Thursday, December 3, 2009

Logan's Theory

I stated in an earlier post that I would return to a subject near and dear to my heart: The motivation of the Zombie. Does he eat to live or live to eat? Well, this strongly depends on what movie you watch or what book you are reading; don’t it?
Some folks are under the impression that the reanimation of dead tissue forces the host to seek flesh to curb the raging pain and anger within. In “Return of the Living Dead part Three” living dead girl Julie tells us that ‘the pain takes the hunger away’. So does this work both ways? In “I am Legend” the motivation is blood. And of course in movies like “28 Days” they just seem to want to kick ass, no real preference to eating or not.

With a plethora of theories and different ways to serve your Zombie up it can be confusing to the common man with little to no Zombie experience to discern what motivations are best for what sorts of situations. What if there was a simpler version to the matter? What if someone could sum all this ugly business up with one unifying theory that could cross between the supernatural, comet-related and even the modern contagion created Zombies?

In steps Dr. Logan.

In “Day of the Dead”, already stated as (in my opinion) the Best Zombie Film Ever, Doctor Logan reveals that the basic Zombie is just a boiled down version of us. “They are us,” he exclaims to Sarah as he shows off severed limbs and electrified body parts. The reasoning for their desire for flesh is that they are left with little or no brain function. What is left behind is what he refers to as “Primordial Ooze, that bit of Prehistoric Jelly we inherited from our ancestors.” And of course we all know what our ancestors spent all day doing when they weren’t seeking shelter? That’s right; EATING. Well mostly they were hunting, and cooking, and then eating, but you get the idea! Dr. Logan believes that Zombies are working chiefly off of instinct. So to this effect it could be stated that their drive to consume flesh comes from their need to fulfill the very bottom level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological. The basic ‘need to feed’, as it were, is being satisfied by attacking every living thing the Zombie comes in contact with. However, this theory is tested immediately by select film and literature where the living dead ONLY feast upon the flesh of other humans; the most recent case being the remake of Romero’s classic “Dawn of the Dead”. In this particular film the Zombies seemed to be ignoring the easy morsel of doggy in favor of the folks on the roof. We should keep in mind though that these cases of exclusive human preference are few and far between in the Zombie genre and should not be taken as the norm.
Go back to the Physiological needs in the Hierarchy. We could state that with the concept of homeostasis being on the bottom along with feeding; coupled with the idea that pain keeps the hunger at bay and visa/versa, one could conjecture that seeking human flesh could be considered a perverted version of homeostasis. That feeding actually perpetuates the systems needed to motivate the animated dead to continue to function.

Dr. Logan also points out to us that because the living dead are so close to ourselves that they can be trained or tricked into behaving. “Just like we were all tricked into being good little boys and girls…” There are theories out there that outright contradict this idea. Max Brooks’ popular book “World War Z” has more than one person exclaiming that the Zombies have nothing in common with us. They seem convinced that the living dead in the pages of the story have no humanity left, that there is no previous memories or strong instincts forcing them to carry out their grisly mission. But one has to wonder, is this because giving the Zombie any kind of human qualities would put one in a moral quandary about destroying so many Zombies with so little remorse?

I am not so sure about Logan and the whole “training” thing. However I totally dig the idea that Zombies are working on instinct and I do think that they are a dull reflection of our own lives as shown in the hilarious hit “Shawn of the Dead”. That what makes them so scary to me, they are one step away from us. Zombies are so close to ourselves but so far removed from what we know to be right and wrong. They commit the ultimate taboo without a second thought and want nothing more than us to join the party. Terrifying!
HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Modern Fanboy

