Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. Shudder dropped a surprise zombie movie on everyone for halfway to Halloween and it was freakin’ fantastic.
I am a huge fan of zombie films. I know some people think they are played out and the whole genre is getting a little boring. While I may not agree, I can understand the sentiment with that fact that we have had umpteen seasons of The Walking Dead, several spin offs, other zombie shows popping up on Netflix and other streaming services. But, like zombies themselves, the takes on them are endless.
I will admit that I have never been a huge fan of the whole, “fast zombie” thing, maybe with the exception of 28 Days Later so I wasn’t sure I was going to like Blood Quantum.
I could not have been more wrong about that. Like the best zombie stories, this one is frightening, it has genuinely surprising moments, the action is intense and it reflects on modern day issues. The most fascinating part of the movie isn’t even the zombies themselves but the characters who are the focus of the story.
I’m not willing to give much away on this so I am just going to give you the blurb from IMDB and post a trailer for it.
Here’s the blurb:
The dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague.
And here’s the trailer:
If you are a horror fan, or a zombie fan, I am going to summarize it simply for you. You have to watch this!
The performances are spectacular and the whole thing is finally a fresh take. It’s not just the best zombie movie I have seen in a long time, it’s the best horror movie I have seen in a long time. Watch it if you haven’t!
The zombie apocalypse happens in the background but at least there is smooth jazz?
Welcome back to my dungeon where the lights are dim, the smell is musty and the films generally stink.
This week I watched Life After Beth. In the beginning of the film, Beth goes hiking alone at night. This, for the record, is always one hundred percent a completely stupid idea. Don’t do this friends. Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is apparently bitten by a snake and killed. This happens off screen (like most of the interesting things in this film).
Next we see Zack (Dane Dehaan) trying to buy black napkins at a supermarket. He’s sent to the party supply store instead. In the next scene he’s clearly at the wake for Beth and it’s pretty obvious Zack was Beth’s ex and he’s pretty broken up about the whole thing. Zack spends some time bonding with Beth’s parents played by John C. Reily and Molly Shannon.
Late at night, in the background Zack thinks he sees someone running around. The next day he goes back and is sure he sees Beth. His brother comes over and tries to calm Zack down but of course, eventually he ends up in the Slocum’s (Beth’s last name) house. And surprise, there is his dead ex girlfriend looking both alive and super happy to see Zack. Unfortunately, Beth’s parents want to keep the whole thing of her death and return a secret from Beth.
Zack tries to take Beth hiking but is stopped by her dad. In the meantime, Beth is doing some weird things like, having super huge mood swings and gathering dirt to put into the attic. Most of that we don’t really see.
The movie sort of goes along like this for a while where weird things happen in the background. People who seem to have been dead or missing for a while show up in town but not quite acting like themselves.
Zack gets overly emotional with Beth and tries to serenade her on the beach. Beth freaks out and uses super human strength to destroy a lifeguard lookout tower. Zack is understandably nervous at this point and thinks that he might get eaten by his dead girlfriend. That’s a reasonable assumption in my book any given day of the week. Still, for some reason he sticks around and wants to take Beth hiking.
Beth on the other hand is only able to calm down by listening to smooth jazz or making out with Zack.
Pretty soon the whole dang town is listening to smooth jazz and only Zack and Erica Wexler (Anna Kendrick) an old family friend, seem to notice anything off. This includes when Zack accidentally full on runs Beth over and Beth gets up no problem. Do the townsfolk think that’s weird? Not at all! Totally normal except of course they are a little mad at Zack.
Beth then screams at the onlookers and finally they get scared. Uh, what? Ok but fine.
Zack decides to spill the beans to Beth and let her know that she’s dead. This does not go well and soon the whole town is filled with zombies. I never understood in watching this if Zack telling Beth about this was supposed to be the trigger to make all the zombies aggressive or what. It was implied but I was never sure.
Pretty soon Zack tries to protect his family by warning them and then is promptly knocked out by John C. Reily. He spends most of the evening of the apocalypse blacked out and we see zero of the interesting stuff.
About the only really interesting part of this whole film was the end when Zack takes Beth hiking but she has to have an oven strapped to her back to prevent her from eating Zack. Zack puts Beth out of her misery after telling her how he felt about her. Then he gets to go have dinner with Erica Wexler, yay!
