Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas gift ideas for a zombie enthusiast.

Well, we are rapidly approaching Christmas, and if you are a chronic procrastinator as I am, right now is the time when we finally have to get around to buying some gifts for our loved ones. Although the true meaning of the holiday has become severely distorted in our postmodern, consumption crazy society, at its core, it still is a time of giving, sharing, and generosity - and the best possible gift you can provide for someone this season is a zombie-themed one. Fact. So here is a list of some of my personal favourite examples of zombie pop culture, which could maybe help to prepare a special someone for the inevitable day (or night) that our loved ones return from the grave to devour us alive.

And if you think this is just a shameless ploy to get someone to buy me zombie-themed Christmas presents, this is untrue, because I already own all these things. That's how I'm able to tell you about them, silly.


Zack Snyder's Watchmen adaptation looks to be pretty faithful and true to the source material, and it makes me wonder what exactly went wrong with his Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. Athough it was fairly popular and did well at the box office, it doesn't hold a candle to George Romero's 1978 masterpiece. Although the remake has a pretty decent opening 20 minutes, after that it essentially sacrifices all the character development and social commentary that make the original such a landmark horror film. And seriously, why the fuck were Snyder's zombies running around so much? I mean, these things are physically dead. Their skin is decaying and falling off, their brains have lost all their higher reasoning and most motor functions, and yet Snyder has them running around like an undead Olympic relay team. Anyways, the original Dawn of the Dead is my favourite movie of all time. Yes, some of the acting is a little cheesy. It is, after all, a low budget 70's cult film, shot guerilla style in a mall in Pittsburgh during closing hours over the course of several chaotic weeks. But since there are only 4 main characters who carry the whole movie, you find yourself liking and caring about all of them as the narrative plays out, which makes it all the more painful when terrible things inevitably start to happen to them. Some people might also find themselves cringing at some of the special effects and makeup, but these people are wrong, and they also suck. All the effects were handled by horror legend Tom Savini, who also appears in the film and did a lot of the stunt work. These are my favourite type of movie effects. No CGI or other modern bullshit, just tons of fake blood, prosthetic limbs, and of course, pig intestines. Incredible. This ultimate edition dvd has pretty much anything a zombie fan could want: three seperate cuts of the movie, plus a long and informative documentary that details the making of the film, has modern interviews with the cast, and is generally pretty fucking cool. I received the Dawn of the Dead director's cut on VHS for Christmas 1998 from my brother Matt, and it was one of the best gifts ever. You can provide someone with the same happiness by buying this dvd here.

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

Max Brooks (son of Mel,) has come from out of nowhere to be one of the predominant authorities on the undead, and is now taking the elements of zombie fiction that we all know and love, and steering it into exciting, uncharted territory. First he wrote the Zombie Survival Guide, which is both a really fun way of looking at all the classic conventions of the zombie, and a ludicrously detailed guide on how to survive the coming undead apocalypse. He then followed it up with World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War, which totally knocked me on my ass with the sheer power of its awesomeness. The book is written in the form of a postwar survivors account, the idea is that the author has travelled around the world years after humanity was able to narrowly survive a long and bloody war against millions of undead, and he interviews various people - scientists, soldiers, politicians, civilians, and more - both to hear their personal accounts of what happened to them during this horrible time, and to get to the bottom of both how and why this zombie holocaust was ever able to happen, and how humanity managed to turn the tide and retake the planet just when everything seemed to have been lost. This book is insanely detailed, it covers many different aspects of the war, from the experiences of various soldiers in some of the gruesome battles that they were involved in, to government officials describing in detail the various reasons why they failed in stopping the apocalypse before it really took a turn for the worse, or the interesting ways that the political system functioned during the crisis. There is plenty of Bush-era paranoia and government mistrust which allows World War Z to function as a superb political allegory and provide plenty of social commentary and satire and this, and not people being devoured, is what makes any zombie fiction great (although the people-devouring helps too.) Also, Brad Pitt's Plan B productions secured the rights to the film version of World War Z which is being developed right now by director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) from a script by J. Michael Straczynski, and from all accounts it is going to kick unholy amounts of ass. Buy World War Z here.

THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirman has done something very special with this ongoing series from Image Comics: he's created a perfect Romero-esque apocalyptic universe, populated it with some very real, interesting characters who occupy various positions on an increasingly grey moral scale, and then instead of attempting to cram the narrative into a 2 hour movie, he has allowed their story to play out as the weeks stretch into months and years and they are forced to attempt to survive in this nightmarish world. The last I checked in with how the story is currently progressing, things were looking extremely grim. There is not very much left of the once-diverse cast of survivors led by Officer Rick Grimes. Absolutely no one is safe in this book, not even Rick: as he is forced to commit increasingly dark deeds in order to ensure the survival of his family and the people that he has commited to protect, and is still not always successful in preventing extreme devastation from being inflicted on himself and others. One thing this book does really well is really explore the depths of depravity that lies dormant inside everyone, and how otherwise good people can commit terrible atrocities when all of our social rules and regulations are taken away from us. This is what sets the George Romero Dead films above any other in the genre, (except maybe Twilight of the Dead, which kind of sucked,) and it's something that Robert Kirkman has accomplished here in spades. Whether your possible target for this gift reads graphic novels or not, any fan of horror fiction, or really any intelligent, sane person, will love the Walking Dead. If they don't, then you should stop being friends with them, because they don't deserve you. Or if they are part of your family, cut them off for a minimum of one year, because that's the only way they'll learn that you take this shit seriously. Buy the Walking Dead here.

Well that's the end of the list. Sure, there's plenty more zombie goodness I could add in here: Shaun of the Dead for instance, but everyone knows Shaun is amazing and mostly everyone has seen it so I don't feel like I should have to tell you about it. Or I also could also mention something like Return of the Living Dead, but it's a little known fact that Return of the Living Dead fucking blows. So enjoy your holidays everyone and eat as much food as you can. It will wind up being a comforting memory someday when you are locked in your attic with a few remaining cans of creamed corn for nourishment, and the people that used to be your loving family are scratching at the entrance at all hours of the day, desperate to break in and eat your intestines.


Mark said...

Yo, also, you should check Dead Sea by Brian Keene per zombie-lit. It's seriously the best zombie-related novel I've read all year... and Wellington's 'Monster Island' was a colossal flop.

Grange said...

Loved World War Z, awesome to hear it's coming to the big screen.