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Zombies

ZOMBIE ANTS

First ants, next humans! Throw all your Apple products in the garbage, they clearly are dangerous mind control devices.

What makes a zombie? It depends on the movie. In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD it was a returned space probe, bringing with it some alien pathogen, perhaps, or cosmic form of radiation. In movies like 28 DAYS LATER and WORLD WAR Z, the marauding malefactors are not “zombies” in the true Hollywood sense of the word, in that they are not dead, merely BRAIN-dead. Sometimes the supernatural is credited with bringing the dead back to life, and in real life in Haiti, it is a potent and mysterious mixture of primitive drugs and folk medicine that creates a “zombi.” Perhaps it is simply that “there is no more room in Hell,” as DAWN OF THE DEAD suggested. Or, as is the case in many movies and TV shows, the cause may never be revealed and is largely irrelevant.
Here’s a novel idea: What if people are turned into zombies by cellphone signals? The idea of transference of zombie mindlessness via electronic broadcasts was explored in the underrated PONTYPOOL, and the concept of cellphones facilitating the spread of insanity. (Okay, so maybe the idea isn’t THAT novel. I will concede that it’s a short leap from “insane” to “zombie.”) But what if, disconcertingly, there might be a kernel of plausibility to this hypothesis? We’ve all read scientific articles on “zombie ants,” so we know the little creepy crawlies are susceptible. Look at the effect cellphone radiation has on them in this video? Could human beings potentially be zombified by their cellies?

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Zombies

PONTYPOOL—I got it. At least I think I got it.

 It plays like Stephen King’s Cell met a Twilight Zone episode and spawned something completely different. 

Okay, then, you looking for a zombie movie of a different stripe? A zombie movie that hits all the key requirements but also makes you think? If no, then please do NOT watch PONTYPOOL and then grouse about how “lame” it is, as I’ve seen so many online reviewers have done. Just because you don’t get it or it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t make it lame. It’s a sharp picture, well acted, atmospheric, witty and insidiously satirical. But what’s it about, you ask? Well, it’s about . . . Alright, here’s what I THINK it’s about.

A contagion that reduces people to a zombie-like state, complete with cannibalistic tendencies, breaks out in the Canadian province of Pontypool. We watch, or more frequently HEAR, the chaotic events as the epidemic unfolds through the “ears” of three characters working the overnight shift at a smalltime radio station. So what’s not to get about that? Sounds straightforward enough, right? Yeah, all THAT does, and is. Where the film veers into new and unexplored territory is the means by which the contagion is spread: by WORDS. Or maybe it’s by THOUGHTS. I’m not sure, and that’s okay. Watch the movie for yourselves and make up your own minds. Minds? Minds. Miiiiinds . . .

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Zombies

It’s a conspiracy!

On November 15th, Harvard Professor Don Wiley left a gathering of friends and colleagues some time after 10:30 PM. The next morning, Memphis police found his rental car stopped on a bridge, with a full tank of gas and keys still in the ignition.

I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, outside of the movies and television, and even then only under the proper circumstances. This one, though, might be of interest to you, dear readers, because of a tangential link to zombie fiction. Pathogens of some sort or other are the most frequent catalytic culprit on which to pin the blame for zombie apocalypses. From the excellent 28 DAYS LATER and its sequel to WORLD WAR Z—and one might argue that the returning space probe blamed for the undead uprising in Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD brought with it an extraterrestrial microbe, thus warranting inclusion on the list—it typically is something microscopic and nefarious, rather than supernatural and nefarious, behind the dead, or brain-dead, clawing their way out of the graveyards and morgues. That’s why I give pathogens fair coverage here.

I haven’t fact-checked this entire article—I don’t have time—but it does seem to be on the level. There does seem to be a potential pattern linking the deaths of several prominent microbiologists over the past several years. It’s a troubling thought. What might they have been working on—or threatening to talk about—that got them killed? I don’t know that we’d really wanna know.

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Zombies

Spike the Corpse Flower Pulls a George Jones

In anticipation of the opening of the rancid-smelling flower (nicknamed “Spike,”) the garden amped up the flower’s own Twitter and Facebook page and even trained a live webcam on the bud.

