Movies

Top Five: Zombedies

For those of you who don’t know, a zombedy combines the horror of zombies with the hilarity of a comedy. The end result is often something fun and memorable for even casual fans of either genre. There’s no better way to get through the zombie apocalypse than with a laugh or two.

Honorable mention – Doghouse (2009), Dead Alive (1992), and Dead Set (2008).

5) Cooties (2014) – This is the most recent film on the list. It’s about a group of summer school teachers who have to survive the first day of summer school after a tainted chicken nugget infects one of their students. Only pre-pubescent kids are affected, and even a baby gets in on the face chewing fun. Rainn Wilson is hilarious as the over the top macho gym teacher. This film won’t be out on home video until December but you can watch it on demand.

4) Cockneys Versus Zombies (2012) – This film follows two brothers as they try and rob a bank in order to save the old folk’s home where their tough as nails granddad lives. What sets Cockneys Versus Zombies apart is the old folks. The director has fun pitting them against the undead in various ways. In one scene, an older gentleman falls asleep outside. He wakes up after the zombies arrive and him trying to race back to the home before the shambling undead is pretty funny. Yes, this film is often over the top, but that’s what makes it so much fun, for fuck’s sake!

3) Zombieland (2009) – What makes Zombieland work so well is the interaction between Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson). The writers poke fun at pop culture in fun and intelligent ways. Their zombie kill of the week bit always brings a smile to my face. Emma Stone plays a badass con woman which is a refreshing departure from what she normally plays. A cameo by Bill Murray, who plays himself, is also memorable. Anyone got a Twinkie?

2) Return of the Living Dead (1985) – This film broke the zombie rules back in the mid-eighties. These zombies talk, think, and need to eat your brains! Frank and Freddy are two dimwitted and bumbling security guards at a medical supply company who find a strange drum. They eventually damage it and unleash a military experiment, yeah it’s a zombie, who hungers for brains. Even though this film is often times downright silly, the humor is what drives the plot. One of my favorite scenes is when the zombies grab a police radio and call for more cops. They’re still hungry. Later more cops arrive and are immediately surrounded by the hungry undead. If you haven’t seen this film, you’re missing out.

1) Shaun of the Dead (2004) – What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? You’ve got a bit of red on you! Shaun is a normal guy who works his life away at a dead end job until the dead rise and he’s presented with a chance to do something epic with his life. And all he wants to do is get his on and off again girlfriend to safety…at his favorite pub. What makes this film work so well is the perfect balance between laughs and horror. The writers and director really nailed it. For most horror, and zombie fans, Shaun of the Dead is a film they keep going back to time and time again. I know I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it and I still keep coming back for more.

What are some of your favorite zombedies? Which films would you have included on this list? Sound off in the comments below.

Advertisements

Top Five Werewolf Movies

Wolves at the door cover

SNAFU: Wolves at the Door (Cohesion Press) is almost a week old. Aww, look how it snarls at strangers! Careful, don’t get too close. It bites!

In honor of the recent release of Wolves at the Door, I thought it would be fun to share my five favorite films featuring (say that five times fast!) werewolves. Maybe readers will understand a little more where inspiration for my short story, Project Lupine, came from. Let’s get right to it!

5) The Wolf Man (1941)

I used to love watching this one as a kid. I remember the gypsy woman warning the main character to beware and him never listening. What I enjoy most about this film is the man versus beast aspect. Plus, if not for this film, most other werewolf films wouldn’t exist. This is where the legend began.

4) The Howling (1981)

What stands out to me most about this film is the tension. The director did a great job of ratcheting it up throughout the film. And we can’t forget about that awesome ending!

3) Underworld (2003)

I know, some of you may be saying this isn’t a traditional werewolf film. For me, this film wouldn’t work without its hairy, snarling werewolf side. And, those werewolves look damn intimidating. The special effects really stand out in Underworld. The sleek look of the film works pretty well too. Underworld will always be a favorite around my house.

2) An American Werewolf in London (1981)

What can I say about this classic film that hasn’t already been said? The way the director portrayed the hunting habits of the werewolves was really well done. You believe these characters are being stalked. Leave it to some American tourists to find the one werewolf running around the British countryside! And that transformation scene is so, so good. If you love werewolves and haven’t seen this one, stop what you’re doing. Go grab a copy. Thank me later.

1) Dog Soldiers (2002)

Survival horror? Check. Stranded soldiers? Check. A pack of hungry werewolves? Check. This film has all of that, and more! Dog Soldiers was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it several years ago. It was my first encounter with director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Centurian) and I never looked back. What I love about this film is the isolation. These stranded soldiers really have nowhere to go and must fortify and defend…or be eviscerated. While the werewolves aren’t the best looking, they are intimidating. The cast is superb, the script/story is superb, and the director makes the most out of a limited budget to bring movie goers a rare diamond in the rough.

