Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Evolution

George A. Romero, the father of modern zombie flicks, said in a recent interview with Daily Dead that zombies are advancing at a rapid pace—in his words, “advancing even a little further.” As part of my Monday Mayhem series, let’s have a look just how advanced zombies have become from their docile, sloth-like beginnings.

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

When Night of the Living Dead made its debut in 1968, the campy feel to the scenes made this film a Horror lover’s delight. What audiences didn’t know was the movie would go on to become an anchor to which other movies in the zombie genre would aspire. For years after its release, zombies had the intellect of vegetables and lurched to wherever they needed to go. They didn’t have reasoning skills. They lacked any sense of intelligence. If they wanted something, they’d hunt for it until they found it. Zombies back then were somewhat silly.

This is where Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead exceeds. All of a sudden, zombies became focused, one-track-minded, machines. They wanted flesh and would do anything to get to it. Their strength to combat those who stood in their way became paramount. Their greatest asset became in attacking in numbers. One zombie will not do it. But maybe many would. And that’s just what happened in this film.

Then in 2005, Romero made a point with Land of the Dead that zombies were here to stay. The undead became intelligent. A character by the name of Big Daddy took over the screen teaching other zombies how to fight the human resistance, taking arms, and pushing forward to destroy those who interfered with the zombie plan to annihilate humans from the face of the earth. (Incidentally, filming took place in a prominent location in Toronto of which I am very well familiar.)

World War Z Horde
World War Z Horde

At the same time, in 2002, director Paul W.S. Anderson presented a version of zombie others couldn’t soon dismiss. In Resident Evil, the idea of a fast zombie took hold, the impact of which wouldn’t be realized for a decade or more. When 28 Days Later appeared later that year, the fast zombie had begun to proliferate modern media, and studios looked to screenwriters for original ideas regarding the concept.

But it wasn’t until 2013 when World War Z’s fast zombies became the norm. The film depicted the undead as stampeding Velociraptors that had the ability to hop from walls without consequence. Gone are the days when zombies lurched from area to area in a slow drag that would aid in the salvation of mankind. Instead, these zombies had the ability to launch from their stationary positions to a determined path simply by allowing a smell or a sound to guide them.

What will 2014 hold for the zombie evolution? Will there be a film so different, so astounding that it will rock the zombie apocalypse foundations from its axis?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What do you think will come next for the zombie genre?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Indestructible Zombies

Let’s talk about something serious for a change, something that has been on my mind since the summer. If I could call it a great disturbance in the force, I would. But then I would have to admit surrendering to the dark side for taking the Star Wars universe out of context. Okay, so I’ll call it a logic problem. Then again, that may prove too pointed of a statement. How about this for Monday Mayhem: Since when have zombies become indestructible?

World War Z's Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane
World War Z’s Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane

I’m a huge fan of World War Z, and for those folks who have read my stuff since the beginning, you will know I’m also a fan of George A. Romero’s zombies. You know the ones, slow, dragging, lurching, not much intelligence. What they lack in aptitude they make up in multitude. In other words, they may be slow, but if they corner you in an alley with no way out, it’s lights out for Thursday night bowling—permanently.

It took a while for me to warm up to the notion zombies could run at the pace of a Kenyan sprinter. I attribute the sudden surge in velocity to an adrenalin rush fostered by the zombie virus, whatever that zombie virus might be. I accept it. It would also account for the incredible behavior change in the undead’s muscle stability and lack of flaccidity. Add to the laundry list a slow decomposition rate instead of the typical mortis states, and we have the making of fast zombies.

I’m okay with that idea. It makes logical sense.

World War Z's destroyed cities
World War Z’s destroyed cities

Where things start getting out of hand is seeing zombies crash into immovable objects at blunt-force-trauma speeds. When a head attempts several times to smash through a windshield, wouldn’t said head sport a few scars of the incident? Perhaps a concussion or two? Even more so, if a zombie attempts to scale a massive wall and other zombies use its body as a footstool, wouldn’t it be fair in saying said zombie would break a few bones in the process of its journey? And how about after scaling the wall, which I’m assuming thirty feet high, wouldn’t the zombies plunging to the other side land on the ground in a big huge splat?

Guide me here, folks. Sometimes I miss things along the way. I’m willing to suspend disbelief up to a point, but when the laws of physics run amok in a film—a zombie film, not a superhero comic book film—I’m not sure if I can accept the latest twist in zombie resilience. Anyone have a reasonable explanation for the undead’s sudden ability to fend off broken bones, torn ligaments, shattered faces and lack of rotting in World War Z?

So many questions, so little time.

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

What’s your reaction to World War Z’s superhero zombies?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Immortality

I get a kick writing about zombies. Unlike their vampire horror counterparts, I find the whole zombie genre fascinating. However, I dare not draw a direct comparison between zombies and vampires, even though at times one would be hard-pressed not doing so. Perhaps one day I can write about the transformation of the vampire genre in our modern age. But not today. Today, I’d like to add to my Monday Mayhem series the immortal nature of zombies.

