Deadlines: News roundup 5/4/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 4 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

The mainstream media is catching on to the awesomeness of zombies (surely a sign of impending zombie apocalypse) as the Chicago Tribune jumps in with a piece about the zombie zeitgeist and a short interview with Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. (Chicago Tribune)

If you need more toys to announce to your friends, coworkers and loved ones how freaking much you love the undead, then you are in luck: Fearwerx has some special, limited-edition 8″ figures of the original zombie from Night of the Living Dead available. (Dread Central)

In the “It’s about frigging time” department, REC is getting a proper U.S. DVD release on July 14. That’s the good news. The bad news? No Blu-Ray release and only one lousy making-of featurette for special features. Lame. (Fangoria)

Late Friday, a rumor broke that Peter Jackson was returning to horror with a yarn about nazi zombies that travel back in time to kill Christ. Before your head explodes with awesomeness, be aware the rumor was debunked quickly. (Entertainment Weekly)

The cutesy, cel-shaded zombie game Zombie Wranglers is being released this Wednesday, May 6 on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 XBL points ($10 in Earth moneys). (Team Xbox)

In other cutesy zombie game news, the downloadable Plants vs. Zombies strategy title releases tomorrow, May 5. And some woman went and knit up a bunch of Left 4 Dead characters and zombies. (Kotaku)

Also, if you’re reading this via RSS, is there any chance I could convince you to either leave me a comment or send me an e-mail and say “hey”? I’m trying to figure out how many of you are out there and I’ve yet to discover a good tool to do so. Thanks!

Jacques Derrida on zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 27 - 2009

200px-jacquesderridaOne of my good friends who shares some of my love for the walking dead and is far, far more educated than I am sent me a short piece by Jacques Derrida on zombies. Derrida is a fancy-pants French philosopher and the father of deconstruction (yeah, I have no idea either). Here’s his take on the zombie:

Zombies are cinematic inscriptions of the failure of the “life/death” opposition. They show where classificatory order breaks down: they mark the limits of order. Like all undecidables, zombies infect the oppositions grouped around them. These ought to establish stable, clear and permanent categories. But what happens to “white/black”, “master/servant” and “civilized/primitives” when white colonialists can also be the zombie slaves of black power? Can “white science/black magic” remain untroubled, if what sometimes works against a zombie is white magic, the Christian religion, the power of love or superior morality? How certain is the opposition “inside/outside”, if the zombie’s internal soul is extracted and an internal force becomes its inside? Is there any security in opposing “masculine” to “feminine” and “good” to “evil” when the zombie is desexualized and has no power of decision?

The zombie is therefore fascinating and also horrific. It poisons systems of order, and like all undecidables, ought to be returned to order. In zombie movies, this return to order is difficult. For a classic satisfying ending, the troubled element has to be removed, perhaps by killing it. But zombies are already dead (while alive) you can’t kill a zombie, you have to resolve it. It has to be “killed” categorically, by removing its undecidability. A magic agent or superior power will have to decide the zombie, returning it to one side of the opposition or the to the. It has to become a proper corpse or a true living being. There are other endings, less final. The zombie might be ineradicable, they might return. Perhaps undecideability is always with us. If not figured in the zombie, then something else: ghosts, golems or vampires, between life and death

Found in Introducing Derrida by Jeff Collins. See, even fancy smart dudes love zombies.

Deadlines: News roundup 4/23/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 23 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

Another slice of classic literature gets an injection of zombies. This time, H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds becomes War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies courtesy of Eric S. Brown. Hm. I think this idea has officially crossed the line from clever to stupid (it is a fine line…). (Fangoria)

If you have been looking at all the zombie video games coming out and saying, “Yes, but I want a kid-friendly, cartoonish zombie game. You know, for kids!” then you are in luck because a cel-shaded zombie game called Zombie Wranglers is on its way! (Destructoid)

Insane bikini-clad zombie-slayer girl video game turned movie Onechanbara is getting a sequel. It’s to be called Chanbara Beauty THE MOVIE vorteX (what?) and you can find pictures and words about the stars here. Hint: they are hot, Asian and scantily clad. (Kotaku)

World’s best print horror mag Fangoria has a piece on zombie master George A. Romero in its upcoming 30th anniversary issue (lots of other stuff too). (Fangoria)

Review: Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 15 - 2009

zmugIf the somewhat scholarly Zombie Movie Encyclopedia wasn’t quite the right zombie movie guide for you, then Glenn Kay’s Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide may be a better fit. Kay chronicles more than 300 zombie movies and TV episodes from the original 1932 White Zombie to the 2008 feature Diary of the Dead.