Ughhh. Okay so where do I start with this whole thing now that I have told you about it? Spoilers by the way. Shoot, gotta remember to put that up higher in my reviews.
Zack has a lot of overacting in this thing and he just comes off as whiny to me for most of it. Everything that could be fun or funny about this movie happens off screen or is presented in the most boring way possible.
That being said, this film is not exactly bad. It’s certainly not so bad it’s good. It’s just kinda meh.
It got trashed by critics when it came out but I don’t think it was due to the film itself. It has a decent cast and other than Zack’s whining I think it was well acted. Beth did give sort of over the top screams at times but it fit in with, you know the whole zombie thing. But critics hated this because there had recently been a slew of zombie films in the theaters and of course The Walking Dead was still rocking it on the television sets. I think critics were just kind of burnt out of the genre and might have even trashed Zombieland if it had come out at the exact same time as this.
I don’t really recommend watching this but there are definitely worse films out there. If you don’t believe me, read any of my other reviews.
There were missed opportunities here to me. At first when the dead seemed to return, most of them were acting a little odd but kind of generally nice. To me, having the whole movie be like that would have been far more interesting. Like what would we do in a zombie apocalypse if basically, everyone was really nice but they needed to change their diet? That could have worked.
I did find one line pretty funny when Zack gets upset that Beth eats a guy. Her response is, “What do you want from me Zack? I’m a zombie, zombies eat guys.” Fact check – true!
Other than that though, this movie was just sort of okay. I never found myself hating it or loving it. Hopefully next week the film I watch will be more interesting, even if it sucks.
Last week James Cordon did a piece about fat shaming and mentioned a terrible movie Bill Mahr was in and a terrible movie he himself was in. I immediately felt the need to do a side by side comparison to see which one is worse. I’ll be starting with Bill’s movie, Cannibal Women and the Avocado Jungle of Death. I have a strong suspicion it’s going to be every bit as bad as his opinions on fat shaming.
Starbucks is releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte next week. It’s a little early for fall if you ask me but if they can do it, I can release a blog post related to monsters a little early for Halloween. Enjoy your pre-PSL warm up discussion of fictional monsters below.
I’d say we all have a favorite movie or fiction monster. Some people become obsessed with blood sucking creatures of the night. Others love the creature cobbled together from dead body parts most people incorrectly call Frankenstein (it’s Frankenstein’s monster people, get it straight!) Others are really into those who grow fur and fangs but only on full moons. Werewolves, I’m talking about werewolves if that wasn’t clear. But for me if I could only have stories about one type of creature ever again I definitely go for zombies. Here’s my list of why zombies are the best monsters.
They are versatile – zombies can be a stand in for anything. They can be a metaphor for consumerism, for fear, for mass hysteria, for communism, for outsiders, literally for anything. It always works because zombies are just a mindless horde of creatures and the motivations they get assigned to them are based on what the still living people in the stories think they are. So if the main character thinks these suckers are in a mall all day because that’s what they did in their former lives, boom, this story is about consumerism.
They are unpredictable – sure a slow walking zombie seems like it has it’s attention focused on a dead animal and you might be able to sneak by it but one snap of a twig and that thing and all its buddies have decided on fresh meat and next thing you know you are running like crazy.
They can be anyone at any time – this goes along with them being unpredictable, but it happens in nearly all zombie stories. Someone has been bit. Their natural instinct is to hide it and although they start acting funny, no one wants to say anything because it’s someone they care about. Sure, the best thing for the group is to get rid of that person but that is cruel and heartless. So next thing you know, a whole group of non-infected people are now zombies. And it happens so fast it can’t be stopped.
They are us – A person is bitten by a zombie and they turn. But this person is your wife, husband, brother, friend, cousin etc. This is someone you know. And although you know for a fact that they are no longer human, how hard would it be to stop this walking reflection of someone you held dearly in your heart only moments ago? I feel like there might not be a more terrifying scenario in fiction.
They are never ending – Stop a werewolf? Use a silver bullet. Stop a nest of vampires? Stake the original vampire in the heart. Stop one zombie? Usually damage its brain. But unlike vampires and werewolves, the only way to completely and forever get rid of zombies is to once and for all get rid of people. I don’t think any of us wants that. The next best thing is to hope for a cure. Even if you can get that, you have to hope it sticks and the odds are not good because, well, everyone is a little different and there could be that one person that doesn’t respond to the cure. Then that person infects the next and here we go again, only this time, the infection is stronger.
