15 November, 2007

So, I have a big thing for zombies. Not in a kinky kind of way, but in a “movies and other media about zombies are really cool” kind of way. This has gone as far as an unfinished zombie movie that I still plan to film with a bunch of my friends, even though it’s set in the summer after graduating highschool (which is getting further away every year).

But there are many people who have accomplished more than I have about zombies. George A. Romero, for instance, is still working on his “Living Dead” series, which I believe now includes the original “Night of the Living Dead” and four sequels, as well as a remake each of the first three. (After “Night” comes “Dawn,” “Day,” “Land,” and “Diary” [all “of the Dead”]). Now this is impressive. Interestingly enough, “Night of the Living Dead” is public domain, which allowed me to see it for the first time on a collection of 50 Horror Classics, most of which were not famous at all — most for good reason. This box set had such gems as “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die,” and “Attack of the Killer Shrews” (which, incidentally, ranks in my reference book of the worst movies ever made [The Golden Turkey Awards] which is a hilarious read if you can get your hands on a copy). But among these flops, there was George Romero’s masterpiece. And it really is one. The movie, although low budget and poor film quality, is exciting, scary, and the viewer does not know what to expect. Add to this the fact that it defined a genre — zombies on film didn’t really exist before 1968, and it is an incredible film. Now we are used to the shambling corpses lusting for brains, but back then it was new.

Newer directors have pushed the zombie medium in another, slightly more realistic, direction. More recent zombie flicks are caused not by an asteroid, but by a virus, or another type of disease. “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later” are two that come to mind immediately. Some might say that these are not true zombie movies, as the evil attackers are not actually dead, but diseased. However, regardless of this, in my opinion, “28 Days Later” is the best zombie movie made so far (with the caveat that it is not actually a zombie movie). Filmed on handheld cameras with a documentary type feel (that is so common nowadays), the movie pulls viewers in immediately with its great camera work and clever script. It was also followed by a sequel, “28 Weeks Later,” which was a great disappointment. It turned the moving, personal narrative of the first movie into an action movie with stupid people acting stupidly, and a lot of explosions. Which is rather typical for a relatively low-budget movie being catapulted into the mainstream.

But zombies are not always scary. The “comedy” “Shaun of the Dead” had the promising tagline “A romantic comedy. With zombies.” From the director and writer team that later produced “Hot Fuzz,” “Shaun” was unfortunately too much of a zombie movie and not enough of a comedy. Sure, there were a few puns thrown in here and there, but that didn’t stop all but one (correct me if I’m wrong) of the characters being disemboweled or turned into flesh-eating monsters. Other movies have given zombies a comedic role, such as “Fido,” which stars Billy Connolly as a zombie slave captured after the war against the walking dead(often termed World War Z) was won by humans.

Other formats, too, lead to zombie works. “The Zombie Survival Guide,” by Max Brooks is an entertaining read, with stories of supposed historic zombie attacks as well as strategies to evade the creatures when they inevitably appear. Even the Archaeological Institute of America has recently taken to heart Max Brooks’ lessons, publishing an article “proving” the evidence of a zombie attack in the ancient city of Hierakonopolis. This article appeared around Halloween, which I’m sure is purely a coincidence.

Finally, zombies have even broached the music industry. A song created by Jonathan Coulton (who is writing a song a week as part of the Creative Commons project) entitled “re: Your Brains” is the saga of a zombie office worker attempting to coax his co-worker to let him in to eat his brains (“We’re not unreasonable, I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes…”)

There are of course many other movies and so forth that involve zombies. But the above are choice tidbits of cerebellum (if you forgive me for the metaphor) that anyone interested in the undead should check out.

So that’s it for my first entry. Please comment with suggestions on the format: should the links be in the text, for example, or at the end? Should I link more? Or less? Should the entries be shorter?

Thanks for reading!



  1. Nightstrike? Pardon me while I throw up on my feet.

  2. Hey Dan!
    Nice blog. I just wanted to say, I tend to enjoy movies and things with the word “Diary” in the title, so if they ever make the movie “Diary of the Dead,” it sounds like it will be pretty sweet to me.
    Also, have you ever checked out the illuminations in the Office of the Dead section of medieval Books of Hours? I’ve heard Harvard has a pretty sexy collection (which I want to visit over xmas break!!) Although I hesitate to make the argument that these miniatures are actually the first images of zombies in art, they might provide some material for future zombie film projects of yours.
    Cheers! ~Annie

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