Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Characters

A few days ago, I watched World War Z—again. This movie will not go away, will it? I remember thinking how quickly humans had turned into zombies. The bite. The convulsing. The white eyes. The shreaking. And the cycle continues. I’d noticed this before, but never really analyzed it in depth. Not something I’m about to do either. I suppose that’s a good thing since it means the story kept me entertained enough for me not to wonder about these silly little nuances in character design.

R from the movie Warm Bodies
R from the movie Warm Bodies

In past posts, I’ve used Monday Mayhem as a springboard for fleshing out (pun intended) new concepts in the zombie genre in order to understand what makes a good story regarding the undead creatures. Because that’s what they really are—creatures. Anything that’s not human is inhuman. I think we can classify zombies as inhuman. Wouldn’t you say? Anyway, after a quick survey of my past posts, I realized I’d omitted one key topic that would come in handy in any zombie discussion. Who are the zombie characters I’ve grown most fond of during my fascination with all things undead?

I’m not going to limit this to a single character, but I would think a type of zombie would also constitute a character. Wouldn’t you think? Nonetheless, let’s see how it goes then you can tell me if it makes sense or not.

R—I’d written about Warm Bodies‘ R once before, yet I always seem to feel I haven’t done justice to this character. He’s a zombie with a heart who falls in love with a girl who just as rather put a bullet in her head than spend the afternoon with the undead. Why do I like him? He’s vulnerable and displays childlike qualities. He wants to learn and wants to teach. He’s a monster who becomes more human as the story progresses.

406 from the movie Zombieland
406 from the movie Zombieland

406—Known as the girl from apartment 406. In my opinion, she is Zombieland’s most interesting undead character. Played by the beautiful Amber Heard, 406 makes her appearance early in the movie and with a quick resolve, makes an impression on the audience. Her advances toward Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) are anything but sensual. When she tries to take a bite out of him, he knows better and the mad dash begins. Fun fact about 406? Even though infected with the zombie virus, she’s still as attractive as ever.

28 Days Later Zombies—Some of most malevolent zombies make 28 Days Later a zombie lover’s delight. They’re fast. They’re tough. They’re strong. These true creatures of the undead bite, kill, and eat. They’re ferocious, crashing through windows and tearing apart doors. No matter the circumstances, if the armies weren’t there, they’d decimate an entire city, which they’ve done before. How else to describe the devastation they cause?

Shaun of the Dead Zombies—They happen to be my favorite zombies of all. They’re slow, dim-witted and sometimes hilarious. How else can I describe Shaun of the Dead zombies? When victims throw vinyl records at these misfits and survive, you know we have real winners here. The best way to distract them from eating you is to act as a tour guide in order to steer them away from friends by appearing as the only tasty snack they ought to consider as their only option to consume.

I wanted to talk about a number of other characters including those in World War Z, but then we’d be here all day. I’m sure you’d appreciate a shorter post with fewer characters and an opportunity to add your own, than a longer one with a gamut of zombies to read about. Perhaps one day I’ll explore the whole zombie universe, but that day isn’t here yet. For now, have a go adding your favorites and see how far you can take it.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Which characters haven’t I mentioned that you like? What makes them memorable?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

A Zombie Party

Growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Toronto, my parents provided me a normal childhood by rearing me on a steady diet of cartoons, sitcoms and movies. TV introduced me to a world of characters I would have otherwise not known. Some of those characters possessed the skill to frighten me in ways that would prevent me from having a good night’s sleep. Dracula, Frankenstein, the werewolf, and to some extent, the mummy creeped me out. Zombies never did anything for me.

28 Days Later
28 Days Later

Shocking, isn’t it? It’s Monday Mayhem. Would you expect anything less?

I mentioned this once before in another post that as a kid I considered zombies cartoonish, pasty, disfigured anomalies I didn’t take seriously until I saw the movie 28 Days Later. That’s when I knew my life had changed and couldn’t look at zombies the same way again.

