playstation and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles for Wii. The infected vary in characterisitcs, "species," and originality that you just don't see in all the films. And though I do love Mila Jovavich's character in the film, the games showcase the other female characters more heavily--adding more variety in story and selection (in terms of skill to "fight" he infected and capture items/intel to complete the game...but never really coming anywhere near a "cure" or "antidote")
    

David's List
1, H.P. Lovecraft, ‘Herbert West–Reanimator’
2, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
3, Shea & Wilson, Illuminatus! [Those poor poor hippies]
4, Grettis saga [featuring Glámr, the old Norse zombie]
5, William Seabrook, The Magic Island [real-life zombies by a real-life cannibal]

Mike's List:
1. I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (novel): I got my copy in one of those Science Fiction book club promotions where you paid a buck and got a stack of books. It was the shortest in the lot, but it's the only one I still own. While Matheson was writing vampires, Romero admitted it was a huge influence on Dawn of the Dead and his subsequent zombie films. This book is one I've returned to many times.
2. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (audiobook): I've never read the print version, but the audiobook deafened me to how similar Brooks' character voices apparently are. It's tough to think Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, and Denise Crosby sound the same! I love how the book is short fictions inside a larger frame. It's not solid in every story, but there are a number I find gripping every time I listen.
3. Valley of the Dead: the Truth Behind Dante's Inferno - Kim Paffenroth (novel): Unlike many high-lit/low-culture mash-ups, Kim Paffenroth's zombie-filled retelling of Dante's epic poem is very smart. Paffenroth does far more than just jam zombies into the rings of hell. He demonstrates a strong understanding of the scholarship surrounding Dante's Divine Comedy, with episodes from Inferno recrafted, yet retaining their original meaning.
4. "Nightcall" by Kavinsky (song): It's but one song, but the story behind it is that the lyrics are the voice of a man who has recently become a zombie, and yet is somehow aware of it. I love the mix of '80s techno-soundtrack and horror backstory to this very cool, very hip tune.
5. Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (novel): Best use of zombies in a steampunked America where the Civil War has gone on for two decades: this is like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, except with Airships, Trains, and then Super-Dreadnought-Train with a Texas Ranger, a Civil War Nurse, and a shitload of zombies. One of my fave steampunk reads, as well as zombie ones.


Brittney's List

1. The Walking Dead (graphic novels and television show): The Walking Dead, in graphic novel form and television form, should be viewed as two completely different entities. While they both start out the same they are both travelling in completely different directions and at different velocities. Without getting into spoiler territory, I'll focus on the teenage characters: Carl and Beth. Carl and Beth have VERY little to do in the graphic novels. As is the status of the teenager in most zombie texts, they are there as filler. I wouldn't even consider many of them as secondary characters. However, when we make the move from the graphic novels to the television show, Carl and Beth both take on larger roles, especially Carl. It will be interesting to see where his character development takes him.
2. This Is Not A Test - Courtney Summers: Courtney Summers usually is lumped in with the boy meets girl YA fiction, so when a book blogger friend of mine recommended this novel to me I was pretty curious. A group of teenagers face the zombie apocalypse together and set up home base in familiar but dangerous territory -- their high school. I won't get into it much more than that, but I found it pretty refreshing.
3. Feed - Mira Grant (First entry in a trilogy): We cured cancer and the common cold but in doing so created The Rising, affecting humans and animals alike. Set ten years post zombie apocalypse, a group of bloggers try to find out what REALLY happened. More of a thriller than straight up horror, in a medical and political vein.
4. The Forests of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan: The Village meets Dawn of the Dead. Like almost literally. But I'm a sucker for an unreliable narrator. Like most YA, there's a DUNDUNDUN surprise! love triangle.
5. Generation Dead - Daniel Waters This is the first entry in a series and I have to say it now -- VERY melodramatic, sometimes even eye-roll worthy. That being said, it is a very different take on the zombie text. Because of all the genetically and chemically altered food teenagers eat, some of them have been reanimating and are dubbed "differently biotic." There are many echoes of civil rights movements in history (including our own present -- what does it really mean to have EQUAL rights?).





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