Kicking off what I hope will be the triumphant return of Zombie Wednesdays here at Aim for the Head, I bring to you a classic tale of boy meets girls. Or zombie eats girl… or, well, he doesn’t eat her. Not on camera anyway, that would get much higher than a PG-13 rating.
I’m talking about Warm Bodies. Based on the book, it is the story of Romeo and Juliette set in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world and casting Romeo as a zombie. And as dumb as that sounds – like Twilight levels of dumb – surprisingly it works.
The movie opens with R and he… wait… they put the first 4 minutes of the movie online, so why don’t you just watch them:
So, he’s a zombie, and then we cut to the survivors, living in a walled off section of the city, struggling to survive. And we meet Julie, daughter of the man in charge who isn’t happy with the status quo. She, her boyfriend and a few others head into the unreclaimed city to search for medical supplies. Things don’t go well for the survivors, but R and Julie meet, and R saves Julie from being eaten. And the movie goes on from there…
I don’t want to spoil the film, so I’ll stop talking in specifics. Instead, I’ll just say that you’ve never seen a zombie movie like this before, in a manner similar to how you’d never seen one like Shaun of the Dead before, but not in remotely the same way. Warm Bodies leans far more toward a typical romantic comedy than it does a zombie horror film, but that’s okay – as I’ve said many times on this very blog, zombies are best as a setting for human drama. The biggest shift you have to make in the world crafted here is that there are two kinds of zombies, corpses and skeletons. The corpses shamble around looking for brains and in their “downtime” they shuffle through almost normal human stuff in normal human places. The skeletons have given up all pretense of humanity, they hunt food with purpose. And like with many zombie movies, the humans are divided into two groups as well, though they don’t get cute names to group them under. One group is content to hide behind a wall and scrounge their survival from the ruins of pre-zombie life, while the other group wants to get back out there and live again.
Anyway… is this the best zombie movie ever? My wife thinks so. I disagree, but I do think this movie is very good and I like the message it delivers in both its subtle and completely unsubtle ways. Most movies about zombies wind up being about hope, or crushing hope depending on how it ends, with a side helping of “people are the real monsters”, but Warm Bodies brings along a message of connection, about interacting with people and looking them in the eye. It isn’t the best zombie movie ever, in my opinion, but it is well worth watching.
The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead ended just a few days ago, and I figured I’d go ahead and put down my thoughts on the events we saw.
We start the season with the survivors heading to Fort Benning. They quickly come to a traffic jam, and while taking a break and trying to make their way through, a herd of zombies comes strolling by. Season 1 of the show deviated from the books in small ways, introducing a couple of new characters, of course the CDC (Robert Kirkman says he wasn’t aware the CDC was in Atlanta, or else he would have included it in his original story), and Shane didn’t die like he was supposed to. The zombie herd was a concept that didn’t get introduced in the comics for a long while, but given the nature of it, it makes sense to have it sooner. After the herd mostly passes, Sophia is spotted by one and runs off into the woods. Rick goes after her, tells her to hide while he takes care of the chasing zombies and when he comes back she’s gone. This sets in motion of the worst parts of the season: search for Sophia. For seven episodes the survivors will spin in circles searching the woods for the missing girls, and while there are a few bright moments (and by bright I mean exciting) it is an extremely dull series of events. But before we finish the first episode, we see people scouring the woods and Carl gets shot.
This gets us to Hershel’s farm. Lots of stupid happens here. For one, this farm is surrounded by flimsy wood and wire fences, totally unsafe, but most of our survivors sleep in tents with no protection. Hershel and his family have added no additional security to their house and basically live like nothing has changed, except that when they go to town for supplies now they don’t have to pay. (Interestingly enough, that’s actually a nice touch in that the town’s general store/drug store has a sign up about taking only what you need and it isn’t fully looted, presumably because any people like Hershel on nearby farms have been only taking a few items at a time rather than clearing the shelves.) People stand around and talk a lot. They talk about finding Sophia and yet only a couple of people ever really go out looking, the main one being Daryl.
Daryl was given to us in season 1, a character not from the books, he was essentially just the crossbow hunting brother of the racist guy who got left handcuffed to the roof. In season 2, Daryl is fully fleshed out. He tells a couple of stories of his youth. After an injury he hallucinates about his brother and we get to see some depth in him. His relentless search for Sophia and his kindness to Carol. Daryl quickly became a fan favorite, as well as a person favorite. (He’s so popular that Kirkman will be adding him to the comic.) Throughout the season, Daryl exhibits the kind of clear-headed decision-making and purpose that Rick lacks.