My Top Five Vampire Movies

mist

Since I wrote a trilogy of books featuring vampires, I thought it would be fun to share my all-time favorite fang flicks. I’m sure some of you will disagree. That’s cool. We’re all allowed to have our favorites. It’s fun seeing what everyone chooses. Some of us gravitate toward the classics like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. Others crave the more modern, and visceral, terror of 30 Days of Night. Still others clamor for the Hammer films of the 1970’s. You really can’t go wrong with any of those choices. Anything that shines a light on horror is a good thing.

5. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

What makes this movie special, at least for me, is George Clooney. He pulls off one of the best anti-heroes this side of Snake Plissken. Quentin Tarantino pulls the old switcheroo with audiences as the first half of the film is more drama than horror. When the sun goes down, everything changes. From Dusk Till Dawn is cheesy one liners. It’s blood and gore. It’s everything you want out of a horror film. In a word, From Dusk Till Dawn is fun.

4. Salem’s Lot (1979)

As a kid, this film scared the innocence out of me. I would sleep with the covers pulled up around my neck to prevent Mr. Barlow from biting me. It didn’t matter how hot the weather, some kind of sheet or blanket was tucked around my neck. I slept that way for years. Salem’s Lot was a made for TV movie that networks used to show annually. My family would huddle around the TV and drink in the terror like a Glick brother on his friend’s blood. Make no mistake about it, this film starts out slow, but effectively builds tension until the shit hits the fan. I always remember the look of Mr. Barlow with his bald head, glowing eyes, and gnarled fangs. He seemed to materialize out of thin air and grunt before clasping a clawed hand on his victims. The director, Tobe Hooper, also utilized children in a way I think many horror films don’t anymore. Kids relate to kids. Seeing a nine-year-old vampire scratching at a friend’s window so he could feed led to more than a few nightmares in my house. Sometimes subtlety is key.

3. Nosferatu (1922)

Released in 1922, Nosferatu still shines today. It is a masterpiece and inspiration of many a modern vampire film. The director utilizes light and shadows so effectively that you don’t mind the silence. In fact, the silence only adds to the terror. The look of the creature has become iconic and is often borrowed to help create newer vampires like Mr. Barlow in Salem’s Lot (1979). If you like vampires and haven’t seen this film, you should. See where, in my opinion, it all began. There isn’t an official trailer for this film but I did find a fan created one I liked. Thanks goes to The Nosferatu Mysteria.

2. 30 Days of Night (2007)

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this film. In my opinion, it gets just about everything right. There’s a sense of impending doom that the residents of Barrow, Alaska can’t seem to shake. The pacing is brutal, just like the vampires. Isolation also plays a key as those who survived the initial onslaught try to wait the thirty days until the sun rises again. What I love most about this film is the vampires. They are visceral killing machines. They’re higher on the food chain and act like it. They fear no one, nothing. How can you kill what seemingly can’t be killed? That’s what our rag-tag group of survivors has to figure out. The scene with the little girl in the grocery store is freaking awesome!

1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

I went with Bram Stoker’s Dracula as my favorite vampire film because of Gary Oldman. His performance is special and makes watching this film worth any vampire lover’s time. I also love how this film transcends the horror genre. At it’s core, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a love story told throughout history. One part romance, one part period piece, and two parts horror, this film stands out for its production value, superb acting, and subtle, yet spectacular special effects. The many different looks of Dracula is also a testament to the wardrobe department who also did an amazing job. To me, any film that can transcend the genre is doing something above and beyond. Films like this bring other viewers to the horror genre. And that’s what it’s all about, making new horror fans from all walks of life.

Monster Monday: John Carpenter

Today’s post isn’t about a monster, but, rather, one of the minds behind them. This past weekend The El Rey Network aired the first Director’s Chair. Robert Rodriquez spent an hour talking with legendary director John Carpenter. If you’re a creative type, I highly recommend you give it a watch. John gives some great insight into how he approaches film making, which, I believe directly relates to writing.

You may know John Carpenter from such films as Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing, They Live, and Big Trouble In Little China, just to name a few. He is a true master of horror and a man who knows how to make great films. He sticks to his guns, kicks ass, and bows to no one. His rebel spirit is essential to making it in any form of the entertainment business. In the Director’s Chair he says he always tried to make movies he would have loved to see instead of caving in to what the studios wanted.

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. Released in 1982, the film still holds up well today. Not many movies can do that. The special effects, too, are still some of the best I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen The Thing, I would highly encourage you to do so…like right now. You’ll be in for a treat.

