Zombie Movie Night Oct. ’13: Day 1

I’m not going to waste any energy running through the Golden Zombey winners when my brother already does an amazing and thorough job of it on his blog.  http://askmeaboutzombies.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/20122013-golden-zombey-awards/  In particular, I encourage a peek at the file he created, since obviously I wouldn’t plug just a plain old list.  Anyway, congratulations to Warm Bodies, Juan of the Dead and all the other great movies we watched in the last year.  And even though we didn’t award them anything, you should also see World War Z and The Cabin in the Woods.  Really, the next year has its work cut out for it to top this past one.

How will the first batch of films stack up?  Here we go with Year 5…

Corpses stars Jeff Fahey during the pre-LOST dry years as a local sheriff who butts heads with Fred, the local mortician.  Fred, who has lost his wife to the sheriff and is about to lose his funeral home turns to desperate measures.  His experimental new embalming fluid brings the dead back to life for a brief period.  Better still, they are willing to follow his commands as long as he continues to provide them with this life-giving serum.  So of course Fred has them do a lot of robbing and stealing so he can get enough money to save his parlor and win back his wife…somehow.  But things don’t go as planned when the undead start getting a little too murder-y and begin infecting the general populace with their condition.  That tends to draw attention.  Guy trying to make a quick illegal buck but everything goes deadly wrong?  This movie was the inspiration for Breaking Bad!  Vince Gilligan’s secret shame: he ripped off Corpses!

This is a pretty harmless B movie with most of the actors hamming it up because they know this is pure camp.  Fahey goes full-Rambo during the climax even though it makes little sense for his character.  The guy who plays Fred, whose many credits include a lot of Skinemax features, really goes over the top in a way that totally works for the wacky vibe this film goes for.  I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.  If anything, it’s too restrained.  If you’re campy and you know it, go all the way.  What I mean is basically- No more sex with bras on.  Grade: C+

corpses

Next was Dead Space: Downfall, an animated film that serves as a prequel to a video game series I’ve never heard of, let alone played.  The year is the future, and a space crew of space guys use their something-ship (a space ship perhaps?) to unearth some kind of alien space relic.   Unfortunately, the space relic was actually emprisoning a species of space baddies that use human beings as hosts so they can go on a MURDER-DEATH-KILL spree.  Also, the surviving humans can also start going space crazy and turn on each other, making things all the more difficult for our wily crew of space security guards.  IN SPACE!

I obviously don’t know how faithful this is to game canon or if it effectively sets up the events yet to come, but it works as a fairly straight forward survival story featuring space monsters.  The voice acting is solid, as they managed to land the typical cartoon voice cast who each have hundreds of things listed on their imdb pages.  That is some nice work if you can get it.  I can’t say I got too into this; everyone we meet is doomed for obvious reasons, so much so that they even tell you at the beginning and then flash back to what happened.  It’s another case where I didn’t hate it but a year from now, I will barely remember it.  In fact, I had to look at my brother’s blog to remember what the name of the movie was.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Grade: C

dead space

 

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2013 Golden Zombey Nominations

As Year 4 of Zombie Movie Night concludes, the undead continue to be all the rage.  We saw a record number of theatrical releases and/or things people may have actually heard of.  Zombies maintaining a stronghold in the pop culture mainstream is definitely being reflected in the nominations for this year’s Golden Zombeys.  Gone are the days of scouring the globe, looking for any country that might have made an obscure zombie film.  We watched so many domestic releases in the past year that we had to change the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ to just plain Foreign, so that the UK could fill in the blank slots.  It’s true that we are not quite the Razzies yet, but if zombies as a thing keeps growing exponentially, it won’t be long before we’re handing out real awards at a horror festival or something.  As it stands now, there are no physical awards, but if you do happen to win one, stumble upon this blog and choose to accept the award, we will gladly send you a certificate or something nice.  My brother loves creating fancy stuff with his computer.

…You may laugh, but my brother and I have both had comments left by actors  in the films we reviewed within the last year.  That is clearly the first step to becoming legit.