I am 36 years old. That makes me about 252 in dog years. And since I have been watching horror since I was a kid, about 30 in fanboy/girl years. Normally, I am happy to meet other fans. It’s nice to feel a bit ordinary in a room full of your peers. But lately, something has happened. Over the past, oh I don’t know ten years give or take, there has been a significant swing in the mind-set of the ‘average’ fanboy and now I am almost embarrassed to know any of them!
Now before I diagnose the problem, we must begin with the symptoms. And since you have many other things to do today I will try desperately to give you the short list. Although really, this is a subject I can harp on about all damned day! I am not sure what age group you fall into, and I probably need to clarify that not all of the current generation of fanboys falls into any of these categories.
Shall we begin?
Number One: Today’s average Fanboy has STANDARDS.
I don’t mean higher standards. I actually mean “standards”… period. Do you remember a time when you were grateful to receive any kind of horror material, either paperback, comic book or the holy of holies MOVIE form? It was a treat, and whatever you got, no matter how bad it sucked, there was something about it that just said “hello little friend, I understand and accept you”. Now, fanboys are in sensory overload. There are movies on demand on satellite, direct to home movie mailing services, and then there is the internets! I am not saying all this is bad. I think the internet has made the world smaller and brought folks together who would have never known there were others like them around. But, has instant access to everything horror dulled our senses to the ‘novelty’ of the genre? Has it become less titillating to see so many choices on the shelves of the video store? I have to wonder.
Now all of this instant gratification has, in my mind, warped the fanboy. Now he/she expects better FX, a reasonable soundtrack, impeccable scripting and even (dare I say it?) STARS to appear in their fave films!! There was a time that most horror movies were chock full of unknowns, only certain names stood out and made careers of the business. To folks like Vincent Price and Boris Karloff; this was their bread and butter. Now it is chic. Don’t get me wrong, I don't think that the likes of Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba being in horror are the ruin of the genre. However, I don’t think we need to see star material to have a decent horror film.
Number Two: Fanboys are easy to DISMISS a film.
I have always thought about the world of horror as a sort of club. Not everyone can get into the door, and most folks don’t stay that long before deciding that they would rather bail out and join up with the action/adventure pussies. But those of us with staying power need to remain true to our school. I make an effort to watch as much in horror as I can. This can be hard these days with so many films coming out all the time, but a gal does what she can. I am not saying that all of it is worth watching, and I will definitely admit that most of the independent companies who churn out a new flick a week tend to be crap, except for Full Moon, who probably deserves their own post. What disturbs me is the fanboys who will ONLY watch certain films, by certain directors, writers, production companies. Who died and made you the horror movie gawd? I have been, on occasion pleasantly surprised by some films in the past. Movies that I thought probably weren’t going to be very good turned out to be sleepers and knocked my freaking socks off! But it happened because I gave the movie a chance. Don’t be a dick and look at the box and say “Oh so and so is in this” or “Geesh Michael Bay produced this” and then just put it back. Take some CHANCES!
Number Three: Fanboys tend to think “good” horror has only been around for the past 25 YEARS or so.
My heart was broken online one day when an up and coming fanboy of a young age typed these words to me: “I think The Exorcist is a boring piece of crap. And I hate B&W films because they are boring also.” What have we become when we turn our backs on our fathers and forefathers of the horror genre? What monsters are we creating that can look at a movie like ‘Last Man on Earth’ and call it DULL?! This is not a world I want to live in folks. Most of the films I really like were all made when I was either quite young or just a twinkle in my daddy’s eye. (Did I just type that?) I think most fanboys today are so inundated with data in this ‘information age’ that they dismiss anything antiquated or outdated. We have evolved the horror film into a mess of snazzy effects and plot less killings that most fanboys don’t have the patience to take in the classic material. Now I am all for the plot less killings and kewl FX, and I can understand all about the generation gap and that kids ‘these days’ are into different things; But this is HISTORY, these movies are your ROOTS.
Horror did NOT start with Freddy or Jason. Horror has been around so much longer than that. Ever read any H. P. Lovecraft? Ever watched a Herschal Gordon Lewis film? He is considered the “Godfather of Gore”. Fourtyfive years ago he made a little film called ‘2000 Maniacs’. Watch it, be amazed at how crappy it is, but be impressed that these guys were doing this stuff long before Myers was stalking his baby sister.
Number Four: Fanboys have become unreasonably SMUG.
What is wrong with today’s remakes? Perhaps I am missing the point of turning your back on some pretty decent kills and all the titties you could ever see on screen (not that I swing that way, but it keeps my husband happy) just because they have revamped an older movie? What I find even more disturbing is that some movies that are being remade aren’t even acknowledged by most modern fanboys until the remake is announced.
To me, the remake is an excellent chance to educate your friends and family about the films in question. It’s also a great way for some wonderful lesser known films to become topical and get the exposure they ultimately deserve! Take ‘My Bloody Valentine’ for example here. Before, no one even knew that movie existed. If I were to bring it up in conversation around the ‘modern’ fanboy I would get the brush-off. Ever notice that the fanboy of today will do that if he is not a master on the subject at hand? Fast-forward to now. The remake has come and gone and now it is a martyr to the ‘anti remake’ community. There is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth because those Hollywood bastards can’t leave well enough alone.
Now I am embarrassed to admit I nearly fell into this mindset at the beginning of the remake trend. Back when the remake of ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ came out I was more than a bit leery. But it was not because it was yet another movie being raped; it was MY movie being raped. I will state here and now that even though Zomblies are my fave subgenre in the great wide world of horror; my all-time fave movie is TCM. Ok, I was more than a bit leery; I was actually a little pissed. Alright, I was A LOT pissed! Then, saving grace: I discovered that they got John Larroquette to once again do the opening dialogue. I could not get to the theatre fast enough. And I was happy I did.
Now I know I just said fanboys spend too much time worrying about WHO is in the film, but this time it was about nostalgia. Larroquette did the V/O work on the original film. To me, this little bit of trivia was more like a seal of approval; it was the god’s way of telling me that this movie was gona be ok. More than likely I would have seen the movie, just so I could say I did. But having him in the opening- that was pure money for me!
Look, my beef with fanboys and their obsession with “stars” being in films is more about WHO is in it, rather than who is NOT. Get it? I have seen a lot of fanboys put a movie back on the shelf because someone they don’t LIKE is in the movie. Or some chick they think is ugly, or doesn’t have a good enough body, or some dude who they consider a douche bag. Who the fuck cares? I have watched a few films starring folks I consider pathetic and have enjoyed them a great deal. Hell, one of my fave comedies is “Beetlejuice”, even though it has that horrible little boy Winona Ryder in it.
Before this post gets just way too long I will end it with a quick diagnosis of the average modern Fanboy’s problem.
Fanboys of today are too damned SELFISH.
You should be grateful for what you have, where you came from and what direction the horror genre is taking today. You have movies, games, and music that we did not have 20 years ago. You have the world of horror at your fingertips and you continue to snivel because X star is in Y movie or Z film is getting the Hollywood treatment! Here is an idea, take it all in. Become a little more open-minded, and admit that the world does NOT revolve around you. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us by being a dick. Watch some classic films, use remakes as a tool to show folks how much better the original was, evolve your fanboy status beyond just what is coming to the theatres next week and, most importantly, grow the fuck up!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Run v/s Stagger

