Shock-O-Rama: Death to the Undead! -

Shock-O-Rama: Death to the Undead!

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Shock-O-Rama: Death to the Undead!

Zombies in the Mainstream

By Chuck Francisco     July 07, 2012

If there's one sub genre of cinema which I love above all others, it would have to be zombies films. Shambling hordes of broken humans turned hunters holds an almost insatiable appeal for me. The flavor of ferocious former loved ones doesn't even matter: from the the sullen eyed, solnambulic voodoo zombies of White Zombie and King of the Zombies; the shambling inevitability of Romero's reign, beginning with Night of the Living Dead; the powerful, shark fighting Italian variety of Zombie fame; the American 80's zombie, renown for it's ability to request more paramedical dinner delivery (Return of the Living Dead); to the current obsession with Olympic track sprinting undead- I love them all (even though the genesis of the running zombie, 28 Days Later, does not, in fact, contain any zombies). 
Despite the turns life has taken, it always comes back to zombies. Whether I'm defending the entertainment value contained within Michael Soavi's Cemetery Man, or vainly attempting to charisma check friends into attending a splatter filled zombie-thon, those wretched undead are always a half shuffle behind; their rank breath caressing  the hair on the back of my neck like a dank, humid breeze. 


I've invite you in, brandishing the whole of my zombie obsession like so many badges of honor, to add the proper weighted heft to my next statement: The zombie sub genre needs to die. Again. It should be interred in a pine box, surrounded by cement and covered over with a mile of dirt. Surmounting the spot of it's containment should be a foot thick iron plate bearing the following inscription: 

"Here lies a genre we beat to death. Through congress with the devil (or Venetian radiation) , it rose again, and again, and again. Each time we met it with the same lack of creativity or originality, and mentally deficient stock character fodder. It shall not be allowed to rise again until a generation has passed as penance; until nostalgia can overcome boredom induced nausea; and until we solemnly swear not to abuse the sacred trust of Bub the zombie, forevermore."


These are some incredibly harsh accusations, but to save zombie cinema we must kill it. The over saturation has reach ridiculous extremes. Middle aged, minivan piloting housewives are discussing the latest buffoonery of Carl on The Walking Dead while waiting on line in the supermarket; six year old children assail their father, begging to shoot a cartoon zombie target at the archery range; and undead movies are being released at a clip unparalleled during any other time in history. Consider this factoid: in 2010, 63 zombie or undead related films were released. 67 were released during the entire span of the 90's. It's staggering to think that the living dead industry is still growing, having yet to reach critical mass.


Perhaps I'm exaggerating the severity of the problem, or I'm missing a few pieces of the puzzle. A completely non-scientific poll among my social media circles returned some interesting and varied perspectives. A majority of respondents felt that we hadn't reach a zombie saturation point, and they would welcome more morbid media as long as it was of good quality. Is that fair, though? Does a subject matter seem less over saturated if the products are quality? Do we overlook fifteen terrible zombie films because number sixteen is amazing? Normally, I tend to answer in the affirmative. Who cares about those fifteen terrible films? Discerning movie goers can skip them altogether and focus on the quality ones.


The difficulty I'm having relates, at least I think, to the absolute pervasiveness of zombie media among mainstream entrainment. They're the in thing. The benefit of this development is that horror nerds no longer have to spend hours defending their love of walkers to normal folk. However, the downside is crushingly agonizing to come to grips with: the target market for which these films are aimed is being shifted. Studios, T.V. Networks and publishers are casting their net as wide as possible to hook more bored house wives, children, college bros and high schoolers with disposable income. It's entirely possible that I'm no longer the target market for zombies films. Just what the heck kinda world is this?

Before I reassure you with hope, dear readers (and I will), there's one more lethal dose of dead news with which I first must assail your brain pan. Zombies are in the process of getting the same treatment that's cast a weak-sauce shadow on vampires: Twilight-ification. You read that right. For those of you who always felt that zombies were just miss understood bundles of love who could absolutely fall for and fulfill the needs of an angsty teenager girl, Warm Bodies is apparently the book and film for you! The early word suggests that the undead will not sparkle in this film but that director Jonathan Levine (Love Bytes, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) plans to make these the "best looking" zombies ever committed to film. (I am Jack's complete lack of enthusiasm)


Not all is fire and brimstone, doom and gloom on the zombie apocalypse front, though. Wade through the mass produced, mass appeal zed media out there and you're libel to find some really entertaining bright spots. Here are a pair which I highly recommend you seek out. 