You can find links to previous Golden Zombey Awards at Zombie Shakespeare’s blog here:   http://askmeaboutzombies.wordpress.com/the-golden-zombeys/

As always, the film doesn’t have to be new to get nominated; we just have to have watched it in the last 12 months.  And now without further ado, here are the nominees for the 2013 Golden Zombeys:

 

BEST ZOMBIE PICTURE

The Cabin in the Woods

Dead Alive

Juan of the Dead

Warm Bodies

World War Z

 

BEST ACTOR

Alexis Diaz de Villegas- Juan of the Dead

Nicholas Hoult- Warm Bodies

Eric Peter-Kaiser- Evilution

Scott Peat- Dead Season

Brad Pitt- World War Z

 

BEST ACTRESS

Kristen Connolly- The Cabin in the Woods

Jane Levy- Evil Dead

Marissa Merrill- Dead Season

Teresa Palmer- Warm Bodies

Sarah Spencer- Harold’s Going Stiff

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Rob Corrdry- Warm Bodies

Vinnie Jones- Legend of the Bog

Fran Kranz- The Cabin in the Woods

Jorge Molina- Juan of the Dead

Bill Oberst Jr.- Scary or Die

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Christa B. Allen- Detention of the Dead

Danielle Chuchran- Osombie

Tawny Cypress- Remains

Daniella Kertesz- World War Z

Analeigh Tipton- Warm Bodies

 

OUTSTANDING ZOMBIE IN A ZOMBIE PICTURE

The Bog Body- Legend of the Bog

Fucko the Clown- Scary or Die

Harold- Harold’s Going Stiff

Quinto- Zombie Dearest

Vera Cosgrove- Dead Alive

 

BEST NON-ZOMBIE VILLAIN

Korrok- John Dies at the End

Harry Cooper- Night of the Living Dead

Ollie- Hunting Creatures

President Svetlana Belikova- Resident Evil: Damnation

“The Zombies”- Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead

 

BEST ZOMBIE FIGHTING DUO

Dead Season- Elvis & Tweeter

Gallowwalkers- Aman & Fabulos

Insane in the Brain- Sloan & Goldie

Juan of the Dead- Juan & Lazaro

A Little Bit Zombie- Max & Penelope

 

BEST ZOMBIE COMEDY

Bloodlust Zombies

Dead Alive

Detention of the Dead

Insane in the Brain

Juan of the Dead

 

BEST NUDITY

Bloodlust Zombies

The Cabin in the Woods

Dead Season

Infected

John Dies at the End

 

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Dead Alive

Hunting Creatures

Juan of the Dead

Legend of the Bog

Harold’s Going Stiff

 

MOST MEMORABLE MASSACRING OF ZOMBIES

Dead Alive- Lionel +Lawnmower

Detention of the Dead- “Revenge of the Nerd”

Gallowwalkers- Aman’s Revenge

Juan of the Dead- Mass Decapitation

Osombie- Introduction to the Team

 

MOST ORIGINAL ZOMBIE ORIGIN

Black Swarm- Wasps

Infected- Deer

Insane in the Brain- Funky Pheromones

Scary or Die- Blood, Piss & Moonshine

Zombie Dearest- Wishing on a Corpse Penis

 

BEST SOUNDTRACK

The Cabin in the Woods

Detention of the Dead

Humans Vs. Zombies

Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead

Warm Bodies

 

MOST BIZARRE ZOMBIE BEHAVIOR

Dead Alive- Sentient Guts

Monster Brawl- Wrestling

Remains- Sleeping

State of Emergency- Giving Up

World War Z- Piling Up

 

BEST UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY

Black Swarm- Romantic Backstory

Hunting Creatures- The Origin of Boris

Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead- Fast Motion

The Revenant- Incompetent SWAT Team

Rise of the Zombies- Bad FX Car Crash

 

BIGGEST “WTF” MOMENT

John Dies at the End- John Doesn’t Die at the End

John Dies at the End- Meat Monster

Legend of the Bog- Wacky Cab Driver is a Murderer

Legend of the Bog- Zombie Exchanges Boot For Hand

Tokyo Gore Police- Freak Show Auction

 

WORST ENDING

DeadHeads

Infected

Resident Evil: Damnation

The Revenant

Zombie Dearest

 

BEST POSTER ART

All Eligible Films are Nominated.