Since the advent of movies such as “28 Days Later”, folks in the Zombie community have been arguing back and forth about “Run v/s Stagger”. I for one do not give two craps about how the Living Dead perambulate around the promenade. In the words of Capt. Rhodes: “They are Dead… they are Fucking Dead!” To me the matter is equivalent to bickering about whether the lion is BOUNDING at you or just simply frolicking in your direction before it tears you limb from limb. The idea either way is obvious: YOU are FOOD… RUN!
I can understand the sentimentality of the traditionalist who clings hopelessly to the thought that all Zomblies intrinsically stagger. It is a piece of their youth. The old films like “Night of the Living Dead” and such don’t leave a lot of room for imagination when it comes to the motivation of the Zombie attack. The idea behind a lot of the most spectacular deaths in these films are the ones that come from the characters inability to pay attention to the situation. In the remake of “Night of the Living Dead”, Barbara even points out how slow the living dead actually are. Now considering in the original she was accosted by her dead brother and practically GAVE herself to the horde, you can see where this is going. Take away the threat of the chase, throw in some common sense and the ability to remain calm in a stressful situation and chances are no matter how FAT you may be (sorry Zombieland) you too can survive a Zombie attack.
The biggest problem with citing a film like “Night of the Living Dead” as the end all of Zombie activity is that folks assume the filmmakers were creating THE RULES. However, a lot of those rules had already been made. In fact it would be more accurate to assume that THEY were the renegades, that THEY were the ones changing the concept of the Living Dead. Until Romero’s film came along, Zombies were either slaves of the Voodoo religion or they were indeed ‘infected’ like Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”. (I should point out that no matter how much the term Vampire is bandied about; the folks in that book were freaking Zombies!) And we all know how that story goes. The living dead accosting Robert’s house on a nightly basis, calling to him to come out and die! So it is safe to assume that movies like Romero’s classic where the living dead meandered around the countryside and snacked on whatever was within reach, wound up being the Johnny-come-lately in the Zombie movement.
Then somewhere down the line, Zombies got mad skillz.
More than likely, the concept of the faster, sleeker, deadlier Zombie arose from the need to be even more frightened, more threatened than before. When we were being bombarded with the atrocities of war abroad, crime in our own streets and violence in our own homes; somewhere along the lines it was no longer just enough that the dead were coming back to life. Nope. We needed something more to show us that in a world where the dead rise or a rage virus infects, that there really is nowhere safe to turn. However, it is interesting to note that most folks turn to “28 Days” when they complain about the beginning of the Zombie revolution. This is an erroneous claim, since Zombies were, in fact, running about for quite some time. Some of them even talked! “Return of the Living Dead” anyone?
I can find great qualities on both sides of the fence, and this is one time where I truly enjoy sitting in the middle and egging both sides on. With the staggering dead you get the tense buildup. How will the folks in the film ultimately fuck up and die? Will little Billy forget that his mommy was bitten and they are hiding it from the rest of the survivors? Will she take his head off before she reveals herself to the others? Exciting! Oh but then there are the fast ones. The kind of Zombie that if you can recognize as one of your own friends you are most likely already DEAD!
I suppose the bottom line is this:
I would PISS my pants if a dead man started getting up from where he died and staggering towards me. Just like I would PISS while I was RUNNING from a rage virus Zombie trying to eat my brains!
They are both threats, they are both scary and I am happy to watch both kinds on the big screen and prey that neither will make their way into my tenuous and pathetic real life.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Brief History?