The Dead - 2010, Anchor Bay Entertainment

The Dead is living proof that old school style Romero zombies can still make for an entertaining and tense horror flick. Set in Africa during the beginning of an outbreak, we follow the harrowing adventures of Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), an American airman who crash lands off the coast while trying to escape the continent. What's really amazing here is that tension doesn't have to come from characters making stupid decisions; Murphy is clever, inventive and resourceful. As long as he keeps moving, his safety isn't in jeopardy, but the moment he stops for anything (to refuel, to aid others, to sleep) the zombies are there, in all directions. The dread of slowly encroaching,  inevitable death harkens back to those classic zed films and proves that they can still hold relevance.



Rammbock - 2011, The Collective

Would you believe me if I told you that here is a frightening, compelling and original zombie film contained in just sixty minutes? This amazing German film details heartbroken Michael, who arrives at his ex girlfriend Gabi's apartment building minutes before the undead scourge. These are running infected style undead, with heightened senses and the strength that results when you have no working pain response to bodily damage. Amazingly, again, the tension and action don't need to rely on characters acting like morons to advance the plot. The danger and desperation of tenants who can see each other but are divided by a court yard, and thus can't aid each other is palpable. Bloody Disgusting Selects and The Collective put out an excellent DVD last year and it may be available on Netflix for instant watching. 

I'm building up a blustery bunch of indignation, but deep down I really do love zombie films, (even if there've been way to many low quality, cash grabs lately). Now I want to know how you feel, Maniacs. Do zombie films need to go away for a time? Have they reached an over saturation point? Does the good stuff coming out make the garbage worth enduring? Am I over reacting? Can dogs look up?

Saturday Shock-O-Rama Streaming Suggestions


Want to watch something schlocky right now? Try on a few of these suggestions, available right now from the listed service (most of which are FREE!).

Netflix -  Prince of Darkness - Horror (1987)

Crackle - REC  - Horror (2007)

YouTube - Planet of the Vampires - Sci-Fi/Horror (1965)


And if you simply can't get enough horror happenings here on Mania, might I humbly suggest checking out Tuesday Terrors? It's got all the shocking news to keep you current (and possibly help you survive until the credits roll).


Chuck Francisco is a columnist for Mania writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights and Colonial Cult Cinema.You can delve further into his love of all things weird and campy on his blog, The Midnight Cheese or hear him occasionally guesting on eminent podcast You've Got Geek.




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Betenoire 7/7/2012 5:00:52 AM

Not sure why you wrote Rammbock "may be available on Netflix for instant streaming" as I checked and it was listed.

And for some reason when I checke Netflix wanted to suggest to me My Little Pony Friendship is Magic...I really doubt those two items have a large crossover, but I have been wrong before. I guess Pony of the Dead will be the next thing. 

doublec 7/7/2012 6:29:24 PM

 Pony of the Dead, LOL.
I'll second the recommendation of Planet of the Vampires. It''s giallo maestro Mario Bava's stab at a sci-fi film, with impressive results. Amazingly creepy and astonishingly gory for a film of it's time.

CyanideRush 7/8/2012 5:40:40 AM

 @Betenoire - The Netflix app on my phone was being wonky when I was trying to look that up. I know I'd seen it on there a month ago but wasn't sure at the time if it still was. Wasn't Romero's Survivial of theDead pretty much My Little Pony of the Dead? Perhaps that's why it suggested it? :)


@Doublec - yes! I love the suggestion section of the article because it's a great chance to share some off the wall titles for folks to watch. I was very happy to find Planet of the Vampires was available on YouTube.

InnerSanctum 7/8/2012 12:07:20 PM

 I completely agree.  I believe both the zombie and vampire genres should be buried and not resurrected until a "new inspired version" of these monsters is created.  Not giving up on The Walking Dead, but, honestly, they are still Romero's original flesh eating zombies.  Time to come up with something new.  

And, please, please someone explain the ending to Cemetary Man.  I never got that last bit when they reached the end of the road and switched personalities.  I know it was symbolic, but I didn't quite get it.  Was it all in his head, and why go so far out there, when it initally was just a zombie flick?  

fenngibbon 7/8/2012 2:13:07 PM

 Prince of Darkness, one of Carpenter's lesser known flicks.  And I still chuckle over how I once saw it summarized:  "A physicist and a team of scientists set up camp in an old church to investigate a cannister of liquid Satan."



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