Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ain't It Cool and Bookgasm on our Chaps!

Ambush Bug (Mark L. Miller) over at Ain't It Cool has reviewed our two recent chapbooks and deemed them both "damn fine reading" with "some of the coolest zombie action you'll read this year."

Thin Them Out by Kim Paffenroth, R.J. Sevin and myself is a "surprisingly personal tale" that "does what so many zombie stories fail to do: offer something new to the zombie genre... It is a harrowing tale with a pulse that quickens right to the last word."

Meanwhile, Gary A. Braunbeck's Flesh is Fleeting, Art is Forever (or, Some Bullshit Will Continue Even After the Dead Wipe Us Out) is
"profound and imaginative... the best zombie story I've read this year."

Rod Lott at Bookgasm also has some words on Flesh is Fleeting:
"[A]musing... all about bleak humor, and pays off in the end.

Can't argue with that.

These two chapbooks, as with all items at, come with free shipping and make superb stocking-stuffers for the zombie aficionado in your life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Walking Dead, issues #54 and #55

Our comic shop is like forty minutes away. We don't make it there every month. Occasionally, reviews may lag and then clump. Apologies.]

Well, last month's good will, high hopes, and dramatic promise were squandered on two tedious, talky issues. You might not agree that dialogue is a shamefully weak point of this series--you'd be wrong. It's a blight. It's an indulgent, junior-high-drama-class space waster.

The best, tightest zombie stories--in all media--have little talking and absolutely zero overexplanation. Everything is dry, ineffectual, incomplete. Understated. The exceptional

soliloquoys or exchanges then stand a chance of being truly startling or moving. (It's impossible here not to think of Ben's hallmark recollection in Night of the Living Dead.)

I understand Kirkman's predicament. A 22-page comic with limited dialogue seems like a liability. The team has to compensate for the quick reading time with stunning art (in this case, stunning in grayscale) and an engaging story (in this case, one that maintains dread). What Kirkman fails to understand is that his dialogue is a worse liability. The story's there, for sure, as long as it's not spelled out page after page (a tough trick when characters have little to do), and the art is strong enough. Really, the art needs to be nothing more than the passable, simple set dressing of a surprisingly adept community theater performance. Unfortunately Adlard's art is most times passable, sometimes great, and sometimes downright lousy. More and more recently I find myself just staring at one of his faces going, "...what... the... fuck?" This is likely a product of renewed schedule adherence and Adlard's recent decision to create the originals at the same scale as the final pages. Hell, when every face is the size of your thumb, I guess occasionally the eyes are going to be just a notch too high into the forehead. What can you do? (Keep in mind, I fall in with the faction that thinks that the original magic of the series was dependent on Tony Moore's artistic contribution. When he left, the writing suddenly seemed clunkier to us. Yet nearly fifty issues later, we're still reading. Hmm.) Ultimately, zombies as a genre achieve a better effect (with less effort) by almost any film than by monthly comics of this particular caliber. When you've got a slow, intense story with no stunning graphics to fall back on, a glut of jaw-wagging seems better than nothing.

And so we arrive back at Kirkman's dialogue. Issue #54 presented one of my worst pet peeves, something I generally consider to be the mark of an intellectual elitist. A character is established as being working-class, or uneducated, or urban, or what have you, yet their speech patterns, vocabulary, interests, and philosophical style are inconsistent with these established traits.

Writer: Now I'll just have Johnny Bluecollar wax poetic for a moment, comparing the situation to Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

Readers: OMG This is blowing my mind this character is so LAYERED!!!!!! He seems dumb but then he comes out with something so DEEP AND ARTICULATE AND EDUCATED!!!!!!!!!! I'M MORE INTERESTED IN THE CHARACTER NOW, HIS SURPRISING CONVENTIONAL INTELLIGENCE HAS EARNED MY RESPECT

Me: Are you kidding? The character's "intelligence" is completely framed within the writer's own parameters for intellectual values. Why can't Johnny speak in a way consistent with his education and still say something moving, something profound... but in his own terms, without resorting to cultural shorthand or squeezing himself into the writer's traditional perceptions of What Makes Intelligence and What Earns Respect? Can't we respect him without him using ten-dollar words or summoning up some cheap and improbable literary coinage?

