Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Denver does zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 29 - 2009
Zombies in love

Zombies in love

I’m proud to say that my hometown of Denver, Colorado is quite a zombie town. We just had our fourth annual zombie walk (more than 4,000 attendees, if reports are to be believed) and, the very same day, there was a zombies’ engagement party.

What? Zombies need love, too.

Well, it turned out the zombie engagement party was actually an art show, but since it was largely horror and zombie themed art, it was still awesome. And I got some fine photos of both the party and the zombie walk. You can see some of the best of them, including a video slideshow of the zombie walk, after the break.

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The zombies of Collapse

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 26 - 2009

COLLAPSEBOBsink1Meet Bob. Bob is a severed zombie head. In Collapse, the upcoming zombie apocalypse movie now filming in Iowa, main character Robert (Chris Mulkey of Saving Grace, Cloverfield, North Country, Radio) carries our little buddy “Bob” around with him. Find out more about Bob, and see six more images of the zombies of of Collapse, after the break.

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Fort Zombie Q&A

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 21 - 2009

FZ_logo

The upcoming game Fort Zombie seems to fill a niche that’s been neglected for far too long — the zombie survival RPG/strategy game. In Fort Zombie, you play the part of a survivor of the zombie apocalypse who’s decided it’s time to stop running and time to pick a spot, gather supplies, team up with other survivors and try to hold off the hungry dead. Considering that fortifying a holdout and defending it from the undead horde is such a key element of almost every apocalyptic zombie movie, it’s all but inconceivable that it’s taken so long for such a game to come to fruition. The world may never know why its taken so long for such a game to come to pass, but the wait is almost over and we’ve got an exclusive Q&A with some of the creators, including producer Chris Stewart, lead designer Martin Cirulis and writer Arinn Dembo. And for the visually minded, there are a couple of screenshots mixed in there, too.

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Collapse pics and info

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 13 - 2009

COLLASPE logoJust got a batch of shots and some info direct from the set of Collapse, a zombie movie filming in Iowa. It looks to be a family drama about a man trying to provide for the family in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Here’s the official synopsis I received:

Chris Mulkey (Saving Grace, Cloverfield, North Country, Radio) stars as Robert Morgan, a farmer struggling to make ends meet. When zombies invade, Roger must protect his wife Molly, played by Karen Landry (Six Feet Under, St. Elsewhere) and his son Will. Roger fortifies his home, but as supplies dwindle, he is forced to fight his way through the small town of Plains Falls.

None of the images they sent had any zombies in them, but I know if there’s anything zombie fans like almost as much as zombies, it’s guns. And we have guns:

Collaspe rogers guns

Roger likes guns.

After the break, more images and additional info…
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Review: Zombieland

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 2 - 2009

zombielandThe hype for Zombieland has been, at times, overwhelming. As a defensive mechanism, I’ve maintained what I consider to be a healthy skepticism. But I have to say, now that I have seen the movie, the hype was largely justified. By the time the opening credits rolled, I had little reason to doubt that this is a fine zombie film.

Now, make no mistake, many a hardcore zombie fan will find reason to hate this movie. These are fast zombies, for one thing. I know that’s enough to earn a “how about no?” from plenty of people. Possibly worse, in many eyes, is these zombies are probably closest to 28 Days Later zombies. That is to say, there’s no reason to think they died and reanimated. Technically speaking, these are just very sick people with an appetite for eating their former friends, not reanimated corpses. Over that? Okay, this is also not a film with a heavy — or any, really — social commentary. It’s just not. It’s an action-movie buddy comedy with zombies. If you haven’t swallowed your tongue in apoplectic horror yet, read on. It’s smooth sailing from here.

Zombieland is the story of four people thrown together by unlikely circumstance — the zombie apocalypse. That’s pretty standard fare for any buddy pic, and especially familiar to zombie fans. But the chemistry between the four, especially main leads Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, is enough to make it work. The foursome, after some intitial hijinx, are headed for Pacific Playland (read: Disneyland), an amusement park rumored to be free of the zombie scourge. That’s it. That’s the story. Now twists, no turns, no fanfare.

Okay, there are a couple of subplots (Eisenberg falls for the older girl, there’s a hilarious interlude with a famous actor I’d hate to spoil) but the point is, this is all very straightforward, by the numbers, action-oriented zombie stuff. But it works, in part becasue director Ruben Fleischer does an excellent job of keeping things moving as he puts the characters throughout their paces. That, and there are some really great effects, inspired musical cues, clever jokes and utterly awesome zombie kills and set pieces. It does slow down a tiny bt in the middle, but by the time you notice it, things have revved back into high gear and you’re headed for the climax full steam ahead, so it’s no big issue.

