Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie: The Ultimate Pack Hunter?

Wolves hunt in packs. One wolf is no match against the formidable majesty of an elk. But a pack of wolves can take down the beast without much effort, and share in its spoil. At first glance, zombie behavior seems to match that of wolves—hunting in packs, following their prey until it becomes fatigued, and sharing in the bounty. However, differences remain. This is Monday Mayhem, and these are my thoughts regarding zombie pack hunting.

Zombie pack hunters
Zombie pack hunters

Except for a few films, the majority depict zombies as pack hunters. The typical scenario involves a human stumbling in the midst of a zombie infested feeding ground and becoming the quarry in a quick game of cat and mouse against a horde of undead.

For the pack hunter idea to hold true, it would mean zombies would have to exhibit some form of intelligence in order to coordinate attacks against their victim. Given what we know about zombies—their lack of intellect, agility, and cooperation—coordinated attacks seem unlikely.

Wolves, on the other hand will organize into groups, stalk their prey, and give chase until it falls by the wayside. Should the prey enter a body of water, the pack will lay low while two or more of the ravenous killers stand guard by the edge.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Another difference with zombies and known pack hunters lies in their organization. A pack’s classic configuration contains an Alpha. He’s the dominant male that leads the pack to perform dastardly deeds of horror. Chimpanzees demonstrate this attribute in the wild when two males vie for the top position in the clan. A good example of the Alpha male conflict plays well in the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

So if differences exist between the animal kingdom and zombie packs, what kind of hierarchy do the undead follow?

Zombies function on instinct. Yes, very much like animals. The main component to their internal makeup is their sense of tracking. When one of them spots a potential victim, others in the vicinity respond likewise. You might want to call it a built-in GPS. You can see this behavior at work in movies such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

Other than I Am Legend, which some consider a vampire flick, the Alpha male is missing in popular zombie movies. If anything, the undead act upon external stimuli in a uniformed and structured fashion. If one smells human, they all smell human. Thus, the chase begins. Soldiers can eliminate the front line of an advancing undead army, but zombies are too dumb to know when to give up. They’ll continue forward until every human becomes the evening’s main dish.

Inasmuch even I would enjoy seeing zombies emulate wolf pack behavior, the undead have their own agenda. I’m sure one day someone will come up with the idea of having an Alpha male leading a pack of zombies through an apocalypse. Until then, we have to wait and enjoy what we currently have at our disposal.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

What do you think of zombie packs? Do you think Alphas leading the horde would prove even more terrifying?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Movies II

In April, I featured a post for Monday Mayhem called Zombie Movies. Many of my readers enjoyed the films I had chosen, adding their own suggestions to the list of works I could highlight for a future post. Well, this is the future post. As part of this list, I’m including two new entries to the zombie genre. One film had released late last year to positive reviews and the other is still in theaters. Don’t worry I won’t give away any spoilers.

World War Z
World War Z

World War Z—For us zombie lovers, this movie, by far, is the movie of the year. Still playing in theaters, still making money and still thrilling audiences over, the story is the brainchild of Max Brooks, son to funnyman Mel Brooks who directed Young Frankenstein, another movie about a dead guy coming back to life, but in a more affable state (yes—that was one long sentence). Although the movie is nothing like the book, the film features something other zombie movies have only hinted, fast zombies. I’m talking about freaks of nature you’d dare not mess with. The movie itself is an instant classic benefiting from multiple viewings. There’s just too much to absorb in a single viewing.

28 Weeks Later
28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later—The Rage virus that ravaged London took its toll in 28 Days Later. Six months later, the U.S. army gets involved in the quarantine of the city and the rebuilding process. Little does anyone know a carrier of the virus enters the city limits and aids in the final decimation of the population. Believe me, if you’ve seen the first movie, this second one is much of the same. The enjoyment of this film is watching how good intentions cause the greatest misery.

Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead—In this original George A. Romero 1978 vehicle, the zombies had less intelligence and moved slower. One could duck and crawl to safety without worrying the zombies will catch their victim. The big thing about these zombies is their tenacity. Once one of them finds a human, you’d best be sure a crowd would soon follow. It’s also a joy seeing how the survivors manage to handle their situation in a closed and confined area, a mall. The funniest segment, though, has to be the precious scene where the survivors hunt zombies to the rhythm of circus music (merry-go-round music).

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead—First of all, this movie is incredibly low budget. Mind you, this is not a bad thing. For the Sixties, there were many big budget bombs, and when this movie hit the scene, no one knew what to make of it. The general premise has the recently deceased rise due to satellite radiation. The dead attack a barn, rather, the people in the barn, as they attempt to get at the victims’ brains. Another George A. Romero film, which some consider started the zombie tales, myths and legends of old. Forty-five years later, no true zombie fan should miss this zombie classic.

Return of the Living Dead
Return of the Living Dead

Return of the Living Dead—The movie’s catch phrase should tell you the whole story, “They’re back from the grave and ready to party!” This is a movie for a Friday night with lots of friends, snacks and conversation. It’s worth watching for its B-movie entertainment value. This time, the zombies rise from a deadly gas accidentally released by a couple of bumbling medical supply warehouse employees.

Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies—Not wanting to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, this is the zombie genre’s answer to Twilight. Kind of like Romeo & Juliet, teenagers in love, having nothing but their whole life ahead of them. Can it be any sweeter? It could, if it weren’t for all the zombies getting in the way.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Can you think of other zombie movies I could have included in the list?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Movies

It’s enjoyable to watch a zombie movie produced by logical minds. Some zombie movies are just plain silly. Their stories are all over the place, their characters lack motive, and their whole premise boggles the mind. It’s not the intention of this post to dwell on those. But it is fun to watch the good ones. In keeping with Monday Mayhem, below is a list of zombie movies sure to create some excitement on a dark, lonely night.

Will Smith in I Am Legend
Will Smith in I Am Legend

I Am LegendWill Smith’s character Robert Neville lives alone in a deserted city to fend for a cure to the dratted virus zombie virus. The thing about the virus is that scientists engineered it to cure cancer. They believed that if they could unleash a biological weapon to destroy cancer cells, they could allow the body to repair itself, thus eliminating the uncertainty happening with today’s methods, and the costs. Unfortunately, it pretty much wipes out all humanity and leaves those who survived, famished zombies.

Dawn of the Dead—In this remake, a group of zombie apocalypse survivors, trapped in a Milwaukee mall, fight an undead infestation. The charm of this film is watching survivors cope with limited movement, and their increasing boredom of their situation. In one instance, the survivors play Hollywood Squares on the mall’s rooftop. The squares are the zombie collective below and the chalk is a sniper perched on the other side of the street.

Timothy Olyphant in The Crazies
Timothy Olyphant in The Crazies

The Crazies—Not your typical brain-bashing, gut-chomping zombie movie, The Crazies is an interesting study. The first thing the audience realizes is the contagion does not come from a virus. The classic zombie infection is the usual virus that gets spread by a bite. Then, humans become their own worst enemies and tear at each other in a cannibalistic frenzy. Not in this story. Remember that saying, when traveling don’t drink the water? If any time that applied, it applies here.

28 Days Later—A lab conducting secret testing on chimpanzees becomes the target of animal rights activists. Twenty-eight days later, not a single human survived the carnage of the rage virus. When Jim wakes up from his coma, he find himself alone in London seeking the answers as to what happened to society.

Zombieland—Four years later, this movie still manages to hit almost every Top 10 undead list out there. Led by a Twinkie hunting zombie killer (Woody Harrelson), a group of teens attempt to cope with reality after getting caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Making this film entertaining are the floating rules over the action (ie. Cardio, The Double Tap, Beware of Bathrooms, Wear Seat Belts, etc.), and the creative zombie kills (ie. a woman drops a piano on an unsuspecting flesh eater).

Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland
Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland

Shaun of the Dead—This movie gets funnier with every viewing. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) battle zombies that don’t quite know when to give up. These former humans border on stupidity, but stupidity in a good kind of way. Most of the time, they stand around while their food—human—disappears. In one scene, Shaun acts as a tour guide/director giving the horde directions to follow him, since he is good to eat, all the while helping his friends escape.

What other films are there that I may have missed?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

The Three Commandments

In recent times, moviegoers have come to realize there are no absolutes when dealing with the horror genre. Ghosts can eat food (Pirates of the Caribbean), werewolves can change at will (Underworld), and vampires can sparkle when exposed to sunlight (Twilight). However, all bets are off when we talk about zombies. Zombies live in a world of absolutes.

Zombie Hand
Zombie Hand

As a primer to my Monday Mayhem series, let’s examine The Three Commandments of the undead. Established by director George A. Romero in the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead and solidified in his 1978 film Dawn of the Dead, these three laws are what make the zombie genre unique. Without them, zombies wouldn’t exist in their present form.

I—The Dead Have Come Back to Life

A zombie isn’t a zombie unless it comes back from the dead. Much like vampires, zombies were once dead. Hence the name: undead. Through a biochemical change, voodoo or some other form of reanimation, the dead rises. This is the crux of zombiehood. Without it, zombies simply are not zombies.

What about a virus? In modern storytelling, a virus is the usual suspect in the blame-game for many undead creations. Typically, the virus runs through a population, changing them to become zombies. In strict technical terms, these creatures may not qualify as true zombies if the victims do not initially die. However, I argue if a virus has an element of death associate with it (biological or intellectual), then of course the resultant creature is none other than a zombie.

The key here is to note a physical transformation from death to life.

II—The Undead Crave Human Flesh

Every biological species requires sustenance to maintain health. Zombies do not. Zombies eat because it’s in their nature to hunger after human meat. It’s a compulsion. They cannot turn off the desire to slay a human and feed off the body. They just can’t. They are like the sharks of the underworld. They yearn, hunt, kill and eat. That’s it. They don’t stop. From one body to another, they’ll consume a whole town without regard. They are never satiated.

The Frontal Lobe
The Frontal Lobe

III—The Undead Will Die with a Blow to the Brain

The only thing that will stop a zombie is the destruction of its brain. A hunter of the undead can use various methods to attain this result. The most common is a bullet to the head. A knife through the temple will also do a fine job of ridding the earth of the vermin species. As would any of these other methods: An ice pick through the eye socket, multiple blows from a baseball bat, a sharp stick through its mouth thereby severing its spinal cord, a screwdriver to the back of the skull, a meat cleaver aimed directly at the frontal lobe, etc. The possibilities are endless. The purpose is to render the creature dead by inflicting the maximum amount of trauma to its brain. Once complete, the zombie will no longer pose a threat to any other humans.

Have you ever heard of The Three Commandments? What are your thoughts about zombiehood?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Alice

The Hive. A secret research facility buried deep within the bowels of the earth. Red Queen. A supercomputer designed to maintain environmental control over The Hive. Alice. A wandering amnesiac. This is Women Who Wow Wednesday.

Resident Evil's Alice
Resident Evil’s Alice

There’s only one other badass chick who could even come close to Alice, and that’s Beatrix Kiddo of Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill movies. Wait a minute. Correction. Hit-Girl definitely is in the same league as Alice, zombie killer extraordinaire.

She once played Leeloo in the 1997 movie The Fifth Element. However when Milla Jovovich took on the role of Alice in the Resident Evil franchise, she guaranteed her place in film history as the go-to character for zombie eradication.

Originally connected to director/producer George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead), Resident Evil blew away the box office in March 2002 taking in $102 Million worldwide. Not bad for a $33 Million budget. Based on the 1996 video game, the film spawned four sequels, a CG movie, countless other video games, and a novelization called Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy.

Besides dancers hired to play zombies and dogs that couldn’t keep their makeup on (they kept eating their blood and meat costumes), what’s the big deal with Resident Evil?