Sorry, The Bay! 😛

 

Total Nominations

(including Best Poster so no one gets left out.  Except The Bay)

Juan of the Dead: 8

Dead Alive: 7

Warm Bodies: 7

The Cabin in the Woods: 6

Legend of the Bog: 6

Dead Season: 5

Detention of the Dead: 5

John Dies at the End: 5

World War Z: 5

Harold’s Going Stiff: 4

Hunting Creatures: 4

Infected: 4

Insane in the Brain: 4

Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead: 4

Scary or Die: 4

Zombie Dearest: 4

Black Swarm: 3

Bloodlust Zombies: 3

Gallowwalkers: 3

Osombie: 3

Remains: 3

Resident Evil: Damnation: 3

The Revenant: 3

DeadHeads: 2

Evil Dead: 2

Evilution: 2

Humans vs. Zombies: 2

A Little Bit Zombie: 2

Monster Brawl: 2

Night of the Living Dead: 2

Rise of the Zombies: 2

State of Emergency: 2

Tokyo Gore Police: 2

Gangs of the Dead: 1

Shadows of the Dead: 1

The Bay: 0

 

 

Zombie Movie Night: Year 4 Capsule Reviews

Oct ’12

The Cabin in the Woods: Zombies are a key part of the plot but it’s not a zombie movie at all, really.  It’s hard to explain it and to do so would create massive spoilers and believe me when I say Cabin will be a million times better if you have no idea what it is going in.   A+

Shadows of the Dead: This might be interesting if the dialogue wasn’t atrocious and repetitive.  Do yourself a favor and avoid this one at all costs.  F

Evilution: … This one landed on the pleasant surprise list.  Decent plot, decent acting (mostly), effective intentional comedy…  and even a halfway decent unexpected twist on the normal zombie movie tropes.  B+

Dead Season: The film does an above average job of delving into the human element of the apocalypse.  Like is it enough to just survive?  Some might see Dead Season as a pretty obvious rip off of Day of the Dead, but I prefer to consider it an homage.  Better to be well-made, yet derivative than a 100% original turd.  B+

Nov. ’12

DeadHeads: …This movie can not get out of its own way in its apparently never ending quest to be terrible….not one choice made by the actors, directors or writers turns out to be a good one.  And let’s not get started on the ending that goes for romantic reunion at the expense of literally everything else.  D

Legend of the Bog: …Suffers most from not really knowing what it wants to be.  It has funny beats and it has dramatic beats but the parts don’t add up to a decent whole.  B-

Dead Alive: …A triumph of campy, gory fun.  I didn’t get sick this time, but it is still the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.  And I say that with all the affection in the world.  Dead Alive may be early Peter Jackson, but it holds up just as well as anything he’s done since.  A+

Juan of the Dead: …Another absolute gem.  There is a pureness of heart lurking underneath all the inanity and it is genuinely moving how far Juan is willing to go for love of friends, family and country.  I highly recommend getting your hands on this one.  A+

Night of the Living Dead: What the film does well and what I think is one of the main reasons it holds up (mostly) and has spawned so so many imitators over a forty year span is that it understands human conflict.  Individuals have the need to feel like they are in charge of their own fates.   I’ve seen bummer endings before and will again, but this one is so bleak and callous and jarring, it’s amazing.  A+

Dec. ’12

The Revenant: The plotting, pacing, and tone are all over the map.  …It is the ending where the Revenant really goes off the rails.  There might be some drama to mine from an immortal undead’s inability to commit suicide but not after eighty minutes of weak comedy.  It’s frustratingly close to being something good, but it just couldn’t quite get there.  C+

Insane in the Brain:  Once you get past the brutally long zombie intro and first murder and the pointless and tiresome exposition of the prostitutes’s characters only to have them be offed, the proceedings get much more interesting.  The silly dialogue, wacky sound effects, looping and reversing of the same shots all give Insane in the Brain a hilarious “what the hell am I watching” kind of charm.  C+

Gangs of the Dead: …Opens with some solid zombie action but quickly grinds to a halt once the characters become trapped in a warehouse.  There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better somewhere else and for that, I just can’t recommend it.  C

Jan. ’13

A Little Bit Zombie: …Not as aggressively horrible as Deadheads…  [but] it still isn’t very good.   …The first five minutes and last five minutes are pretty solid…It’s the eighty minutes in between those two points that are the problem.  C

Bloodlust Zombies:   I really enjoyed this one.  If you purposely turn on a movie where top-billing goes to a porn star famous for having a big butt, then you can’t set your standards too high.  Between intentional comedy and unintentional comedy, it ends up being just about a laugh a minute.  B