Kay’s book takes a more laid back, film-fan approach to the genre than Dendle did, making it an easier book to read straight through. Interestingly, he starts off with a lengthy and fairly detailed history of  Haiti that seems a little out of place considering the tone of the rest of the book. Still, it’s an interesting read that offers some insight into the origins of the zombie myth in our culture and a little history never hurt anyone, right? Kay organizes the book by era, breaking it into roughly decade-sized chunks. This organization makes it easy to follow the development of the genre, lending the book some of its linear readability, but it necessitates a trip to the index to find a particular film you may have heard referenced by name without knowing the era it is from. Kay doesn’t offer a lot of detail about what criteria he uses to select a film as a zombie film, and although he clearly takes an expansive view of what is or isn’t a zombie, there are few, if any, selections that will upset anyone but total purists.

Most of the entries are given a third to half a page of discussion, with more important works (Romero’s films, for example) receiving as many as several pages and lesser works covered in one or two paragraphs. He rounds up lots of minor films with a mere mention in end-of-chapter lists. Though he doesn’t cover video games with their own entries, he does discuss their impact on the genre at several points. Each movie that gets a full entry is also rated, but he uses an obscure set of symbols to denote their rankings, making them a pain to use. A simple one-to-four star rating system would have been preferable to trying to remember what a zombie figure with a stick through its midsection denotes. Like any review, some of his takes seem spot on and others earn a puzzled “WTF? Is he serious?” He does a good job justifying his positions, for the most part, so at least you’ll know why he likes that turd you hated so much.  He wraps the book with a chapter on the 25 greatest zombie movies of all time, a list that is sure to cause some contention among serious fans. For what it is worth, I agreed with about half his list, while the rest ranged from debatably justifiable to sheer insanity.

As a bonus, Kay has included Q&A format interviews with various directors, special effects people, extras, etc. These are fairly interesting, but seem slightly out of place and don’t really add much, in part because none of them is particularly insightful. In addition to a generous amount of black-and-white photos of film posters (many of them foreign) and production stills, there is a nice full-color set of images in the center that adds to the visual appeal of the book. The index, appendices and bibliography are a little anemic, but most readers won’t even notice. All in all, it’s a nice, casual reference work that is worthy of consideration from any fan.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author speaks to the BBC

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 9 - 2009

prideandprejudiceandzombiesGood morning, zombie fans. Here’s a link to an interview with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies co-author Seth Grahame-Smith to enjoy on your coffee break (or while you should be working — don’t worry, I won’t tell). My favorite line: “If you read through the original book it’s startling and a bit eerie how many opportunities Jane Austen left in her original work for ultra-violent zombie mayhem.” Uh, okay.

Check back later today for a short review of the thoroughly unimpressive Quick and the Undead.

Classic novels zombified

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 31 - 2009

prideandprejudiceandzombiesI’m sure you know all about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (if you don’t you can visit the book’s web page). In honor of its release, my friend Scott Roeben, creator of Dribbleglass.com, the Internet’s Official Humor Site â„¢, came up with this awesome list of other classic novels that need the zombie treatment.

The Adventures and Femur of Huckleberry Finn
Crime and Disembowelment
To Kill and Wolf Down a Mockingbird
Swiss Family Brains
The Old Man and the Sea Salt to Taste
The Catcher on Rye
All Slurpy on the Western Front
Lord of the Flies and Maggots
Gulliver’s Eyeball
Catch (and Devour) 22
The Complete, Edible Sherlock Holmes
Oliver Twist and Contort and Flail
The Guts of Wrath
The Blood-Soaked Badge of Courage
Slaughterhouse (That’s It, No “Five,” Just Slaughterhouse)
The Sound of Screaming and the Fury
Uncle Tom’s Gaping Neck Wound
Lady Chatterly’s Entrails
As I Lay Dying (‘Nuff said.)