Call it shallow, call it slick, whatever. It’s fun and that’s the bottom line. I don’t know that this moves the zombie genre forward. But I do know that it could easily introduce zombies to a whole generation of fans that haven’t ever paid much attention to our walking dead frenemies. I’ve said many times before that Shaun of the Dead is an excellent “gateway drug” zombie movie. In all honesty, this may be even better for the purpose of introducing newcomers to the living dead. It doesn’t have the same kind of reverent, deeply rooted respect for the genre that Shaun displayed, but it’s not really any worse for lacking that. And just as Shaun was a deeply British movie, this movie 100 percent all-American. It may lack depth and substance but it more than makes up for that in sheer awesome. If you have doubts, let them be banished. Zombieland is a kickass good time and you should absolutely go see it.

Edit: Added a clause to clarify comparison to Shaun of the Dead.

Zombieland/US/2009

List: Most Wanted Zombie Directors

Posted by Cory Casciato On September - 30 - 2009
Mr. Director? The zombies are ready for their closeup

Mr. Director? The zombies are ready for their closeup

Romero. Fulci. Jackson. O’Bannon. Wright. These are all hallowed names among zombie directors, and fine directors in their own right. But despite loving the zombie above and beyond all other film genres, I do watch other kinds of movies. And while I watch them, sometimes I can’t help but notice, “Damn, this director is great.” And then, loving the zombie the way I do, I can’t help but think, “What if these guys made a zombie movie? “ I’m talking about people who have never made a zombie movie – not people who should make another (that’s another list…) Here’s my list of the top ten directors I’d like to see shoot the zombie – with a camera that is. When the apocalypse comes, we’ll all be shooting the bastards in the traditional, bullet-y way. (Photo above by flickr user lebovox; original photo here.)

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Left 4 Dead 2 wishlist vs. reality

Posted by Cory Casciato On September - 25 - 2009

l4d2

The day Left 4 Dead 2 was announced, I posted a wishlist of five things I wanted from the game. Now, in light of my recent post rounding up everything known about the game thus far, I thought it was a good time to look at my original list and see how well Valve succeeded in fulfilling my wishlist.

  1. Give us four more interesting characters – It’s too early to say that they’ve succeeded here, but things look good. The clips I’ve seen indicate that the spoken lines are well-voiced and indicate personality. Eurogamer called it “grand slam calibre backchat” in one preview. A Rock, Paper, Shotgun preview revealed that characters will develop over time and there will be plenty more back-and-forth chatter, thus improving one of the original game’s strengths. Also, I already love the gambler/con-man character Nick. Verdict: Looks like I get what I want, but only time will tell for sure.
  2. Give us more of the back story – An early IGN preview reported that the game starts in Savannah before the outbreak And an Ars Technica interview with writer Chet Falizskek quotes him as promising, “We’re telling the story of this world, we’re seeing how things fall apart, and a new way of interacting with the infection.” Verdict: Looks like another win. I’m sure I will be left with some questions, but I am equally sure I will have a  much better idea of how the world fell apart and why.
  3. Connect the dots a little better – I wanted to know how one campaign connected to the next — how I got from point A’s rescue to point B’s jeopardy.  And in numerous previews we have been promised an overarching narrative that connects all the campaigns and a sweet, zombie-infested hell-ride/roadtrip through the American Deep South. Verdict: Two words: Fuck. Yes.
  4. Don’t tamper too much with the bosses or add a bunch of new ones - I was concerned that a bunch of new, outlandish bosses, or wildly different behaviors for the old ones, would ruin the delicate suspension of disbelief of the background fiction. Well, there are new bosses. Three at least, and probably a fourth although it may come in downloadable content. And at least one, the Witch, has significant new behavior — wandering in daylight. Oh, and there are six so-called common uncommon: level specific infected that have some special trait such as fireproofing, given through what they were wearing when they went zombie. Verdict: Not all wishes can come true, obviously. But I have slowly warmed up to the idea of new bosses. I don’t know that thy are necessary, strictly speaking, but it doesn’t bother me the way it did before. Oh, and the common-uncommon are brilliant. Of course a dude wearing Kevlar when he gets infected is going to be a bulletproof zombie. Them’s the breaks! So I didn’t get what I want, but I am okay with what I am getting.
  5. Give us more, period – I wanted at least a “few more” campaigns. There will be five. I wanted all three modes (survival, co-op, versus) to be playable on all campaigns, out of box. They are. I wanted a new mode. There will be one, though it isn’t announced yet. And I wanted more guns, for variety’s sake — specifically, I asked for a “real” grenade and maybe a RPG. Well, neither of those has been announced (yet) but there is a grenade launcher, explosive and incendiary bullets, and more than 25 new weapons, including ten or more melee weapons. There are also some new accessories like adrenaline and ammo packs. Verdict: Yeah, they hit that one out of the park. The 25+ new weapons, the melee stuff, new ammo, new mode, all out of box? Thanks! Still would have liked another campaign or two. Oh well, there’s always DLC…

