FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jun 2, 2009

choke on 'em

Sakes alive, I feel so Micki Dahne right now. Yesterday morning I played a little bit of the zombie shoot 'em up Left4Dead while I ate breakfast and it got me thinking about a few things. First, it got me thinking about how many great zombie video games there are...then I started thinking about zombie movies. Are they...well, played out? I was fixin' to post about all this yesterday, but if you go back in time you'll see that I didn't.

Late last night word started to trickle down into my very own ear holes that Left4Dead 2 and Dead Rising 2 had been announced at gaming industry convention E3 (in fact, you can watch the Dead Rising 2 trailer here), and I got all tingly in my video game-loving parts (ie, my brain). The games are loads of fun, and they're shining examples of the merits of the Romero Shuffler style zombie (Dead Rising) as well as the Dawn of the Dead remake-style sprint-o-matic zombie (Left4Dead). They're equally terrifying, really.

See, I was thinking about the games and then later the new games were announced; clearly this indicates that I possess a strong latent psychic ability. This concludes the Micki Dahne portion of our program.

Back to zombie movies. Are they played out? Are you tired of them yet? Every once in a while, something new comes along and breathes a bit of life (or undeadness, or whatever) into the genre, like the recent Nazi zombie flick Dead Snow; at the same time, you can practically hear the collective "Ugh, another zombie flick?" emanating from The Internets on a daily basis.

Like any other genre, the zombie film has its highs, lows, and fetid middles, sure. Just about everyone with a camcorder and $10 has tried his or her hand at telling a tale of the undead. Even George Romero is still plugging away, though I have to admit my faith is waning (Diary of the Dead, man, she hurt me bad!).

Are the kids still calling them "camcorders" these days?

I don't really know where I'm going with this. Actually, I sort of do: what are your thoughts on zombie movies? Have there been too many in recent years? Would you rather puke in your pants than watch another one? Is there a place in our zany, hectic, multitasking world for the simple Romero Shufflers? What about all the gimmicky zombie flicks (Zombie musicals! I married a zombie! Zombie pets!) See, I thought I was over them, too- but then I pop in Left4Dead and I watch the opening sequence and...geezie weezie, it gets me all pumped up for zombie action because it's a great fucking 5-minute zombie movie and I don't care whether or not it's made out of computer.



Earlier I alluded to the fact that most- if not all- backyard filmmakers have a zombie movie in 'em just dying to get out. I'm a backyard filmmaker. I have a camcorder. Alright, so I don't have $10...but someday I hope to, and at that time I may not be able to help myself: I might have to add my own crappy zombie movie to the already oversaturated market.

Now you know. In two years, when said crappy zombie movie is done, you can dazzle your friends with your very own Micki Dahne-like prowess: "I totally knew she was gonna make one!"

27 comments:

Sam said...

The only real complaint I have about zombie movies, whether they're trickling out or coming in a deluge, is that they all seem to tell the same basic story. How many times can we go over the DotD, 28 Days Later scenario before people just say, "Enough! What happens after that?!?"

A few years back I used to co-edit a 'zine devoted exclusively to walking dead fiction and I was about ready to claw my eyes out by the end of the second year because it was the same situation replayed ad nauseum. When the best innovation filmmakers can come up with involves zombie variants -- fast, slow, Nazi, musically inclined -- and not substantive story/character issues, that's an indicator of a subgenre in ill health.

Stacie Ponder said...

True! As much as I love 28 Days Later, it's essentially the Romero trilogy condensed to 90 minutes.

I wonder how much audience sensibilities have changed the genre. Romero's trilogy (in particular Night and Dawn) are character studies with some kick ass zombie action thrown in. He's moved away from that, I think, and his later work doesn't match up. I don't want to underestimate "these kids today", but I think that's how tastes run now: character takes a back seat to action. Maybe the pendulum will swing back, who knows.

But show the original versions of films that have been remade (TCM, etc) and the response is generally a "too slow!"

ILozZoc said...

As long as a zombie movie reflects on cultural mores and human foibles along with the gore they'll be around forever. Depth is what keeps the zombie genre going, not gore.

Planet of Terror said...

For everytime that I get frustrated with this genre of horror films (I'm looking at you Fido) some other film comes along and puts on an original spin. I've already heard great things about Colin and Pontypool. I'll reserve judgement until I see those films with my own ojos.

But until then, I say if something new can be done with genre, by all means go for it. I think the horror movie watching faithful can discern between a potentially bad or good zombie film (I hope). I actually think zombie films will take a back seat after the recent surge of Abercrombie and douche Twilight pseudo-vampires.

B.E. Earl said...

I may have to watch Diary of the Dead again, because besides the obvious flaws (put down the fucking camera, jackass!), I thought it was pretty good. But most folks whose opinions I trust (like it or not, you are in there) hate it with a passion.

I definitely was drinking when I watched it. Maybe I reached a point where my zombified brain could enjoy it. I dunno.

As for the state of the genre itself, I think zombie films are kind of like zombies themselves. The more the merrier. No...that's not what I meant. I meant that they are a decaying breed that only occasionally lives up to it's predecessors.