They have the coolest origin story – At their start, zombies were just people who had been hypnotized and essentially given up the will to live. They were seen this way for centuries but then, one movie wiped all of that out in one swoop and zombies have been different ever since. When Night of the Living Dead came out, George A. Romero redefined one of the most recognizable and iconic of creatures so much that his version of zombies is now the most recognizable one. That is incredibly bold and influential film making.
They are the most likely to happen in reality – Could vampires exist? Maybe, I mean, there have been people who thought they were vampires and there are a few stories of historical figures who did very strange things with blood. But we know that a lot of the origin of that myth has to do with the misunderstanding of how bodies decompose. Could werewolves happen? There’s a ton of stories of people morphing into animals in one way or another, some of them benign, some malevolent. But there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that would make werewolves at all likely. Could zombies happen? Well, there is a lot we are yet to understand about the brain. We have untold fungus, bacteria, disease out in the world that we do not understand. We have scientific research going on that could lead to very bad things getting out into the world. I’m not saying it’s likely or anything, but the right confluence of factors could lead to a disease of some sort getting out that strongly reflects our modern concept of zombies. It’s the only fictional monster that I can think of where this is even a remote possibility. For me, that’s enough to make them my favorite and the ones I am most likely to be frightened by.
So what do you think? Do you have a counter argument? Is there a better monster out there in fiction? Which creatures keep you awake at night? Let me know in the comments.
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I watch a lot of television and films with different kinds of monsters in them. Same for the books I read. But for me, there’s one type of monster that no matter what, when I see it, or read it, or even think about it for more than five minutes, I end up having a nightmare about it. It doesn’t matter if I am watching Zombieland, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days later or Shaun of the Dead. It doesn’t matter if I am reading a quality zombie book, or a terrible zombie book, or anything in between. Every time I read this stuff I have a nightmare. I love these stories so I keep reading and watching. Just wondering if anyone else out there has this happen to them? Do you have another type of creature that does that for you? I can watch vampire movies and read vampire books until the sun comes up (see what I did there?) and no trouble in my dreams. Werewolves, no problem. But if you put a flesh eating crowd monster in my head. it’s there to stay. Let me know what your favorite nightmare monster is in the comments.
Fiction Friday is filled with zombies in my dungeon this time. They’re pesky undead creatures that I learned to deal with long ago. Sure they try to bite, but they make decent can openers if you time it right so the teeth bite the can and not you. I just light a fire at the entryway of any room I am in and then the zombies stay away unless I put it out. They typically aren’t fans of fire or bright lights. Or bullets to the head. They really don’t like that. And in a pinch my dapper cane smashed into their craniums works. It’s a bit of a pain to wash the blood off though, so I try not to do that too often. Plus it musses my tuxedo and I simply won’t tolerate that.
How do I know so much about these suckers? Well, I’ve read a zombie book or two thousand in my time. Some are great. Cell by Stephen King is an exceptional standout in the genre to me. And of course the now finished but never forgotten The Walking Dead comic book may be the most brilliant zombie story to ever be told, no matter if you are tired of the television show or not.
But I can tell you that those examples are the stunningly rare exceptions in a genre with a zillion books. This week I read Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale. I’ll give you a quick summary of the plot, then we are going to run through the zombie trope checklist together and see how many boxes we can mark off. Fair warning, spoilers follow.
It’s old west Texas, and a preacher comes into a small town called Mud Creek. Prior to his arrival, the town had unfairly executed an Indian medicine man and his innocent wife. The Indian laid a curse upon the town with his dying breath and the dead begin to rise. The preacher and his allies attempt to stop the undead, and only the preacher survives with his life.
Here is our checklist
A lone hero with a storied past comes into town – check
A plucky kid meets the lone hero and we know he is going to a. save the life of the main hero and b. die in the end, even though the hero does not like the kid at first. – double check
A beautiful love interest for the lone hero – check
The father of said beautiful love interest is the first one to trust the hero and figure out what’s going on – checkity check
Hands come out of the dirt in a grave yard – this has not been new since Night of the Living Dead and is no longer necessary to any story but we checked this one off anyway!
A mystical force of evil is causing this, even if you can kinda understand where the evil is coming from – large check
The hero is an alcoholic or has some other life struggle – blindfolded I check this box
Hero teaching the plucky kid how to shoot – was this ever in doubt? Check this box!