Final Verdict: Valve, did you read that post? Just kidding, most of my requests were not only straightforward but obvious. Still, I asked for a few specific things to improve on an already stellar formula and, for the most part, it looks like they will be delivering in spades. November 17 can’t come fast enough.

Left 4 Dead 2: What we know so far

Posted by Cory Casciato On September - 23 - 2009

l4d2It’s been more than three months since Left 4 Dead 2 was announced at E3 and it’s less than two months now until we get it in our hot, little, zombie-killing hands. Since its announcement, Valve has given us a ton of info about the game — a little here, a little there. To make things easier on you, I’ve gone through and compiled all of the available info into one place. And that place is this site, so without further ado, here it is: everything we know so far about Left 4 Dead 2.

Overview: Like most sequels, it hits the “bigger, better, more” target. It will have five campaigns to the original’s four. This time it’s set in the South and we get four all-new characters (more on them below). The three gameplay modes of the original — co-op, versus and survival — will be present, as well as a fourth, yet-to-be revealed mode. Additional new touches include dynamic weather, the addition of daylight fights – and a more aggressive, agitated horde during those daylight fights — and, perhaps best of all, a much more realistic and gruesome damage model. So we’ll get severed limbs, shredded torsos, decapitations and all the other good stuff a proper zombie game should have.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is the improved AI Director. Valve are promising it will not only be smarter, but also able to do plenty of new things, such as changing the layout of a level to make it more or less difficult depending on the players’ skill and the aforementioned dynamic weather. It will also reward players who explore levels and take the longer, more difficult routes with perks such as special ammo. The original game’s “crescendo events” have been tweaked, too. Now, some of them happen on the move — so backing into a corner is no longer a viable strategy. Back to the drawing board…

Some of the original bosses are being tweaked. Most of these are minor and/or transparent, such as a different costume for the Hunter (turns out, it’s too hot for a hoodie in the South). The most significant of these is the new Witch behavior — during those daylight levels, she’ll be wandering around all agitated-like instead of sitting and crying, so slipping by her gets a little harder. Not to mention, now she can sneak up on you…

The story is getting beefed up this time around. It starts in Savannah, Georgia and ends up in New Orleans and this time we get a better idea of how the survivors get from one place to another — it should be a zombie-infested road trip through the deep South. Valve aims to tell the story of the characters and the world this time — so we should have a much better idea of exactly how things got so fucked up. We also get to see some of how it starts: the initial level, Savannah, is set before the zombie infection hits…

New Stuff: Okay, on to the new stuff. I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Posted by Cory Casciato On August - 24 - 2009

foresthandsteethIt’s always nice to see someone taking a fresh approach to the zombie apocalypse. In the young-adult novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth, first-time author Carrie Ryan’s tactic is setting her story so long after the rise of the dead that no one living remembers a time before – indeed, many people doubt there ever was a time before. In this genuinely post-apocalyptic world, society has reverted to a simpler way of life, much like the modern-day Amish. No lights, no phones, no motorcars – just farming, fence-mending (to keep those pesky walking dead out) and lots and lots of religion, courtesy of the Sisterhood. The sisters of the Sisterhood run things with an iron fist, maintaining order and security in a draconian manner—albeit an arguably justified one.

It is this world that our young lead, Mary, lives in. And after her father and mother both fall to the zombies, she find herself unwillingly forced into the Sisterhood. There she discovers something strange – an outsider has come to her village, but is hidden by the Sisters. Later this outsider becomes a zombie – a special one, extra ferocious and capable of running. As this unfolds, Mary’s life becomes complicated by love, obligation, her natural curiosity and need to break free of the stifling constraints imposed upon her by life in the village. And she gets her chance to break free when all hell breaks loose and the Unconsecrated, as Ryan calls her zombies, flood the village, forcing Mary to flee with her would-be lover, her betrothed, her best friend, her brother, his wife, a young boy and a dog. And in classic zombie-tale fashion, this group begins shrinking almost immediately and what limited safety they find along the way turns out to be not as safe as it seems…

