Tag Archive for zombie

Nothing to See Here

Seriously… for some reason today my brain is so horribly scattershot that I’ve been staring at my article entry page for a while and haven’t been able to think of anything to write about. I think it may have to do with the mind numbing task I’ve been doing at work… replacing direct table queries with view based queries. Its a web app, with about 200 pages, and every page uses queries. Ugh.

So, allow me to hit you with some random thoughts…

TV Shows: Its May, which means that just about every show is pulling stunt casting and/or running season finales. I happen to watch alot of TV and my biggest concern is my favorite shows are on either UPN or the WB, neither network will exist in the fall. The CW (the combination of UPN and the WB) will be announcing their line-up on May 18th. Most other networks will be doing so around the same time as its Upfronts week. Veronica Mars and Supernatural had better make the cut and show up in the fall.

Comic Books: I’m really itchin’ for volume 5 of the Walking Dead to come out at the end fo the month…

Books: I actually finished my pirate book and started something else, but I’m too scattered to really review the pirate book. I want to read more undead/zombie books, but I don’t own any.

Houses: Who are the people who are buying these $500k+ homes around Atlanta? and how can I get their jobs? I always thought my salary was fairly decent, but unless these people are really overstretching their budgets and plan on defaulting their loans or flipping their houses for resale, I must be wrong and my pay sucks.

Computer Games: I really need to play more games. I miss it. But new games will require a new PC investment. *sigh* I guess I’ll stick with World of Warcraft, and maybe start playing Puzzle Pirates or something…

… and why is it that the guy at the newsstand laughs at me every time I ask him to sell me a winning lottery ticket?

The Walking Dead

For Christmas, I was given a book that I asked for, The Walking Dead. Its a comic book about people trying to survive in a world of zombies. Yesterday, on a drive to North Carolina with my wife, my brother and his girlfriend to visit his girlfriend’s family, I re-read book one, and read books two, three and four.

The Walking Dead is, quite simply, the best zombie stories I have ever read. A while back I posted about Brian Keene’s books, and those were very impressive for horror books, but The Walking Dead, which is a comic book series and not novels, deals more with the people than the zombies. They aren’t zombie stories, they are people stories where the setting happens to be a world full of zombie like you might set a drama with a backdrop of World War II or the Depression Era US.

I recommend these books, and Amazon has a very reasonable deal for buying all 4 collections for $33 right now. The rest of this review is going to contain some spoilers, a little plot revelation, so avoid it if you want the books to remain secret until you page through them. Read more

Reign of the Dead

Mmm… more zombies. Another Christmas gift this year was Len Barnhart’s Reign of the Dead. First, let me express my disappointment that this is an iUniverse published book. iUniverse is another POD publisher, though its not as bad as PublishAmerica since they are backed by Barnes & Noble it is still paying to be published and it still keeps your book out of most bookstores. That aside, this is actually a pretty good book. As usual for the genre, the dead come back to life and kill people. In this case, any dead person with an intact brain will get back up, but just the bitten. The author skips the gory details of the world being overrun and the first days of the walking dead by starting with a character who has been living in a secluded cabin for the past three weeks. After that it follows what is a fairly typical formula of survivors finding each other and banding together. He throws into the mix a government installation run by a mildly insane dictator type who actually becomes commander-in-chief after the fall of NORAD and all the major political players, at which point he decides that nuking all the cities is the answer. He doesn’t, because if he did it would be a really short story. Instead, there is a mini civil war, and dead soldiers becomes zombies, and only one scientist gets out. After a bunch of other stuff, the book actually ends happy. The zombies are gone and the remnants of humanity start putting the pieces back together.

I had one issue with the book. The first character, Jim, is described as a business man who has retreated to the wilderness to get some much needed rest. He is depicted as an avid hunter, but somewhere during the first few chapters he just sort of becomes this hardened military type that garners respect from the other characters. The thing missing is for him to have actually done something to earn that respect. Sure, in times of crisis, people often will latch on to any leader type, but Jim stumbles in with a group that already had a leader type and the trust he gets just doesn’t feel earned.

On a good note, I did very much enjoy the book’s use of a prison. To me, it has always been something that just logically made sense. A prison is like a ready made castle, and a perfect place to hunker down and try to survive a rising of zombies. Now, its true you could get trapped there, surrounded, but with the proper supplies for planting gardens and whatnot, you could easily survive there for years behind the fences and stone walls while trying to solve the being surrounded problem. So, I liked that they used a prison, especially dealing with the prisoners, guards and what happened after the zombies started prowling around.

Overall, this was a decent book. Definately worth the read. Happier, but not as well written as Brian Keene’s The Rising and City of the Dead (which I reviewed previously).