Handy: The Zombie Movie Encylopedia

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 19 - 2009

zmeEvery zombie scholar needs reference books and Peter Dendle’s The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia is a solid work that deserves the consideration of any serious zombie researcher. Covering more than 200 movies, from the 1932 Bela Lugosi classic White Zombie through the 1998 body horror of I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain, Dendle does an admirable job of collecting nearly every significant zombie work in film (and a few from TV as well) within that time frame into one convenient, easy to read volume. He strikes a nice balance in tone between scholarly and enthusiast, admittedly leaning more toward the scholarly.

He starts with an introduction that provides a succinct history of the zombie in film, broken up into eras such as “The Early Film Zombie (1932-1952),” “The Golden Age (1968-1983)” and “The Mid-’80s Spoof Cycle.” Following that, he spends a couple of pages delving into the significance and meaning of the zombie before wrapping it up with an explanation of his definition of zombies and criteria for movie selection. These elements, especially the definition and selection criteria, are crucial to understanding which films are present and which are omitted. He does a good job setting his boundaries and stays within them for the most part, with a few exceptions. Notably, he says that reanimated humans that retain their personality are not zombies, then goes on to include several movies that feature zombies that retain personality. There are a few other minor “rule bendings” but nothing egregious. The biggest absence some might note is his exclusion of demon-zombies: no Evil Dead here! Wisely, he limits himself to movies he has actually seen. Luckily, this man has seen an awesome amount of zombie movies.

Dendle organizes the movies alphabetically, so it’s easy to find any given entry. Since so many of these movies have numerous alternate titles, he puts in entries referring to the location of a given film’s actual entry under the alternates. The write ups for each movie are fairly concise, although some of the more important movies (and some pretty minor stuff he seemed especially taken with) get several pages of their own. Many of the films’ entries are illustrated with crisp, black-and-white production stills, which helps the overall visual appeal of the book. He comes off even handed and knowledgeable without seeming stuffy for the most part: scholarly yet accessible. At the same time, he does offer what are more or less reviews for these movies, so they are subjective. And like anything subjective, sometimes you’ll agree and sometimes you’ll have to ask, “WTF is he on about?” I don’t want to call him out on too much, but I have to say: Shock Waves? Seriously? That movie was trash and I will never understand why anyone gives it any credit at all.

The book closes with a solid, usable index, a thorough bibliography and a couple of very handy appendices: one lists the movies of the book by country,  the other by year. These are all crucial to make this an actual reference work and they are well done here.

My only real problems with the book can’t be laid at Dendle’s feet. The first is that it cuts off before the 2000s, which turned out to be a crucial decade for zombie cinema. Of course, I recognize that every book has this problem to some degree, unless they are covering a dead art form — it’s not a real complaint, just a disappointment. The real issue is the binding, which split on my copy after relatively minor and careful use. For a work I plan to return to frequently, it’s a real bummer. I wish it had been released in trade paperback instead of hardcover, frankly. It would be cheaper and possibly less fragile to boot. Despite that issue, I have no problem recommending this book to anyone who wants a hard-copy reference work on zombie film. It’s easily one of the best available.

Edit: Added line to indicate book is ordered alphabetically.

Origins: Zombie pulp fiction

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 9 - 2009

weird_4603In my ongoing research into the origins and history of the zombie in fiction, I came across this interesting article on the earliest zombie stories in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. It turns out some pretty well-known pulp authors, including Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame)  and  Clark Ashton Smith, contributed some early ink to the zombie mythos. As far back as 1939 descriptions such as, “Above the man’s left temple, amid the grey-flecked hair, jagged splinters of bone gleamed through torn and discoloured flesh! And a grayish ribbon of brain-stuff hung down beside the man’s left ear!” (from a Thorp McCluskey story called “While Zombies Walked”), which would ring true to any modern zombie fan, were appearing in pulps. It’a an interesting read and it managed to add a stack of odds and ends to my ever-growing reading list. Hopefully I can track some of this stuff down…

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