Thursday, 19 July 2012

Hello Guardian Readers

In the Guardian today our good friend Hannah is writing about the high court decision that it was legal to lock her up for dressing like a zombie on the royal wedding day. She was kind enough to give this blog a shout out, mainly because, well, her being there was my fault. She wasn't there for political or activist reasons, she was there because I thought it would make for a funny blog post that would get a few hits, but couldn't make it down there myself. This is something Hannah may never let me live down.

So, in anticipation of a bunch of people clicking through to here from Comment is Free who aren't interested in hearing what I have to say about zombie movies (that's a lot) I'm posting all the relevant Royal Wedding stuff here.

First, our blogs original royal wedding write up, including Hannah's original account of the arrests.
Secondly, a piece by Amy Cutler, a friend I sent along with Hannah who also got arrested. Amy's talking about how zombie films actually have a whole lot to say about situations like this.

And finally, here's a New Year's Eve interview with Hannah following her awarding of Zombie of the Year by the Zombie Rights Campaign.

It's also worth checking out Hannah's own blog as well as the website she set up to collect all the information relating to this case, Pageantry and Precrime.

Have a look around, and be careful what you're seen wearing during the Olympics.

Monday, 16 July 2012

#45 The Divide: The Dark Heart of Man is Dull

If he'd only thought to bring some boardgames down to the shelter, this movie would have been a delightful romp!
The genre this blog chose to focus on is not a cheery place. In every story we cover it is presupposed that you, and everybody you love have died, probably screaming. More than that though, these stories do not bring out the best in human nature. From Night of the Living Dead onwards we have seen time and time again that if you put a bunch of people together in a room and then kill everybody else, it’s only a matter of time before they turn on each other.

So, here we come to The Divide. Oh, and just so you know, I’m going to spoil the shit out of this movie. Also, spoilers, this is one of this blog’s rare negative reviews, so if you dislike ranting, scorn and mockery, why not read what I have to say about Juan of the Dead instead? That was good! Likewise, this film had some rape in, and we talk a little about that, so you may want to avoid this review for that reasons.

The Divide sets itself up as Lord of the Flies, only with a nuclear bunker instead of a desert island, and a group of supposedly competent adults instead of school children. It’s a harsh, bleak look at the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men.

But The Divide makes a crucial, fatal mistake.

Apocalypse fiction, more than perhaps any other part of sci-fi, works by making you ask yourself what you would do in that situation. Sometimes it answers that question with a badass power fantasy ala Shaun of the Dead. Sometimes it makes it clear that you would lead a short, painful existence than die, ala Threads. And sometimes it goes the Lord of the Flies route and suggests that you would become a homicidal arsehole. The Death of Grass is perhaps the best example of this.

But for this to work you’ve got to start off with a character who can identify with. In Lord of the Flies, the progression from school boy to painted savage is a gradual one, made up of a series of logical steps. That’s why it’s scary. In Night of the Living Dead, Ben seems like a level headed guy, and while Harry comes across as a bit of a jerk, he’s the sort of jerk you can imagine running into at work or moving into the house next door.
It was this or charades
In The Divide, within ten minutes of watching the film you’ve established that you are in the presence of a shower of dicks. Not a single one of the characters ever demonstrates a likeable quality or warm feeling towards another human being, with the exception of the mother towards Stock Cute Child no #3, who is thankfully kidnapped by mysterious soldiers in hazard suits within the first act of the film.

Despite this, the brunette who doesn’t have sex with anybody is apparently supposed to be our viewpoint character, because, despite the efforts of countless postmodern, meta-commentary jokes in horror films over the last two decades, this film still insists on killing the black guy first, punishing the woman who enjoys sex (with rape! Classy!) and letting the virginal girl escape.
This is the one time I will ever use a meme on this blog. That's a promise.
I was watching the film with Friend of the Blog, Alina and we quickly decided the film was much more fun (and made just as much sense) if you decided the film was taking place in real time. The character’s decisions make just as much sense. At an arbitrary point in the film two of the characters just decide “Hey? Shall we be rapists now? I feel like maybe my character should be a rapist.” “Me too. But I want to do it wearing this woman’s nighty, and to try to rape that other guy, while you’re attacking his girlfriend. That way this will come across as a sort of gritty reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I think is what we’re going for now.”

Finally, I don’t want this review to be entirely negative, so if you do want to watch a story where people attempting to save themselves in a bomb shelter find their worse natures brought to the surface by crisis, I heartily recommend these two stories that are both better, more emotionally involving, and, perhaps most importantly, 87 minutes shorter.

So, watch either The Shelter, an episode of the Twilight Zone that dwells on the way civilised people can turn to animals when their lives are on the line, or Bart’s Comet, from The Simpsons, which does the same thing. Both are better than this.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

#44 Anniversary Dinner: On Caring For Your Pet Zombie

So this week I got a sneak peak at Anniversary Dinner, a new short from gotta/enk productions, the brains behind Werewolf stabbing film The Big Bad. This time the duo have decided to make a zombie movie, with Jessi Gotta taking on both directorial and zombification duties.

The plot is simple. In the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse it’s the wedding anniversary of a man who’s keeping his zombified wife tied up in the spare room. From there what happens is pretty much exactly what always happens when you keep a zombie tied up in the spare room. Kids, don’t keep a zombie tied up in the spare room.

This is ground that’s been covered plenty of times before. The morality of zombie movies says that if you don’t smash your zombified loved one’s brain in with a shovel or a shotgun blast you’re either weak, misguided or dangerous. There’ve been exceptions. In Shaun of the Dead Shaun seems to have trained his dead best friend Ed to concentrate on playing Timesplitters 2 more than trying to chew off Shaun’s goatee, and in Fido it results in a happy, nuclear, possibly kind of necrophilic family.

But usually that’s not how it ends. It ends with Bubba the friend zombie finally mastering how to shoot you in the head, or the chained up infected soldier in 28 Days Later being let out and running round killing everyone. At best, you’re going to be faced with some truly revolting meal times of the type seen in Braindead.

The way the pet chained up zombie is used in this short does something that’s surprisingly rare in zombie movies. For once, this is a film that uses zombies to talk about death. Frederick, the loving husband in this movie, is still clinging onto his relationship with his wife long after she’s dead. There’s no way she can return his feelings, and so her body becomes a huge, toxic presence in Frederick’s life.

And not just Frederick’s life. Leigh, the zombie played by Jessi Gotta, is a threat not just to Frederick, but to everyone else around him, possibly to the point of restarting the pandemic that has only just been brought back under control. And Frederick doesn’t care, because when we feel at our worst it doesn’t often bring out the best in us.

It’s a great little film, simple but nicely done, and definitely one I’d add to my list of lunchtime zombie movies. When it gets released, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, watch the trailer here:

Anniversary Dinner - Official Trailer from gotta/enk on Vimeo.