Since then, I have a staple of movies I recommend to everyone interested in understanding zombies better. By no means are these the best zombie films, but they are defining works for the genre.

If you’ve read me long enough, you’ll know how much I enjoy George A. Romero’s undead compendium—The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Land of the Dead. Produced over the course of thirty years, these films set the rules for subsequent zombie behavior. Although some may consider these B movies, every year these titles have withstood the test of time by attracting new audiences with their original concepts and stories.

I’ve learned from these movies The Three Commandments of the undead:

I—The Dead Have Come Back to Life
II—The Undead Crave Human Flesh
III—The Undead Will Die with a Blow to the Brain

As noted, 28 Days Later is the perfect introduction for new film students feeling the need to want to appreciate the zombie genre. The movie contains ideas some viewers may find interesting. For instance, the work presents a solid case regarding a zombie apocalypse fashioned after a virus running rampant among the population. Also dominant in this film are fast zombies, something explored fully in World War Z.

Zombieland Rule #8
Zombieland Rule #8

These last two movies are my favorites. Without these, folks would take zombies much too seriously. I’m talking about Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Both films have their quirks. Both films are equally hilarious. The more useful of the two, Zombieland details a set of rules zombie apocalypse survivors can utilize to remain alive. Instructions such as “beware of bathrooms” and “cardio” made it into the Top 10. Shaun of the Dead makes an impression by the amount of gags it pulls. In one scene, the boys throw vinyl records on the oncoming undead all the while arguing as to which records to throw, always having a favorite they’d rather save as a keepsake.

Indeed, I could mention many other movies, but these ones provide a future zombie film enthusiast something to think about when perusing online for a title to watch on a cold Friday night. Who knows, maybe they’ll even find the Resident Evil franchise to whet their appetite (pun fully intended).

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What movies would you recommend your friends to watch that would act as a primer for learning about zombies?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

I Hated Zombies

There once was a boy name Jack, and he hated zombies without lack. Crazy, isn’t it? That boy was me. I disliked zombies because I thought they were the stupid, malignant, dregs of Horror that amounted to nothing better than cheap laughs and gruesome kills.

Dead Rising 3
Dead Rising 3

Now that I have your attention, I’m dedicating this Monday Mayhem post to the skeptics. To all those folks who hate zombies and don’t know why. Ahem, because they think zombies are of the devil—or something so insanely ridiculous as such. This post goes out to you dislikers of the undead. Prove your hatred.

It wasn’t long ago when I, too, freely admit to have been one of the zombie naysayers. I’d thought vampires were cool and werewolves were powerful. But zombies? What did they have? I couldn’t get past their weak countenance. They wore torn clothes, for crying out loud. Even I could have punched one of them in the face to have it topple over like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

Ah, but you see, that’s where I went wrong. I thought of a zombie as a single unit. That’s not where a zombie’s strength lies. Zombies don’t work that way. Separate a zombie from the crowd and yes, it’s time to say good-bye to another of the undead. However, as part of the horde, it’s as good as dug itself in like an Alabama tick. As a whole, they’re impenetrable; functioning as a single-minded mass with only one thing on their mind—eat.

Someone's in Trouble
Someone’s in Trouble

When did I change my view on zombies? I saw 28 Days Later late one night while my family slept, and I needed some solid entertainment. I didn’t know what the movie was at the time, having caught it a few minutes after the credits, but I watched it anyway. Hard not to watch someone waking up in hospital garb to what looks like a world gone crazy. Then have the movie tease me to a slow reveal. That’s what started it all for me. I saw the zombies. They weren’t weak but strong brutes able to turn other humans into zombies. And the humans were afraid of them. I thought, what is this? Shivers trailed my arms to my spine leading up my neck. The movie captivated me. I wanted more.

From there I went on a zombie binge. Within a week, I had seen 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland.

The old Scooby-Doo paradigm I had carried for so long had all but disappeared, replaced by today’s zombie—a predator of vast proportions, able to seek and destroy those who’d dare get in the way. Their single-minded focus to rid the world of humans fascinates me. They act as Star Trek’s Borg, a collective bent on satiating eternal hunger pangs. How can I argue these zombies are weaklings?

To exacerbate the issue, I’d fallen in love with the notion zombies can reproduce. One bite is all it takes and a human is no longer with the living. In some respect, it might actually be an improvement since some folk are dead already.

Yae, naysayers, come and give pittance to your trite cause for slamming zombies wherefore you know nothing of. You hate the undead in ignorance. Let the beasts of the field show you the empty graves to those who will dismember the world.

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

What do you like about zombies the most? Did you have an epic flip from hater to lover of the genre?

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

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.

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!

Welcome back to Monday Mayhem. If you haven’t read my intro to the series, you can search for it on my site with the keywords Monday Mayhem or you can click on the Monday Mayhem link at the top of this post. Simple, huh?

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

Now that the Mayan silliness—ahem—apocalypse is out of the way, let’s talk about something worth talking about: Zooooooombies. Yep, those green critters everyone loves to run away from whenever a biological disaster hits. Zombies. Specifically, let’s talk about what they look like, ‘cause a number of films have interpreted their own versions of the grotesque creatures.

Since I wrote about I Am Legend last week, I thought I’d start with them. According to tradition, zombies are the walking dead. Some call them the undead. They walk back and forth on the earth seeking of whom they may devour. They have a “drag” to their pace. Like this: Step-drag, step-drag-drag, step-drag. Okay, I made that up. Yes, they walk slow. In the movie I Am Legend however, they are speed freaks. They run fast, hit hard and eat with intensity. Some have said they really aren’t zombies at all but vampires, due to their sensitivity to light and their penchant for going for the jugular.

Vampire Extraordinaire, Underworld's Kate Beckinsale
Vampire Extraordinaire, Underworld’s Kate Beckinsale

My thoughts? Vampires turn into vampires when bitten by other vampires. The creatures in this movie become zombies after a medical procedure goes awry (the typical method of zombie propagation).

How about the creatures in other movies? How about the beasts in 28 Days Later, Resident Evil and Dawn of the Dead? Oh, and the TV show The Walking Dead? Well, those are your standard, cookie-cutter zombies. Their flesh hangs off their bones, eyes white, and they possess the trademark drag. Those creatures also maintain their pleasant countenance by walking around with torn, often shredded clothes. Of course, let’s not forget the scabs. They sport various scabs throughout their bodies as a testament to their zombiehood.

Fighting Zombies
Fighting Zombies

You really don’t want me to describe scabs in detail, do you?

Then you have your funny zombies. The zombies you find in Shaun of the Dead for instance. These monsters border on stupidity. Most of the time, they stand around while their food—human—disappears. In one scene, Shaun acts as a tour guide/director giving the hoard directions to follow him, since he is good to eat, all the while helping his friends escape.

And how can we forget Zombieland? Bill Murray plays one of the undead. I’m not getting into the specifics with this movie. It is one of my favorite and it would be a shame if I spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Suffice it to say: Watch it.

The Crazies
The Crazies

The last movie I’d like to mention, which may seem odd to describe as a zombie movie, is The Crazies. The beings in this film harbor a mysterious element to their personalities that propels them to behave irrationally. Some critics may not consider them typical zombies in the strictest sense, given they don’t eat flesh, talk, and are not dead. But when faced with one of these blank staring individuals, I assure you, they function as true blood zombies. These are the most interesting of the species. No one knows who they are and the survivors travel with suspicion.

There you have it, a description of the most popular zombies to walk the planet in search of human delicacies.

Did I forget any of them? Have you seen any movie I missed describing the type of zombie? If you have, go ahead and comment. I’m interested in what you have to say.