Friday, May 23, 2008

Movie Review – Day of the Dead (2008)

Hoping to build on the success of Zack Snyder’s excellent 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, we have a revisioning of Romero’s sub-par Day of the Dead. Sub-par is a good word to use here. Whereas Romero’s third zombie outing was not as brilliant as Dawn of the Dead, Day was still a Romero film and – at the end of the day – was a fucking awesome zombie film. Day of the Dead 2008, on the other hand, was a big, stinking pile of shit when compared to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. What’s more, it is almost a sacrilege when held up to Romero’s Holy Zombie Trinity.

Strong words? Yes. Unfair? I think not.

The plot is straightforward… the movie opens with some teens making out in an abandoned Nike missile site in the mountains of Colorado. This is standard fare for most horror films. When one of the horny teens gets a nose-bleed, we get some heavy handed foreshadowing. The generic, pretty teens leave the make out spot, two of them argue, and the girl decides to walk home. She is, of course, attacked in the woods. Meanwhile, back in town, the army has quarantined everything for a “training drill”. Of course, everybody in town is affected by some sort of strange flu-like virus. The military cordone is run by Captain Rhodes (as played by Ving Rhames) and he’s assisted by Corporal Sarah Bowman (played by Mena Suvari). Her sidekicks are two other enlisted guys (Nick Cannon as Salazar and Stark Sands – who plays “Bud”, an allusion to “Bub” from the original). Things go downhill quickly as it becomes apparent that the infection is some strange virus that turns people into zombies. The characters run around town blah blah blah they fight some zombies blah blah blah they go to the gun store blah blah blah they end up back at the missile silo and discover the government and a douchebag named Dr. Logan is to blame for the outbreak blahhditty blah-fucking blah ….

This movie was bad on so many levels I’m actually at a loss as to where to start bitching here.

Let’s start with the obvious… the zombies. Apparently, the virus is airborne and some people are just immune. Once you get sick, it takes a couple hours to settle in. Then, you get a nosebleed, become catatonic for a few seconds where you apparently die, and come back as a zombie. And here’s where this movie gets ridiculous. The instant you die, the virus makes your skin peel off and get all yucky. Then – and it’s never explained except in that it probably seemed cool to the hacks who filmed it at the time – the zombies can now jump, vertically, 25 feet in the air. They’re also super strong and can also run across walls and ceilings like Spiderman. Which, is cool. Wait, did I say that was cool? My bad, I meant to say it was fucking retarded.

The zombies also retain memories of their life before they died. And that brings us to the crux of why I dreaded watching this. I’d heard rumors about the Bud zombie from people who’d seen advanced screenings and the thought made me cringe, but I soldiered on (mainly because I scored a free rental at my Hollywood video. Boy would I have been homicidal if I’d paid money for this crap-tastic travesty!). Anyway, Private Bud got a thing for Sarah. He’s also a pacifist and a vegetarian. So, when he’s bit and turned into a zombie, he helps the characters and doesn’t chomp any of them because he’s got a boyish crush on Mena Suvari and obviously can’t stomach long pork because –you know – “meat’s murder, maaan!”

That's right, horror fans. A zombie that doesn't eat human flesh... because he's a vegetarian. Vegetarian zombies? So what, instead of stumbling around moaning, "BRAIIINNS!!!", they instead insist on "GRAAAIINNS!!!"????

I’m stunned at the awfulness.

What else was wrong? The dialogue was cheesy and stilted, the story was weak, and the plot had holes bigger than the one between Paris Hilton’s legs. Nick Cannon’s character Salazar was a walking caricature of every faceless, cocky, brash, black character you see in the bazillions of low budget movies out there. Ving Rhames was in the movie just long enough to get a paycheck so he could finance his next cycle of steroids and Mena Suvari sleptwalk through her role.

Essentially, this was a by the numbers horror flick by people who aren’t fans of the genre, It has the feel of a movie made by writers, directors, and producers whose normal cinematic contributions are by the numbers, stereotypically stupid teen comedies.