Other People`s Heroes

Along with my zombie books, I got some superhero books for Christmas too. One of them was Other People’s Heroes by Blake M. Petit. The book is about a world where superheroes exist, and one man has always wanted to be one. As a kid he was saved from a burning building by Lionheart, the greatest hero. As an adult, he finds out that he has powers himself and plans to starting fighting crime when he discovers that its all a sham. There are no real heroes and villians anymore, its like professional wrestling. The heroes all grouped up and put the real hard criminals away, and the other bad guys were offered steady jobs. Fights are scripted, heroes put on a show, real crime is down, and kids get good role models to look up to. But something isn’t quite right, and our hero aims to find out what that is…

Its a good book, a really good book. Blake weaves a solid tale of superheroes with the right amount of humor. It reads like a comic book without the pictures.

That said, I was disappointed by one thing about this book… the publisher. Having gone to a few writer’s workshops myself, and one with A.C. Crispen who co-heads up Writer Beware, I’ve been constantly warned about PublishAmerica (see Writer Beware’s exposure of the PA hoax, and this Washington Post article). Basically, as a Print on Demand publisher, very few, if any, small bookstores and no major national chains will carry the book. POD books are almost always non-returnable, so stores don’t stock them since they can’t return unsold copies. Many stores will let you special order through them, and with online sales picking up every year this is going to be less of a problem (however, for now, the majority of book sales are still done in brick & mortar shops). But POD publishers also don’t do much, if any, marketing for their books. I believe PA offers to do two local press releases, and they will send individual announcements to a list of people that you (the author) provide. Oh, and if you read PA’s contract, they own your book for 7 years. That means for 7 years if you sell the movie rights or get picked up by a large traditional publishing house, they get 50%. All this made me sad because Blake’s book is excellent. Shopped to the right publishing house he could have gotten a good deal and actually gotten paid well (or at least decently) for his book. I may have never known this book even existed if not for Amazon.com.

So, there you have it… good book, bad publishing company.

The Rising and City of the Dead

For Christmas this year I asked for a bunch of zombie books and superhero books, and I got some. One of the zombie books I got was The Rising by Brian Keene. Its your traditional “zombies are overrunning everything” story that you see in movies all the time. Or at least so it appears… In this book zombies aren’t the mindless corpses seeking flesh and stumbling around of Night of the Living Dead. They’re not even the beastial “Brains!” zombies of Return of the Living Dead. These are closer to the deadites of the Evil Dead movies (1, 2 and Army of Darkness). They work together, they talk, they plan. They fire guns and drive cars. But they still have only one goal… kill everyone.

The book starts with Jim Thurmond, locked away in the fall out shelter he built in his back yard for Y2K. Jim decides he’s going to head outside and try to get away when his cell phone rings and just before the battery dies he hears his son, who lives with Jim’s ex-wife, plead for help, saying that he’s hiding in the attic, mommy is sick, and Rick (the stepfather) is a monster. This sets Jim off on a journey that takes him from West Virginia to New Jersey to save his son.

Jim isn’t the only character we meet. There is Martin, a reverend, who meets up with Jim fairly early. Frankie, a junky whore, whose trying to survive the living dead and kicking heroine cold turkey. And Baker, a scientist who might just be partly responsible for the whole damn thing. There are a number of other points of view, some very brief, to fill out the tale, and Mr. Keene weave the stories together beautifully (if rather depressingly), and keeps you at the edge of your seat wondering what could possibly happen next.

The book was so good, I ran out and picked up the second (and final) book, City Of The Dead , because I just had to know how it ended.

Now, I’m going to go into alot more detail, so I’ll warn you… ** Spoilers Ahead!! **
Read more

All Hallow`s Eve

The Halloweens of my childhood are dead.

This may not seem like a great revelation considering that I’m 31, but it is sad to me to think it, to realize that it is really gone. First off, lets begin with the costumes. As a child, it was rare for a kid to have a 100% store bought packaged costume. You never did that. You bought pieces and parts, then you took some old clothes and made the rest. A vampire costume was some fake plastic teeth, some fake blood, maybe some white face paint and a cape… the rest of the outfit was made of dressy church clothes with hidden holes or that were a half size too small and were going to be tossed out or donated anyway. My personal favorite year was a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, and a pair of scissors… some fake blood, a little black face paint around the eyes and I was a pretty kickass zombie. Too many kids these days just go to the store and pick up a costume. Then one by one they come to door looking exactly alike, the same couple dozen or so popular costumes over and over.