Throughout the Director’s Chair, John mentions how he constantly listens to/follows his instincts. As a writer, I try to do the same thing. Growing up with horror I’d like to think I know a little something about what stands out in the genre. From books to film, I’ve been knee deep in horror since the early eighties. One of my earliest memories is going to the drive-in to watch a double feature of John Carpenter’s The Fog and Disney’s The Black Hole. I believe I was four years old. My family has always enjoyed horror and have exposed me to it from an early age. John has always been, and will always be, one of my favorite directors. As fans of whatever genre we write, we know what works and what doesn’t, even if we aren’t consciously aware of the reasons. Deep down we know what makes for interesting fiction because of our exposure.

It’s because of people like John Carpenter that I love and write horror. His passion and gift for storytelling helped inspire me. For that, I’d like to thank him.

At one point, John raises a fist and says, “Horror lives forever, man.” I can’t imagine a better send off.

You can follow John Carpenter on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TheHorrorMaster

John Carpenter’s official website can be found here: http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/

Fandom and Writing Often Go Hand In Hand

I write horror, but you probably knew that. As a horror writer it shouldn’t be a surprise to also say I’m a fan of the genre. I’ve loved horror ever since I was kid. I’m sure many other horror writers grew up being fans of the genre too.

For the purpose of this blog post I’m going to focus mainly on zombies and vampires as examples of conflicting opinion. Some people are so sick of seeing these creatures that they can’t run away fast enough, while others will never tire of them.

When it comes to writing, I write what I’m passionate about. Do I love a good zombie story? Hell yeah. Do I love a good vampire story? Hell yeah. Just because the mainstream may get tired of zombies and vampires doesn’t mean horror fans will.

Zombies, in particular, have exploded in popularity the past few years. While the mainstream got caught up in the plethora of new content, horror fans already knew it was there. We had been enjoying the undead since the late sixties with George A. Romero’s, Night of the Living Dead. Today AMC’s The Walking Dead rules television with the most watched show. You can’t kick a rock without something zombie related popping up.

As a lifelong fan of both horror and zombies, I’ll never get tired of them. When people couldn’t get away fast enough from vampires a few years back, I still sought them out. My point is some of us are here for the long haul. We love horror and everything that goes along with it. We’ll love it no matter how popular it gets. We’ll consume it in all its forms.

So when I see certain people complain about seeing too much zombie fiction, I try to understand…but fail. If you’re in the business of publishing and you’re getting a ton of zombie submissions, why get annoyed with the creators? To me, it would be like getting angry at beef for being beef. Instead of seeing beef, why not take a closer look. Maybe you’ve got a juicy T-bone steak, hamburger, filet mignon, steak tacos, or Shepard’s Pie. All beef isn’t created equal, just like not all zombie stories are either.

To group every zombie story together and say you’re sick and tired of them all seems like overkill. I went through something similar while submitting my vampire book. Right or wrong, I always approach writing with my fandom along for the ride. Being a horror fan I know what I’d like to read/see. Many other horror fans probably would too. Like zombies, we consume what we love. That’s why The Walking Dead continues to be the number one show on television. Fans keep consuming it. Remember Brad Pitt’s romp through a zombie infested world as he sought patient zero in World War Z? According to IMDB, the film raked in over two hundred million dollars in the US alone. Zombies continue to be big business.

So why, then, are editors voicing frustration over seeing so many zombie submissions? What makes books, and publishing, different?

I’m not sure I can answer that question.

All I know is what I see fans consuming. Zombies, like vampires, will never go away completely. True fans will never stop consuming what they love. One would think that if fans are clamoring for something, suppliers should be lining up to give them what they want. Yet, for some reason, publishing seems to be dancing to a different tune. I can’t tell you how many times others told me to forget about my vampire book. It would seem zombies are the new vampire.

My advice to anyone writing and submitting anything with zombies or vampires is to be genuine. As long as you’re not chasing trends or regurgitating popular tropes, don’t ever shy away from writing what you’re passionate about. Take zombies and make them your own. No two stories are alike, just like no two zombies are alike. If you can create quality fiction, people will notice.

My first ever publication (October 2013, in Siren’s Call Magazine) was a piece of zombie flash fiction. Don’t let popular opinion discourage you from submitting. You may miss out on some great opportunities.

The inspiration for this post came from an i09 article, titled 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories That Editors Are Tired of Seeing. If you were wondering why your fairy tale retelling has been racking up the rejections, this article may help shine some light on the matter. While this list is interesting, Don’t ever shy away from writing what you’re passionate about…even if quite a few editors are tired of the subject matter. Write something your inner fan would love to read and trust other fans would love it too.

We should never let popular opinion dictate what we create. Keep writing what you love. Fight the good fight. The fans may thank you for it someday.