The good? There was little to be found in here that was good. The effects were all right, when they used real effects. I qualify that because they felt it was necessary to make the zombies act like those stupid herky, jerky ghosts you see in the countless PG-13 remakes of Japanese horror films that the horror genre’s been flooded with lately. And they overdid it with the digital blood. Attention all horror film makers. We can tell when it’s digitally created blood! It looks fake! If you can justify spending $12 Million on a movie that Uwe Boll would think is good, spend the extra hundred bucks to pick up a few cases of Karo Syrup and food dye. It looks better, morons! I’m just saying…

It did have zombies, and the chaos when the infection took hold was well filmed. I especially love that they went with running zombies. That, I think, was Zack Snyder’s best contribution to the genre. Running zombies that never get tired and don’t feel tired are scary as hell. In this film, they made it visceral and scary went they weren’t shitting things up with a need to “explain” why the zombies are.

And that’s sort of the crux, I think. That’s what separates a good zombie film from a bad zombie film. I don’t care what causes the dead to come back from life, and you don’t need to have the main characters somehow “stumble” upon the why’s and wherefore’s. I DON’T CARE! What happens in low budget films is that the producers and studio people get wrapped up in the writing process and have to spoon-feed the audience with some idiotic dues ex machine explanation because they’re under the delusion that horror fans need explanations. We don’t – so don’t do it!

A perfect example of how not to be assholes here is to look at Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (and comparisons are inevitable here. The Dawn and Day remakes were on polar opposite ends of the good/bad spectrum). Snyder was a fan. You could tell he was. He didn’t explain why the world was going to hell in a flesh chomping hand-basket. He could then spend time concentrating on important shit - - like character development and plot. But, unfortunately, we didn’t get Zack Snyder this time around. Instead we got a writer who has the distinction of having written the sequels to the suckfest’s that were the Final Destination movies; and a director who’s biggest credits include the shitty teen soap operas, Felicity and Smallville.

And that’s what’s wrong with horror films today. It’s looked down upon by mainstream directors and writers. So we’re stuck with the likes of Uwe Boll and the hacks that put this film together. It’s funny really; because when big name directors and writers commit to horror films, they tend to be good. It’s sad...

So – what’s the final verdict on Day of the Dead 2008? Take a pass. Watch it when it comes to cable, or if you get a free rental. Don’t spend money on it, because I guarantee you that it will most likely be money wasted - and an hour and a half of your life you won’t get back. It pains Doctor Zombie to say this, dear reader, but this was just a bad zombie film and it was redeemable only in that they had some good gore. That though, was about it. I give it 2 out of 5 chomped brains only because it did have gore, and it did have zombies.

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Chomped Brains

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Working Stiffs - Some Zombie Flash Fiction

Note: I've been writing some flash fiction lately because it's a great creative exercise. I like the idea of limiting myself to 750 words. I like the discipline and focus involved in taking an idea and distilling it down to the bare bones, while still balancing the need to tell a story and make it good.

That being said, I wrote this one a few days ago and - truthfully - I don't have the heart to cut anymore out of it. It clocks in at about 1,350 words and is one of the best pieces I've written in a while. Although it was started as a piece of flash fiction - - I think that it's also important to realize that, sometimes, there should be no parameters on good storytelling...

It's the story about to working guys in the middle of a job when the zombie apocalypse starts.

Let me know what you think...

Working Stiffs

“You know what you’re problem is?” I said to Johnny as I slipped on my long rubber rain coat.

“No,” he snapped, “but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

Johnny cleared off the kitchen table and placed his bag on the chair at the tables head. I finished buttoning my coat and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. With a grunt, I helped him manhandle Erik onto the table.

“Your problem,” I said, once Erik was laying between us, “is that you take things too fucking seriously.”

”Is that so?”

“It is. Take tonight for example. Here it was a simple job, in and out, and you have to make it all serious.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Trevor?” Johnny said, as he opened his tool bag and pulled out a meat cleaver. He tested its edge with his thumb and nodded, seemingly satisfied with its sharpness.

“What I’m saying Johnny, is that we had a very simple job. We were to pop into Erik’s place tonight, wait for old Erik to wander in the door, and collect the money he owes Fat Charlie.”

I slapped Erik’s bare chest with a gloved hand for emphasis and went on, “You then have to make it all complicated because you’re worried about all kinds of crazy shit that doesn’t mean a thing in the real world.”

Johnny set down his cleaver next to Erik on the table and grabbed a filleting knife. He pointed it at me and a gestured with it as he retorted,” Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t a vast global conspiracy.”

