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 name makes me want to gently rest my face in the palm of my hand. Really? “Zafehouse”? But then I went on to read the features, look at the screenshots and watch the video. Annoying name aside, I’m in.
In the Zafehouse: Diaries you control the fates of people picked to live in a house during the zombie apocalypse to see what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. Real World: Zombie Apocalypse! Hmm.. I just thought of a worse name than Zafehouse. Anyway, you start with your people, and you assign them tasks, and then they do them. A turn is an hour, and how successful they are depends on their own skill and their relationships with the rest of the people. When you finish, you get a nice AAR of the whole ordeal to share with your friends.
It’s available for sale now, but I’m on holiday lockdown – no buying anything for myself until the new year. I look forward to being able to give this a try, even more so if they manage to get approved for Steam, because I love having all my games in Steam.
In the meantime, seeing this reminds me that I have that pack of screenshots from Rebuild lying around that I need to do the writing for…
My second favorite film of SHOCKtober, The Horde is a French zombie apocalypse tale. A group of police are going after a drug lord who is responsible for killing a colleague. They invade the condemned high-rise where the drug lord lives, screw up and get captured. But then zombies happen and they all need to team up to survive.
This movie is sooooo good. Unless you just cannot possibly tolerate subtitles, you must see this film if you like zombie movies. It takes the best elements of an action film and the best elements of a zombie film, and you get a high energy zombie survival action movie that is great from beginning to end.
The Horde is chock full of awesome moments. Bloody deaths, noble sacrifices, stupid people, less stupid people, actual smart people… there is this one moment, that looks a lot like this:
and that the movie reminds me at times of Dead Rising is a huge plus. But it also reminds me of Left 4 Dead as well. In fact, lots of the movie reminds me of a video game, but not in a dumb way like that terrible Doom movie.
It is a crime that I haven’t bought this on Blu-ray yet, but then again, it’s available on Netflix Instant Streaming, where I have watched it three or four times, so maybe I can be forgiven.
Around six months ago, I wrote about the CDC embracing the zombie apocalypse as a teaching tool for disaster preparedness. Some people laugh at stuff like this, but as I said then, as I’ve said for a long time, and as I continue to say, if you are prepared for zombies then you are prepared for just about anything.
Since then I’ve had their little badge up on my site and I hope people take it to heart. Seriously, just the simple act of having a flashlight with batteries (or one that doesn’t need batteries), a radio, some food, some water and a plan just puts you in a great position to handle even minor things, not to mention when a storm rips through and the power is out for a few days.
Randomly, earlier this week, I clicked that link myself, just to make sure it still worked, and was rewarded with finding out that they’ve made some changes.
Now, in addition to their one sheet about zombies and links to other disaster preparation information, they’ve put up a short graphic novel, Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic. It is available as a PDF from their site. I love that the CDC is doing this, and I hope they keep doing it.
Perhaps they need a page that uses werewolves to illustrate how to handle animal bites…
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.
One of the things I’ve always dreamed of in an MMO was playing in a truly enormous world. For example, if I were to play (or make) an MMO for a zombie apocalypse setting, I would want the world to be so large that even if I had millions of players, it could be as sparsely populated as you might expect a horror themed zombie game to be. Of course, players could choose to cluster, for safety and companionship, but the possibility to walk for miles and miles and find no one else needs to exist.
The problem is that taking the time to build that world would be too much. And that is why this has me very excited.
The CityEngine by the people over at Procedural just floors me. Lots of people will tell you that hand crafted games will always be better than a procedurally generated one, and in one aspect they are right. If your goal as a game maker is to tell a story, a narrative, like a Halo game, or Dead Rising, or any other traditional PC or console game, then yes, hand crafted content is the way to go. Your story demands it. But in an MMO or other Virtual World type game, where the players and their interactions are the real story, and your setting and lore are just a sandbox for them to play in, procedurally generated content done well is, in my opinion, the far better choice.