Second… it’s 5pm right now, the sun is still shining quite brightly, and already I’ve seen kids out in costume. Its still daylight… trick-or-treating is supposed to happen after dark! As a kid, we never started until the sun had set. Not that there are many kids out, because most of them are going to be doing their trick-or-treating at the local mall, where its completely safe. Of course, to a degree I can’t argue… when I was young, my parents taught me pretty well about avoiding strangers and I was required to know all the local streets, how to get home, to trusted neighbor’s houses, and even to the nearest police or fire department should an emergency arrise. It was called parenting, and my parents did it. Most kids I’ve bothered to speak to these days can hardly find their front door from a half block away, let alone be trusted to actually think too much for themselves and reason out how to handle an unexpected situation. In my day, if a sicko tried to snatch a kid from a group, the other kids would run screaming, parents would be swarming the street in seconds… now, I suspect most kids would stand there and wonder if it was going to be on the news later, and it might dawn on one of them to tell a grown-up what happened if they knew they were going to be rewarded for it. Not that many of today’s parents would ask, or care, or even realize their child was gone until it came time to send them to school the next day… maybe.

Third, no one decorates anymore. I do, we put up monsters and spiderwebs and all that stuff in the front window. (Hey, I’d decorate my lawn but I live in an apartment and I don’t have one.) But one window out of a few hundred just ends up looking silly. The neighborhoods I grew up in, they had style. Frontyards became graveyards. Eerie music would poor out ever time a door opened. You actually approached each house with apprehension because you didn’t know if it was just going to be a person with a bowl of candy, or a monster to jump out at you and toss candy in your bag if you could manage not to run away. One year, when I started feeling a bit old to actually go out for candy, I worked the door at our house. I dressed up in some jeans and an old flannel shirt, I put on a mask and stuffed pine straw into my clothes so that it poked out at the ankles, wrists, neck and waist… then I sat on the front step with the bowl of candy in my lap and a little sign that said “Take One”. I stayed as motionless as I could, and some kids were scared to approach, but if they did I stayed still for them… but the ones who walked right up and tried to take a handful of candy instead of just one, them I grabbed, by the wrist, and held on as they tried to run away screaming. Once they’d wrench free and I’d get back up, these teens would stop crying and compose themselves and start laughing about who just got scared, and they’d resolved to find someone else and send them this way, and I’d assure them I’d be there.

And that leads into number Four… Haunted Houses. I love them… or I used to. The last few that I’ve been to though, they just sucked. Too crowded, we walked single file through the house, never more than five feet from the person in front or behind, and every scare was anticipated. If they jumped out at someone a few people ahead, they wouldn’t be reset to jump out at you, and if you watched seven people walk past corner or dark spot without a scare you could be pretty sure it was waiting for you. Thanks to the cry babies and sue happy idiots in our litigious world, they can’t touch you. Not that I want people in a haunted house to get man-handled, but part of what is frightening about a guy in a hockey mask coming at you is the idea that he’s going to get you! Of course, if he’s legally not allowed to come into contact with you in any way, it’s not too worrysome anymore. He may be running out you, but he’s going to stop… he has to or he’ll lose his job, and you can sue the haunted house right out of existance.

That about covers it… everything that I loved about Halloween has been eroded and what remains is this bizarre 100% safe commercial holiday that some people still oppose of religious grounds despite the fact that nearly everything one might oppose has been stripped.

Happy Halloween!

Zombies on Mass Transit

Ever seen the movie ‘Shaun of the Dead’? The scenes in the beginning when he’s riding the bus and all the people around him have this eyes-glazed-over look to them? That’s what my ride to work is like every day. More than ninety percent of the people just sort of sit there, lost in their own thoughts, or perhaps not having any thoughts at all. That means that less than ten percent of the people, less than one in ten, is listening to music or reading or talking. Even then, some of the people who listen to music do what I call “listening to secret music” … see, on my MP3 player, I have only songs that I like, songs that make me smile, tap my foot, bob my head, mouth the words… good music. Lots of these other people, they either have only music that they don’t like, or they’ve been socially shamed into not drawing any attention to themselves or showing any emotion at all. Except for the tinny sound escaping their headphones, you’d mistake them for the one who are just sitting there lost in their lack of thoughts.

This all leads me to another issue… I’ve been having dreams lately, pretty much every night… Zombies. Running through zombie infested cities, holding off the horde from a mall or a Wal-Mart, surviving against the odds. In my conscious life I find myself wondering, if it really happened, if zombies really did start to emerge and the world went to hell, would I survive as well as I do in my dreams? Would I be the movie hero, or would I end up being another mindless creature prowling for flesh? I’d like to think I’d be a survivor.