“See!” I said, reaching into my own bag and grabbing a machete and a small mallet, “That’s the shit I’m talking about! Your crazy, ‘the-whole-world’s- run-by-a-bunch-of-men-in-a-secret-location-in-Switzerland’ schtick! There’s not some ultra-secret canal that runs everything, man!”

“It’s cabal, moron. Not canal. And the Illuminati aren’t sequestered away in Switzerland. They’re spread all over the world and they run all the major corporations. They just meet once a year in Switzerland for Swiss hookers and Austrian chocolate. ”

I rolled my eyes and walked around to the other side of the table, dragging Erik’s kitchen garbage can as I went. Johnny took his fillet knife and thrust it into Erik’s abdomen near the bottom of his rib cage. With an authoritative jerk, Johnny sliced downward and opened up Erick from his chest to his pubis. I scrambled to get the bucket closer as Erik’s guts slid out of him like slimy, hot ropes. I only managed to grab half of them before the rest hit the floor with a wet splat. I wasn’t fast enough and their weight pulling another large portion of his innards out of the garbage can with them. Gravity’s a bitch, sometimes.

“Jeezy Creezy, Johnny! Give me some fucking warning next time,” I said as I scrambled to put Erik’s kidneys, liver and guts into the bucket.

“Sorry.” Johnny said as I juggled Erik’s stomach into the bin. It was full of liquor and it was like trying to carry a water balloon coated in KY jelly. I didn’t believe he was sorry for one minute.

Through the open window, we heard some screams and the sound of sirens. Johnny and I both froze, and looked in the direction of the window. When the sirens grew quieter, we resumed work. While I got the rest of the guts squared away, Johnny grabbed his cleaver and hacked off Erik’s hand at the wrist.

“So, like I was saying,” I went on, “Erik comes home, I tell him we need the money, and you make things difficult by having to keep watching the news while I’m trying to work. I mean, we’ve got a thing going, you and I. I play the nice guy who acts like their friend while you stand there all muscles and barely contained rage. It’s like Good Cop/Bad Cop, Johnny. Except for the part where we’re not cops and we’re leg breakers for a mob bookie. But no, you’ve got to go off script. You’ve got to get all wrapped up in the cable news networks and I’ve got to be like Abbot without Costello. I’m just saying you’re too damn serious.”

“So, since I wasn’t Bad Cop, you had to shoot him?” Johnny said as he glanced at the window again. There was more screaming in the distance, and more sirens. None of them were in our immediate vicinity though.

“We’re not talking about that unfortunate set of circumstances, right now. Don’t change the subject!” I said as I snatched up my knife and reached up and under Erik’s rib cage slicing his heart and lungs free. I threw the lungs in the bin and I gestured at Johnny with Erik’s heart, “I don’t give a shit that they’re saying there’re some rabies breakouts happening. All I care about is getting the job done. It’s just goddamned unprofessional, Johnny.”

“It’s not rabies,” Johnny said angrily. To emphasis his point he swung the cleaver and angrily lopped off Erik’s right foot at the ankle. He tossed it in the garbage can, rather rudely spraying me with blood, “My conspiracy websites say that there’s more to this outbreak. That it has something to do with a virus or something. It’s been covered up by the world government, but there’s been disturbing reports about it.”

“Oh, really? Let me guess, Bigfoot’s involved somehow. Or the alien overlords have concocted something to make all of us Earthmen sterile so they’ll be able to mate with all of our women?

“Now you’re just being spiteful, Trevor.”

“Well, Christ in a casket, Johnny! What do you expect?” I said as I grabbed Erik’s other arm and my machete, “I mean I get that you like to watch the news, and I get that you’re into all of these nut job conspiracies, and it’s cool because old Erik here wasn’t home yet; but when the deadbeat gets back, you’ve got to get your head in the game! I mean…”

I trailed off and looked out the window again. There were more screams and the smell of smoke wafted through the open window. In the distance, there was the pop-pop of gunfire.

“What the hell?” I said, “I hear 9mm and rifle fire.”

“More like .40 caliber and .223,” Johnny grunted as he cut Erik’s left arm off at the elbow. He leaned over Erik to throw it in the garbage bin when I felt a strange twitch in my hand.

I looked down to see Erik’s right arm twitch again and I yelled in shock, dropping it.

“What?” Johnny said, just as Erik opened his eyes and sat up.