Shane turns into a complete asshole this season, which as a comic reader I expected. But it is just so drawn out and often poorly handled. It’s almost like they had a bunch of different writers with different ideas of how the story should play out, and they tried to do all of them. Every conversation between Shane and Lori becomes a reason to punch the screen. In turn, most of the stuff between Rick and Lori hurts too. The decision to let Shane survive season 1′s story (where he dies in the books) added a wrinkle that could have been good but played out terribly on the show. The love triangle just had no traction, and Lori’s pregnancy with both possible father’s still around made for melodrama that the show didn’t need. Everything about it made Lori unsympathetic and hated by many fans. Hopefully that can be fixed in season 3 before… well… yeah.
Anyway, the gang eventually finds Sophia. She’s been in the barn the whole time. She’s a zombie. Otis (who died a couple of episodes in getting supplies to help Carl) put her there and no one else knew. But the barn got opened and all the other zombies Hershel was keeping there to try to cure are killed. The mid-season break comes as Rick is forced to put Sophia down for good.
The latter half of the season had more action. There was a bar fight, of sorts, and having to deal with a prisoner whom they don’t want to keep and can’t just let go. But like with Sophia, it takes them about 5 episodes to deal with the prisoner, dragging the story out to the point of annoyance. Meanwhile, Carl is back on his feet and constantly getting into trouble. First he goes places he shouldn’t be and then he starts wandering off. He almost gets himself eaten by a zombie, but instead leads it back to the farm where it eats Dale instead. This’ll be an interesting twist because in the comics Dale survives for quite a while and even has a relationship with Andrea. As a reader, I’m happy they are changing things up as it gives me less fore-knowledge of events, at least the specifics.
So we get to the penultimate episode and finally people stop acting silly. They start gathering supplies, boarding up the house, preparing for the coming winter. But Shane finally goes off the deep end and concocts a plan to kill Rick so he can have Lori for himself. It doesn’t work out so well for him, and Rick kills Shane. Then Carl shows up and kills zombie-Shane. This shooting has attracted a passing herd of zombies.
The final episode of the season really delivered. Not just in zombie action, but in character defining moments. Sure, given the slowness of so many of the thirteen episodes of season 2, the onslaught of the zombie herd overrunning the farm was glorious. They broke fences and (slowly) stormed buildings, and they ate a couple of people. But for me the most excellent development was with the character of Andrea. Season 1 ended with her wanting to give up and die after the death of her sister, and throughout this season she has dealt with that, in part due to Dale’s coddling and pushing. She went from wanting to run off with Shane and leave the group, to leaping out of a truck where she was safe to go rescue Carol in this final episode. She gets left behind and resorts to escaping on foot, pursued by zombies. And when we see that all the other characters are safe, we return to Andrea who is several hours into gaining a lead, then turning to fell the lead zombies, which by the lack of zombies following her you can tell she’s been doing and succeeding all night long. Andrea, through the course of the season, went from defeated and weak to protecting others and fighting for her life with every ounce of her being.
As much as I love the comic and have mostly been enjoying the show, if next season with the full cast is going to be more of what we got a lot of this season (slow drama), I’d rather Andrea and Daryl run off together and we get a real zombie survival show. But the final scenes give me hope. Face it, even in the books Hershel’s farm was kind of dull. That’s why they didn’t stay there very long. But the prison on the other hand, that was good stuff, and what do we see not too far from our band of survivors? The prison. Plus we also got a scene with Michonne, and entertainment news has told us they cast “The Governor” which pretty much cements what next season will be. Hopefully they’ll do it well and not drop the ball.
Years ago (or can it be measured in decades now?) when MTV pretty much stopped airing music videos, I pretty much stopped watching it. Occasionally I might drift back to it for the odd awards show, special event or boredom, but that came to a complete stop when I canceled my cable TV and no longer had easy access to it. Which is why I find it so odd that I’m now watching (by *ahem* other means) a show on MTV.
The show is set in a world where zombies, vampires and werewolves (and possibly other things) exist. Shot as a reality show like COPS, the camera crew follows members of the Undead Task Force (UTF) of the Los Angeles Police Department as they deal with the shambling undead, ones that are fresher and run faster, vampires involved in the “blood for sex” trade, werewolves who forget to lock themselves up for the full moon, and more.