We could also say Spike pulled an Axl Rose, but frankly Jones has more class. Either way, both musicians were infamous for failing to show up for scheduled performances, leaving ticket-buying audiences sitting with nothing to do. (Rose tended to show up but then run off the stage a few minutes into a show. Jones never arrived at all.) This is kinda what happened with Spike, the giant Corpse Flower. Flora fanatics showed up at the Chicago Botanical Gardens to watch the five-foot tall (they can grow up to fifteen) blossom unfurl and poison the air with its putrid perfume, but sadly Spike never delivered. Horticulturalists had to force it open, but that’s not even close to the same thing.

The giant Corpse Flower, or titan arum plant, can take seven years to bloom, but it’s not this overlong gestation period alone that makes the plant a sort of vegetable celebrity. It’s the stench. I’ve never been in the presence of such a blossom, but the Corpse Flower is reputed to stink just like a rotting corpse, a neat trick of evolution designed to lure insects. (We know how creepy-crawlies love them some rotting flesh.) This reminds me of a question I frequently ask myself when watching a zombie flick: How can the living survivors stand to BREATHE with all those zombies around?

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Zombies

Zombies in the Good Book?

I have a hard time with people who believe every punctuation mark in the Holy Bible (and it’s usually the King James Bible they’re referring to) was inspired by God. Not that the Almighty penned it Himself; rather He possessed sinful human beings—a LOT of them—who dictated what He wanted to say. People believe this despite the numerous blatant contradictions contained in the Scriptures. Not even the four Gospels, on which the foundation of Christianity rests, can agree on all the details. Take the Resurrection, for example. Who got to the empty tomb first? Did or did not the resurrected Jesus put in an appearance? How many angels were there, or were there angels present at all? It depends on which Gospel you read.

Biblical literalists must then concede that there were zombies mentioned in the Bible. Don’t believe me? This passage is from Matthew 27, verses 21-24 (King James Version), describing events immediately following Christ’s death. “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” So, literalists, does this mean zombies are real?

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Zombies

The Plague Line

An elderly man in Utah has died from the plague this week.

Considering that we haven’t had any recurrences of that whole “Black Death” thing, people can perhaps be forgiven if they erroneously believe that the plague, the historic plague, has gone the way of smallpox, rabies and other such dreaded diseases of the past and been eradicated. I will confess to being among that number. Anybody else want to own up to it? In reality, though, smallpox is still around; there was fear a few short years ago of a reemergence of the disease. Likewise, the plague is still with us. Not an immediate death sentence, as it was for the populace of Dark Ages Europe, maybe, but still dangerous. Left untreated, there’s at least a fifty percent chance it’ll kill you. With treatment it still might. And there is an average of seven new cases of the plague in the United States every year; this year there have already been twelve.

I didn’t know there were outbreaks of the plague in 1900 and again in 1924. These weren’t Black Death-scale epidemics, thankfully, but just knowing it’s still out there is worrisome enough. There is even a “plague line” that the CDC draws across the map of the continental US, designating the areas most likely to see new outbreaks. It’s all due to the migration patterns of wild rodents and the fleas who hitch rides with them—and the pathogen hitching a ride inside the fleas, the little bastard.

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Zombies

WORLD WAR Z – The Next Installment

Brad Pitt is expected to return for the sequel, which is aiming for a 2017 release. The first film was plagued by reshoots and ended up being rated PG-13, a crushing disappointment for zombie fans, and if the above quote is accurate, then it looks like we’ll be getting another straightforward action pic rather than a true living dead picture.

This writer here tells us, in regards to WORLD WAR Z: “Like it or hate it (probably hate) . . .” but then informs us four words later that the film earned $589 million worldwide. That’s kinda like saying, ‘It’s not raining, but water is falling from the sky.” What he SHOULD have said is that, while a certain percentage of genre fans hated the movie, and have been very vocal about their hatred, it nevertheless was a big hit, which implies that a lotta people really liked it. If everybody had hated it, it would hardly have scored such impressive box office and for sure wouldn’t be getting a sequel. So why did that vociferous percentage hate WWZ? Basically because it was a PG-13 film, more of an Action movie than a true Horror flick. In other words, because it wasn’t George Romero or THE WALKING DEAD. And they’re right. It wasn’t.

