Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Walkers, walkers everywhere - 1 Night of the Living Dead

In a few weeks time, when my novella, The Dead Walked: Outbreak is published the book will join the long ranks of zombie fiction out there. And there’s a lot to compete with – it seems that we have a love affair with rotting flesh, fetid breath and bad haircuts and this fascination with the reanimated dead is confusing some of us blurring the line between fantasy and reality. For instance when actor, Woody Harrelson attacked a photographer and smashed his camera he offered the following defense -  “I wrapped a movie called Zombieland, in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character. With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie.”  It’s a good job Harrelson didn’t go further than smashing the camera because as everyone knows the only sure way to kill a zombie is to destroy the brain, but however tongue-in-cheek Woody’s confusion may have been, the incident is a revealing one for our times, because the undead  have become such a staple, almost routine feature of the cultural landscape.

The undead may not actually exist but they are everywhere – literally. In books,comics, video games. They shuffle across our TV screens and through our movie theaters. And not only that but there are zombie conventions and there have been more than one zombie themed wedding. So what is it about the undead that fascinates us so? When I was writing my series of novellas, that go under the collective title of, The Dead Walked I found that I needed to research pretty much everything that had gone before, for only by total familiarity with the situation I would be using in my fiction could I hope to come up with a fresh new slant on the genre and I hope that when you all read the first volume in the new year, you feel that I’ve brought something new to the feast.

And so in the run up to publication day I plan a series of posts, (Which will go under the collective title of Walkers, Walkers, everywhere) in which I will talk a little about my favorite examples of zombie fiction – this includes movies and literature as well as the odd video game. And I hope you will find something of interest here – whether you are a zombie knowitall or a complete novice to the genre there should be something here for you.
And so take my hand and let me lead you into the darkness, into a world where the dead walk.

And of course there is only one place to start and that is with George Romero’s 1968 movie, Night of the Living Dead, which although not the first zombie movie, not by a long shot, is responsible for the creation of the modern zombie. Thousands of word have already been written about this low budget classic and the film has become so iconic that it is easy to forget just how groundbreaking it was. We’ve seen this type of thing countless times but when the stark black and white movie first played it was unlike anything that had gone before. The bleak storyline had been analyzed to death (excuse the pun) but perhaps the most important factor of the film is that – IT’S A BLOODY SCARY MOVIE.

The film cost just $114,000 and this is partly responsible for the tremendous atmosphere in the movie – Romero couldn’t afford the varied locations usually associated with such movies and the fact that he had to shoot the movie in his own backyard, often using friends in key roles gives the entire thing a earthy feel and at time it comes across as very real…perhaps too real. When the film was first released the reviews were universally terrible, but over the years its reputation has grown and these days it is rightly considered a masterpiece. Every zombie movie or book (and I include mine) that has come since owes much to this groundbreaking movie.

If you’ve not seen this one then you need to remedy this straight away. There are many DVD prints of the movie available, but there’s no need to spend any cash. The film is in the public domain and can be viewed online HERE

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