Being that it’s on MTV, this show is far better than it has any right to be. While occasionally there is an effects shot that looks off, the majority of them are quite good, probably because CG work is becoming so cheap while quality keeps improving. The acting is also pretty good as well. Anyway, this totally gets a thumbs up from me and I recommend at least checking it out to see if it happens to be your cup of tea. Check out the trailer below for a start.
Not only is “Be Prepared” the Scout Motto, but it’s also a really good idea. Or to quote Nathan Muir from Spy Game:
When did Noah build the Ark? Before the flood.
When disaster strikes, it is too late to begin planning for disaster. So, obviously, the answer is to be prepared.
The CDC agrees, and last week they published Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, which I have now permanently added as a link over the right hand side. They aren’t the first to utilize an undead plague to illustrate proper planning. A group called the Zombie Squad has been doing it for some time. The main idea being, if you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for anything.
While the CDC article and the materials provided by the Zombie Squad are good, the key element to disaster preparedness to understand is that you are not a priority for anyone else, and that includes the government. In the event of any disaster you should be able to survive on your own for at least 72 hours. That’s three days.
Let’s just say, for example, a hurricane comes tearing through your area. The first job of the government is not to rush in and rescue survivors. What would it do with them? No, the first job is to set up hospitals and aid stations so that survivors who can come to them can be taken care of. They will work on re-establishing communications and power, and only once they’ve gotten themselves firmly dug in will they begin ranging out to find stranded survivors. If they ran out and got people first they’d simply be dumping them all into an unprepared cluster without power, communications or medical treatment. Not to mention that if they rush in they could be putting themselves in great danger. They are “slow” for a reason, and that is because when they get to you, you will be saved, not just temporarily reprieved.
Even more than that, however, is that by being able to help yourself, you free up resources for people who cannot help themselves. If you have food, water and shelter for three or more days, then the rescuers can leave you alone and spend their time finding people who have been injured or are trapped or who didn’t plan ahead and have no food or water. By being prepared, not only are you helping yourself but you are indirectly helping others.
The best thing about being prepared is that it doesn’t cost very much. A few dollars and a little time will put you leagues ahead of those who don’t. You probably have many of the things you’ll need in your house already, and if you don’t a quick trip to Wal-Mart will solve that. Then you just need to pick rally points. Your home, just outside your home, miles away, states away. Make sure everyone knows where to go and how to reach each other. Just like that, you are better off than you were before.
It’s so easy that there is no excuse to not be prepared. If you aren’t, do it now. Do it within the next week. Pick a day and get it done. Because after the zombies come, it’ll be too late to prepare.
Lately I’ve been getting a bit of traffic on the site, mostly because of the Urban Dead post I made over 3 years ago. So, I decided to take another look at the game… which lasted about ten minutes before I remembered exactly why I left.
The main crux of that old post, and the reason I quit the game, and the reason my return was so brief is that I have no desire to play a zombie. On the whole, I tend to find stories about zombies to be boring. Stories about survivors in a world of zombies on the other hand are awesome. Even when the survivors don’t win and they all die, because a good zombie story is about humans, and what we will do to and for each other to survive.
Imagine this: you are playing a game where you are a cop hunting down rapists. You find clues, perform interviews, gather evidence and eventually, if you are lucky, you get to shoot them. Now imagine if in this game, when you fail to catch a rapist you are forced to be a rapist until you can be turned back into a cop. Totally unappealing, right? I mean, I hope that is unappealing, because if you want to play a rapist in a video game you need to stop reading and seek help. Now.
I don’t want to be a zombie. I don’t want to eat people. That game just isn’t fun for me at all to play.
What would make Urban Dead worth playing for me?
First, a simple “reset” button. When I die, rather than be a zombie, I’d like to be able to just start over without having to create a new account. I don’t mind losing experience and skills or having to wait a period of days, I just don’t want to be undead.
Second, a world reset event. If all the world is undead, if no survivors remain, wipe the slate clean and start over. If you let people pick zombie or survivor from the start, had levels and skills with the personal reset button causing some skill loss and a waiting period (24 to 72 hours), then you create a true “us versus them” style of PvP, and at that point you can define a win condition. If all the survivors are dead or all the zombies are dead, the server declares that side the winner and the entire game resets. When the world resets, everyone starts off human, but people who pick the zombie side start infected and in X days they’ll all die and be able to stand up as zombies.