But I'll never tire of zombie films. They are comfortable in a weird way that only my therapist can help me out with. Bad zombie movies (Day of the Dead remake...hello?), I can live without. But I can't wait for Romero's next zombie flick or for Dead Snow to become available on Netflix. So I'm still in.

Stacie Ponder said...

Oh, the market will be flooded with vampire flicks, for sure...but the sensitive kind. I wouldn't be surprised if there's an influx of demon or curse-flavored movies after Drag Me to Hell...

kristinaroth said...

First off, I love zombie movies and will probably never grow weary of them. That said... I think that if filmakers keep producing the same drivel that has been coming out lately the audiences will eventually give up on the genre. Most of the stuff that comes out is esentially a watered down Romero. Nothing new or original that adds to the genre.

It seems like the zombie flicks that have been released lately don't really get what the zombie is about. They're just about slashing the zombie to bits in the coolest fashion possible not about how if we're not careful we will ourselves become zombies in our society by not engaging in independent thought.

As for "Dead Snow" and "The Outpost", imho, they're not really zombie movies. They weren't created by some nasty virus that spreads through transfer of fluids. They're cursed nazi soldiers. No virus, no hordes of walking dead, just a select group of evil soldiers who are doomed to walk the earth because they're evil. Whole other set of social implications.

Anyways I blabber so I'll shut up now.

Richard Doyle said...

I've played a bit of Left4Dead (I own it ... but never seem to have the time to play it), and it seems like a real kick ass game.

On to the real question ... I don't know much about "Dead Snow", but how did it add new life to the genre? Nazi zombies aren't exactly new.

Honest question ... I know zip about the film.

Stacie Ponder said...

No, Nazi zombies aren't exactly "new", but they haven't been used in a while so they at least seem a bit fresh. I've yet to see the film myself, but it's getting great reviews.

Maybe it's just me, but when I think Nazi zombies I think Bruno Mattei and movies that are so-so at best. Whether the idea of a Nazi zombie is actually new or not, if done well I think it can "add new life" to the genre. That's all I meant.

Koompa said...

I like zombies just fine but I don't understand why they've suddenly taken center stage in every movie they're in or why people seem so obsessed with the whole zombie apocolypse scenario. I think zombies were better when they were just monsters, not pulp culture icons or disease carrying metaphors for our contempt and fear of modern society. What about voodoo zombies, black magic, or demonic posession? Hell even those little headcrabs from Half-Life?

'We Don't go to Ravenholm' the movie? Now THAT is something I want to see!

kristinaroth said...

I found "Dead Snow" to be average but nothing special.

The opening sequence was really cool and I was really excited at the start but I found the rest of the film to be very predictable. Like when I was thinking "Don't go to the so and so location", of course, they went to said location and so on.

Cool gore though.

Stacie Ponder said...

"That's the old passage to Ravenholm. We don't go there anymore." Chilling! I love that chapter. I'd pay to see that, too...

And I agree- there are lots of zombie flavors out there. Of course, then you'd get into the old what's a zombie, what's not a zombie debate that's been positively RAGING amongst horror fans since The Great 28 Days Uprising of '02. :D

Dean said...

I hate "fast" zombies, though. The most frightening ones are still the ones you don't notice creeping up on you. Fast zombies just...don't make sense either. Yeah, I'd like to see you run with rigor mortis all over... Like THAT'S gonna happen.

Craig Blamer said...

Heh... I'm working on my own backyard zombie flick right now, so I'm biased. But I think that the majority of folks goin' "Meh" over zombie films are the ones jonesin' for the resurrection of the vampire genre.

I think that the main problem with zombie flicks is that the filmmakers that are inclined to make 'em right just don't have the resources to do it right.

Say, I feel that the most interesting aspect of zombie apocalypse movies are the flashpoint... say, the first half hour of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Where society is trying to wrap its head around something so preposterous actually happening.

It's when everyone bunkers down and starts squabbling that things start getting dry. How may ways to go with the "If we all work together we might make it out of here alive" trope is there, really?

I don't expect much out of the upcoming World War Z... but that Battle of Yonkers setpiece has the potential to raise the bar on zombie mayhem.

Slyde said...

stacie, whats your handle on L4D? im slyde01 there... i'd love to play with you sometime....

i think the more zombie films, the better. Every one, in some small way at least, can bring a new take on the genre.

what i'd REALLY like to see is a post apocolyptic zombie tv show (ideally on an hbo or the like). Its yet to be tried, anyway...

p.s. do you read The Walking Dead? it really is an outstanding zombie comic...

love the site...

Stacie Ponder said...

I'm...uh...not on Xbox Live because I am a big lame. One of these days...

I read The Walking Dead up until...hmm. I have no idea what issue # it was, but it was when the plucky band of survivors came across the psychotic band of survivors, with Mr. Rapey and all that. I stopped buying comics altogether around that time ($$$), but that's one title I'd love to pick up in collected editions.

I think a TV show would be interesting, if done well and seriously. Hell, the mini-series Dead Set was pretty cool, although beyond the Big Brother/reality TV angle it didn't add much "new" to the genre. As a standard (5 hour) zombie flick, though, I loved it.

Slyde said...

