Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Top Ten: I ♥ Zombies; or, Up with Dead People

Craig here. It's Halloween and the new horror tv series The Walking Dead is nearly upon us. This is what I've been thinking about day-to-day for the last few weeks. So here's a Tuesday Top Ten Special (i.e. it's on the weekend instead... and it's Halloween themed) to get you thinking about all things zombified. Perfect for a day made for the dead. Alive or recently embalmed, all enter here. But shuffle in s-l-o-w-l-y now...

A Top Ten Undernourished and Underloved Zombie Characters (in no order) are all getting some love this Halloween. Who's first out of the grave...?

1. Colin in Colin (2008)

Colin: the most exotically-named zombie character ever

Poor old Colin. He should rank alongside Day of the Dead’s Bub as one of the most sympathetic cinematic zombies ever. Apparently it only cost director Marc Price £45 to bring Colin to the screen; not a penny was wasted on achieving pleasingly affecting acting from the man himself, Alastair Kirton. If, like me, you wonder just what went on in the pre-zombified lives of the unnamed undead – folk like, say, Second Zombie on the Left or Gunshot-Wound to the Head Zombie or Uncle Zombie Who Can Recall His Past Lives, those who dwell at the foot of the end credits – then watching Colin may come as a refreshing treat. It's about one of those very bit players. And very bit he was. The film takes a superfluous character and gives him a movie of his own to walk amok. Although Colin's the shy and retiring type, just looking to escape mad, apocalyptic London and reconnect with his girlfriend. He's a zombie with heart. The heart may have been in his hands, but he had love to give all the same. The guy deserved a break: even he ran from the undead hordes. So, Colin, mate, here’s to you: First Zombie on This List.

2. Dr Freudstein in The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Dr Freudstein waving for the camera. Bless him.

With a name like that I'll bet you had an insurmountable array of problems in your life as you did in your afterlife, eh, Dr. Freudstein (Giovanni De Nava)? Kept in the basement by the cemetery by director by the cemetery Lucio Fulci for the entirety of The House by the Cemetery, you didn't half moan about your lot. But then, you did look like a brown paper bag glued to an over-sized peanut. But piss and moan you did. Not before getting your hand lopped off and being outfoxed on a ladder by a girlish-sounding 10-year-old misery moppet by the name of... Bob. Still, you had Mrs. Freudstein to keep you company all those decades spent beyond one of Fulci's Seven Gates of Hell. (Why not click here for more Fulci-on-Zombie action.)

3. Tarman in The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

What is it with directors keeping their zombie charges trapped in basements. Subterranean dude Tarman (Allan Trautman), birthed from, yup, some kind of dubiously nuclear tar-like goo, dwells "below" just like Dr. Freudstein. Well, at least it's below a medical supply warehouse right next to a handy morgue-slash-cemetery. This brain botherer spends the film awaiting the split skulls of a band of '80s hooligan punks to sink his rotten teeth into. Looking more like some kind of lavatory skeleton, Tarman's a bona fide zombie in name, rank and number – all of which were printed on the septic tank he arrived in. Lovely.

Gay zombies, musical zombies, and celebrity zombies after the jump...

4. Davina McCall in Dead Set (2008)

Davina, you're live on Channel 4, please don't... rip the housemates' faces off

I’m not entirely sure how famous Davina McCall is elsewhere in the world, but she’s pretty darn famous in the UK. So when Charlie Brooker (I’m not entirely sure how famous...) decided to marry TV’s Big Brother with Dawn of the Dead, and keep it true to both, he of course had to cast Ms. McCall: the face, voice and hair of Big Bro. Davina was game for gameshow gore – she jumped right into it, ghoulish make-up and all. Those that have seen the three-part TV zombie series Dead Set will know that it was no light entertainment reality telly. It was wall-to-wall housemate carnage: a settee satire with garden-based grue. Never has Davina’s catchphrase “You have been evicted – I’m coming to get you!” been so apt.

