Sunday, July 28, 2013

Genre Clash - Zombies Meet Body Horror

The-New-Ecology-of-Death-James-Robert-SmithYou know what I miss?  Classic monster movies.  Godzilla destroying a city.  An alien Thing terrorizing people in a god-forsaken wilderness of ice and snow.  A ginormous shark cruising beaches during the 4th of July.  Bring it on!  But, in spite of all of that, I do love my zombies.  I love those pus-filled, shambling wrecks.  I love the runners and sprinters, the spitters, and the groaners.

Why choose when I can have both?  Severed Press just released The New Ecology of Death, written by James Robert Smith.  It combines all the terror of a standard zombie apocalypse with the excitement and innovation of a monster story, and then he goes one step further.  Smith taps into the body horror genre, adding the right amount of classy gore.

The New Ecology of Death begins with zombie Alex Wenzler recovering his consciousness - one might go so far as to say that the fog of death was lifted.  Alex is drawn inexorably to his son Mark, and begins a dangerous trek that brings him ever closer to the living.  Meanwhile, Alex's widow Beth has remarried and moved on with her life.  She, her son Mark, and her new husband Davis now live in a mansion surrounded by an iron gate.  Her new husband works for the CDC as a statistician.  It's largely a comfortable life, marred only by the possibility that Alex might stagger hungrily back into it at an inopportune moment.  Alex's journey will bring them all to a train wreck of epic proportions, one that will set in motion a horrible second  apocalypse that will bring new and more frightening threats to everyone.  Lives will once again be at stake, and it will leave readers begging for a sequel.

I couldn't have hoped for a better cover for this story.  The pulp fiction style cover (even sporting an out-dated price of 10 cents) speaks to the retro roots of this tale.  It also gives readers a peek at what's to come - hinting at the zombie transformation concealed within the pages of the book.  Fans of classic body horror movies such as John Carpenter's The Thing and classic zombie movies such as Romero's trilogy, will be thrilled with Smith's literary skill.

The New Ecology of Death by James Robert Smith should be on every horror fanatic's bookshelf, and likewise in every horror fanatic's Kindle.  The way Smith ends his book suggests a strong possibility of a sequel.  Grab The New Ecology now, so that you're not stuck playing catch-up later!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Second Viewing...


Tonight I'm sitting in the basement with my husband Chris (pictured left), our friend Brian (graphic designer extraordinaire), and Chloe (The Overlord - also pictured left).  When I got home from work, Chris told me that he had gotten his pre-order copy of Evil Dead from iTunes, and that he and Brian wanted to watch it.  I promised the night that I wrote the first review, that I would write a second review when I saw it again.

So, here we are, watching this gory-as-a-slaughterhouse film, and I'm once again wondering why I do this to myself.  To be fair, I like the movie more than the first time I saw it.  However, the massive gore and body horror hasn't become any less shocking.  To say that this movie lives up to a second watching is an understatement.  I'm also second-guessing my decision to eat food before sitting down to this.  I knew better.  I knew what was coming.  I absolutely HATE this kind of movie.  I can't deal with the gore and self-mutiliation.  Then why am I doing this?  That's a great question.  I promised when I wrote the first review that I would revisit the movie, and I like to keep my promises.


In my last review of this movie (read it here), I tore it apart for not having enough elements in it from the original movie.  Knowing what is going to happen next has given me the advantage of being able to watch for specific original movie tie-ins.  I'm starting to see all the allusions to the first film (any any I miss from Army of Darkness are gleefully pointed out by Chris as we watch).  There are so many!  The changes that were made enhance the movie experience.  During this second viewing, I enjoyed the peeks at the Book (faceless, but still made of skin, and covered in barbed wire and plastic) and watching the steps of possession that the characters experience.  The filmmakers certainly upped the ante!  For the sake of not spoiling the film for anyone, let's just say that the possession and mutilation scenes leave nothing to the imagination.  Each one seems to be worse than the last in terms of being horrifying and unbearable.  Characters get up close and personal with electric kitchen knives, glass, needles, and toilets.