Zombies have changed over time. From the African-Caribbean religion known as Vodou, the Zombie was a mindless slave. This slave was often an enemy or one who had committed an affront to the master intended. Created out of revenge and dominated with a combination of herbs, chemicals and/or some serious bad shit, these slaves would spend the rest of their “undead” lives in a fugue-like state. And in this state they were subject to the total will of their masters.
Fast forward to something a little more modern. Everyone loves to put everything in movie terms. And everyone loves to give credit to Romero for the modern Zombie. Yes, he has his place in the world of the undead. But there were some key players there hanging out once he had already arrived.
Take H.P. Lovecraft for example. Aside from being considered the greatest horror writer of the 20th Century, he was also pretty down with the concept of the living dead. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know your gona spring Mary Shelly and her Frankie baby on me in like two seconds, but hear me out. Doc Frank and his ‘son’ Adam were mere child’s play to what Lovecraft does with one of his greatest characters: Herbert West. A lot of folks will point to Frankenstein and claim that this is one of the true origins of the Zombie genre. WRONG. The Doc was trying to CREATE life. Herbert West was trying to BRING PEOPLE BACK FROM THE DEAD. Need I say more?
I thought so.
So Lovecraft pops up in the 20’s with this wild assed story about a geeky grad student who creates a formula for reanimating FRESH corpses. The emphasis is on FRESH here kids. The more deteriorated the body is, the more difficult it is to reanimate. Total bummer. Oh and did I mention that his subjects display violent behavior. Maybe he shoulda thought about that before he reanimates folks who are capable of TEARING HIM LIMB FROM LIMB! I mean I woulda been seeking out the paraplegics. Same results, less chance of death. What is interesting about this form of animated dead is that even though Romero’s version of the Zombie is universal, Lovecraft’s version is closer to the modernized “infected” Zombies in such gems as 28 Days or the remake of Dawn. Fast, strong and deadly. Yum!
It’s not fair not to give Romero his dues. He is the master, and deserves the praise. His 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead put Zombies on the freakin MAP! However, Romero confesses that he drew inspiration for the concept from another equally frightening story about infected displaying Zombie-like symptoms, the 1954 book I am Legend by Richard Matheson. And btw, don’t get me started on the embarrassment that was Will Smith’s remake. Go out and get yourself a copy of The Last Man on Earth (1964), which is actually 4 years earlier than Romero’s own film. Hell I believe it is public domain now so just torrent the hell out of it! Starring Vincent Price, the greatest actor EVER.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Zombies. With Romero paving the way for the modern concept of what the Zombie is ‘supposed’ to be, movies flooded into our cinemas and once the VHS player was available, into our homes. I won’t waste time listing the entire database of Zombie movies out there. You can use the internets. You have gotten this far, figure it out for yourself. I won’t even be tedious with highlights of some of my personal faves. I just thought it was interesting to point out how much film and literature has changed the concept of what the Zombie is now as opposed to what it used to be. Zombies were once in service to US. If you were vengeful enough or had what it took to pursue the cause, a slave was in the making. But now, Zombies are our enemy. We fear the idea of our own friends and family rising against us. We fear losing control.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day of the Dead