So you're playing L4d solo?

ouch! its still a great game, but playing with 3, living breathing other players is where the fun really is at. And in the vs mode other players can play as the zombies.. good times.

anyway, it wasnt meant to be, as i play it on my pc, and the xbox and pc versions arent co-compatible...

definitely give WK another try...shortly after you dropped it (maybe a year later), the whole prison storyline had a very explosive and cool climax.. the book is currently setting off in a new direction, which ive been liking.

also, you should try Crossed. Written by Garth Ennis.. its pretty damn good too...

Richard Doyle said...

When I think Nazi zombies I think of either the atrocious Jess Franco film "Oasis of the Zombies", or the no-so-bad-because-t-gas-Peter-Cushing-in-it "Shock Waves". I think the latter is pretty much the definitive Nazombie movie.

Michael said...

I'm with you on this one, Stacie. I really enjoyed Dead Rising, but the only zombie movies I've enjoyed lately are ones that have taken a comic or pseudo-comic spin on the material (like Shaun of the Dead and Fido). It feels like everything's been done--although I'm always hoping to be surprised.

Trav said...

The zombie movie isn't much different from any other sub-genre. We're going into a vampire movie run, but we've had disaster films, killer viruses, ghosts, demons, and on and on. There are and will always be creative gems, but the majority will be retread crap.

I think the problem with most zombie movies is that every fanboy with a camera wants to make their own Night of the Living Dead. We all like gut-munching and exploding heads and severed limbs, and, like free pie at a buffet, we can't and won't get enough, and when we get home, we still want more so we make our own.

That said, there are still some interesting ideas out there. The Walking Dead graphic novel is what we've all wanted to see after, for example, Dawn of the Dead ends - what happens next? And boy, what a ride it's been. There are other cool concepts out there, like in the novel Monster Island (and it's sequels) with it's intelligent zombies.

If all else fails, I can keep watching Dawn of the Dead, RotLD, and Shaun of the Dead.

repoman said...

While zombies are certainly the hot thing right now, I don't think they'll ever really go away. Vampires have come and go in fashion, yet somebody somewhere is making a vampire flick right now. I watched "Let The Right One In" a couple months ago and thought it was fantastic. But I imagine there are 6 bad films to each good one (I'm looking your way "30 Days of Night"). I might be bored overall with vampires, but I'll never be bored with good vampire stories.

The same can be said of zombies. It's not that I'm sick of the living dead, I'm sick of bad films about the living dead. For each "28 Weeks Later" I'll suffer through 8 "Day of the Dead 2: Contagium". But as long as people find ways of telling a unique story around them, they'll be around.

You know what's left the public consciousnesses? Frankenstein. Apparently bringing back only one dead person that'll run amok through the countryside is passe. These kids today with their Pokemon and their hordes of the living dead feasting on live flesh...

Robert H. said...

Even zombie musicals are so 2005 ago;
personally, I expect lesbian werewolves to be the next Horror Sensation.

Renae De Liz said...

I am not at all tired of seeing zombie movies! :D I am tired of seeing BAD ones, yes, but I really do feel there is an untapped potential still.

I feel zombie movies these days center on the same ideas (like the government is BAD or Gunz are awesomez!) and depend on gore and ridiculous 'jump' moments as the main scare factor. I rarely find one that embodies that sense of suspenseful zombie creepiness I crave! :D I thought REC had that feel, as did my favorite 90's version of Night of the Living Dead.

For instance, sometimes while sitting here at home working, I think what would happen if zombies just suddenly appeared at my window and how would a normal family handle it? I would love to see that! One that involves a plain normal family. Not a band of sexy 20 somethings with guns. And where mom ISN'T Jessica Alba and dad isn't some hunky dude with a major emotional background that somehow becomes a plot point. But only focus on what a normal weaponless family would realistically do if zombies started surrounding the house and banging on the windows.

Anyway, that's something I'd love to see/ :D I do think there's a ton of POV's that haven't been used yet!

And PLEASE make a zombie movie, Stacie! You'd make it amazing! :D In the meantime bring over your X-Box so we can play! :D

Craig Blamer said...

"For instance, sometimes while sitting here at home working, I think what would happen if zombies just suddenly appeared at my window and how would a normal family handle it? I would love to see that! One that involves a plain normal family. Not a band of sexy 20 somethings with guns. And where mom ISN'T Jessica Alba and dad isn't some hunky dude with a major emotional background that somehow becomes a plot point. But only focus on what a normal weaponless family would realistically do if zombies started surrounding the house and banging on the windows."

See, I'm down with that. Most zombie films, at some point the survivors stumble on an arsenal and start packin' heat. Personally, I'd have absolutely no idea where to score a gun.

I dig the reaction, not the action.

Craig Blamer said...

And for what it's worth... no one seems to be mopin' around sayin' that there's too many serial killer movies being made.

Seriously... what percentage of horror films in the last twenty years is just some dude wackin' folks?

chrryblssmninja said...

I second the Dead Set recommendation above. The reality show setting isn't revolutionary, but the miniseries is just good stuff.

the_novacula said...

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I liked Diary of the Dead. It wasn't perfect, but, you know.