Monster Brawl: …A loving tribute to both movie monsters and pro wrestling.  …Once you know who wins the matches, it would probably take away most of the fun, but for one night, I found Monster Brawl to be absolutely hilarious and well worth my time.  A

Feb. ’13

Zombie Dearest: The film tries vaguely to be a take on the monkey paw tale, where making wishes has unintended consequences, but there is no continuity to this at all.   …The more I think about it, the more I hate it.  We also get the most offensive ending…Deus Ex Machina.  D

Resident Evil: Damnation:  The style of the movie takes some getting used to, as it plays like a 2 hour video game cut scene.  The whole thing is a jumbled mess of fake politics that is hard to get into.  I’ve never played more than half of any RE games, so if I can’t be distracted by saying, “oh cool, it’s Leon!” then what’s in it for me?  C

March ’13

Scary or Die: …Five short films of varying lengths…the first one is the best.   It’s hard to give Scary or Die a grade because of the varying length and quality of each story so I’ll just stick to the middle of the road and say it’s a C.  If you’re not going into it expecting an interlocking zombie story, you might bump it to a B.

Rise of the Zombies: This movie is an absolute joke and you get the sense that the actors know it too.   It holds your interest the way a car crash holds your interest, but ultimately we were enjoying it for all the wrong reasons.  D

April ’13

Hunting Creatures:  …All the trademarks of an amateur shoot.  Bad acting, bad effects, minimalist plot.  It’s too bad to recommend a watch, but there are definitely worse zombie movies you could waste your time with.  D+

The Bay:  If the victims had all turned into zombies or even just crazed killers, the movie would have not only qualified but probably gotten a good grade.  As it is, all the decent build lazily climaxes and the resolution to the disaster occurs offscreen.  So much wasted opportunity here.  And definitely no zombies.  Grade: N/A  (Disqualified from Golden Zombey contention)

Remains:  The acting isn’t bad… but the problem lies more in the characterizations.  It gets a better grade than Hunting Creatures simply because of the better production value, but honestly, to me, it was  more of a trudge to get through this one  C+

Warm Bodies: This film is so much more than a supernatural teen romance.   It is a disservice to dismiss this film as tween fodder.   …The subtle ways R slowly regains his color and indeed the whole world regains its life is beautifully rendered.  The performances all range from solid to outstanding.  I walked out feeling not like I had just sat through some tween garbage, but like I had seen a Top 5 zombie film.  A+

May ’13

John Dies at the End:   I didn’t get it, yet I understood it perfectly.  …it takes a hit on the grade for the lack of zombies and not being as apocalyptic as it could have been.   I would recommend seeing it for yourself  but don’t see it for its zombie content.  B

Osombie: …Above average in most areas.  A surprisingly fun little romp [that] turned into an unlikely first pager on our official rankings list.

Evil Dead: There’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative about this new film.   I mostly walked away saying, “That film seemed unnecessary.”  C+

June ’13

State of Emergency:  …a test pattern might have been more compelling.  This is a paint-by-numbers zombie flick which goes out of its way to shoehorn in just about every cliche you can think of.   Most of it is the fun kind of bad movie, but it just doesn’t pack enough punch on the scales of good or bad to be very memorable.  C

Black Swarm:   I write about a lot of movies that are enjoyably bad, but Black Swarm takes it to another level.  This movie is ridiculous.  Black Swarm is gut-bustingly hilarious in its badness.  B-

Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead: …The premise is more ambitious than the budget allows for.  The acting is subpar and some of the character motivations make no sense.  Still, this is a fun little movie that is a nice homage to Night without being the total rip-off you might expect it to be.  B

World War Z:  …Delivers in every way you would expect an action movie to deliver and it’s a thrilling and effective romp through the apocalypse.  It’s a solid zombie movie and even has enough action to satisfy someone who might not be into the undead craze.  A

July ’13

Humans Vs. Zombies:  The first half hour is a waste of time as we get to know each and every potential zombie entree.  Just something about the whole film didn’t click for me.  It’s above average to be sure, but it’s pretty run of the mill.  …I do give them credit for a dynamite ending…  B