Monster Monday: Return of the Living Dead

Zombies have taken on many forms in film. Some are mindless shamblers, while others are ferocious hunters. Return of the Living Dead features zombies that need to eat brains in order to ease the pain of death. We’re talking like a drug need, which I always find fascinating. Some shamble, some run, and some even talk.

Many horror lovers consider this to be a cult classic and one of the first zombedies (zombie + comedy) because the plot is intentionally funny and the acting is over the top at times which only adds to the hysterics.

The gist of the movie is two bumbling warehouse workers find an old army experiment. It’s a simple metal drum containing instructions with what to do in the event one of the seal being breached. I believe the drums were dated 1969, which would make them from the Vietnam war. Needless to say, the two chuckleheads accidentally damage the drum and some kind of gas escapes. The warehouse full of cadavers where they work start coming back to life and their day goes downhill from there.

Throw in a group of punk rock teens, a mortician, and the warehouse worker’s boss, and you’ve got an eclectic mix of zombie chow that somehow works. The zombies themselves can be comical. At one point they call over a dead police officer’s radio for dispatch to send more cops, you know, zombie take out style. Watching the cast try to figure out what in the hell is going on is always funny.

If you’re looking for a zombie film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then you may want to give Return of the Living Dead a try. Released in 1985, you’ll get plenty of 80’s cheese, music, and fashion. What makes this film extra goofy is the fact that the zombies have to eat brains. Let’s face it, it’s impossible for teeth to penetrate the human skull. But that’s what makes this film work, the goofiness and fun factor.

Even though this film isn’t the most serious of zombie films, the reasoning, and logic, behind the zombies is top notch. An old government experiment gone wrong and zombies who live to ease their suffering through brain consumption makes total sense. This film also poses the question of what the government would do if details about one of their secrets became public. How far would they go to cover things up?

Return of the Living Dead has plenty for hardcore zombie purists as well as casual horror fans to love. There’s something for everyone here, and that, I think, is what makes this film so special.

Until next time, hold on to your brain. You never know when you may need it.

 

Monster Monday: Alien

When I was a kid, my father had one of the earlier VHS players. You know, the kind with the door that popped up, you put the tape in, pressed the door back down, and then watched whatever tape you loaded. Those things were about a foot tall and weighed a ton. The very first movie he bought way back in either 1980, or 1981 was Alien. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. The actual Alien never scared me but I’ve always marveled at the sleek, and unique look of it.

 

The magnificent alien design comes from the twisted mind of one H. R. Giger, which lead to an Academy Award win. The design and look of Mr. Giger’s aliens have been expanded upon in other mediums such as video games, comics, and books. Tim Lebbon recently penned Alien: Out of the Shadows, published by Titan books. It’s a solid read if you’re looking for something new set in the Alien universe.

 

The first film centers around a mining vessel, the Nostromo, which is awakened prematurely on their voyage home. Apparently they’ve stumbled upon an unknown distress call from an unknown vessel, on an uncharted planet. After landing, our crew sends a small team down to investigate. One curious crew member finds a chamber full of what appear to be eggs and decides to go and touch one. Something comes out of it and attaches to his face. They call those little buggers “face huggers.”

 

The face hugger gestates and falls off after it does its business. I don’t want to spoil the film for those of you who haven’t seen it. Cain gets up and is all smiles and happy to be alive. To celebrate, the crew decide to have dinner before going back to sleep and finishing the rest of the trip back home. During dinner something happens to Cain and the alien threat is loose.

What I love about this film is the tension. The alien blends in with the wires and tubing of the spacecraft. It camouflages itself and goes on the hunt. This alien is an apex predator which adapts to its surroundings and different situations. It lives to spread its vile seed across the universe like some kind of universal parasite, or cockroach. Did I mention they have acid for blood? Steer clear if you wound it because if you don’t, you’ll melt like the wicked witch under a bucked of water in the Wizard of Oz.

As crew members start dropping, the question becomes how can the remaining survivors defeat a being that is more advanced than them in every way?

Isolation also plays a key role in this film. The crew of the Nostromo is cut off from Earth and left to fend for themselves. Not only that, but aboard the ship there are only so many places to run from the alien intruder.

This was a brilliant film which used constant tension to fuel scare after scare. The way the director, Ridley Scott, used subtle techniques like lighting and tighter shots to further the tension really added to the overall look and feel of the film. Released in 1979, Alien is still one of the best Sci-Fi/Horror films ever made and stands the test of time. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do. If you’ve already seen it, see it again. Yes, it’s that good.

For anyone interested in the forthcoming video game, Alien: Isolation, here’s a behind the scenes look presented by Gamespot. It seems like the developers went back and channeled the original film for this game. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

You can find out more about Alien: Isolation by visiting the official site here: http://www.alienisolation.com/en_us/