5. & 6."Jay Leno" & "Burt Reynolds" in Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Jay and Silent Burt stare back

Because when this exploding-head double act cropped up in the crosshairs in Zack Snyder’s yes-it-is-still-pretty-good remake of Dawn of the Dead, it was a hoot. They're on the list purely for reasons politically incorrect, more than a little bit wrong, but funny as all hell. The inclusion of Zombie Jay and Zombie Burt was surely Snyder's hearty nod to the fashions and facial hair of the Romero’s original sequel's setting as well as a sly comment on our celebrity-obsessed society: we see celebs everywhere! So let's shoot them! Ah, pity the poor, anonymous rambling shoppers simply going about their own undead business who just happened to resemble popular icons. Shoot ‘em in the head! They did.

Otto was more of an anarchic mission statement of intent than a fully worked through feature film. But then that’s always the way with filthy provocateur Bruce LaBruce. If he’s not flashing quasi-political slogans at us, he’s giving us a bit of man-on-man. In this he went for some undead man-on-undead man. Re-animated gay hipster corpse Otto (Jey Crisfar) blunders through an arty backdrop whilst random rebellious and subversive stuff happens around him. I mainly liked seeing Otto blankly chow down on road kill (left).

And just like buses, you wait for one gay zombie movie directed by Bruce LaBruce to come along and two arrive at once: his controversial L.A. Zombie, which is about – and I’m hazarding a wild guess here – a zombie in L.A., is due soon. Rejoice. Then rebel.

8. Mary in Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Mary (Nicola Cunningham), we spied you briefly on the supermarket checkout at the start of Shaun of the Dead (2004). But we’d of course forgotten about you by the time you came stumbling into Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s garden. Sneaky Mary. Poor Mary. Proud Mary keep on gurning. We know you weren’t “sooo drunk”. You were simply a pulse-denier like the rest of Greater London. Not that we could tell any difference between you on the checkout counter and you at the point where you got speared through your midriff on the base fixture of a rotary washing line. Oh, Mary. You had such a good photo face as well. And Mary? You’ve got red on you.

9. Michael Jackson in Thriller (1983)

This one doesn’t need much pre-amble. He was ushered in by the smooth and assured voice of Vincent Price for his 1983 benchmark music video. He danced his undead dance, backed by decomposing body-poppers, and clapped and shuffled to the top of the charts. MJ routinely got props for the video but lesser kudos for embracing zombie lore at a time, unlike now, when it wasn’t exactly plastered all over the media. I’ve never been a Jacko fan, but this is my very favourite thing he put his talents to. But John Landis and special effects wiz Rick Baker (and his team) get my share of the Thriller praise.

10. Anyone and Everyone Who’s Ever Had a Small Role as a Zombie in a George A. Romero Film.

Because the night... belongs to zombies

You lot are the luckiest moulding death sacks on legs to have ever groaned and moaned your way through a movie. If you’ve ever been a Romero zombie – big or small, young or old, freshly dispatched or long in the grave – you know what it really feels like to be a true movie zombie. From the old gormless guy (S. William Hinzman) stomping the graveyard and coming to get Barbara in Night of the Living Dead (1968), to the horseback zombie lady (Kathleen Munroe) endlessly galloping the island in Survival of the Dead (2009), every human being gracelessly converted into a braindead walker gets the last, but never the least, place in this ten. For any extras or out-of-work actors getting their parts bit in a Rom-zom bit-part, corpsing for George is the highest zombie-honour of all. Every one of you have my praise. And my eternal envy: I’d give my right arm for a split-second walk-on in a Romero zombie flick, even if you'd prefer my brains.



I must already complain that Wendy from MAKE-OUT WITH VIOLENCE is not on the list. But maybe that movie never made it to the UK.

also: what about that zombie leader in that one movie? could i BE any more specific?

also have any of you ever seen the animated series XOMBIE ? i feel certain Craig would like it.

CHris na Taraja said...


Bla said...

Cool. :)

Daniel said...

"You lot are the luckiest moulding death sacks on legs to have ever groaned and moaned your way through a movie"

I love this. Thanks for a great piece :0)

Eva Moos said...

My favourite (and most friendly - except for eating Mrs Henderson) movie zombie ever is Fido in "FIDO". Especially the way he swings it with Carrie-Anne Moss!

Craig Bloomfield said...

Nathaniel - I was going to inc. Make-Out but it isn't available in the UK as yet, sadly... As for zombie leader - I wanted to pick a few of the more lesser-mentioned zombies. And Xombie does indeed look like it's right up my street.