Infinity
Infinity

When I think of zombies, I think of them as these non-stop, eating machines. In a past post, I’ve compared them to sharks. They hunt and feed. Nothing else. Their makeup is of the design of wanting to fulfill the emptiness felt within. They lurch back and forth, hauling their limbs from one caustic kill to another. Their only enemy being us, humans, who also happen to be their main meal.

Before zombies grew to become these grease-lightening, run-for-your-life, all-consuming creatures, as seen in World War Z, zombie fans only had George A. Romero’s biblical-like telling of how zombies should behave.

They had to drag. They had to moan. And they had to appear as if a truck ran over them. Several times, in fact. Their head tilted to one side became their trademark.

Yet, in all this, what does it mean? Every so often, I’ll add my two cents to the zombie coffers in an attempt to demystify the legends from fact. I’ll give an opinion regarding zombie origins, diseases, curses, events, possible apocalypse scenarios, and the like. I’ll delve into the science behind today’s zombie blitzkrieg, the whys and wherefores. The question remains though, what does it all mean?

If you will, allow me a few moments to lend you my take of what zombies represent in our culture. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I believe my opinion is ready for some good ol’ fashioned primetime critique.

Dust
Dust

I believe zombies represent humanity’s desire to capture the idea of wanting to live forever. This is not a new concept in the zombie genre. It’s been around a long time in the vampire realm, but for zombies, no one really talks about it. Who wants to? Do you want to see a zombie live forever? Uh-uh, not me. Not in my backyard. But, the implication is there. Zombies and humans have a limited shelf life. Both eventually will die and return to dust.

You might ask how can I know this? Look around. We have spas for rejuvenating vitality, convincing ourselves we can reverse the process of aging. Oils and lotions to keep our faces from losing collagen, so our skin won’t sag to our chest in our retirement years. We run, swim, bike, walk in hopes we can keep the heart pumping to an optimal level in order to avoid a massive coronary or fatal aneurysm. Our commercials tell us we’ll lose twenty pounds from our figure if we consume their products. It’ll make us look young and we’d be able to attract those much younger than us of the opposite sex. How young do we need to regress? Will we be satisfied if we have a magic cure-all to find ourselves back in our mother’s womb?

It’s a craving we have for youth similar to a zombie’s craving for human flesh. In a zombie’s case, no matter how much meat it eats, it will continue to rot until it dies a miserable death. Not much different from humans, really. We can shoot a man to the moon and back but we can’t find a cure for aging.

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

Do you think zombies represent humanity’s plight against getting old? Can you think of anything else zombies might represent?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Fighting Zombies

Every so often, I’ll watch a movie where a voracious entity of undead means traps a human victim in an ordinary area such as a garage with no way of defense. Most of the time I’m screaming at the TV with suggestions of how to kill the approaching beast. Grab the rake! Use the water hose! The garden shears are on the bench!

Are you Ready?
Are you Ready?

What would my Monday Mayhem feature be without having some fun with everyday household items that can also act as weapons against zombies? I touched on this subject once before in my post Saying No to Zombies, but I’ve always wanted to expand on it.

[Disclaimer: Please folks, this list is written entirely as satire in regards to fighting zombies. Don’t be stupid and attempt these with a human or any other living thing. It’s not only a dumb thing to do. It’s illegal.]

Here is my top 10 list of household items anyone can use to fend off an intruding zombie (in no particular order):

  1. Knife—The simplest of utensils for cutting meats and vegetables can also function as a quick solution to a zombie problem. Always aim for the head. Never stab once. Multiple holes translate to multiple chances of killing the brain.
  2. Fireplace Poker—A practical instrument for rotating wood in a fire, its pointed end will serve as the perfect answer to oncoming evil creatures. Its hook can also provide a means to catch an unsuspecting zombie, but no one want’s to do that. However, the easiest way to utilize this tool is to swat and swat hard. Remember the rule? Always aim for the head.
  3. Snow Globe—These ornaments usually find themselves on bookshelves, nightstands, tables, fridges, and in some instances, bathrooms. These are the brute-force-approach type items. Meaning, the impact delivery system is directly proportionate to the amount of force applied by the defender on the zombie’s cerebellum or any other part of the rotting head. Much like the knife, the more blows delivered, the greater the chances of escaping.
  4. Splinters—These suckers can come from anywhere. A desk drawer can turn into a pile of splinters if the correct amount of force distributes from drawer to wall. Even smashing a hardwood floor will yield splinters. Once in hand, they can work pretty much like knives (see above). The best part about splinters is their ability to break in chunks in order to lodge pieces in the zombie brain. Of the remnant, one can utilize to remove organs (i.e. eyes. A zombie that can’t see can’t eat.)
  5. Weapons
    Weapons

    Garden Hose—This neat little item can function on multiple levels. The water set at high pressure can disorient and confuse a zombie when shot in the face. The hose itself can also work as an instrument of strangulation. It will not kill it but it sure would be fun trying. In addition, used properly, the hose can work as a crude method for an explosive device. The simplest way is shoving the hose down the zombie’s throat and turning on the water. Within a matter of seconds the whole thing should blow.

