Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Monster Special: Zombies

And so we come to the end of the week long monster extravaganza. Truth be told, I could fill up three posts with recommendations of my favorite zombie media, but then I wouldn’t have time to go see The Haunting of Molly Hartley, ready my Halloween costume (I'm going as Ashley Todd, to match my friend who’s going as the Crazy McCain Rally Lady), and meet my friends at the Village parade. So I’ll keep it brief and highlight just a few of my faves.

The gold standard for modern zombie movies, in my mind, is the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. It has everything you want in a horror movie – hordes of roaming zombies (including some zombified celebrities), horrible moments when the survivors realize one of their own is infected, a super creepy zombie baby, and people acting more logically than they sometimes do in horror movies. Of course, if comedy is more your thing, you could try the zom rom com spoof Shawn of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg. Or hell, marathon them both and top it off with Diary of the Dead, another Romero zombie flick done in the handheld-cam style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield and Quarantine, which means if you hate those films you’ll hate Diary, but if you’re open to the format you’ll find it’s a pretty great addition to the walking dead genre.

I never expected rock and roll to embrace zombies so wholeheartedly, but lo, three of my favorite artists have zombie-flavored songs. (Hm, zombie-flavored? Okay, that sounds disgusting.) First there’s “Zombie Me” by No More Kings. No More Kings specializes in kitschy pop-culture pop, they’re best known for “Sweep the Leg” which is a love letter to the 80s hit Karate Kid. “Zombie Me” is exactly about what you think it would be about – a dude who turns into a zombie – and is a pretty solid song musically as well as being pretty damned funny. Then there’s “The Living Dead” by Phantom Planet, a track off the soundtrack for Stubbs the Zombie, an Xbox game that lets you play as a zombie instead of as the person fleeing from zombies for once, and like the No More Kings selection, works perfectly well as a song regardless of content. Then there’s Ludo’s second album, The Broken Bride, which is a short concept EP which combines zombies, time travel, pterodactyls, angels, demons, and a scientists trying to reconnect with his dead wife, all in the span of five tracks. It’s an ambitious endeavor that the band pulls off beautifully. Now I’m just waiting for someone to write a full-length zombie rock opera.

Finally, there’s Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners, a wonderfully imaginative and fantastically written book of magical realism short stories. The book is worth reading no matter what, but in case you need more convincing, you can get the (almost) whole thing for free online right here as part of a promotion for Link’s new story collection, Pretty Monsters. Needless to say, my favorite story in the collection is “Some Zombie Contingency Plans”, which is not about zombies to the same degree as, say, World War Z, but it’s a clear nod to those of us who have zombie contingency plans in place and is just a fun read. And for now, it’s free, so you have no excuse not to check it out.

So go, rent a few zombie movies, prep your Halloween costume, go over your zombie contingency plan, and I’ll see you in November!


Sex Mahoney for President said...

Nobody ever takes the threat of a zombie takeover seriously, but it has happened before and it will happen again. In the weeks after September 11, 2001, there were living dead all over America, waving their flags and buying other patriotism related merchandise. We were unprepared to stop it, and now I know and have seen things that no human was meant to know or see, like who Toby Keith is, or what Karl Rove looks like naked.

Always have a backup plan ready for the zombies.

I'd like to see a zombie movie where the characters know about zombies and treat them accordingly. Sean of the Dead went halfway, but not far enough.

That's the one thing I didn't like about Dawn of the Dead. In the 70s, sure, I'm willing to buy that people wouldn't know about zombies, but in 2004 (or whenever that movie came out)? Come on. Seriously, come one.


Sex Mahoney for President

smd said...

Put that way, we might have to brace for another zombie takeover on Wednesday, depending on how the election goes.

Diary of the Dead does a pretty good job of having their characters catch on to the zombies quickly, not too much, "Hey, what's wrong with that guy? Let's go over and see if he's okay! Drr..." Plus, they run into a bunch of dudes who, as soon as the invasion started, stockpiled weapons and food and stuff, which is smart. I hate seeing people try to defend themselves with, like, a butter knife, when every house has plenty of items that can be made into viable weapons just laying about. If you can't figure out how to fashion the pole of a halogen lamp into a zombie-fighting weapon, you probably deserve to be eaten.