Milla Jovovich as Alice
Milla Jovovich as Alice

Alice.

The audience is never quite sure what to make of her. She can pound a zombie to a mush of goo but also can slink across a floor in her most vulnerable, naked state. Proficient in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, Alice’s greatest strength is not her physical skill sets, though she may take on a hoard of undead single handedly, but her penchant for keeping her team safe. The very team sent to destroy Red Queen, The Hive’s supercomputer.

As the film and the series progresses, it becomes obvious Alice is not like other females. She possesses a degree of cunning that always matches her sad countenance. Her eyes give away her heart’s loneliness, even in the course of arms flaying, bullets flying, knives wounding, and heads rolling. She is superhuman. Why? How did it happen? What made her that way? Who gave her that power?

The key with Alice is the welfare of others. No matter how bad things get, zombies could crash through a door, smash through a window, tear apart walls and attack from all sides, Alice focuses on one thing and one thing only—how can she help the others. Nothing else distracts this vicious vixen of voracious vindication.

Others first. Her last.

There’s almost an element of religion with Alice. It’s as if she knows the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Have you seen Resident Evil? What do you think of Alice? Although not called zombies in the film, what do you think of the creatures?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Ana

One morning Ana wakes up noticing a little girl at the bedroom door. Her nightgown covered in blood. The attack begins. My Women Who Wow Wednesday series continues with this week’s spotlight on Dawn of the Dead’s Ana.

Sarah Polley is Ana Zombie Hunter
Sarah Polley is Ana Zombie Hunter

I remember watching fellow Canadian Sarah Polley on CBC’s family program Road to Avonlea back in the early Nineties. For those unfamiliar with the show, it featured an ensemble cast of kids growing up in Canada’s turn-of-the-century Prince Edward Island.

I found it hard to imagine that sweet little girl transforming herself into one of the most lethal zombie hunters ever captured on the big screen. Yet, that’s exactly what she turned into for her portrayal of Ana in the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead.

From the moment she woke up that morning, Ana had to battle a zombie child, her once-loving husband, neighbors, friends, strangers—all changed into the undead from an unknown cause—take refuge in a mall, escape in an armored bus, and fight off hoards of maggot bags all the way to the coast for an escape.

Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead

The whole movie is a crazy ride through a Milwaukee zombie apocalypse.

At 5′ 2″ (1.57 m), Ana’s the unsuspecting hero. Her job before this mess consisted of helping people. She’s a nurse. No way could she ever hurt anyone. It’s not in her nature. But when she faces the prospect of loosing the cop that’d helped her from a car wreck, she retaliates with a shotgun. She blows away one of the infected, making it a Twitcher in a pool of its own blood. Someone else steps in later on to put the beast out of its misery.

Ana gets stronger as the movie gets fiercer. In one instance, she aids a woman twice her size, attempting to keep her from dying. The woman doesn’t make it. A moment passes and the woman rises from her death, attacking Ana. Again, Ana uses her cunning and without a gun dispatches the woman in a most brutal fashion. In another instance, when confronted by one of her peers wagging a gun around, she simply states, “Get the gun out of my face.”

Dawn of the Dead's Ana
Dawn of the Dead’s Ana

As time passes, although hardened by the killings, Ana retains her humor. One day, she walks in on a group of survivors playing Hollywood Squares on the mall’s rooftop. The squares are the zombie collective below and the chalk is a sniper perched on the other side of the street. The dialog went something like this:

Steve: Oh, oh. Rosie O’Donnell. Tell him to get Rosie.
Kenneth: Oh, yeah. Rosie.
Tucker: No, too easy. Give him something hard.
Ana: You guys had really rough childhoods, didn’t you? Little bit rocky?
Steve: Hey, sweetheart. Let me tell you something. You, uh, you have my permission. I ever turn into one of those things? Do me a favor, blow my head off.
Ana: [nods] Oh, yeah, you can count on that.