  6. Broom—A quick and dirty instrument of death to instill terror in the hearts of minions by utilizing its handle to poke, maim and kill. It is also useful for whacking brains from skulls until splatter designs appear on the surrounding walls and floor.
  7. Glass—Found throughout the house, glass can provide the first line of defense against the ravenous undead. Holding a broken bottle by the neck will not threaten a zombie. Drilling it into its face will however force the zombie to step away enough for a rapid escape. Never underestimate the power of sand heated at high temperatures.
  8. Salt—In ol’ zombie folklore, forcing a zombie to eat salt will cause the corpse to realize it’s dead and will head back to the grave. The question is how do you feed a zombie? I’d rather take a more aggressive approach with my zombie feedings. Grab a fistful of the white stuff and toss it in its face. If it doesn’t eat the salt, it will certainly lose a portion of its sight. At least I hope.
  9. Chair—This is an easy item to use as it can function as not only defense against approaching gut suckers, pushing the chair in their faces, but also can serve the dual purpose of acting as a weapon, wailing on the undead until they’re completely dead.
  10. Door—The trick to using a door as a weapon is getting a zombie to step into one. Easiest way to do this is offering bait, preferably a friend. Once it’s taken the bait, watch as it attempts to make its way into the room. Best practices involve utilizing the zombie’s own inertia when door makes contact with its body. If luck presents itself the beast will peek between the door and the doorframe, no hesitation should take place in regards to ramming door to stationary object. Ooze and blood trails will indicate success.

I’m sure there are many, many more utensils, tools and common every day items that can work to fight off a zombie infestation.

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

Do you have any suggestions of items you’d like to add to the list?

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

Zombies: The New Vampires

It wasn’t long ago when audiences packed theaters for vampire-themed movies. Much of that popularity came from young readers devouring books like Twilight. How quickly trends change. With the new release of the film World War Z this summer, zombies will all but secure the top spot as the new vampires.

Don't Open, Dead Inside
Don’t Open, Dead Inside

How did this happen? For this edition of Monday Mayhem, my series devoted to all things crazy and insane, I’d like to explore the rise of the zombie from a knuckle-dragging goon to a sophisticated eating machine.

Disclaimer: If anything my regular readers know about me is, I’m a zombie purist. I’m a huge fan of George A. Romero, the father of modern zombie behavioral science. Have that in mind when reading this post, since I’ll probably offer my opinion on more than one occasion—or not.

At one time, vampires ruled the earth. Bookstore shelves couldn’t keep up with the insatiable demand to carry the latest and greatest vampire series. Every Halloween the most popular costumes had to have fangs and pale white makeup kits. Theaters featured vampires making dinner meat out of humans, vampires killing werewolves, and vampires falling in love. Topics on radio shows included: Whenever you hear thunder, do you wonder if vampires are playing baseball?

What happened to the vampire?

by Baby Doll
Zombie at the Door

Zombies are what happened to vampires. Just like their genetic makeup, zombies crept into mainstream popularity and are now eating away at every form of media. The movie Warm Bodies is the latest entry to the genre, which film critics loved as the zombie equivalent to Twilight. The steady growth of zombie fandom hasn’t relented one bit either. Shows like The Walking Dead and In the Flesh have captured the imagination of viewers everywhere. Sites devoted to the undead have sprung up throughout the world. Commercials have even gotten in on the act. Zombies apparently love BMW, Ford and Doritos.

How did this all happen?

In the 1920s, H. P. Lovecraft wrote a short story called Herbert West—Reanimator. Inspired by Frankenstein, Lovecraft’s mad doctor believed he could bring life back from the dead, which he did. The caveat being the creatures reanimated came back as starved cannibals, killing and eating everyone in sight. Sounds familiar, huh?

In 1954, Richard Matheson wrote I Am Legend. Although devoted to vampirism, the common story elements with modern day zombies are evident. A virus infects humans who then infect other humans with their bites. In the 2007 movie by the same name, Will Smith fights dark seekers, which blurs the lines between vampires and zombies even further. Although never spoken of as vampires, if one were to view dark seekers simply by their behavior, one would think they are zombies (feed off humans, affected by a virus, etc.).

However, it wasn’t until 1968 when director George A. Romero released The Night of the Living Dead that zombies became what they are today—single-minded eating machines. These are the same zombies featured in the show The Walking Dead (born from the dead, crave human flesh and will die with a blow to the head—as I’d written in my post The Three Commandments).

This gradual escalation of zombie popularity has yet to abate. Once we see a full-scale acceptance of the zombie genre, that’s when a true zombie apocalypse will have taken place.

Have we seen the last of vampires? Do you think someone will write about a family of zombies?

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?