It’s going to be zombie week here on Trumpetville, and we’ll kick off with an unwieldy mixture of fact and fiction.
Back when Black Static was starting out, as well as the reviews I used to pad Case Notes with sidebars relevant to whatever features we were running. Reprised below are those which accompanied a feature on zombies that appeared in #3 (and I’ll be reprising that later this week).
I also used to write fiction once upon a time, and if you scroll down you’ll find a sample of that, a flash that I believe was published in a long lost magazine named Kimota, though I’m too lazy to dig out my publications records and check that was the case.
Okay, in the words of the sainted Alice – I’m ready. Let the show begin.
Some milestones in zombie celluloid:-
White Zombie (1932) – the first zombie film, starring Bela Lugosi as sinister white Voodoo master “Murder” Legendre
I Walked with a Zombie (1943) – producer Val Lewton’s second film, based loosely on the plot of Jane Eyre
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) – aliens use the living dead against mankind in director Edward D Wood Jnr’s ‘masterpiece’, often cited as the worst film ever made
Night of the Living Dead (1968) – George A Romero’s black and white classic that reinvented the zombie subgenre and became one of the most influential horror films of all time
Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) – infamous ‘video nasty’ that rescued the career of director Lucio Fulci
Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Dan O’Bannon ‘splatstick’ in which zombies eat brains and run for the first time
Re-Animator (1985) – Stuart Gordon feature based on a story by H P Lovecraft
Braindead (1992) – gross out zombie comedy from New Zealander Peter Jackson, who went on to direct The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong
Resident Evil (2002) – first in a trilogy starring Milla Jovovich and based on a hugely successful video game
28 Days Later (2002) – Danny Boyle’s excursion into the horror genre, and technically not a zombie film, but for all practical purposes it might as well be
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – zombie themed romantic comedy (a ‘rom zom com’) starring Simon Pegg
ZOMBIES AND SCIENCE FICTION
While zombies are predominantly the concern of the horror genre, the potential of reanimated corpses has appealed to science fiction writers. Some examples include William Tenn’s Down Among the Dead Men in which zombies provide much needed cannon fodder for the war effort and Override, George R R Martin’s tale of a corpse handler whose charges are turned against him. Dead musicians feature in The Song the Zombie Sang by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg and also in A Little Night Music by Lucius Shepard, whose debut novel Green Eyes offered a viral explanation for zombie phenomena. Perhaps the most sophisticated treatment of the theme can be found in The River Styx Flows Upstream by Dan Simmons, in which medical science discovers a way to reanimate corpses, only for them to become an emotional and economic burden on their families, with echoes of senility and Alzheimer’s. The most famous SF story with a zombie reference, Robert Heinlein’s ‘- All You Zombies –‘, is not about the living dead but a time travel tale.
THE ZOMBIE WALK: LIFE IMITATES ART
Inspired by the films of George Romero, the zombie walk involves a number of people dressing as zombies and adopting a zombie shuffle, and then invading an urban centre. Among other things, these events have been used to promote horror film festivals and as a form of social protest. The first such walk was held in Sacramento California in the summer of 2001. On October 29th in 2006 a zombie walk in aid of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank took place at the Monroeville Mall, the set for Dawn of the Dead, and was attended by 894 people, setting a Guinness World Record. In 2007 more than 1100 people dressed as zombies invaded the same Mall. When he shot his film, Romero had made do with between two and three hundred extras.
SCIENCE AND ZOMBIES
Canadian ethnobotanist and anthropologist Wade Davis investigated the case of the zombie Clairvius Narcisse while resident in Haiti and concluded that there was a pharmacological explanation for the zombie phenomenon. The zombie state was achieved by the use of two drugs, tetrodotoxin which can induce a deathlike state and datura which reduces the individual’s will power to a zombielike compliance. Davis’ theories have never been conclusively proven or gained widespread acceptance, though he popularised them in a bestselling book, The Serpent and the Rainbow, which was made into a film by Wes Craven in 1988. Davis is alleged to have said, “When I wrote my first book, The Serpent and the Rainbow, it was made into one of the worst Hollywood movies in history. I tried to escape the hysteria and the media by going to Borneo.”
‘Put another log on the fire for me.’
He bent, picked up a log and straightened. She watched out of the corner of her eye as he shuffled over to the fireplace, his movements painfully slow, and negligently dropped the piece of wood in among the flames, then waited for her next command. If she said nothing he would wait all night, or until the hungry flames reached out and consumed his pallid flesh.
‘Go back to your corner.’
Under her breath she cursed the old witch Sycorax, who had given her the potion which had condemned him to this hellish life in death. Better she had not sought to deny the cruel fate that had snatched him away from her. Better they had both died, which was the story Fr Lawrence and her old nurse had put about the city to prevent their families searching for them. Better anything than this.
She went over to him, and for the thousandth time she gazed into his eyes, searching in vain for some sign of intelligence, a trace of the life force that had once burned there so brightly and to which she had pledged eternal love. If the eyes truly were the window of the soul then this soul was lost beyond all hope of recall.
Juliet wiped a tear from her cheek, and in black despair she cried out, ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’