Tokyo Gore Police:  While I enjoyed the film, I have to penalize it for not being a zombie flick. We were misled by a deceiving and downright incorrect plot synopsis…  But… it didn’t really matter.  B

Aug. ’13

Infected:   [It’s] the good kind of bad, elevating it from trash heap to middle of the pack.  This is a bad movie for general audiences but if you’re a zombie fan who loves snarking on things, you probably won’t be disappointed. B-

Detention of the Dead:  …Once the survivng group of high school cliches starts acting scared… the film upgrades itself from unwatchable screwball comedy to slightly more watchable zombie movie.    It’s weird for a comedy to get better when it stops being a comedy, but that’s the case…  C

Sept. ’13

Gallowwalkers:  Takes a promising premise…  and turns it into a confusing and largely boring mess.  Snipes basically plays a not-very-different version of Blade but it doesn’t really work.  C

Harold’s Going Stiff:  …A rather well-done mockumentary…It’s a character study between an old invalid and the nurse who comes to care for him.  If it had ditched the lame jokes and gone all in on the social commentary…it would have been a contender for one of the best we’ve ever seen.  A

Zombie Movie Night: Sept. ’13

The 4th year concludes with two films that only recently became available in the United States.  Would they be good enough to swoop in at the last second and steal some Golden Zombey nominations from some of the movies, actors and moments we already had in mind?  Only one way to find out!

First up was Gallowwalkers, featuring the triumphant return of Wesley Snipes to our hearts and living rooms.  Snipes plays Aman, a loner-type who roams the Old West-ish desert in search of vengeance against those who gang-raped his one true love, who later died while giving birth to a rape baby.  He finds them all in a prison and blows them away with no remorse.  Unfotrunately for him, to save his life, his mother had agreed to have a curse put on him so that everyone he kills would come back as the undead.  Not that big a deal for most people, I’d imagine, but Wesley Snipes is not most people.  So now he’s gotta go track and kill the rapists twice.

Unfortunately, Gallowwalkers takes a promising premise of “revenge movie with zombies” and turns it into a confusing and largely boring mess.  Snipes basically plays a not-very-different version of Blade but it doesn’t really work.  Part of Blade’s coolness was that he did cool things.  Snipes in this film seems to think the character is just inherently cool because he is playing him.  He speaks in a perpetually grumpy monotone and often comes off as disinterested even though he is supposedly out for vengeance and should be acting super pissed.  The villains are a bit more interesting, as instead of eating flesh, they have to steal it by killing people and fitting themselves into it, like getting a new outfit.  Even the Big Bad is given a bit of pathos as he is tortured by the fact that his son was not one of those who returned from the dead.  I’m starting to make this sound too good, though.  Mostly, this movie is a jumbled and boring mess that, like Snipes, thinks it’s cooler than it is.  Grade: C

gallowwalkers

Next was Harold’s Going Stiff, a rather well-done mockumentary about a new disease sweeping through the UK, slowly turning the men into zombies.  Most of the focus is on Harold, the first known case, and slowest to deteriorate and his caretaker, Penny.  We also follow a group of well-meaning vigilantes who take out those who have gone full-zombie, though the morality of what they’re doing is somewhat questionable since the zombies in this case are very clearly sick people and not monsters.

It seems to me like the filmmakers set out to make a wacky, raunchy comedy but none of that lands very strongly.  All the men are turning stiff, hardy har har.  I won’t spoil it, but the cause of the epidemic is another thinly-veiled dick joke.  Penny, the nurse, suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and has to carry toilet paper on her dashboard in case she needs to pull over and head off into the woods.  Yes, the comedy is really that weak.  To its credit, the film does not let itself get derailed by what it set out to be and instead turns to the central relationship to find real heart and soul in these characters.  Harold is completely coherent so this isn’t even a zombie movie in most of his scenes.  It’s a character study between an old invalid and the nurse who comes to care for him.  Sarah Spencer, whose only imdb credit is this movie, is an absolute gem in the role, reining in the silliness and anchoring it with real heart and emotion.  She is so sweet that you can’t help but want the best for her.  When her heart breaks, yours breaks with her.  Harold’s Going Stiff could have been so much better if it had ditched the lame jokes and gone all in on the social commentary about the way we treat the old, the sick and even the overweight.  We all have the same desire to be happy.  We all have flaws and want to find someone who accepts us for who we are.  And we are all going to die.  These are the issues Harold could have and should have addressed more.  If it had, it would have been a contender for one of the best we’ve ever seen.  Grade: A 