Writer and Readers: NO

All that being said, Kirkman's offense in this issue is minor, merely a permutation of the oft-hammy style of dialogue that weighs down the first half of issue #54, wherein our heroes hash out plans on the ol' farm with the new military trio before being forced to run for it. Their need to escape the farm is contrived by an impossibly illogical decision by a character who is supposed to be proving he knows better.

What follows is an issue-and-a-half of always-popular seige-and-flight, and GAWD is it boring. After a couple good moments in #54 (and much more talking, of course), the zombie threat becomes peripheral at best. Issue #55 focuses on Rick's mental instability (a nightmare, then more with the damn phone). There's a harmless interlude in which one of the new crew surprises us by asking some questions about zombie behavior that has never happened before in the series until that very page.

They camp out for the night Maggie's already-one-note character arc ends with the same 24pt, fire-engine red exclamation point! that Kirkman has been falling back on the entire series for various characters (hint: she's fuckin' crazy!), the very crutch I explored in my last post.

Overall, a disappointing pair of issues. It's reasonable to conclude that such a lull in action and zombie presence can only point to Big Things on the horizon, which I remain psyched about.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zombi/e 3(D) or: "This is All Your Damned Fault, George!"

L. Cass claims to be on the very cusp of purchasing Night of the Living De3D.

Don't. Not for a penny, I say to you. Not for a penny.

He's also interested in seeing Zombi 3*, another awful zombie movie, but one with some mad measure of charm. Night 3D is charmless and soulless and just plain bad. It's the worst thing to bear the Night of the Living Dead moniker since John Russo did that terrible thing ten years ago.

Here's what the original Night of the Living Dead, now a sentient celluloid entity, thinks of the whole bloody mess, by the way.

*Apparently there are no less than three films that sometimes go by the name of Zombi 3:

There is Zombi 3 (also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters 2), the Fulci/Mattei hybrid that served as the official (if utterly unrelated) sequel to Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters), the deceptively-titled sequel-in-name-only to Zombi (also known as Dawn of the Dead).

Then there's Zombie 3 (also known as Burial Ground, Nights of Terror, The Zombie Dead, and, most accurately, Shit), the deceptively-titled faux-sequel to Zombi 2 (see above).

The other Zombie 3, a deceptively-titled sequel to I'm not sure what, since it's supposedly the original US title, is actually Dr. Butcher M.D., Zombie Holocaust, Zombi Holocaust, and, oddly enough, Also Shit. Or something.

Compounding and confounding the whole ghastly situation even further, Paul Naschy's Orgy of the Dead, a movie released four years before Dawn of the Dead spawned this sorry mess, was apparently released at some point as Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead, though I'm not sure where that particular info originates, aside from IMDB, which isn't always the most trustworthy source.

Then there's Zombie Flesh Eaters 3, also known as Zombie 4, but my head is starting to bleed and I'm gonna close my eyes for a minute... what was I saying?

Oh, yeah.

Don't buy Night of the Living Dead 3D, man--don't!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dr. Acula, Actually Dead

Uncle Forry is the epicenter of Horror Fandom, the devilish daddy spider at the heart of an intricate web teeming with countless grinning spider-babies.

I've had this post saved as a draft since November 3rd, when the internet reported the passing of Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Uncle to Monster Kids the world over, and Father of Modern Geekdom. Just about everyone jumped the gun in declaring him deceased, but Uncle Forry held on just long enough to turn 92 and bid farewell to a few more of his loving friends.

Born in 1975 and much more a member of the Fango Generation of Horror Magazine readers, I missed out on FM in its Aurora model kit-filled heyday, and, as a child, came to know the magazine through my brother's tattered back-issues.