Also some have harped on the fact the movie bears so little resemblance to the novel by Max Brooks. They’re right about this, too. It doesn’t. BUT. A movie version of the book would have been a tricky thing to pull off. It’s not a book written to be transitioned to film. And the story they ended up going with, despite numerous reported rewrites, was solid. Also if I want Romero, I’ll go watch Romero. A zombie flick doesn’t have to have blood spurting as if from a field of gory geysers to be entertaining. Not for me, at least.

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Zombies

You can’t keep a good (or bad) man (or woman) down.

The numbers are in and last night’s Fear the Walking Dead premiere has set a new television record as the biggest cable television premiere of all time.

What is it about zombies? I’m sure there are deep-seated psychological and sociological reasons for the wild popularity of the zombie genre. Something about our latent fear of our own inevitable mortality, and the ability to satirize it with what are essentially live-action cartoons serving to minimize the terrors of the same. I’ll leave it to the head-shrinkers and graph-compilers to dig into it with more depth. I’ll settle for reporting on the observable, obvious effects.

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, the spin-off and companion series to AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, broke all records with its premiere, becoming the highest rated television show debut in cable TV history. This sets the bar pretty high for future episodes, but don’t expect the ratings to drop off too much in the coming weeks. Also we can expect the new series to provide a ratings “bump” to the original show. You can’t spit without hitting a zombie these days, and that’s just going to become more the norm, as we can expect to see walkers everywhere. Will we see the typical burnout effect come into play? Is it inevitable that zombies will become so “over” (in Carnie speak) that they will become passé? Will fans stop being afraid of, and instead become sick of, the walking dead?

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Zombies

WALKING DEAD in California?

A real-life case of human plague comes just weeks ahead of the upcoming “Fear The Walking Dead” series premiere.

No, actually. The headlines a little misleading. But the story, or the germ of the story, if you’ll excuse the bad pun, is still pretty frightening. A kid has been diagnosed with the plague. The article doesn’t specify what kind of plague it is; one would assume it’s of the bubonic variety, since no other information is given. Maybe it’s like with Madonna. No one needs to mention her last name, because everybody knows who she is. Or Prince. One name says it all. So “the Plague,” capital P, is probably of the bubonic variety, the infamous “Black Death” transmitted by rats and fleas that decimated one-third of the population of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Yes, THAT Plague. In the 21st century. In Los Angeles, one of the largest and most technologically advanced cities in the world. No, we’re probably not looking at an outbreak, but just knowing that the Black Death is still around is a little unsettling. And let us not forget that we share the planet with Ebola and God only knows what other even-more-nasty, waiting-to-be-discovered virus or bacterium. While we aren’t likely to see any rotting corpses shambling around anytime soon, some pathogen-driven nightmare like WORLD WAR Z or 28 DAYS LATER is disturbingly possible, and not just in the minds of Hollywood script writers.

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Zombies

Gimme one more reason to hate (not being in) California

I’ve never been to San Diego Comic Con. It’s too far and too expensive and I can’t spare the time to go. I just have to put it off until that mystical, intangible neverland known as “Someday.” Unfortunately, someday didn’t come soon enough for me to make it this year, which is a shame, ‘cause there were lots of cool things going on, as always. For instance, though I’m not, as I have stated, a huge fan of THE WALKING DEAD TV series, it would have been cool to see several members of the cast of Telltale Games’ THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON ONE take to the stage to reenact scenes from the game in a live performance.

Voice actors present for the performance were Nicki Rapp (Lilly), Dave Fennoy (Lee), Melissa Hutchinson (Clementine), Gavin Hammon (Kenny), and Nicole Vigil (Carly). It would have been interesting to see how closely the players resemble their digital avatars from the game. In addition to the reenactment, the cast took part in a live Q-and-A session with guests, and Telltale Games, together with Skybound Entertainment, also provided some information on the upcoming THE WALKING DEAD: MICHONNE mini series.

Anybody make it out to the Con and want to rub it in?