harold

How To Be a Writer

I have become friends and colleagues with a lot of writers over the last couple of years so I’ve therefore seen a lot of blog posts, status updates and list-making about the writing process. The Dos and Don’ts. The Do’s and Don’t’s. Most Common Grammar Mistakes. Biggest Pet Peeves. Etc Etc. I’ve been on a creative surge lately, after coming THIS close to telling my publisher “I Give UP!” so I thought I’d throw my own hat in the ring as far as giving writing advice. …Step One is obviously Don’t Give UP!

***JUST DO IT. The most common thing I see on people’s timelines and in advice blog posts is “Want to be a writer? Write something. Congratulations, you’re a writer.” Perhaps a bit snarky, but it is spot on. If you are serious about being a storyteller, don’t let anything stop you from trying it. Get something down. If it sucks, don’t worry, there will be plenty of people who will tell you so on the internet; that’s what it’s for. The digital revolution has made it infinitely easier than it used to be to get your work out there in the world. I was scared to death when I posted ‘The Last Mailman: Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Zombies!’ to the Kindle store. But it sold. And it sold so well that I ended up getting an email from Permuted Press asking me if they could polish it up and add it to their library. I got to fulfill a dream, make all the new friends and colleagues I mentioned above and best of all, I got some validation that writing could be a viable career option. Okay, so I’m not there financially yet, but I still feel like a success when I pick my own book off my shelf and show it to people. It would not have happened if I had chickened out at the moment of truth.

***READ, WATCH TV, LISTEN TO MUSIC “Read” shows up on a lot of lists too, because that one is also true. But I would expand it to “absorb anything creative.” You never know where your inspiration is going to come from. I wanted to write a zombie novel because my brother and I watch a lot of zombie movies. It’s common to think that every story has been told already or that you might be ripping someone off. Well, sorry, it’s probably true that out there somewhere someone has told stories similar to yours. That part can’t be avoided. BUT… no one else is you. As long as you’re not plagiarizing someone word for word, it’s fine. Twilight lady didn’t toss out her novels because there was already a book about vampires. She put her own twist on them. There’s always a way to make something your own. You think I didn’t know there was already a ton of zombie stuff out there? I have my share of bad reviews, but no one has yet accused me of ripping off George Romero or Max Brooks. You are allowed to be influenced by and pay homage to those who came before you. Otherwise, we’d all be wringing our hands at the royalties we have to pay Shakespeare’s estate every time we tell a tale. So absorb every piece of modern art you can, whether it’s books, movies, TV or modern art. I broke my most recent crippling writer’s block by watching Under the Dome. It made me want to READ Under the Dome to see how it was different. Reading Stephen King made me want to write again. So I sat down and forced myself. And the words started coming again. I didn’t have any new ideas, but the process of just doing it led to the ideas coming. See, the second list item brought me back to the first one. It all leads back to just doing it.

***”IGNORE THE SQUIGGLY LINES” OR DON’T GET HUNG UP ON THE LITTLE THINGS

The thing about Under the Dome that inspired me to get back in front of the keyboard myself was that it is not THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL we all think we have to aspire to create. It’s just a guy who’s pretty darn good at telling stories doing his thing. I am sure an editor or an English teacher could comb through it and find a hundred examples of things “not to do.” In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I read that gigantic book in a week and I enjoyed every page of it, even the stupid parts. Life is full of nitpickers who criticize because it’s their job or they’re bolstered by the anonymity of the internet or, hell, it’s just easier than doing something for themselves. Even the squiggly line that appears under your sentence fragments doesn’t get a vote. The only one who can tell your story is you and if it’s a fun ride, the readers will like it even it has bad grammar or is lacking in hyper-realism. The guy who complains, “That’s not how guns really work! Do your research!” is always going to find a flaw somewhere. It’s better to make your book fun and accessible to the masses than appease that one guy by adding five pages of what kind of gun it is and making your book infinitely more boring. If you’re a gun person, then sure, include more details about the gun because it’s being true to who you are and what you like. But don’t force yourself into doing something you’re not comfortable with because someone else says so. Which leads me to…