“Johnny!” I screamed, stepping back and struggling to get my rubber coat open to get at my gun. Johnny tried to escape, but it was no use. Erik’s right arm, which was still whole, grabbed Johnny and pulled him close. Erik snarled and, before Johnny could pull free, he lunged and bit Johnny on the side of the neck.

Johnny made a half scream, half gurgling noise and I finally got my coat open. I pulled my .357 out of my shoulder holster just as Johnny gave Erik a mighty shove and he pulled free, falling to the dining room floor. There was a bright arc of red as Johnny fell and I realized that Erik must have clamped down and tore out Johnny’s carotid artery.

I stood motionless as Johnny gurgled a few more times and the arterial blood sprayed like a fire hose on the wall beside him. He was dead within seconds.

Erik snarled again and I turned to the corpse as it turned in very un-corpse-like fashion towards me, reaching hungrily with one full arm and another severed at the elbow. Erik tried to step off of the table, but since he was short a foot, he fell to the floor.

“What the…?” I said, just as Johnny twitched a few times and turned eyes as dead as Erik’s on me. He began to rise to his feet. Closer to me, Erik was pulling himself along the floor towards me.

I screamed again and bolted from the apartment and into the chaos of the night.

Maybe there was something to Johnny’s conspiracy theories after all….

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's All Wolf Girl's Fault

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! Have I had a morning...

It is mornings like this that convince me that my willful refusal to believe in a higher power, and yet continue to blashpheme in said non-entity's name as I did in my opening sentence,have come around to give me a big karmic bite in my undead ass.

Let me tell you how my morning started...

So - - I send Zombie Boy and WolfGirl out to the bus stop for school at 8:30. I'm working from home today, so I am looking forward to a few hours of uninterrupted writing. Working from home is nice like that - I don't have a million people coming up to my desk with problems that in their world are huge, but in my world are as annoying as the buzz of mosquitos in a Florida swamp. In other words - it's nothing more than an ever present drone and whine that jangles at your subconscious with the insidious promise of sucking the very blood and life from you. (There's a deeper, better metaphor in their - - but I really don't have the energy to look for it. Suffice it to say, they suck. )

Anyway - I glance out the door to see Wolf Girl come running back down the street from the bus stop. But she's not really running so much as hopping on one foot.

"What happened?" I yell to her from the front porch, "and why are you hopping down the street with all the grace of a blind epileptic having a heart attack!?!"

"Daddy!" she says as she hops across the street, "The boys and I were seeing who could kick higher and my shoe is on Anya's roof."

"Are you kidding me?" I groan, as I step from the porch and look to the corner house. Sure enough, sticking out of the highest gutter on our neighbor's house, is a blue and white converse low top.

"Shit." I mutter.

So after securing an alternate pair of shoes for Wolf Girl, we walk back down to the bus stop. As we go, I notice she's still hopping.

"Why are you still hopping? You have two shoes now." I say to her.

"It was so fun the first time, I think I'm going to do this the rest of the day,"she replies with the level of certainty that only an 8 year old can muster.

So I knock on our neighbor Anya's house. Anya by the way, is a 20 year old Cuban mom of two who barely speaks a word of English. She comes to the door, half asleep and looking every bit as hot as a twenty year old Cuban woman can look - especially in her underwear.

So, as I stand on her porch, trying to explain to her that I need to get a ladder and get my daughter's shoes out opf her gutter, I try to ignore the fact that she's half naked. My telling her what's going on is hindered also by the fact that I am fluent in English and American Sign Language, with a passable knowledge of Italian, French, and Japanese.

You'll note there is no Spanish in there.

My Spanish is limited to how to order beer and Tequila("Cerveza, Dos Equis, Negro Modela, e Los Mujeres Tequila - por favor!") ask where is the bathroom (“Donde es banos, senor? Muy mas cerveza!”) and a few key phrases to ensure I get the most value for my pesos when negotiating for guns - or perhaps a Tijuana whore. Nowhere in my repertoire is, "Hey gorgeous Cubana neighbor, standing there in your underwear... I need to bang a ladder on the side of your house, scurry up it like a second story man, and retrieve my kid's Chuck Taylor from your gutter."

So I finally get her to understand what's going on, she goes back in, and I step off her porch. All the kids are standing there - still waiting for the bus - when I hear one of the other kids say, "Wolf Girl, your Dad looks like he’s really mad at you."

