Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Thursday Thirteen: My Dream Zombie Movie

The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. This time around, I wanted to tie into the final-for-now episode of my podcast Mail Order Zombie. We're about to go on hiatus so that Bren and I can focus on a few other projects (writing) and priorities (health) throughout the rest of the year. As we wrap up the podcast for 2011, I wanted to address something one of our listeners brought up in a recent episode, so for this Thursday Thirteen, I present:

13 Elements That Would Make Up My Dream Zombie Movie (in no particular order) (with two additional cheats)

1 - Absolutely no CGI. This isn't a kneejerk "I-hate-CGI-effects" reaction to any particular movie or style of movie-making, but in my dream zombie movie, there's just no CGI. All the bullet hits (both firing and receiving) are real. All the blood, all the zombie make-up, all the zombie damage . . . it's all real. I realize that this means my dream zombie movie is going to have a HUGE budget as it's cheaper to go with virtual bullets and imaginary squibs than the actual pyrotechnics these days, but, hey, it's MY dream, okay?

2 - Slow zombies, or, at least, slowER zombies. I don't mind if the zombies start fast; in fact, it's probably more realistic if they do, but as they break down, they have to slow down. All jokes aside, slow zombies en masse CAN still be scary, and my dream zombie movie will show that.

3 - No undercranking or overcranking the camera. Sure, this can sometimes lead to some interesting effects and visuals, but in my dream zombie movie, I don't want to see anything sped up or slowed down. I want to see everything real time. Even though we live in a post-MTV-used-to-show-music-videos age and we're used to slow-mo or hyperspeed imagery, unless it's done spot-on-perfect (as in Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead), this can still take a viewer out of the story and make him or her aware that they're watching a movie.

4 - No music-video-like montage sequences. I feel this is overdone and unnecessary in most cases. It's a waste of screen time and, most of the time, only serves to create a cool few minutes of film instead of contributing to the whole.

5 - If the movie covers more than a few days of the zompocalypse, a brief reference made to hygiene and personal care. I saw this best addressed in the non-zombie 1962 film Panic in Year Zero!. At one point, family patriach Harry (played by Ray Milland) sits his family down and explains how they're going to do their best to maintain their routine in an attempt to hold onto a bit of normalcy. He dictates that he and his son Rick (Frankie Avalon) are going to continue to shave on a regular basis. While this may have been an attempt to explain why the films' leads weren't going to grow any facial hair during production, it also worked in terms of story. I don't need more than a few minutes mentioning where the restroom facilities are or where the showers are located, but a brief mention would make the movie feel more thought out than most. Additionally, it would be nice to see the characters change clothes every once and a while. So many times, especially in some of the lower-budget zombie movies, the zombie apocalypse hits, and even though the survivors find a place to hold out for several days with a basic complement of supplies, no one ever changes their shirt. I want to see that time passes and that the t-shirt the lead character wore at the start of the movie isn't the same one he wears at the end of the movie (unless, when briefly touching on the restroom facilities, mention is made of how laundry is being done as well).

6 - A little comedy, but not at the expense of the zombies or the audience. No forced humor. No bathroom humor. No making fun of the zombies or dressing them up or whatever. I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but don't spread the comedy on so thick that the movie becomes ABOUT the comedy or the laughs.

7 - They really are dead. There's no "rage virus." They're not really sick and really pissed off. The people who become the zombies actually flatline before coming back. These zombies really are the walking undead.

8 - Along those lines, no extended scenes in medical labs, no science experiments, no accidental chemical spills at a military weapons facility that caused the zombie outbreak. It's old-hat, and we don't need to have the opening scene in which somebody drops a beaker, someone mixes the wrong Chemical A with the wrong Chemical B, or someone breaks into a lab and accidentally releases a zombifying agent.

9 - Voodoo or some other magic. While the zombie movie is typically one of the most reflective of all horror films, better offering a way for filmmakers and film viewers a chance to address their own real world films in the context of a zombie flick (which is why so many of the modern zombie movies do focus on a disease or a virus as opposed to the black magic of the pre-Romero films or even the mention of radiation and a space probe in the original Night of the Living Dead), I prefer a little mysticism in my horror movies. I want a little supernatural thrown into my horror, and angry cells and twisted DNA doesn't communicate the same kind of supernatural threat that I like in my scary stories. It doesn't have to be the same voodoo we see in the classics like White Zombie or I Walked With a Zombie, but a bit of page flipping through the something like the ol' Necronimicon wouldn't hurt. (And, no, The Evil Dead is still not a zombie movie.)

10 - Headshots work. This is tried and true, and there's no reason not to embrace Romero's Law as easily as we embrace wooden-stakes-killing-a-vampire and silver-bullets-work-on-a-werewolf.

11 - Actors and actresses that have no problem continuing to be associated with the horror genre after the film has wrapped. I see this more with the bigger budget horror movies, and it feels a little false or off-putting to me. While I do appreciate that sometimes, some heavy hitters will agree to appear in a horror film (Brad Pitt in the upcoming World War Z, for example, which is just Mr. Pitt returning the genre that gave him his first film role), which MAY give that movie or even the genre a little credibility for a little while, it would be nice to know that the people involved in my dream zombie movie truly do love the genre, embrace it, and will continue to support it in the future.

12 - An actual film score and very little music not originally written for the film. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead showed us that library music can work extremely well, but for my dream zombie movie, I want an original score, and one that is made available for purchase on CD or as .mp3 downloads.

13 - Not a remake. 'Nuff said.

(14 - Bells and whistles on the home release. Give me special features, a worthwhile director's commentary, behind-the-scenes, etc.

15 - Make it Western. Yeah. Zombies in the Old West. I WANT.)


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with this, except two points : one, I am not as taken with voodoo and mysticism as you are, so I don't like that... but that is a personal opinion, so it's just a "My personal Zombie movie wouldn't have that" rather than a "No zombie movie ought to"... and done right it can work. Two, headshots - headshots can always work, BUT... I think movies have gotten lazy recently. It's started out that one had to destroy the brain... and it's gotten to all that is required is a mild bump on the side of the head... Take it back to actually taking some energy to smash through the skull!

Derek M. Koch said...

I completely agree with you re: headshots coming too easily these days. The skull is designed to protect the brain - it's going to take a lot more than a tap with a golf club to take out a zombie!