***DON’T TAKE ALL THE ADVICE I don’t just mean the criticisms like I listed above. It’s pretty easy to get derailed by the squiggly line telling you your grammar is bad or the firearms enthusiast telling you to do more research, but you can also get hung up just as much by people who mean well and are sincerely trying to help you. I’ve read all the advice lists and blog posts that I mentioned at the start and I will admit it occasionally gives me a temporary panic attack or a crisis of confidence. Take the recent passing of Elmore Leonard, for instance. This led to a widespread re-posting of his rules for writing. “#3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.” “Oh my God! My character just “muttered” something. I must be a terrible writer because I broke one of Elmore Leonard’s rules and he was way more successful and probably better than me! And I just used an exclamation point, which he also said not to do! I Give UP!!!”
Listen, you don’t believe everything you read in the paper, or that everything the government says is true or heed every single piece of parenting advice. So don’t let yourself fall into the black hole of writing advice. Don’t overthink it. Read the advice, agree with it or disagree as you see fit, and take the stuff you like into consideration. I have never read any of Leonard’s work but if he really did use “said” every single time, I think that’s kind of stupid. I do, however, agree with his assertion that you shouldn’t go into too much detail about characters or places. BUT… I was already naturally not doing that anyway, so maybe I just saw that and said “YES! That’s right!” because it was the way I work. You know, exactly the way I disagreed with the part of the list that is opposite of my style. Find the style that suits you, take the advice that works for you and, you guessed it, just keep going! (I think exclamation points have their appropriate place, Elmore!!!!!!)

***SAVE!!!!! Nothing hurts a writer more deeply than the words he or she so carefully crafted disappearing into thin air. I’ve been the victim of a broken flashdrive. Last week this very website decided to not save a post I spent an hour and a half on even though it automatically says “draft saved” every couple of minutes. I hit Preview and it was blank, and when I went back to the draft, it was all gone. I was heartbroken. Nothing demoralizes or disrupts the writing process more than having to go back to something you already did. So save it and then save it again somewhere else. I’m about to highlight this whole thing and ‘right click, copy it’ because I learned from my mistaken notion that WordPress drafts are always going to be there.

And then I’m going to get back to my novel because this blog is distracting me.

Zombie Movie Night- August ’13

For what I believe to be the first time, ZMN featured two films that were released the year we watched them.  It just goes to show that the zombie revolution is not a fad.  Dead people wanting to kill you and eat your guts will always be in style.

First up was Infected, starring Michael Madsen and William Forsythe as old army buddies meeting up for a hunting trip as a chance to bond with their adult children.  But a blood virus passed from ticks to deer to humans has other plans for the weekend.  Zombie plans.

This film’s biggest problem is its disjointed narrative.  It opens with a big zombie attack scene and then quickly flashes back to “12 hours earlier” so we can see how we got there.  Which is fine, in theory.  Why it doesn’t work all that well here is because the back story doesn’t really give us any new information except for character names and relationships.  (And it doesn’t even do a great job with the latter.  It gets distracting wondering which son belongs to which dad… and is that guy also a son… and whose grandma is that… oh it’s that woman’s… but who is that woman… and who is that other woman one of the guys is trying to hook up with?)  You basically spend most of the movie waiting to get back to the place where it started just to get things moving along.  When you do a set-up like that, you’re supposed to reveal stuff along the way so when the audience  meets the dominatrix ninja we can go, “Oh so that’s why that guy had both arms chopped off and a ball gag in his mouth at the beginning!”  (Disclaimer: I made that up.)  Then once we finally catch up to the opening scene, there’s a few more minutes of action followed by an epilogue where basically everyone has died off camera.  Madsen narrates while his son scavenges and this goes on for so long that it feels like the beginning of a new movie.  Really, compared to this ending, Lord of the Rings Part 3 could be praised for its brevity.

Still, the movie is the good kind of bad, elevating it from trash heap to middle of the pack.  There’s some fun to be had with characters being psychic by script requirement , gratuitous nudity, as well as characters who seem to react to the film score.  Scary music, run!  Also, Madsen gets a speech where he growls like Sgt Slaughter and seems to have deluded himself into thinking this will be his Oscar clip.  The movie does too, since they show it twice.