"He's not mad," Zombie Boy replies, "His face always looks like that. Our mom says he's part ogre... just like Shrek, only not so green and a whole lot stinkier when he farts."

Fortunately the bus pulls up at that point - so I'm not forced to kill all of the children. I do note with some resignation that Wolf Girl hops on only one foot up to the bus, up the steps, and down the aisle of the bus – her brown hair bouncing as she merrily goes on with her newfound means of travel.

So - I walk back across the street, go to my garage, get my ladder, go back across the street, get the shoe, and head back across the street. As I was doing all of this, I realized that my two idiot dogs had let themselves out into the back yard. Apparently, all of the mornings excitement had worked the two of them into a frothing frenzy. So – the whole time I’m dealing with Wolf Girl's shoe issue - the Dogs of the Living Dead have been barking their idiot, walnut-sized brains out.

Suddenly I realize that there’s only one dog in the back yard.

“Awww noooo!” I groan.

You see - my beagle is an escape artist. To give you a little history - the beagle’s name is Charlie. His full name is Charles Parnell and he’s named after one of the heroes of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland; as well as the Charles Parnell Pub on Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights – a pub I spent a considerable amount of my youth in, drinking lots of Guinness. He’s also known around the house, alternatively and interchangeably, as Fat Charlie, Stupid Charlie, Lunchbox, Fatty, Tons of Fun, Tubby Tubby Two By Four, Fatty Boom Batty, Tub O’Lard, and Moron Number One. (Our other dog, Nicky Nootch, is – of course – Moron Number Two.)

Anyway, I throw down my ladder as I realize that, despite the natural dog impediment of having no opposable thumbs, Fat Charlie has managed to somehow slip past my supposedly foolproof and impenetrable anti-beagle escape system.

And there was only one place he could be.

To make a long story short – a week and a half ago, our other neighbor’s dog had caught and killed a rabbit. In deference to Wolf Girl’s and the neighbor girls’ sensibilities as they pertain to mauled fluffy bunny rabbits, I had surreptitiously gathered up the rabbit’s corpse and thrown it, still warm, onto the compost pile we have in the back corner of the yard. I covered it with some leaves with the intention of taking it out with the trash a few days later. Honestly, I’d forgotten about it until a day or so ago when, as I sat at my kitchen table, I looked out the window and saw a turkey vulture land in the back yard. It nosed about for the carrion, but couldn’t find it. I suppose I should have gotten rid of the rabbit at that point, but it was drawing vultures to the back yard and that was cool. I mean – seriously – it was a fucking buzzard, in my back yard!

All of this came back to me as I ran around the garage and saw, with horror, that Fat Charlie - Stupid Charlie - was rolling on top of the compost pile like a pig in shit. He saw me and sat up, his tongue lolling and his jowls pulled back in an almost human-like grin.

“Look at the fabulous smell I’ve found, Daddy,” his grin seemed to say.

“Get out of there, you fat, furry moron!” I yelled as I grabbed him by his collar and dragged him to the front of the yard.

He actually had the balls to look surprised.

So now – I’m sitting here typing this with a sore back because I had to lift his fat ass into the bathtub. He’s sitting on the back porch and giving me glares every time I walk by the back of the house. His reproachful glare seems to say, “I found the most wondrous cologne, and you washed it off of me! What’s wrong with you?!? Bad Daddy!”

“Too goddamned bad, you moron,” I told him the last time I went out to check on him.

Worst of all, the whole damn house smells like wet dog. I did find some small measure of satisfaction in the fact that his fur is all puffy and fluffed up, though. It’s like that because I thought it only fair that I use Wolf Girls fruity-smelling Fructis 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner on his stinky pelt. She started this all in the first place with her kicking contest. The only problem is that it makes the beagle look like he’s put on 20 pounds on his all ready overweight frame.

In fact, his glares are so funny, I took a couple pictures of him where he sits, wet and angry on the back porch. Check them out.

(And I know that some of you would rather I post pictures of the hot Cuban Chick from down the street, in her underwear. Too bad – this isn’t one of those kinds of websites. Instead, you get reproachful dogs. Deal with it…)

The worst part is – this all happened in the space of a half hour! Seriously – I’m not working from home anymore. It’s too fucking stressful!