I recall paging through one of them and seeing a photo from Night of the Living Dead with a caption stating the film's original title (Night of Anubis) and informing readers that its sequel, Dawn of the Living Dead, was underway. I bought my first issue of FM in 1982, #183. It sported the Swamp Thing on the cover, a photograph that could not compare to the beautiful painted covers of the magazine's golden age, but a glorious sight nonetheless for this monster-obsessed kid.

(I took that issue to school, stored it with my books, and was not very surprised to find it missing when I returned from recess. I was pretty sure then that I heard the teachers laughing in the hallway as they tore it to shreds, but that was probably just my First Grade imagination. Then again, we are talking about a Southern Protestant private school that still used the paddle, so...)

FM kicked the bucket seven issues later (the less said about Ray Ferry's revived FM, the better), and an era came to an end, but its seeds were already planted, its legacy established. All of us involved in this strange little genre owe something to Uncle Forry, the man who sparred (in print) with H.P. Lovecraft, discovered Ray Bradbury and gave Harlan Ellison a reason to scream about the sound of crickets fucking.

Today is not a sad day. No tears should be shed for the man. Instead, his life should be celebrated--a life of generosity, influence, and innovation, a life that brought frightful joy to countless souls, many of whom, so inspired, then brought joy to countless more.

Not knowing exactly how to end this brief tribute, I pick at my moist and gently pulsating brain and decide to go with the first thing I find there. I suspect it'll pop up in several similar tributes over the coming days, but what can I do? We can't all have Uncle Forry's way with words.

The Ackermonster is dead. Long live the Ackermonster.


Go here for a two-page obit from the LA Times.

For a series of heartfelt tributes followed by depressingly-hopeless "letter from the grave" of sorts from the man himself, follow this link.

Zombie Bits


Hop on over to FearZone. The first installment of our monthly column features a retro-review of Deathdream (1974) (AKA The Night Walk and Dead of Night), Bob Clark's follow-up to Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.

The poster art looks a little familiar, doesn't it?


I just watched Zombi 3, the Fulci film mostly directed by Bruno Mattei. It somehow manages to be both monumentally awful and relentlessly entertaining. There's very little Fulci on display, but in a film that pays homage to (read: liberally rips off) Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead, The Birds, and Vanishing Point, there's also very little opportunity for boredom.

The nonsensical zombie action is pretty much non-stop, and by the time I got to the refrigerator scene, I knew I'd discovered something special.


Julia should be around shortly with a review of the most recent issues of The Walking Dead. After what seems like a few years of little to no forward motion, the series is picking up steam.


Check this out.

I guess they just got Evil Dead 2 in Norway. With any luck, this will actually be fun.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Seven

Today I devoured more succulent homemade baked macaroni, mashed potatoes, stuffing (two kinds!), yams, green beans, apple and cranberry dressing, heavily-buttered bread, turkey, turkey gravy, and pumpkin pie than any one sane human being ever should. As a result, I am bloated and sluggish and in the mood only to sleep.

I wasn't up to even attempting to top yesterday's zombie, so I kept it simple and silly.

Title: A Gluttonous Bastard Bloated, Gorged, and Undead: A Self Portrait
(Click for larger image)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Six

Title: Blind Faith
(Click for larger image)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Five

This one really looks best full-sized. Click away.

Title: Y
(Click for larger image)

Day Four: Redux

The wonder of digital art is its infinite malleability. (It's also a bit of a curse, 'cause it's just so damned hard to stop making changes sometimes.*) Here's today's piece revisited:

Title: Messy Eater
(click for larger image)

*Just ask George Lucas.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Four

The goal is to produce each of these within an hour. So far, I've been successful, though I find myself wanting to be a little more ambitious with each zombie. For a while tonight, I thought this guy was gonna loaf past the sixty-minute line. If he did, it was by a minute or two.