I won’t reveal if Ana ever follows up with her promise to Steve, but I will say this: Ana makes a formidable opponent to anything getting in the way of humanity’s will to survive.

Have you ever seen Dawn of the Dead? What do you think of Ana? Do you see similarities between the movie and the TV show The Walking Dead?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Kill of the Week

Welcome to another edition of Monday Mayhem where zombies rule and aliens invade. If you’re interested in finding out more about Monday Mayhem, you can simply click on the link in the Features panel for a complete list of posts included in the series.

Today I’d like to focus on zombie kills. Not so much how zombies kill, but how creative I’ve seen zombies get killed in various movies.

Zombieland
Zombieland

For instance, Zombieland. Does this movie ever go away? It’s hard to believe it’s been four years. One of my favorite scenes involves the Zombie Kill of the Week award given to those who exemplify pure creativity with the killing of the undead. A white-haired woman runs around a corner heading to the entrance of what seems to be a church. A quick-pace zombie follows. She pulls a handled-rope, much like the ones seen in those old movies featuring a toilet with a chain for flushing. She then disappears into the building. When the zombie finally shows up at the door, a piano falls on it. That’s the end of the zombie, thus earning the woman the Zombie Kill of the Week.

Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead

How about Shaun of the Dead? This movie gets funnier with every viewing. Shaun and Ed (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, respectively) battle two zombies that don’t quite know when to give up. The scene starts in the house where the zombies burst through the window. The action then moves to the backyard where the desperate duo throws all manner of kitchen utensils at the approaching creatures, including a toaster. Nothing works, except some hope appears when Ed throws a vinyl record at one of them, maiming the beast. The idea bulb illuminates and they return to the backyard with Shaun’s record collection. As the zombies maintain their approach, the boys argue about which records they should throw.

Ed: ‘Purple Rain‘?
Shaun: No.
Ed: ‘Sign o’ the Times‘?
Shaun: Definitely not.
Ed: The ‘Batman‘ soundtrack?
Shaun: Throw it.
Ed: ‘Dire Straits‘?
Shaun: Throw it.
Ed: Ooh, ‘Stone Roses‘.
Shaun: Um, No.
Ed: ‘Second Coming‘.
Shaun: I like it!
Ed: Ahhh! ‘Sade‘.
Shaun: Yeah, but that’s Liz’s!
Ed: Yeah, but she did dump you.
Shaun: Oh!

When that doesn’t work, Shaun rams the door to the shed, grabbing a cricket bat. Ed arms himself with a shovel. They then let the zombies have it in a furious series of blows delivered off-camera. The next scene resolves the confrontation with the boys sitting on a couch contemplating on what just happened while they indulge in a hot drink and a caramel cone for dessert.

I can keep going with Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Pet Semetary, and Ghosts of Mars, describing multiple scenes of zombie carnage. But I’d rather write my own list of things I’d like to see happen to the undead in the event of a zombie apocalypse. By the way, I slipped in Ghosts of Mars because a) the movie contains an element of zombieism (is that a word?) and b) John Carpenter wrote and directed the project.

So, without further wait, here is my top ten list of Zombie Kills of the Week. I ordered them from least to greatest, placing emphasis on the most outrageous kill as the last item on the list.

  1. Shooting a zombie in the head
  2. Spraying kerosene over a zombie and setting it alight
  3. Throwing a zombie off a cliff, watching the impact crack its skull
  4. Smashing a zombie’s head with a crowbar until everything’s covered in goo
  5. Jamming a screwdriver into a zombie’s temple until it collapses
  6. Decapitating a zombie with a souvenir confederate sword from the American civil war
  7. Strapping a zombie into a car and ramming it into a brick wall
  8. Driving an ice pick through the zombie’s mouth, severing its spinal cord, thereby rendering it dead
  9. Clamping a zombie’s head in a paint mixer, watching it spin
  10. Running over a zombie until every ounce of unholy breath expels from its maggot-filled lungs

Can you think of any others? Do you have a favorite zombie movie kill you’d like to share? Go ahead and write it in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.