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!

Aug 5, 2011

when there's no more room at the library...


Zombies, am I right? It's kind of amazing to me how resilient the subgenre has proven in recent years, considering its heyday, if you ask me, was in the late 1970s/early 80s...but then, I suppose, fads are supposed to be cyclical. At least, I hope they are; at long last, I've mastered the Macarena and I'm dying to bust it out somewhere.

But really, did any horror fan expect zombies to make such a hardy comeback? I didn't. Sure, they never went away completely, but for a while they were quiet, shuffling around in the background while other monsters had their moments. You know, monsters like Freddy, Michael, and Jason, who starred in some of the worst sequels in the history of...sequels. Or those monsters from TV shows on the WB, whose faces filled the dull posters for tepid slasher-style flicks and remakes. George Romero was making movies without a zombie in sight, while a DVD rerelease of his seminal film Dawn of the Dead was something to celebrate.

Oh, my friends, how the times have changed. Was it 28 Days Later that ushered in the new zombie era? Perhaps. Whether the opening of the floodgates can be traced back to one particular movie or book is irrelevant; the fact is, zombies have infiltrated film, videogames, literature, television, and even everyday life ("zombie walks", anyone?) like no one could have anticipated. Nothing else in horror (or fantasy, or...you know, genre-stuff) comes close- not vampires, despite the popularity of Twilight. Not witchcraft and wizardry. Nothing! Zombies are everywhere, and it seems they're not going ANYWHERE.

In Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead, writer/film director Jovanka Vuckovic explores...well, the book's title says it all, doesn't it? From the origins of the zombie in Haitian history to the current craze for the genre, this slim volume provides a broad look at the walking dead in all forms of pop culture.

For me, the book's earliest chapters are the most informative, as I am but a humble ignoramus regarding Haitian voodoo rituals and religious rites. Vuckovic spends some time doling out the history before segueing into the earliest days of the zombie genre in film and literature. I'm not terribly well-versed in 1930s and 40s horror, say, so I found myself LEARNING. This is good. I like learning.

In later chapters, such as "Back from the Dead: Zombies in the New Millenium", the book becomes a bit more "Vuckovic on Zombies" than "History" as the author provides her opinion on films and other media. There's no denying that she's an authority on horror, and her opinion is certainly an educated one- her tenure at Rue Morgue Magazine is proof of that- but I found myself getting all defensive about a few topics at hand. She calls Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead an "unnecessary remake", which...I don't know, maybe it is. But I can't help but think it's got merits of its own, completely independent from what George Romero did in the original 30 years prior. Vuckovic rips much more harshly into Paul WS Anderson's Resident Evil, and again, I found myself, you know, defending my own opinions to a book. Resident Evil is probably crap- in fact, you can probably take away the "probably"- but sometimes crap is fun. Sometimes crap is good! Obviously Vuckovic is entitled to her own opinions and NO book is completely objective, but there were times throughout that I simply wanted more "facts" and not to be made to feel like a brainless, drooling dolt because I like a certain movie or two. I may be a brainless, drooling dolt, sure, but a history book shouldn't necessarily remind me of it.

Or maybe I'm just too much of an opinionated horror fan myself. After all, I do have a blog.

"Booooook...wait, I mean braaaaiiins...."

Zombies! works best, perhaps, as a resource. With sizable lists of films and books featuring the undead- not to mention all of the titles Vuckovic discusses in the chapters proper- there is plenty of gut-munching media out there for readers to check out. Throw in the hundreds of photos and illustrations, and the book becomes all but indispensable for zombie fanatics everywhere. Romero fans in particular will be pleased; the genre's most famous figure provides a foreword and, not surprisingly, is featured heavily throughout the book. I was happy to see two of my loves- comics and videogames- get plenty of attention.

I have a few nerdy gripes (beyond my already established, whiny "But I LIKE Resident Evil!" complaint)- where's the bibliography? Zombies Ate My Neighbors is not a first-person shooter! and so on- but overall, Zombies! is a terrific addition to any genre lover's bookshelf. It's brought ample movies and books to my attention, likely giving me undead fodder for years to come (The Chilling? What's that? I have no idea, but I'm gonna check it out)...proving yet again that zombies will never die.

Unless you shoot 'em in the head, I guess.

25 comments:

Craig Blamer said...

I blame Michael Jackson for the absence of zombie flicks from '83 up until 28 Days Later... and the Dawn of the Dead remake resurrected the genre. No way anyone was gonna get a project greenlit with dancin' zombies in their head.

Sad thing about Snyder's DOTD (which I enjoyed a lot) is that it's the only solid American zombie film to hit the multiplex in almost thirty years.

Damn.

scarina said...

Yay, reading.
I don't think that the Dawn of the Dead remake was unnecessary. It definitely improved upon the pacing of the original (Even though I love the original.)

Fred said...

"at long last, I've mastered the Macarena and I'm dying to bust it out somewhere"

My son's Bar Mitzvah is in 5 years, so I'll have to add you to the guest list. And watching my relatives do the Macarena (the Spanish Electric Slide, which is my generation's version of the Hustle, which was my older cousin's version of the Alley Cat, the Mother of All Obnoxious Line Dances) is sort of like a Zombie Walk set to some supremely annoying music.

Jeffrey said...

The Chilling, especially its first 15 minutes, is amazing.

Marvin the Macabre said...