So I find myself wondering as I ride the bus, if these people, the ones with no emotion, eyes unfocused and slack-jawed, were to suddenly turn and begin the tell-tale zombie moan, how would the story end? My daydreams echo my night, and I stand on the MARTA train, never sitting, never letting myself get lazy, and I imagine a disturbance at the far end of the car, screams, blood, and I pull the emegency brake cable and I open the door and drop to the ground running, or I yank hard on the loose hand rail and lay in with skull crushing blows on the ‘infected’. And I smile, and the music plays a soundtrack to the destruction, and I tap my foot and I bob my head and I mouth the words, and I rejoice that I’m not one of those people… the living dead, slack-jawed and mindless, shuffling off to work the grind, shuffling home to rest up for the next day.

Dawn of the Dead

I love zombie movies. Ever since I saw the original Night of the Living Dead, I’ve just always liked them. One main reason is that within the span of the movie, a good zombie movie remains internally consistant, and its not hard to be a good zombie movie. Do your zombies run or walk? Are they capable of any speed movements or are they always slow? Do the only attack humans or anything that lives? Is the whole body reanimated or is it just the brain keeping it going? Is anyone who dies capable of being a zombie or do they have to be bitten by one?

Answer those questions, stick to them, and you can have a good zombie flick.

When I went to go see Dawn of the Dead this weekend, I knew alot of what to expect. I had seen the original (though not recently), and knew it was about a bunch of people who wind up in a mall while the world outside spirals into zombie hell.

It was good in that it was scary. It was good in that is was consistant. It was good in that it had funny moments to break the tension, and calm you down as a viewer.

But I didn’t love the movie…

Now, before I continue, let me get something out of the way:

** SPOILER – DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE MOVIE, INCLUDING HOW IT ENDS – SPOILER **

Okay, now that everyone has been warned, let me talk about why I didn’t love the movie.

Night of the Living Dead is a cornerstone of the zombie genre. At the end, everyone from the house, the story you’ve been watching is dead… but, the human race is winning. Zombies are getting under control and the bodies are being burned. In a way, it has a very War of the Worlds feel to it. We are on the bring of destruction, but as dawn arrives, we start winning.

Return of the Living Dead (and its sequals) are the flip side of the genre. They are pure camp. The zombie say funny things, do funny things. People die in funny ways. There are two actors who are in every movie (they play different people and die in every one of them). And the movies end with total destruction. In fact, more than one I believe ends with us (the Army) nuking the infected town only to further spread the infection in the form of contaminated rain.

The original Dawn of the Dead ends when the people from the mall decide to make a break for the harbor, where they plan to get on a boat and sail off to an uninhabited island or somesuch. The movie literally ends with a shot of the boat sailing away, abandoning the main land. In this end, its similar to both Night and Return… We (the humans) have lost, and have turned over the main land to the undead, but there is also hope because we are sailing to a safe place.

The new Dawn of the Dead ends in the same way. I could feel in myself, and in the sigh of relief in Jodi, and the other members of the audience, a sence of relaxing, and sadness, but also of hope as the boat sails away. Like the original, we lost, but we survived. However, as the credits rolled, snippets of film continued in the form of seconds here and there on a video camera found on the boat. Food on the boat, which had been idle for weeks, is covered in maggots. They run out of gas. The engine catches fire. They find a row boat with a cooler, and in the cooler an undead head (funny, but… ). Snippets, until they pull up to shore at the island. The dog is barking, and runs off. They have guns out and start to move down the dock. Then dozens of undead rush the boat and camera, which drops to the ground and you keep seeing snippets of undead running by, screams, and death. The movie finally ends with total destruction… we lost, and we didn’t survive, and it wasn’t funny enough to laugh it off.

In the end, the new Dawn of the Dead leaves you without hope, and not enough to smile about.

Is it worth seeing? I would say yes, but just make sure you leave when the credits begin to roll.

There`s nothing like a good scare to get the blood pumping.

It’s October. This means two things: Oktoberfest and Halloween.

Since I haven’t made the jaunt up to Helen, GA for the beer sloshing fun of Oktoberfest yet, that means I’m talking about Halloween.

Last night, some friends and I made the trip out to Tom Savini’s Nightmare Haunted House and Crypt of Terror. Both of these places are well done within the constraints of the law.

Yep, as the woman outside will inform you, “The monsters inside WILL jump out at you, but they WILL NOT touch you.” And with that in mind, there was really nothing left to be scared about.

For me anyway… For one of our group, everything was scary. She must have screamed or skittered away from every shadow and ghoul from entrance to exit.

In any event, haunted houses are cool. Even though you know you can’t be touched since the owners fear lawsuits more than they fear the undead (lawyers are much more frightening than flesh eating zombies anyway), a well done haunted house will use suspense to build up your expectations of a man leaping out from the next corner… then NOT having him leap out and putting him at the turn after that. You know, the one right after you relaxed… Good stuff.

So, if you happen to be in the Atlanta, GA area and want to spend an hour or so and $22, go visit these two places. It was worth my hard earned dollar.