Title: Axl Rose is Insane*
(Click for larger image)

*Lousy title, I know, but I painted this image while listening to Chinese Democracy for the first time, and it's pretty much the only coherent thought in my mind right now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Three

About seven years ago, my friends and I came pretty close to shooting a zombie short film. I wanted to have this zombie show up somewhere. The idea wasn't popular.

Title: Taking Candy
(click for larger image)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Zombie a Day: Day Two

Title: Rise and Shine
(click for larger image)

A Zombie a Day: Day One

Earlier this evening, while looking at some truly amazing artwork by Bernie Wrightson, I decided to draw a zombie. By the time I was done, I'd decided to do one per day for the next week and post the results.

So here you go. It looks more than a little like a naked Dr. Tongue, and it isn't a strand of gristle on a Wrightson ghoul, but I like it.

Title: Useless
(click for larger image)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Too Much Information

I accidentally stepped on my copy of Dying to Live yesterday. I bent the hell out of the back cover and let slip the expletives. A traumatic experience, the horror of which was compounded by the fact that I was naked from the waist down.

Afflicted with a collector's mind, I like to keep my books in good shape, so between this and the scratch the cover received at some point on our trip to ZombieFest, the book now makes me sad and twitchy. I guess I'm glad I forget to ask Dr. Kim to sign it. Next year, I'll buy a new one from his table and give the stomped and marred copy to a random stranger, or something.

60 pages to go, by the way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Resident Evil: Degeneration

We owe the current zombie craze to Resident Evil.

Released in 1996, the Sony Playstation chiller created the survival horror game genre, spawned several sequels across multiple platforms, produced a string of imitators, and caught the ever-watchful eye of Hollywood.

It was obvious from the start that George Romero's Dead films inspired the video games, so it only made sense that he would be involved with the film. George's Resident Evil screenplay (the draft I read, anyhow--there were several) wasn't fantastic, but it was a damn sight better than the mess we got in March of 2002. That it featured a pack of zombie dogs devouring a character named "Russo" makes it some kind of unsung classic. But it was not to be.

The director of Dawn of the Dead was out. In his place, the director of... Mortal Kombat and Soldier? Paul W. S. Anderson's Resident Evil was lousy, but for the first time in over a decade, there were zombies on the big screen, man. That alone was kind of cool.

Money talks, and though Resident Evil didn't set the box office ablaze, it performed well enough worldwide to triple its meager $33 million dollar budget. By the time its utterly rancid sequel hit screens in September of 2004, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake had already made it clear: zombie movies were back.

Five years after the first Resident Evil film resurrected the living dead on the silver screen, George A. Romero had returned twice to the genre he created--this after twenty years had passed since Day of the Dead.

The success of Resident Evil also brought new life to the world of zombie fiction, dormant since Philip Nutman's excellent novel Wet Work, itself an expansion of his short story of the same name, found in Skipp and Spector's groundbreaking Book of the Dead. By 1998, zombie short stories (many of them very poorly written) were multiplying online, found chiefly at the Homepage of the Dead, a site frequented by longtime Romero fans who loved to play Resident Evil and Resident Evil fans whose love of the game prompted them to seek out Romero's films.

By 2000, the demand for zombie novels was growing, a demand initially answered by self-published writer Darrin Brent Patterson. Project Phoenix: Dead Rising, a nightmare abomination of bad writing, borrowed elements from both Romero and Resident Evil. Appropriately enough, the genre was eating itself.

Eight years down the road, thanks mostly to the small press, there are more zombie novels than any fan frowning in confusion over Project Phoenix could have hoped for, many of them far better than the shoddy fan fictions that announced their coming, and some not much different. Like the walking corpses within their pages, they just keep on coming, with no end in sight.

Zombies are everywhere now: on the big screen, the small screen, in video games and comic books, on toy shelves and book shelves. And George Romero is up at bat again for the third time in five years.