No one believes the scientist (in this case a doctor) when he figures it out even though the evidence is extremely obvious – check it in bold
Hero admits he loves the beautiful woman even though it’s been a very short time that they have known each other – Put a heart around this check
A total racist jerkwad who basically causes the whole thing and is then torn apart by the living dead – shredded check mark!
A sheriff who could have stopped the damn thing but through inaction allows everything to go on – put a badge on this check
Dead people moving around left and right but most of the people don’t even notice until it’s too late – sneaky check mark!
Body parts falling off shambling zombies – arm shaped check mark
Love interest blowing her own brains out so she doesn’t become a zombie – gore splattered check mark circled with a broken heart
Plucky kid getting in a few distracting licks so that the hero can survive – made this check with my foot
Hero being unable to shoot plucky kid after he is bitten even though that’s the one darned thing the kid specifically asked him to do – put a bullet hole in that check box
Daylight coming along and frying the big bad, but just a little too late to save the town – sun soaked checkity check mark
Hero riding out of town feeling lost and like he failed – lonely check mark
The feeling that you have read this book before – blood read check mark
Okay, so checklist made. Now for a few things that stood out in this book as, umm… different. First, though, I do want to say, this is not by a long shot, the worst zombie book I ever read. I have read a lot of them though so I don’t know how much that’s worth. I feel like the author might have other good books, and he has certainly written a lot of books and won awards for them. I just feel like this one was too typical of the genre to stand out in any significant way.
So the interesting stuff.
There are a few sentences in this book that I didn’t understand. It could be that’s because this story is part of a larger series or it could just be that I’m not catching a reference. But here’s one. “He had the cool, blue eyes of a cold killer – the eyes of a man who had seen the elephant and seen it well.” Umm… I’ve seen an elephant too. And seen it pretty well, I mean it’s kind of hard to miss and I even gave it an address since it was wandering in my dungeon. I don’t think that’s what makes someone a killer somehow though.
Another odd metaphor, “The sun was easing up over the horizon like a sneaky, blond baby raising its head.” Later in the page, “The blond head was coming up faster, strands of light, like fine lines of hair were lightening the lower edge of the sky.” Now, I’ve been down here in the dark for a while but I have seen sunrises. You know what they never, even once reminded me of? An infant’s head.
The preacher who is the hero of the book rolls into town, gets drunk, shoots a spider in his hotel room, leaving a hole in the wall and causing a ruckus, but seems to think people should treat him nicely.
The author at times, seems to have an unhealthy obsession with describing things in comparison (for lack of a better word) to dung. “The river itself was darker than the s***t from Satan’s bowels.” Later in the paragraph, “Up s***t river without a paddle.” An odd image if I do say so myself.
Usually I am not too annoyed with typos and misspellings. I mean, I know I make those mistakes myself, although I do try to proofread my posts before posting. But this one stood out as either an egregious error or a major Freudian slip. Either way it made me laugh. “…Matt said and walked out of the mom.” I wondered to myself how he got in the mom in the first place.
At the end during the climax, the preacher had a line that stood out as ridiculously funny to me in his righteous fury, “Hallowed be thy name, oh Lord – and shotgun do your stuff.” That sentence belongs in a b movie horror film immediately.
And the weirdest thing I have saved for last. Also, the grossest. The preacher is guilt ridden because he slept with his sister. Then he gets attracted to the woman that he says he loves in the town mostly because she looks like his sister. I’ve gone over this before but let’s leave this stuff to George R.R. Marin please. I don’t need to read any more of that. Also, this preacher seems to be mad at God and his father both, for thinking what he did with his sister was not okay. Clue for ya buddy, it’s not.
To review, zombies make good can openers, they can be fun to read about, but most books in this genre have done everything to death (pun seriously intended). If you want an average time of reading a zombie book and have a couple hours, Dead in the West is not your worst option. But if you have higher standards skip this one and read World War Z or something like it instead.
Come back to my dungeon next week when we will continue with the dead theme for no apparent reason as I read Dare to Die (Death on Demand series #19). Is death on demand a video streaming service? Can I get it for free if I sign up for Amazon Prime on Prime Day?!
A hobby blog dedicated to movie nerdom, cinematic escapism, a touch of empathy, and finding the next groundbreaker (oh, and the occasional horror flick for good measure). Comments and dialogue are encouraged. Happy Moviegoing!