While the first viewing of the Evil Dead remake left me underwhelmed, the second viewing got me thinking.  I believe it to be a faithful remake, maintaining key elements of the first film, but also adding amazing makeup effects and changing the plot enough to distinguish itself from the Raimi version.  However, this knowledge in no way makes it easier for me to watch this film again.  I respect the special effects, the amazing acting, and the superb make-up team, but I won't be watching Evil Dead again without severe coercion from my husband.  The all-out gore is too realistic for me!


World War Z Part 2: Quit Your Bitching

wwz2I have been to World War Z, lived to tell the tale...and loved it.

For the past 3 years I have read horror (specifically zombies) to the exclusion of almost anything else (barring food box ingredient lists and one accidental slip where I read The Silver Linings Playbook.  Yeah, I loved that one too.)  The point I'm trying to make is that I had high expectations for this movie because I knew what the genre was capable of, and it payed off.

World War Z is one of the first zombie movies to really be believable.  The movie focuses on a "real disease" that moves from person to person through bites and has a frighteningly short incubation period after which the victims become rabid.  A few months before World War Z came out in theaters, The National Geographic released an article detailing the possibility of a zombie virus.  The article discusses the conditions necessary to create the Rage Virus out of the 28 Days franchise.  Thankfully for all of us, it seems that Nature safeguarded us and we aren't going to experience anything like the movies.  Then again who knows, I just found this new article about a new strain of rabies.

Looking to the natural world again, the filmmakers patterned their zombies after ants and other animals that exhibit pack and herd behavior.  The idea is that the individual becomes less important and the main need is spreading the virus to the next host.  This explains their lack of interest in their own physical pain or well-being.  The article also includes some cool footage of the zombies taking down a chopper.  Speaking of spreading the virus, I was pleased to see that the filmmakers actually made the passing of the virus believable as well.  They tamed the zombie virus, and made it follow real world rules.  According to the American Red Cross (I used to be an instructor for several of their courses), there are rules that viruses and bacteria have to follow in order to infect people.  They are (paraphrased):

1) The virus/bacteria has to be present

2) The host needs to be susceptible (i.e. no immunity OR the right kind of host)

3) The virus/bacteria has to have the right entry method (i.e. bite, scrape, injection, airborne)

4) There needs to be enough of the virus/bacteria to cause infection

whoamigodWithout giving away a spoiler, there is a scene where Brad Pitt comes into contact with the blood, and I was positive he was infected.  (The picture to the left is not from that scene - it's from another part of the movie.)  I was surprised and confused when he didn't contract the disease.  However, I saw later on that the filmmakers had stayed true to their rule regarding infection when another character was most likely going to be infected in a similar manner.  Similarly, the "camouflage" that seems to be drawing the ire of the Internet community was actually a really great idea.  Within context of the rules of the disease that the movie sets down, it makes perfect sense.  Just refer to the American Red Cross rules - it's number 2.  Susceptibility due to being the right kind of host.  Trust me, when you see the movie it will make sense.  Also trust me when I say that if you haven't found the spoiler on the Internet, don't go looking for it.  The idea of the "camouflage" is the driving force of the last third of the movie, and the resolution of the movie.

For those that don't believe that this movie is in the spirit of Max Brooks' iconic book (including the author himself), put aside your prejudice.  Any attempts to be true to the book would require a Game of Thrones-sized undertaking with a huge budget.  When you strip away the expectations of the book, the movie is actually really good.  In fact, it's the scariest zombie film I've ever seen.  Zombies rise as cities fall in this PG-13 thriller.  Worried there won't be enough blood?  Don't be - there's enough suspense to more than make up for the PG rating.  The CGI zombie sequences and makeup are all top notch, and the acting isn't half bad either.  Big name Brad Pitt manages to fade into the story, instead of sticking out like a multi-million dollar sore thumb.

In short, don't cheat yourself out of seeing this on the big screen.  When you finally put your big-kid pants on and see it, you'll be sorry you missed it on the big screen.