This is a bad movie for general audiences but if you’re a zombie fan who loves snarking on things, you probably won’t be disappointed.  Grade: B-

infected

Next up was Detention of the Dead, which sets itself up as Breakfast Club with Zombies played as a screwball comedy.  It gets better as it goes along, but for the first half, it flails and fails at its own premise.

I have written plenty in general about bad comedy and how much I hate it, but in this case I can pinpoint my exact problem with “Detention.”  The apocalypse is serious business and any attempt to not play it straight, even in a comedy, is a grave misstep because it requires too great of a disconnect from reality.   Simon Pegg deciding what part of his vinyl collection he can fling at the undead lands as a gag because it’s an absurdity drawn from character.  A high school kid cracking wise about how his classmates are eating each other rings false because no one would react like that.  An apocalyptic comedy works when the characters are funny within the scenario, not when the characters are being funny AT the scenario.  Characters in “This is the End” arguing over the rationing of a candy bar- yes.  Girl getting upset over blood on her clothes while her teacher is being eaten alive right in front of her- no.

Fortunately, there comes a point in every apocalypse where shit starts to get really real, and once the survivng group of high school cliches starts acting scared and contemplating their own mortality, the film upgrades itself from unwatchable screwball comedy to slightly more watchable zombie movie.  It hits all the usual zombie beats: hiding a bite, stay put or run for it?, sacrifice, etc.  It’s unoriginal, sure, but at least it’s treating the zombies and the end of the world with the respect they deserve.  It’s weird for a comedy to get better when it stops being a comedy, but that’s the case with “Detention.”

I have to add that the best part of the production is that they paid the money for a real soundtrack and have that Golden Zombey pretty well locked up.  It seems like they made an apocalypse playlist of alternative/indie songs and then went out and got it.  Matt & Kim’s ‘Good Ol Fashioned Nightmare’, a cover of Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind?’ and ‘George Romero’ by Sprites all contribute to making the music better than the movie deserves.

Grade: C

detention

The Last Mailman: References

Oh, God, I forgot all about this! I’ve been clearing out my email clutter which was long overdue, and I found something from Tony Papaleo, aka, the only person who submitted an entry for the half-baked contest I came up with well over a year ago. Well, Tony, you win!

Here are the conscious references I made while writing The Last Mailman: Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Zombies!

Zombie movie references:
-Jasper, Maria and friends were holed up in a mall prior to the events of the book. DAWN OF THE DEAD

-The original climax of the book, (now more like the three quarter mark in the expanded version) takes place at a farm house. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

-DJ calls Bill’s trained zombie “Bub,” the same name given to the trained zombie in DAY OF THE DEAD.

-There is an intentional “ya know” break when DJ is speaking to Stacey so that the end of his sentence is more pronounced. The end of the sentence being “join us.” EVIL DEAD

-The last line of the book: “They are coming to get us.” is a direct nod to “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

-DJ wipes some goo off his hands after bashing a zombie’s head in and says, “Brains.” RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
Non-zombie references:

-As Bill realizes zombies can’t hurt him anymore, he shouts things like “Eat me now! What are you waiting for?” very similar to what Dutch screams at the end of Predator.

-As Douglas is being dragged away by the cult he shouts “This is murder!” just as Nic Cage does while being killed by a cult in Wicker Man.

-The whole getting on the plane climax is a spoof of The Poseidon Adventure. Bill screams about Linda being killed just like Ernest Borgnine did and DJ hanging hopelessly and dropping to his “death” is similar to Gene Hackman’s fate.

References too obscure for anyone to get:

-The character of Stacey is named after Stacey Jay, YA author of “You Are So Undead to Me” among others, who as we speak is becoming more and more well-known. She was the first “celebrity” who responded to me on Twitter. “Go help Megan pick the berries” is a reference to Megan Berry, the heroine of YASUTM and later on, Stacey proclaims, “You are so dead to me!”

References only I can get because they came from my dreams!

“I need a bigger umbrella!” could be a reference to Jaws, but it’s also something I shouted during one of my many, many zombie dreams and it stuck with me. 🙂

In the same dream, I imagined being unable to defeat some zombies in a warehouse because they would be wearing hard hats. That became the characters’ reason to not go into a warehouse in the book.

Finally, the whole TLM novel came about because of a dream I had where I was trying to deliver a sentimental locket to someone during the zombie apocalypse but my plane crashed.