Thank you, Resident Evil.*

Oh, before I forget: Here are the first eight minutes for the fourth Resident Evil film, the all CG Degeneration. I'm not going to say it looks good, but it certainly looks... interesting, if a little lifeless and uninspired. The motion-capture work is convincing, the fluidity of which goes a long way toward making the textures and the facial animation all the more unnatural. Unless you're a hardcore fan, you'll probably just want to skip the eight minute clip and go straight to the Age Restricted Red Band clip. That's where the fun stuff is, anyhow.

While not real, Claire Redfield no doubt has a glowing future as a Japanese pop sensation.

*If you had anything to do the 30th Anniversary Special Edition of Night of the Living Dead, well, then... someone should kick you in the nuts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Overheard at ZombieFest

In the spirit of Overheard in the Office:

"The only book I ever read was fucking Jaws 3."--man walking past Kim Paffenroth's table

"It's all like Goosebumps and shit."--some other man walking past Kim Pafferoth's table

"Ugh. The dead. This is all so negative. Get me out of here."--elderly woman in wheelchair being rolled past Kim Paffenroth's table

"You got any movies?"--woman at Kim Paffenroth's table holding a copy of Dying to Live: Life Sentence.

"Un-fuckin-believable."--Joe Pilato upon noticing the ring on Julia's finger

Desperately resisting the urge to run my fingers through his hair...

Friday, November 7, 2008

FearZone ...of the Dead

The Dead Don't Die isn't just a zombie blog. Starting in December, it's also a monthly column for Greg Lamberson's FearZone. First up will be an interview with Don May, Jr. of Synapse Films. We'll discuss his involvement with Night of the Living Dead, from Elite's 25th Anniversary laser-disc to the recent 40th Anniversary DVD, as well the upcoming Definitive Document of the Dead.

Also on the horizon, extensive coverage of George A. Romero's latest living dead opus, known simply as ...of the Dead. Early reports suggest that the title is a placeholder. Others have referred to the film as Island of the Dead, an unlikely title, with the remake of RKO's Karloff chiller, Isle of the Dead, on the horizon. I hope ...of the Dead sticks. It has a nice Steinbeckian ring.

After a few months of confusion and erroneous reports (It's a sequel to Diary of the Dead/It's not a sequel to Diary of the Dead/It's about an island of intelligent "zombie overlords" who cull the living), we're finally getting some solid and reliable news on the film's storyline.

Direct from Voltage Pictures:

On a small island off North America's coast, the dead rise to menace the living. Yet the islanders can´t bring themselves to exterminate their loved ones, despite the growing danger from those they once held dear.

A rebel among them hunts down all the zombies he can find, only to be banished from the island for assassinating his neightbors and friends.

On the mainland, bent on revenge, he encounters a small band of survivors in search of an oasis on which to build a new life. Barely surviving an attack of ravenous flesh eaters, they commandeer a zombie infested ferry and sail to the island.

There, to their horror, they discover that the locals have chained the dead inside their homes, pretending to live "normal" lives with bloody consequences. What ensues is a desperate struggle for survival and the answer of a question never posed in Romero's Dead films:

Can the living ever live in peace with the dead?

Somehow, I don't think things will turn out like the end of Shaun of the Dead.

Neither as ambitious and compromised as Land of the Dead nor as experimental as Diary of the Dead, Romero's latest is the most promising entry in the series since Day of the Dead.

Monday, November 3, 2008


This issue sees Rick and Carl, newly rejoined with Latent-Crazy Michonne, returning to Hershel's old farm to meet Dale, Andrea, Glenn, Maggie, and the kids.

While nothing much happens in this issue, some key threads are developed and an exciting new turn seems just up ahead. The theme we've already seen established in Walking Dead--that insanity is as much a threat as the pusbags--comes to a chilling head in the character of Sophia, a young girl now without father or mother. She's now crazy enough that even young Carl can detect it.

