Notes of a Zombie Fighter, Part 1
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Something Wicked This Way Comes...

This past March, N& presented “Essential Zombie Films: Undead Movies to Live By” to prepare our readers for the impending zombie apocalypse. Our tutorial provided a broad range of resources for all your zombie-fighting needs:
  • Shopping tips: The good news is that during Armageddon, the malls are dead. The bad news is that you’re on the food court menu! Use the express lanes at all times, even if that means turning Sears into a drive thru. (Dawn of the Dead)
  • Fashion: It’s easy to look hip when all your peers are shuffling around in yesterday’s styles (hey, they’re dead…they’re all messed up), but how do you accessorize when you have a power tool for an appendage? Ash will show you how to kick undead ass and look groovy doing it! (Evil Dead 2)
  • Romance: Can’t seem to connect with your partner when they no longer have a pulse? Don’t think you can love a flesh-eating ghoul? Before you brain your soulless soul mate with a shovel, try some tips from a couple guys that weren’t willing to let go (Cemetery Man, Return of the Living Dead 3).
However, fighting zombies isn’t all fun and games. Reanimated dead have a serious side, too—what George “Zombie Master” Romero, Night of the Living Dead creator, refers to as an “underbelly,” a politically-charged metaphorical theme that keeps them on the move. From inception, the genre has reflected the political and social climate of their release. With a number of zombie flicks in cue over the next couple of years, Pop Cultist will take it in the gut to expose that “underbelly.” So lock the doors, bar the windows, and grab your boom stick and your running shoes—because in this day and age it’s hard to keep a good corpse down.

Devil’s Rejects: House of 1,000 Corpses 2

House of 1,000 Corpses is a zombie movie in the same way that Kill Bill is a straight samurai flick; it’s just one of the many genre elements meticulously crafted into a patchwork homage, compliments of a slobbering fan-boy done good. Seeing shock rocker Rob Zombie’s controversial film for the first time was a lot like catching him in concert: ruckus, wild and unsettling, with an equally unruly crowd.

The movie’s formulaic approach and seventies horror flavor—college students + cannibalistic hillbilly family = carnage—begged a number of comparisons to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In spirit, the movie earned this heritage far better than the TCM remake, infused with a wide range of hauntingly surreal elements that give it a wicked turn for the weird. The hybrid genre showcase breaks from the butchering Brady Bunch motif late in the film to add some supernatural zombie moments. All executed with hyper jump cuts and electrifying edits, the film is a stellar work of MTV school of cinematography style.

The sequel, Devil’s Rejects, lifts its plot from TCM 2 with the dysfunctional clan playing The Partridge Family this time around, taking to the road on the run from vengeance-seeking lawmen.

Taking it in the gut:

Studios snuffed it, critics loathed it, and the paper where I was interning gave 15 minutes of its editors’ meeting to debate it, but no one seemed to actually get it. In true zombie fashion, this rocker by the same name bit the hand that feeds him twice, issuing commentary on both MTV and the fringe of his fan base alike. At the core of the film is a cynically charged satirical reflective genre piece that even surpasses the similarly themed Scream. House of 1,000 Corpses looks at the way society merges real events, urban legend, and Hollywood fantasy in the same strange narrative stew.

At one point, the film provides an aside to real life serial killer Ed Gein, the inspiration for Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs, whose gruesome killings deeply impacted the collective American psyche. Gein became the center of a media circus, a subject of concentration in abnormal psychology, and the product of folklore. His hometown was turned into a museum of the macabre where his house, car, and personal belongings were showcased to paying customers and eventually auctioned to the highest bidders. These accounts attest to the strange role serial killers have assumed in aspects of our culture—as sensationalist icons adorning T-shirts, buttons, Frisbees, and an unhealthy section of our collective imagination. Zombie adds to this commentary “reality television” style vignettes with his characters, showing our modern forms of entertainment have blurred these lines even further.

Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse

Originally the action-horror franchise was slated to have Romero at the helm, but he was bumped from the running early on because he hadn’t stayed true to the video game that inspired it (when was the last time the same respect was afforded a book-to-movie adaptation?). Having never been a fan of the arcade movie genre, I had little hope for the first film, but Milla Jovovich fighting corporate manufactured flesh eaters won me over.

Equal parts Aliens and Day of the Dead, the film follows a high tech military team (guaranteeing ample explosions, big guns, and macho mayhem) into the “hive”: a privately owned military laboratory operated by the Umbrella Corp who has manufactured the ‘T-Virus’ which (brace yourselves) reanimates the dead. Zombie induced chaos ensues, combined with a haywire hybrid of 2001’s Hal meets the creepy kid factor and an assortment of fiendish mutants. And all that paved the way for this timely sequel, where the ‘T’ is released on the unsuspecting civilians, and the world must contend with a zombie apocalypse (hence the name).

Taking it in the gut:

The connections between military operations, government, and big business have rarely been clearer, with the Veep having pledged his allegiance to his former company, Halliburton, and subsidiaries getting the country entrenched in a brutal occupation based on fabricated evidence for corporate greed. The original film’s corporate bad guy is only slightly less generic than that of Tomb Raider, but real world issues can often make a cliché plot device born again.

For more from Josh on ghouls and zombies, check out his list of the top 100 Halloween movies:
Part One: The Mission
Part Two: The Story of Halloween
Part Three: A Halloween Miracle
Part Four: The Meaning of Halloween

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