Ryan shows some skill in the crucial areas of characterization and plotting. She crafts a bunch of well-realized, believable characters (especially Mary) and sets them loose in a nicely plotted, page-turning story. Of course, I did have some minor quibbles. The first-person, present-tense style (as in “I’m walking to the door, I feel its rough surface on my skin”) felt a little odd to me and was somewhat distracting, especially at first. The pacing also felt a bit off, almost as if it had initially been planned to be a longer, deeper novel but had to be cut short for some reason – perhaps a looming deadline? To be clear, it moves along at a brisk clip, but it feels like the first half or two-thirds was building to more than the final bit paid off. In particular, there were a couple of intriguing passages hinting that the Sisterhood had a much better idea of what was going on than they revealed and suggesting something of an explanation for the outsider/super-zombie character, but they weren’t followed up on, which was a bit disappointing. I’d have preferred a bit more of that and a bit less of the love quadrangle between Mary, her best friend and the brothers, but hey, I’m not a teen girl either.

Apart from those issues – and be sure, they are minor issues – this is a novel that’s easy to recommend, especially to younger readers (12 to 16, say) but enjoyable by all who love zombies. Between her fresh setting, solid characters and compelling plot, Ryan has crafted an excellent debut novel. If she chooses to stay in this world for her future works, there’s plenty of room left to explore. The ending is practically begging for a sequel and I would read it without hesitation. If she moved on to some other subject – Yeti or robots, say — I’d still be inclined to pick her next book up – she’s a good writer that seems to be headed toward being a great one.

Review: Deadgirl

Posted by Cory Casciato On August - 19 - 2009

deadgirlpAs of the time of this writing, the most recent poll posted on this site asks “Can zombies be sexy?” and it seems synchronistically appropriate that it should be sitting there, asking its slightly unsettling question to site visitors, as I review Deadgirl, a movie about a group of high-school losers and their zombie sex slave.

Yes, you read that right. High school losers, zombie sex slave.

Technically, this is a a bit of a spoiler, but in this case I can’t in good conscience steer anyone this movie’s way without a bit of a warning. Besides, the movie’s promos reveal as much, so it’s not like I am breaking new ground here.

Deadgirl is the story of friends JT and Rickie’s discovery of a dirty, but still beautiful, girl chained naked in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital. JT instantly starts thinking about what they can do to her, while Rickie thinks of ways to free or rescue her without getting in trouble, setting up a dynamic that carries through the whole film. From there, plot complications in the form of bullies, buddies, and out-of-reach dream girls enter the picture — although, strangely, the cops or school authorities never do, even once the body count begins to mount. JT and Wheeler, another loser buddy, happily use the zombie girl as a sex toy while Rickie is utterly, uselessly emo about the whole thing — he does little more than agonize about it. Meanwhile, the deadgirl acts like any zombie would, trying its best to bite the living shit out of anyone that comes near, but held down by restraints (kinky!). The bullies lead to the showdown at the climax and, predictably, the unattainable dream-girl plays a major role, too.

The movie seemed to be trying to walk a thin line between cerebral chiller and gory exploitation. Unfortunately, it failed, as those disparate elements worked to drain each other of any urgency. It wasn’t ridiculous enough to be effective exploitation; it wasn’t clever enough to be a cerebral exploration of teenage pathos. As a result, it was something of a mess. It seemed to be trying to evoke a dynamic similar to River’s Edge, the chilling, true-life story of a small-town murder and the bonds of loyalty that kept it from being reported, but it missed. Where that movie portrayed the strange, ineffable bonds between small-town dead-enders in such a way that you not only believed them, but empathized to the point where you almost understand how someone could look the other way when their buddy killed, this film leaves you wondering why any of these people would speak to each other in the first place.

Just as bad, the film just goes too far in several scenes that add nothing to the plot. In other scenes, which do add to the plot, its choice of the most predictable path drains it of momentum. No one is likable, or even particularly sympathetic, although the leads Shiloh Fernandez as Rickie and, especially,  Noah Segan as JT, are capable actors who deliver what they are asked. The problem seems to lie with the direction and, to a slightly lesser degree, the script, which go too far at the wrong moments and fail to build realistic relationships between the characters that would justify their actions.

I really wanted to like this and, for almost half of it, was inclined to do so, but by the end it had lost me completely. Part of this was the aforementioned issues; part of it was the utter lack of realistic consequences for anything that happens in the second half of the movie (basically, no one seems to notice when people start going missing, among other things…). In the end,  when the credits rolled, I was simply glad it was over.

Deadgirl/US/2008

Note: Technically, the nudity in this is not gratuitous, but integral to the plot, but the whole thing os sort of gratuitous so I tagged it with gratuitous nudity.

Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and dead-end greaseball JT (Noah Segan)

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