The use of insanity (or fleeting moments of viciously loopy decision-making) in this series has occasionally been a deus ex machina, a monkeywrench to break up the monotony of Survivors Holed Up Interminably. It's a trick, really, but one that's turning into a trend. And that trend is actually effective, as it bears a broader meaning.

I can't say I was very pleased when Rick started talking on the phone with dead wife Lori, especially because he seemed to be nursing it as a pet neurosis that in no way affected his general functioning or hinted at deeper psychosis. Perhaps it was a hammy move; we'll see how it develops as he continues to carry a rotary phone with him in a backpack. Michonne, of course, has been riding the crazy train for a while: speaking to herself, blacking out, denying deeds, displaying extreme personality shifts. In this issue, Rick discovers her, and she claims she's been talking to her dead boyfriend, prompting Rick to bond with her by confessing to his own morbid chats. They promise to keep each other's secret.

Michonne, shrewd thing that she is, is clearly lying to Rick. Time will tell just how dangerous her disorder may be to the cast. But little Sophia's instability is most troubling--and topical--of all.

Our generation has seen unprecedented levels of diagnosis of childhood mental disorders, many with symptoms traditionally associated with "just being a kid". As a parent of a young child, one part of my life has been terrifying--observing my son, becoming concerned about his probably-normal behaviors (inattentiveness, temper tantrums, aggression), and rushing to the computer see if the behaviors aligned in any way with ADHD or autism or reactive attachment disorder. This concern has bloomed into full-fledged paranoia for many adults, and has resulted in a general societal wariness about children, an obsessive sensitivity to their mental health.

In writing in mental disease for a young child, Kirkman is definitely pushing a button, but also sending a message. Sophia's mental illness is chilling not because it represents a grave threat to the survivors (as Michonne's or Rick's might), but rather because it suggests an uncertain future for the clan. Mental disease has spread to the most innocent among them. What hope remains? What is there worth fighting for?

In the last few pages, we meet three new characters who rescue the cast from the unspeakable boredom that was sure plague us all back on Hershel's farm. These three proclaim that they know the cause of the phenomenon and are headed to Washington, D.C. They invite our familiar survivors along for the journey. The three characters themselves, of course, are horrendously flat archetypes with mercifully unique visages. (Grayscale printing is no friend to large casts of middle-aged white folk without access to razors.) But that doesn't matter. Sure, Kirkman will give them some kooky interests or traits later, but for the time being, they're machines. They're a trio of Clydesdales that exist only to haul the story forward.

As you might know from reading the series, the ranks were viciously thinned a few issues back. We had some recovery time isolating just Rick and his son. (No more bible of characters in the back of the book. None needed.) Kirkman demonstrates superb timing by adding these three (very distinct) characters now, and pushing the story in a radical direction. I, for one, can't wait to see our heroes back in a big city, on an actual mission.

Again, while not a lot happens, issue #53 holds great promise for the series. Frankly, I'm more excited about The Walking Dead now than I have been in several months.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Zombie Fest Haul

As if my TBR pile weren't obscene enough.

Special thanks to Glenn Kay, who gave me two posters featuring the way cool cover art* to his highly enjoyable** book, ZOMBIE MOVIES: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE.

*It's the poster art for an Italian flick called REVENGE OF THE DEAD. My mom took me to see it when I was very young, and I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for zombies to erupt from the sidewalk. I'm still waiting. Possibly my first zombie experience.

**Enjoyable, yes, but really-- Freddy Vs. Jason, the highest grossing zombie movie of all time? Clearly, Mr. Kay suffered (hopefully temporary) self-inflicted brain damage from watching Children of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, and Burial Ground.***

***Oh, mama. Your breasts!

Test post

I'm 33 and I haven't outgrown stupid movies about dead people getting up and biting living people. Just last night, I watched half of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I'll watch the other half tonight. I've probably watched that damned movie over fifty times since 1987.

Somewhere, a great movie that I've never seen is crying.