Ah Netflix Watch Instantly how I love thee! Last night I was in the mood to watch something but nothing very long or that required much attention. Netflix to the rescue with Zombiemania: a light and frothy look at the surge in popularity of zombies in the recent years. If you’ve invested any amount of time in the current zombiemania, you won’t learn a lot from this movie, but you will enjoy some of the interviews with George Romero and Max Brooks and others. The tone of the movie is silly and fun. I do wish they’d spent a bit more time on Shaun of the Dead and The Walking Dead, and the filmmakers could have gone a bit more in depth on the zombie walks and other fan activities, but for a fun treat, I would recommend checking it out.
I’m planning on seeing Zombieland tonight, so will have a review up this weekend.
In recent years, the popularity of zombies has led to an ever wider variety of stories that use the image and metaphor of a zombie in ways that are almost completely alien, even antithetical, to the traditional zombie movie structure that has been with us since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Deadgirl was one such movie and American Zombie is another. Not that these two movies are anything alike. However, both reframe the idea of zombies in ways that might seem, to some hard-core zombie fanatics, almost sacrilegious.
American Zombie is structured as a documentary that is looking into the lives of the living dead. The Center of Undead Studies (or something like that, I’m not going to go back and check the reference because you get the point) has three classifications for zombies: Feral, Low-Functioning, and High-Functioning. High functioning zombies hold jobs, go about their lives trying to connect to something, trying to remember their past, trying to find true love. But for their rotting flesh they are just your everyday, ordinary Americans trying to get by. There’s even a Zombie American organization with the slogan “We’re here, we’re dead, get used to it.”
If you can’t tell by now American Zombie has both a sense of humor and a satirical agenda and is very clearly not your typical zombie movie. That said, it’s actually interesting. The characters who are interviewed as subjects of the documentary are compelling and the thin line between pity and fear is played with throughout the film. The filmmakers play themselves making the documentary and while we don’t have a lot of character development on their part, there are a few very nice scenes that give them some depth. A couple of creepy moments give the viewer a bit of a thrill but this isn’t a horror film in any real sense so don’t expect to be scared. Amused, curious, and interested perhaps, but not scared. If you are fascinated, like I am, in the whole zombie fascination our culture has going, I recommend this movie. If you want to watch a bloody and scary movie, you’ll probably want to skip it. And if you have Netflix Streaming you can watch it instantly and for free.
I’ll be interested in other reactions to the movie, so drop a comment if you watch it.
Today marks 21 days into my current writing challenge of 400 words for 40 days. I haven’t been as focused on my novel (yes, I’ve given up pretending and have accepted the fact that The Devious Astrolabe is going to be my first novel), as I might like, however, I have been writing quite a bit. Without going into details that I don’t want to share here, I seem to have found myself a muse of sorts for a kind of storytelling that I’ve never explored before and found myself writing quite a bit last week, finishing the first draft of one new short story, completing 3/4 of the first draft of another, and starting a new story that will probably run 10,000 – 12,000 words.
Now, I just need to get to editing some of this output!
Stats so far:
Week 1: 3950 words / average of 564 per day
Week 2: 5910 words / average of 844 per day
Week 3: 3776 words / average of 539 per day
I have several stories out to magazines, but still no publication luck. After this challenge, I plan on taking 2 weeks to really focus on editing some of these stories and finding markets for them.
In other news, I’m assisting a friend who has started a new website called The Dueling Quill, which offers writers a chance to get into the habit of writing. The site will suggest a title, a maximum word count, and a genre and writers will have a week to write something that then gets posted. Readers will vote on their favorite stories and the winner of the duel will get . . . lots of praise and the knowledge of a job well done. Ok, so not much of a prize, but if you are struggling to make writing a regular habit, you might want to check it out.
A special, hour-long commentary. Share it with anyone you can. Regardless of your politics, this is an issue beyond partisanship and petty bickering and I hope you will take the time to listen. If you disagree, I’d love to hear actual well constructed and intelligent arguments. Specious arguments about Nazis and Socialism don’t qualify.
If you like zombie movies or even horror movies in general and haven’t yet seen this British mini-series, you really really oughta check it out.
Dead Set is intense and is probably one of the scariest zombie stories I’ve seen, with impeccable horror timing and writing that blends dark and cynical humor with social critique and a genuine love for the characters. Yes, Dead Set has fast zombies, a point of contention with some, and it also goes for the graphic and grotesque when it comes to some of the zombie feasting scenes so this is not a zombie movie for the weak of stomach. However, these elements work as part of a very disturbing whole and aren’t thrown in as mere window dressing.
In short, Dead Set takes place in and around the Big Brother house and begins on eviction night when there are massive live crowds surrounding the house. Of course those crowds become food and vectors for the zombies, but the people in the Big Brother house have no idea what is happening, cocooned away within their complex. The protagonist is a young production assistant played by Jaime Winstone who gets into the house and warns the Big Brother contestants about what is happening. Winstone manages a really wonderful mix of strength and fear, fragility and toughness that gives the character of Kelly a great deal of depth. She is an easy protagonist to both root for and identify with.
Of course no matter how secure, no matter how well defended, the zombies always manage to get in. Dead Set, like many of the Romero films, is explicit in showing that when the living start fighting each other, the zombies always benefit.
I won’t give away much about the story because you should just rent the video and watch it. Dead Set is definitely at the top of the list for freaky and frightening zombie experiences.
For some reason, I’m finding it difficult to start writing about The Velvet Teen. Usually when I pick a band to write about for this series, I have an idea of how to approach them, but this band does something to me on an emotional level that I can’t quite grasp. Intellectually, I recognize that their music is accomplished, rich, layered and willing to stray from the traditional pop structures (especially on the more experimental album Elysium). There is a whiff of twee/emo pop to their music but their complexity, both musically and lyrically keep them from falling into the same category, for me at least, as bands like the The Shins, Keane, or The Wrens (bands that I occasionally enjoy listening to, but feel no need to proselytize for). Yes, some of The Velvet Teen’s music could unobtrusively fit on a Scrubs soundtrack, but something else, something deeper is going on with the band that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Perhaps it is Judah Nagler’s voice: floating, richly emotional, perhaps even a bit other-worldly. In fact, I sometimes have a tough time paying attention to the lyrics because I find my attention shearing off and away from words and into the sheer musicality of his voice. You’ve heard about how some people could listen to Morrisey sing the phonebook? Judah Nagler’s voice has the same enchantment for me, plugging into my emotions on a pre-verbal level.
So I have no clever analysis or discussion, nothing much to say except that if you haven’t heard The Velvet Teen, you should. So I’m going to just stop writing, and let you listen to some of their songs.