Greetings! And welcome to the Second 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. To check on titles we've watched over the past six years, just scroll down to the archive and check out April and May from 2008 through 2011. Last year's entries can be found by checking out the Shot for Shot archive here at the Bulletin from last April.
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 in the fact that we are well aware of the biggies, and there's a reason they're not on these lists.
• Wednesday 3/27: Rammbock: Berlin Undead (2010) & Xombie: Dead on Arrival (2003)
• Thursday 3/28: Exit Humanity (2011)
• Friday 3/29: The Astro Zombies (1969)
• Saturday 3/30: Juan of the Dead (2011) & The Revenant (2009)
• Sunday 3/31: Plague of the Zombies (1966) & The Walking Dead 3.16 (season finale!)
Along the way there will be surprises and some added film reviews wherever I can squeeze them in. And as always, that schedule is subject to change when life steps in and causes trouble.
By the way: THIS WAY THERE BE SPOILERS!
SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY
Writer: Trent Haaga
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel
Well, this was one fucked up way to kick off the marathon this year.
For those few of you who still haven't seen this cult film, it tells the story of J.T. and Ricky — two high school friends who discover a living dead girl in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital. Ricky, who's holding out for his childhood sweetheart Joann, wants nothing to do with this disturbing find. J.T. on the other hand, wants to fuck her. And things just get more and more sweet and heartwarming from there.
This is a polarizing film, no doubt. In fact, Dr. Girlfriend wanted nothing to do with it and found better ways to spend her afternoon. But I'm a trooper, so I dove right in.
Visually and technically, this is a very well made piece of work. The tag team directing work by Sarmiento and Harel is very impressive. Neither director has a huge resume, and what films they have made before were mostly comedies. But something clicked when they got their mitts on the script by Troma veteran Haaga and what could have been a shock for shock's sake film is turned into something with a little more depth.
I mean, the depth is there in the script, but it's offset by Troma-friendly ideas like a zombie blowjob and a toilet scene that if presented differently would have been at home in something like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (which is a work of demented genius, by the way). Sarmiento and Harel play things straight, however, and deliver a film I found to be genuinely disturbing on a number of levels.
There's apparently some argument that th
e film is misogynistic, however that's off-base. This film isn’t about women at all. It's about men and their attitudes about women. And it's pretty brutal in its assessment, ultimately presenting every man in the story as either a rapist, a potential rapist, or a sleazy loser mooching off of women. Even our hero, Ricky, played with a very believable sense of disgust by Shiloh Fernandez (who will be in the Evil Dead remake that hits in a few weeks), gives in ultimately to his baser nature. His nobility all along was contingent on the identity of the Deadgirl, it seems.
Noah Segan does his usual strong work, playing the disgusting J.T., a loser kid just looking for the right opportunity for his real perversions to come out. But the real star of the film is the Deadgirl herself, Jenny Spain. Most of the time she's treated like a sex toy by the characters inthe film, but she brings a palpable sense of horror and danger every time anyone gets close to her. Mixed in with that animal violence is a subtle humanity still lingering inside.
She does amazing work with virtually no resources beyond her eyes and her physicality.
In the end, this isn't so much about the zombies (hell, by the time all's said and done, at least two or three zombies are on the loose with no further mention!!), but is an obliteration of conventional masculinity.
High School of the Dead (2010)
Writer: Yōsuke Kuroda
Director: Tetsuro Araki
Episodes 1-6 (of 12)
This one will be a little less disturbing. Sort of.
For some reason, both of the works I picked to start off this year's marathon with have disturbing sexual undertones. High School of the Dead is very different from Deadgirl, however. H.O.T.D. is a 12-episode anime adapting the manga of the same name. As you can probably tell by the title, it's about high school kids (and their busty school nurse) trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.
To be quite honest, I wasn't expecting much from this. I thought I'd watch an episode just to check it out and move on to something else. Two and a half hours later, I'd watched the first half of the season and will pick up the back six next Sunday. But it is a wildly uneven story, mixing graphic violence and adult language with slapstick humor and cheesecake panty shots. Oh, and lots and lots of bouncing boobs.
I think a claim of misogyny could be easily leveled at this one.
There aren't a lot of surprises along the way (unless you count the all-girl frolic in the bathtub/ shower scene), but it is very stylishly done. The action and horror don't hold back anything and there's a sense of bleak nihilism at the heart of the whole piece. These kids lose their innocence very quickly and there's only a hint of looking back.
Society breaks down almost instantly as soon as the dead start walking, which works to move the plot along at a brisk pace, but also signals a thematic lack of faith in humanity — especially those who are supposed to be in charge. The teachers are either ineffectual, suicidal, or sociopathic sexual predators and the military are hard, cold, and brutally efficient. Nobody's coming out of this thing looking good except our heroes, some of whom have, in less than a day, become murderers.
Yeah it was self-defense, but hours of "killing" the undead, combined with the threat of rape and murder, make it a little easier to embrace. And after a cursory, "I killed a human being" monologue, things go back to almost normal. I'm very curious to see where our heroes end up at the end of this season.
I could do without all the panty shots and "boing" sound effects when boobies bounce around, though.