I don't know about you, but I'm suffering from zombie burnout at the moment. Not that I haven't seen some kick-ass zombie films in the past 5 years, but it's getting awfully hard to be innovative within the subgenre.

Still, I too love the Resident Evil movies, but it has less to do with zombies than with the goddess incarnate Milla Jovavich kicking 31 flavors of ass.

Matt De Luna, the De Lunatic said...

Excellent review for the book Final Girl. I was in Barnes and Noble a few days ago and I saw this book, but I skipped it. Now I regret that I didn't pick it up because it sounds like it's a very good read. The zombie movie is my favorite of the horror genre and I love that it has branched out to books and tv and video games.
I agree with you that Resident Evil isn't a masterpiece in the zombie sub-genre, but sometimes you need a crappy but good zombie movie to entertain you every once in awhile. Not every good zombie flick has to be an analogy for war or consumerism.

RJ said...

Yeah, I'll defend Snyder's Dawn of the Dead with you. I mean, the opening of that movie has got to rank up there among the best. Just b/c it's a remake doesn't mean it doesn't have merit.

Patrick said...

I haven't read this particular bit of opinion (Zombies!) but I may check it out at some time. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I agree with you that some folks take horror too freaking seriously. Dawn of the Dead (remake) was totally badass. One of my all time favorite zombie flicks. So there, critics. You can have Steel Magnolias and Chariots of Fire, I'll take Dawn of the Dead (either version).

I enjoyed you post as always, Stacie. Thanks for doing what you do.

jkp said...

Nice review. Not being very well acquainted with older stuff, I thought her pre-Romero history was pretty thorough too.

One thing I remember about this book is that she goes at the 'Blind Dead' movies (which I've never seen, but am now curious about) pretty hard for misogyny, a point that is probably not made often enough in these kinds of discussions, and it left me feeling like, in general, she's looking at the stuff with fresh eyes.

Still, the Blind Dead movies look strange enough to be worth checking out... blind zombies/templars/mummies/ghosts/whatevers on horseback, I'm not sure it's been done before, or since.

Anonymous said...

This one is good, too:

David Flint's Zombie Holocaust

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zombie-Holocaust-Living-Devoured-Culture/dp/0859653978

Chris
MAYHEM

Mrs. Hall said...

oooh, this is on my christmas list for reals!

Fred said...

@jkp: definitely check out Tombs of the Blind Dead. These are not your usual zombie films, and well worth the time spent watching them. As for misogyny, you can't really top what happens to Olga Karlatos in Zombie, except for maybe what happens to the nurse in the hospital at the end of Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue. Pretty extreme stuff.

Chris Otto said...

Great post! I heart zombies. Another great book is The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia ... Tons of suggestions and insight in that one. Plus it gives proper props to the influence that "The Last Man on Earth" had on Romero and the genre. ... Final Girl, have you ever seen "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things"? ... That's one for your list, for sure. And KNOW your review of it would be an Instant Classic. :)

Stacie Ponder said...

I saw that many many moons ago (like 'when I was a kid' amount of moons), but I'd have to rewatch it to write a review. Hmm. Mayhaps I should!!

Chris Otto said...

Yes, I also saw it when I was a kid in the 70s (maybe age 8 or 9 -- what were my parents THINKING), and it terrified me. ... As an adult though, it's an entirely different experience. Very watchable, very bizarre, still scary at times and an absolute hoot. It's really one of a kind.

lrobhubbard said...

Stacie,

As long as you're in the library, you might also want to check out the new edition of Kim Newman's NIGHTMARE MOVIES - it may be a tad pricey, but it's two books in one; the first half is the previous edition, which looks at horror up to about the mid-80s and the second part takes the reader up to the present day.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, The Chilling. Thats Linda Blair and Grizzly Adams. What more could you ask for?

deb

Joel H said...

Nice review. All books on zombie cinema tend to whinge about Resident Evil and its fans. Come now, it wasn't that bad.

I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but I don't even feel guilty.

Slyde said...

once again you and i are on point about all things zombie.

believe me, there is NO bigger fan of the original Dawn than myself. It's still my fav zombie movie of all time, and i was sickened when i heard they were remaking it, but damn it all if Zack Snyder didnt pull a win out of his undead ass! i love that film, all on its own.

Ditto for Resident Evil.. i'm not sure why i like that movie so much, since so much of it is indeed crap, but its got a kind of style and feel that makes me watch it often. its sequels, however, all blow.

Slyde said...

p.s. i wouldnt mind banging young Mila Jovana-bana-bana-bovitch, either. Maybe that has somthing to do with it...

Slyde said...

p.p.s. isnt that Charlie Aldred's artwork on the cover?

Slyde said...

p.p.p.s.

Speakin of 28 days later, did you give the comic a try? it just ended.. ran for 2 years and i thought PERFECTLY told Selena's story from the time period of a month or so after 28 days later, thru shortly after the sequel.


ok, i'll shut up now

Petrified said...

Book of The Dead was great too: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Dead-Complete-History-Zombie/dp/1903254337/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315070939&sr=1-5

Matthew D C said...

Nice post. I love the zombies. Check out my first horror post!

http://soldierwateringhole.blogspot.com/2011/09/dark-pleasures.html

Max the drunken severed head said...

I'm WAAAAAY too far behind in reading posts of my favorite bloggers, but I just read this post about Jovanka's zombie book and really enjoyed it.

Looking forward to your FG posts in October! Er, SHOCKtober!