There seems to be two camps in the Zombie loving community; those who LIKE the 80’s installment in Romero’s storyline, and those who DON’T. Some ride the fence, as folks always will, but who cares about what they think? This is about absolutes- the “Big Picture”. So, it would go almost without saying (if you read my first blog) that in the grand scheme of things I fall dead center into the camp of the “LIKES”, and I will tell you why.
There are SIX episodes in the ongoing story of Romero’s world of the undead: Night, Dawn, Day, Land, Diary and the upcoming Survival. Everyone on the planet who has a taste for rotten flesh will have at least one movie above all the others that will stand out as a masterpiece. One movie that has that “certain something” the other films do not. Most of the time, the decision is unexplainable- just a preference towards a specific film. Sometimes, however the impact of the film can be so strong that the viewer is left thinking “This is the bestest Zomblie movie I have ever seen!” This was what I immediately thought when I saw the Day of the Dead. Unlike other folks though, I knew exactly why I fell in love with this segment in the series.
Day is very methodical. It’s grim. It feels a damned site more realistic than its two predecessors. There is no freaked out catatonic chick on a couch. No living dead with the urge to go shopping. Nope. This movie puts us into a realistic situation and then tells us that there is no way out. Romero claims that his movies are about the human condition, and this movie is closer to the issue than any other before or since. "My films are about the human condition more than the dead condition," says Romero. "I got news for you: You can't save the world. The world is going to do what it wants to do, that's what I think. We'll see what happens, and then see what happens after that. The zombie plague could be a hurricane, or any kind of catastrophe or disaster, really. It's all about humans and how they respond, fail to respond or respond stupidly." (For more on the interview go here--> )
Ever watched Day? For those a little rusty with the material, allow me the chance to catch you up.
Day takes place after the dead have begun to rise. The movie has military and non-military personnel holed up together in an underground missile silo. The object of the grouping is to instigate some tangible research into the living dead phenomenon. However, just like all of Romero’s films not everyone in the group gets along. The characters are larger representations of society’s problems. There is Capt Rhodes, the dominating asshole in charge. Apparently he is running this monkey farm. Then there is his jerk off grunt Pvt. Steel, who has a penchant for cursing. The Pilot John and the booze swilling Communications Tech McDermott; both of who want nothing more than to fly to a beach somewhere and sit the whole thing out. We have the innocent and overworked Research Scientist Lady- Sarah, the only one in the whole movie who seems to keep a level head. And of course the macabre, brilliant and oftentimes spooky Research Scientist- Dr Logan, or as the crew refers to him Frankenstein! The characters fuss and fight and bad things happen as a result. They take a unique situation where they could have lived for years and years together as a single unit and blew it all sky high. But they are human, and this is what humans do. We cannot get along, especially under duress.
I love the film for several reasons. As stated it is the most realistic out of the Dead series. From the way some folks in the movie crack up, to how others surprisingly keep it together, there is a seedy reality to the storyline. You can just see folks in a situation similar to this acting just like this. Aside from the drama, there are some great effects and wonderful zombie scenes. Hell, the movie even has an Alligator for Christ’s sake! Now, some folks will cite the cheesy music or the overlong bickering scenes as down points, but I love booth the 80’s era soundtrack and the arguing. But mainly, it’s the Doc that keeps me coming back for more.
I will admit I have a crush on Doctor Logan. He is seriously disturbed, but sexy in some sort of bloody mad scientist way! I won’t go into details, because I know you are not here to read about my sordid fantasies, but let’s just say that he is on my ‘list’… *wink wink nudge nudge, know what I mean?* Aside from being total sex, the Doc is also quite the genius and proposes a concept that I have embraced and since initially watching the film have maintained as the basis for my idea of what the living dead are about. “It wants me! It wants food! But it has no stomach, can take no nourishment from what it ingests. It's acting on INSTINCT!” More on that in a later Blog…
Overall, the movie is superior to me because it explores the scientific aspects of the problem. It just doesn’t throw some folks together with living dead at their door and say “Do something”. It treats the Zombie menace as an actual MENACE and not just a monkey wrench in an otherwise perfect day. These folks are together specifically to deal with the problem, but instead spend their time fucking up each other’s lives. This concept coincides with my rather low opinion of human beings overall. I am positive that if given the opportunity, mankind, when faced with a chance to overcome such insurmountable odds will spend more time pissing on each other than doing their job.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Post

Zombies are BOSS! If you don't like them you are either lame or you just suck. How could you not be fascinated by the idea of the walking dead? It is scary and brilliant at the same time!
My fave Zombie film of all time is Day of the Dead. That is the OLD one, though the remake is pretty neeto. My fave book is World War Z.
On future blogs I will explore lots of different ideas and theories put forth by not only myself, but those around me pertaining to the Zombie genre. Stay tuned, you will NOT be dissapointed!