Greetings! And welcome to the First Annual Comics Bulletin Easter Zombie Movie Marathon! I'm Paul Brian McCoy and I, along with my partner-in-crime, Dr. Girlfriend, are presenting a slightly blasphemous celebration of the Resurrection, as we have for the past few years over on my blog, Infernal Desire Machines. But this is the first year that Comics Bulletin is taking an official part and I'm not just posting links to my blog on the message board.
Usually we try to arrange the films in some sort of loose thematic or chronological order, but this year it's mainly about convenience. As such, nearly every film on this list is available for streaming on Netflix, which means that if you have an account, you can watch along with us and share your reactions as Unholy Week shambles on. As a by-product of this year's approach, most of these films are relatively recent releases from around the globe, and are a pretty interesting look into the current zombie boom.
Also, these reviews tend to be written quickly either right after watching or in short spurts of spare time the next day, so expect typos.
As full-fledged zombie nerds, Dr. Girlfriend and I have a very wide range of experience with classic (and not-so-classic) zombie films, television, books, and comics. Because of this, these annual explorations of the risen dead tend to cover more obscure – and at times more tangential to the zombie experience – titles, or just things that we've somehow missed. So trust me, we are well aware of the biggies, and there's a reason they're not on these lists. This year kicks off with what unintentionally turned into an ode to low-budget filmmaking as we take a look at Zombie Girl: The Movie (US 2009, 91 min.) and Colin (UK 2008, 97 min.).
By the way: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY
- Zombie Girl: The Movie
- Directors: Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck
- US 91 min.
I had heard of this film for a while, but never got around to watching it until now. It's a documentary about Emily Hagins, a young girl from Austin who, thanks to a mom who loves movies, was immersed in film from a very early age. She wrote a screenplay for a zombie movie called Pathogen when she was 10 years old, revised it to feature-length when she was eleven or so and began directing the film shortly thereafter, finally finishing it and producing a final cut at the tender age of 13.
I'm not sure how the documentary filmmakers got involved as there's no commentary track or extras on the streaming version, but I'm extremely glad they did. Not only is this a ridiculously inspiring piece of work, it also does a very nice job establishing that Emily and her mom, Megan, are not just weirdoes with too much time on their hands and no friends. I love the fact that they held off until the end to briefly discuss the fact that Megan had miscarried before giving birth to Emily and thought she was going to lose her too. That intense mother/daughter bonding finds expression in Megan's willingness to do just about anything to help Emily make her film.
The best part of the film, though, is watching Emily develop into a filmmaker. Sure Pathogen isn't great (maybe not even very good) and is filled with mistakes, but there's no hemming and hawing about that. She's fully aware that her first film is pretty crappy. But for fuck's sake! She was only 13 when she finished her FIRST FEATURE LENGTH FILM. She had no budget, no training, and virtually no equipment. It doesn't matter if the quality isn't there at this point.
If any of you reading this have ever tried to put together a creative project with more than one other person you know what a train wreck it can be. Schedules conflict, visions conflict, hell, everything conflicts, and it's damn near impossible to finish something. And if you can finish, it usually takes years. These kids (nearly all the actors are the same age as Emily) kept at it, and by shooting on weekends, holidays, and in any spare time – while going to school (and working full-time for Megan) – they finished.
Now Emily is 19 and has finished her third film, My Sucky Teen Romance (which got her first theatrical distribution deal in October of 2011), and is writing the screenplay for her next one.
This documentary gets a bit uncomfortable at times, particularly when tempers get short and we see 12 year olds acting like 12 year olds. But overall, this is a very well-done film that gives a lot of insight into not only Emily's learning process while making her first feature length film, but also gives us a glimpse into the Austin film community. After watching, I couldn't help but wonder if any of this would have happened if she'd lived somewhere else. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
- Director: Marc Price
- Writer: Marc Price
- UK 97 min.
And speaking of right place at the right time, next up we have the lowest of low-budget films, Colin, by UK writer/director Marc Price.
I was not aware of this at the time of scheduling, but Price claims that Colin was made on a budget of £45 (or around $70 US). This is thanks to Price filming the entire thing on a standard definition Panasonic mini-dv camcorder that he already owned and editing on his home PC, using Adobe Premiere software that he had been given at media college (so says Wikipedia). He then used Facebook and MySpace to wrangle volunteers to play zombies.
That's freaking genius right there. But again, this was a filmmaker who just happened to have the materials on-hand, and the motivation to get it done. Using Facebook and MySpace is particularly inventive and I actually wondered why Emily didn't go that route when trying to gather zombie volunteers for her grand finale in Pathogen. Of course, being a pre-teen, maybe there just wasn't access. But it seemed like somebody could have hooked her up.
With Colin, we see both the pros and cons of low-budget filmmaking. I was almost ready to turn off the film after the first ten or fifteen minutes as it was extremely cramped, poorly lit, and had horrible sound quality. But then after we see our title character Colin (Alastair Kirton) transform into a zombie and get out of that tiniest of tiny kitchenettes things got better.
Much better, in fact.
I quite enjoyed the whole picaresque approach as we follow Colin stumbling across town, wandering into random adventures as horrible violence occurs all around him. While the acting isn't for the most part anything to write home about, the ideas on display here are pretty good. And it just seems natural that there would be people mugging the undead for their trainers, given how they're really very awkward and slow. One on one (or two on one in this case), a zombie isn't that much of a threat so long as you can keep the mouth occupied. And then you can steal his shoes.
There's also a very dark undercurrent to this film as we see that familial bonds are the cause of much heartbreak. Because Colin's sister Linda (Daisy Aitkens) isn't able to let him go, he becomes the direct cause of her own death and rebirth. It was even a little heartbreaking to watch their mother cover up the windows of the flat where they lock Colin up in their misguided
attempt to reach him.
I was also very satisfied with the conclusion, as we finally circle back around in the narrative and see just how Colin got bitten in the first place, and get visual explanations for some of the odd motivations and distractions that guide Colin on his journey across town. This isn't rocket science, but it is a very well-constructed little film. I couldn't help but think that if Price had just spent another few quid maybe he could have bought a light or jerry-rigged a boom mike like the Haginses did.
All in all, this was a pretty nice start for the 2012 Easter Zombie Movie Marathon. I hope the rest of the films can maintain at least this level of entertainment.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.