Really like zombie survival games but tired of so many of them being shooters?
Project Zomboid might be right up your alley. An isometric RPG set in the zombie apocalypse. Build defenses, search for food, fight zombies. Decidedly hardcore (they maintain that you WILL die eventually, there is no “winning” or happily ever after), this game of shambling undead is one I’ll be keeping an eye on, which shouldn’t be too hard considering they’ve got the game blog plus three developer blogs and a forum.
With any luck the game will support some form of multiplayer, which might end up making it the game I’ve always wanted to play.
As much as I love the zombie apocalypse genre, it has one glaring major flaw: in a world where horror movies, and specifically zombie movies, exist a zombie apocalypse isn’t likely to happen. If you were to ask ten random people on the street how to kill a zombie, nine and a half of them will probably know how – aim for the head, destroy the brain, etc. This, in fact, is one of the things I tend to hate most about various zombie stories. The movie Scream was fantastic because it subverted the genre of horror films by allowing its character to know about horror films when the norm is for people to wander around in the dark by themselves even after discovering that other people have been killed while wandering around in the dark by themselves.
Unwillingness to Kill
The primary crutch that most zombie stories rely on is the reluctance of people to kill other people, especially friends and family members. I’m fairly certain most of my friends and family are aware that if they become infected, I might keep them around as long as they are useful but once they turn I’m going to put a spike through their brain. And while I know there are people out there who would be all protective of their recently dead loved ones, I think the education provided by the cautionary tales of zombie films would be enough to make that rare.
Of course, the real obstacle is a well prepared military. If the world were to suddenly have pockets of zombies crop up, squads of the National Guard (assuming they aren’t in the Middle East) would be dispatched to deal with the situation. At the very least they would round-up and contain the undead while researchers worked on possible solutions. In fact, the real threat here is political, as people in Washington jockey for position concerning the rights of Undead Americans and slow down the response and effectiveness of those trained to deal with situations of a violent nature.
Spread of Infection
Depending on the source, another hill for a zombie apocalypse to shamble over is the nature of the infection. Traditionally, after the initial turning of corpses or people into flesh-eating monsters, the zombification spreads through bite. In most stories, the initial cause is a localized accident, either a chemical spill or natural event. From there and moving to a pass-through-bite scenario, suddenly it seems kind of silly that an apocalypse is even possible. An event of that sort should take a couple of hours to clean up, maybe a day.
Other stories are more ambitious and use either a specific global event (pass through the tail of a comet) or just go with a generic “the dead started getting up everywhere, all at once, and we don’t know why” nebulous unknown source. This, at least, has potential. If you get dozens, hundreds or even thousands of locations with zombies simultaneously, you begin to plausibly stress the available response resources. You also gain the ability to have pockets of infection go unnoticed and get out of control.
How Would I Do It*
I’ve thought about it a lot. Obviously, I mean, the title of my blog is “Aim for the Head” and the logo is a zombie. And as the title of this post says, it has to happen fast. In my version, the infection that causes the zombies happens in stages. The first is a virus, the most contagious ever seen. It’s airborne, it’s in the water, passed by contact and blood. It is literally everywhere, and it kills 10% of those infected. Literally a decimation of the world population. However, those who don’t die appear to be immune to further infection. That fact, combined with the contagion level of the virus, leads to the decision to stop trying to stop it and instead simply to allow everyone to get infected, killing one out of ten people but leaving the remaining nine immune.
Years later, when people are finally beginning to forget the horror of the Decimation Virus, people start dropping dead. It’s just like before, people panic that the Decimation is back, everything goes nuts, and in the confusion, people don’t notice right away that the people who died aren’t staying dead. Within hours, approximately one tenth of the world’s population is one of the walking dead, and that percentage is rising.
The point is, it has to be everywhere, all at once, with relatively high-speed in order to outstrip the ability to respond, so that bolting the front door and staying inside is the smartest decision that too many people will not make. It has to happen fast.
* If you decide to steal this idea, let me know, perhaps we can collaborate, or maybe we can settle on you just giving me some credit.
I don’t maintain a blogroll here, or even links of any kind to other sites unless they are within posts. However, in a fit of narcissism I decided that I would post a list of links to all the sites that are contained within my Google Reader. So without further ado, presented here in alphabetical order, and in one giant ugly paragraph, is what I read: