Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombtober, TV Show/Comic review - The Walking Dead

Season 2 of The Walking Dead is underway on AMC. Season 1 is out on DVD, so if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and get caught up!

The Walking Dead is an ongoing TV series that follows a Sheriff's Deputy who wakes up in the hospital after getting shot, only to find out....OMG Zombie Apocalypse! Sure, that scene is a complete rip-off from 28 Days Later. But, there's plenty of fresh zombie material in all the scenes that follow. The show takes a lot from the style of Lost in the way that it builds up the characters and will focus on who they are and how they interact with one another. There are all sorts of human issues to deal with- racism, coming of age, a love triangle. I really like how the character development drives the show, leaving the whole zombie issue to be a motivator for the plot, rather than the entire plot itself.

The handicap of zombie movies is that there is only about 2 hours to create the setting, introduce the characters, put them in a jam, and then see if they get out of it. The great thing about having a serialized zombie show is that you get to slow the pace down. Instead of having to end with a climax and a sense of accomplishment, you can keep adding plots twists, invite new characters, and then just when you get to really like a character...kill them off.

I read most of The Walking Dead comics (which is what the show is based on). It will be interesting to see how closely the show follows the comic. In a book, it's much easier to kill off a character. Robert Kirkman didn't pull any punches when it came to killing his characters in the comic, but in a show it gets a little hairier. You have actual human actors to deal with (and fire), and you don't want to abandon your audience by killing off a fan-favorite. Lost had to deal with this as well.

The visuals in the show are amazing. Some of the scenes are ripped directly from the comic, and they look nearly identical. That's even harder to pull off when you take into account that the comic was in black and white. The casting is great too- a few of the characters look exactly like their counterparts from the book.

The show is on its second season and has barely cracked the content of the comic, so there should be plenty of plot to keep it going for many more years. I don't think this zombie fad is dying down anytime soon, and it is AMC's highest rated show ever, so I would recommend watching the first season and watching the new episodes every Sunday. There is even a talk show at Midnight on AMC, Talk of the Dead, that reviews the show and has special guests. Chris Hardwick is the perfect Zombie Geek host.

Zombtober horror scale:

Slow (--3--) Fast: Stumbling, but they never tire.
Dumb (1----) Smart: Only smart enough to chase you.
Passive (--3--) Agressive: If they smell, hear, or see you, they will follow.
Fake (----5) Believable: Hundreds of zombie extras in every episode with great SFX
Method of spreading Zombism: A Bite (potentially more, if you've read the comic)
X-factors: Serialized is the way to go for a zombie story. You don't beat the zombies, you just try to survive.
Recommendation: Read the comic (on trade paperback), get caught up with season 1, and watch along with me as we ride through season 2!

- Samuel Frost

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's time for Mutant of the Week!

Brought to you from the brilliant Jesse Garson, from the files of Quantum Duck, here is...

The ultimate symbiotic relationship.

I don't think the traditional rhinos will be too pleased when they see that horn.  Might give them a complex.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mutant of the Week!

It's Friday!  I don't know about you, but I am so glad Friday is here.  Partially because this has been the kind of week that would make even a vampire's teeth rattle, but mostly because Friday means Mutant of the Week!

I often have some witty remarks, and occasionally a poem, to accompany Jesse Garson's outstanding artwork.  All I can say this time is: I really hope that hardtop doesn't roll over.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zombtober Movie Review: Night of the Living Dead

"They're coming to get you, Barbra!"

This is the one that started it all. Most of what everyone knows about zombies comes from this movie and Return of the Living Dead. I'm not really going to give a full review, since this movie has been reviewed thousands of times. I thought I'd just give you my experiences with this movie and share some trivia.

I didn't see this movie until around the year 2001. Since the movie is in black and white, I always assumed it was a much older movie, like one of the old Universal monster movies, so I assumed it would be something cornball. I was wrong.

It was made in 1968, years after the Universal movies were made. It could have been made in color, but looking at it now I think it's much scarier and realistic in black and white. It probably helped out with the $114,000 budget. For example, chocolate syrup was used for blood.

When the film first came out, it was seen as shocking and reviewers and censors deemed it grisly and "pornography of violence". In 1999, The Library of Congress added the film to the National Film Registry in 1999 with other films deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." I find it strange that our society can evolve to find grisly murder as "culturally significant," but any amount of nudity is taboo.

When I watch this movie, I like to think of the movie tropes that are now cliche to us, but were so new at the time. Before this movie, there was no realistic gore. The viewer was seperated- it never happened in a "just around the corner" setting. You never saw the main characters die- The good guys always won. This movie changed all that.

Some reviewers like to comment on the importance of the main character, Ben, being black and what that means as a statement. If I lived in 1968, I might find it socially significant, but watching the movie now, it doesn't seem to matter. Ben is a smart character and the natural leader of the group. The only time where his race really seems to matter is at the end when the redneck sheriff assumes Ben is a zombie and kills him. However, I'm probably being prejudiced towards southerners by assuming that the cavalry is just redneck guys killing everyone they see.

Some of my favorite trivia from this movie:

George Romero started out directing Mr. Roger's Neighborhood back when it was on WQED.

Romero took most of the story from Richard Matheson's novel, "I am Legend".

Night of the Living Dead is public domain because a copyright notice was not shown in the title screen. This is one movie you can't get in trouble for downloading.

The word "Zombie" is never used in this movie. They are called "Ghouls".

Zombtober horror scale:

Slow (1----) Fast: The original stumblers.
Dumb (1----) Smart: Only out to eat the living.
Passive (----5) Aggressive: Don't get too close!
Fake (---4-) Believable: The black and white film makes up for makeup defects.
Method of spreading Zombism: Radiation from space reanimates the dead.
X-factors: This is what started the zombie craze (and most slasher films that exist today).

Recommendation: You can stream this movie, download it (legally), buy it...just watch it!

- Samuel Frost

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zombtober Movie Review: American Zombie

American Zombie is a mockumentary about zombies living amongst humans. It sounds like a descent premise, but for the most part it falls flat.

The first half of the movie is like watching "Cribs" or "The Real World" with zombies. Two directors follow random characters as they live their lives. The film is trying to build character development, but really you're just watching some people being interviewed. The characters could have had some other traits in common that would have also passed. They could have all had Hepatitis, been left-handed, or lived in Vermont.

In this film, the scenes that are realistic are boring and the parts that are supposed to be suspenseful seem fake. The first half of the movie is realistic because I think the filmmakers are just following some weird people as they live their lives. The second half takes place at a zombie festival, but everything feels staged.

The film keeps trying to show the "hidden evil" of zombies who are trying to merge into regular society. One of the directors keeps trying to find human flesh in their refrigerators, or stumble upon glowing blue vials. It's good foreshadowing, but it doesn't show enough about the "hidden life" of the zombies, so we are left wondering what the real back-story is and what the agenda of the zombies really is.

It's assumed that eating human flesh is their main goal, but there are so few clues that it's not really creepy. One character waves off a mini-fridge with chains around it. There is a scene where a girl is crowd surfing and disappears into the crowd of zombies and you hear her screams, but you still aren't sure what happened.

You can call this a Zombie movie, but it's not a horror movie. I would call it a mockumentary, but I don't think it uses the medium appropriately.

Zombtober horror scale:

Slow (---4-) Fast: Normal people with normal decay.
Dumb (--X--) Smart: 3 stages from low to high.
Passive (1----) Agressive: But it is implied that they eat humans.
Fake (----5) Believable: A zombie documentary makes for believability.
Method of spreading Zombism: Latent virus in a brain of a dying person
X-factors: All Zombies seem to have a hidden agenda, but want to live in a regular society.
Recommendation: Meh. Stream it if you're bored.

- Samuel Frost

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Zombtober Movie Review: Doghouse

Undead Bar Association reader and longtime friend, Samuel Frost (longtime = someone who knew me back when my hair was natural blond.  So many hair colors ago.), has dedicated this month as Zombtober, the month of zombie movies.  He's writing up reviews of the best and the worst, and has generously agreed to share them with the UBA.  Here's his first.


It's a British zombie movie that tries to use the "battle of the sexes" as the plot device for zombie mayhem. A bunch of guys who are involved with arguments with their girlfriends all meet up with a buddy who is getting over his divorce. They go off on a "guy's retreat" and wind up with a broken down bus in a ghost town full of female zombies.

It's a comedy-buddy-horror film, a genre that I think needs more entries. "Tommy" from Snatch was the only actor that I recognized. He was good, and they didn't make his character too much more important than any of the other guys. Females might want to take this movie with a grain of salt, although they are the ones doing most of the butt kicking.

This movie has a few unusual things for a zombie film: Only the females are zombies, some of them actually use weapons, and at one point, they all upgrade to "phase 2" and become more like "runners" than "slow zombies".

In one of the funniest parts, the guys do the "pretend-like-we're-zombies-to-sneak-by trick", only this time, they just dressed up in drag.

The end is a Deus-Ex-Machina moment, but the guys end up ruining their salvation by goofing off...which is kind of appropriate.

Here is my new Zomtober Zombie scale:

Slow (-2---) Runner *until "phase 2"
Dumb (---4-) Smart
Passive (----5) Aggressive
Fake (--3--) Believable
Method of spreading Zombism: Virus
X-factors: Only female zombies. They can use weapons.
Recommendation: Stream it!

- Samuel Frost

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mutant of the Week

It's that time again...time for...the Mutant of the Week!

I'm not sure how a chef would prepare Jesse Garson's mutant, but I do know it would come with a side of blues.
Mmmm.  Blues.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Doubled Jeopardy - Part 12. Maryanne M. Wells.

This is Part 12 of a serial story.

Stanley Obsert to Bradley Obsert
Sent: Mon, April 12, 2010
Subject: Joe Capri

Bradley -

You should have given me all the facts in the beginning. Didn't they teach you that in law school, to collect all the facts before deciding what's relevant? I need all the facts before I can determine what course of action you should take.

Joe Capri has the potential to be a threat. He's merely annoying if you know how to handle him, but a real threat if underestimated and left to his own devices. If you'd told me in the beginning that Capri was the lawyer of the obstinate old woman, I would have given you better advice.

That is not to say you are free to kill Capri or his client. Not yet. First, we must establish his level of knowledge about Vildru. That he knows something is a given.

Capri is a member of the Undead Bar Association. If you'd finished your training in-house at the school, like I told you to, you would know about this association and their activities. The group operates in complete opposition to the things we want to achieve. They fight either with or against the undead, choosing their side based not on the strength of the potential opponent but on a loose definition of justice. The fact that they chose sides at all when the undead are involved, instead of using the monsters as tools, is disturbing. It suggests they value individual will, minds, and souls. Disgusting, isn't it?

We don't know how much the Undead Bar Association knows about Vildru. One member of the association, Naomi O'Conners, recently made the Committee's most wanted list. She's had run in with mid-level Vildru and lived to talk about it. Another member, Maryanne Wells, is on the watch list. She's slain multiple vampires from House Seara, our new partner.

You need to be worried about how much O'Conners has told Capri, and how much training he may have received from Wells. He may already know about your weakness to fire. He may know everything.
No killing and no magic until you hear from me again. Any dramatic action now would make Capri suspicious, and might catch the attention of the rest of the association.

Stir up the other relatives against Capri's client, or bog down the whole mess with more of that bureaucratic red-tape you wield so well. Don't let on to House Seara that there's a problem.

I'm flying out immediately to Houston, Texas. Capri has a very specific weakness, and I know where to find her. I'll e-mail you once I get there.

- Stanley

Stanley Obsert to Grand Master Peter

Sent: Mon, April 12, 2010
Subject: Bradley's Mission

I've changed my mind about helping Bradley. Don't misread me. Under no circumstances am I coming over to the side of pro-House Seara partnership. I'm going to help Bradley because he is my brother, and a fellow Vildru.

You don't know Bradley like I do. There are times when he's too emotional, almost irrational. I'm concerned he might do something rash that would hurt our society. I need to be with him, to calm him.
Kimberly will accompany me. Lovely, delightful creature. I know you don't care for her, but you haven't gotten to know her like I have. She'll prove herself on this mission; wait and see.

- Stanley Obsert

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Doubled Jeopardy - Part 8. Maryanne M. Wells

This is Part 8 of a serial story.  

Stanley Obsert to Bradley Obsert
Sent: Fri, April 2, 2010
Subject: My project

Bradley -

Success! Complete, total success! And in a manner so charming, so entertaining, it's impossible to stop smiling about it. I've written Peter and the rest of the Committee. They'll find complete reports waiting in their offices when they arrive in the morning.

After reading Peter's message to you I have a better understanding of the problem. It's not what he says, it's the volumes he doesn't say. I told you he was jealous. So I'm breaking protocol and telling you about my success directly, rather than waiting for you to hear a non-report from the Committee.

Do you remember fat Kimberly from our starting class? She's the one Joshua recruited from Germany, the hypnotist from that macabre traveling circus that fell apart in Berlin. The one who always whined about her weight, insisting she was the victim of a glandular condition even self-hypnosis couldn't cure. Like the soda and Twinkie binges had nothing to do with it.

You wouldn't recognize Kimberley now, not as Kimberly. She's slimmer, taller, and has the silkiest pale blonde hair. As a matter of face, Kimberly now bears a striking resemblance to that cataphile you found so attractive. What was her name? Rose....something.

Surely you recall the last time you saw the cataphile. A club had just opened in the basement of a building near the Champs Elysees. There was a line twisting through streets and alleys, despite the fact the opening was by invitation only. We didn't need invitations; we found a back door from the catacombs. No doubt the cataphile and her friends did the same.

You picked her out immediately, your eyes seeing her immediately through the pulsing crush of clubbers. After stalking her for weeks in the catacombs, you knew her face well.

I watched your expression. Your eyes lit up, and you smiled. How much you wanted her. You pushed your way through the crowd, dominating them all with your height and solid charisma. You took a spot next to her a the bar, and offered to buy her a drink.

She shot you down. Not a teasing rejection, suggesting you should try again. She blew you off and walked away. Has that every happened to you before? I don't think it has.

Do you understand where I'm going with this? Isn't it too fantastic? I've proven the viability of my Matryoshka spell with a fat chick and a Parisian Barbie. I opened each of them, extracted their minds and souls, and swapped them into the other's body.

The rush of pure satisfaction I felt when the cataphile's eyes opened to reveal the dark glint of Kimberly's defies description. This much I can say: I know what it is to be God. And that's exactly what I was thinking as I stood by the laboratory table and looked into Kimberly's new eyes. I laughed. I thought, if only Father could see me now. If he only knew what I'd become, he be truly horrified. That stodgy preacher, steadfast leader of God's frozen chosen, would be shaken to his core, at last.

Kimberly's immediate delight in the results surpassed my own. She jumped off the table and shrieked with glee. She ran to the mirror in the corner and stripped off her clothing. It was the first time I've seen a woman ravish her own reflection.

About that time, the cataphile began to wake up in Kimberly's old body. It was an annoying by-product of the experiment. Since I didn't need both women for evidence, the cataphile had to go.

Don't you think that I killed her. Remember what I told you before. Vildru at our level don't perform menial tasks.

Though Kimberly began training the same time we did, she has yet to master mid-level spells. That's one of the reasons I selected her for the Matryoshka trials. Kimberly can still get her hands dirty.

I called Kimberly away from the mirror and told her to clean up the experiment's remnants. She did, with eagerness. Kimberly plunged the knife into her old body again and again. She neglected to put any clothes on first, and the results was hilarious. Imagine the pristine flesh of new Kimberly splattered with old Kimberly's blood. There was even some running down the locks of pale blond hair, and dripping onto her shoulders.

Complete success.

- Stanley

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mutant of the Week - En Francais!

We're reaching back into Jesse Garson's Mutant of the Week archives for the perfect mutant.

Our current story starts in the Paris catacombs, with scenes that are a bit surreal.  What mutant goes with that?  I'll give you a hint.  It's not a hat.

Or is it?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Doubled Jeopardy - Part 6. Maryanne M. Wells

This is Part 6 of a serial story.

Maryanne Wells to Absola Trotsky
Wed, Oct 5, 2011
Re: Re: Re: Paris

Absola -

Do NOT allow Claude to go to Italy with Rosalie. You must stop him. Do whatever you have to. The thing inside Rosalie's body intends to destroy him. IT ISN'T ROSALIE. PROTECT CLAUDE.


Absola -

Regarding your remarks about House Inceput, just what are you planning? Are you going to setup covert operations in the catacombs, hunting for vampires? Are you planning a stake-out of the deserted Vildru school? Don't do it, Absola. For an operation like that you need at least one additional slayer / hunter, and you haven't got one. I certainly can't fly out there to help you. You know that if House Inceput is involved my hands are tied.

I've formed a theory of what happened. The Vildru opened a school in the catacombs and formed an alliance with House Seara vampires. The House Inceput vampires heard about the alliance and it pissed them off. They went after the Vildru, who deserted the school.

There are a lot of holes in the theory, I know. But its the only thing that makes sense to me now.
I'm sending the Stanley file out to the rest of the Undead Bar Association. Looks like we've got a war on our hands, maybe two. Forewarned is forearmed.


From: Maryanne Wells
To: Robert Brooks, Joe Capri, Charles Crudette, Tanya Crudette, Charlotte Hawthorne, Naomi O'Conners, Nick Porpington, Absola Trotsy
Date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011
Subject: Undead Bar Association Threatened
Attachment: SentMailStanleyObsert.doc

Read the contents of the attached file IMMEDIATELY. Message me when you're done. Actually, hit reply to all. We need to watch each other's backs. Based on some of the material in the attached, we've communicated too little with each other in the past.

Joe, I'm seriously considering hiring you a bodyguard. I just need to find one qualified in battling black magic.

Charlotte, I need you to brief Anthony on what's happening. I'm assuming a ghost from the 1970s doesn't have access to e-mail, so read this to him.

- Maryanne M. Wells

From: Maryanne Wells
To: Joe Capri
Date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011
Subject: CALL ME

Joe -

All joking aside, I'm worried about you and your girlfriend. Call me before you read the attachment. I want to prepare you for some of the contents. There's one e-mail in particular about your girlfriend, about something they did to her, that I don't want you to read alone.


© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Doubled Jeopardy - Part 5. Maryanne M. Wells

This is Part 5 of a serial story.  
Maryanne Wells to Absola Trotsky
Wed, Oct 5, 2011
Re: Paris

Absola -

I've skimmed the file. I'll read it more carefully tonight, when I have a quiet moment. Quieter, anyway. Had a fresh case hit me in the face Monday morning. Literally.

This much is clear just from skimming: assuming the author of the journal was telling the truth, Rosalie is dead and the thing in the catacombs is her ghost. The Rosalie you're having lunch with isn't Rosalie at all. Be very careful.

When you meet her, check her her left hand. If she's got a glove on and it isn't the dead of winter, there's a problem.


Absola Trotsky to Maryanne Wells
Wed, Oct 5, 2011
Re: Re: Paris

Maryanne -

Yes, glove on left hand. She tell us she takes up motorcycle riding. Other glove in pocket of jacket. This I see at lunch.

I read file carefully as soon as this message to you is sent.

I am confused. You seem very certain Rosalie is dead, but I sensed no undead impression from woman calling self Rosalie. And Claude, he insists woman is Rosalie, only acting different. Is convincing himself thing he saw in catacombs product of imagination and longing. And since the rest of evidence disappear, Claude is prepared to explain away much if not all of mystery.

Rosalie leaving Paris for Italy. She ask Claude to join her. I am thinking he go.

I promise rest of story and here it is. You must read it, as symbol at end concern you.

Claude, he decides bodies in pit need proper burial. Goes to local gendarme, the police. Also messages me, to come see torture equipment. Is risk, contacting police. Cataphile activities illegal. There is fine, perhaps more. Claude willing to suffer consequences. He is man of honor.

We go catacombs, myself, Claude, and two gendarme. Follow paths. Find entrance to school. Is blocked again, but this time concrete very real. We return surface.

Claude contact other cataphiles. Many maps and much debate follow. Possible entrance found. Cataphiles lead us to old train tunnel. We find door. Is locked; I open. Gendarme frown and look other way, say nothing. I say to you, is not breaking and entering if both sides of door deserted. You debate me later if choose to. You will lose.

Door lead hallway, hallway lead tunnel, tunnel lead caves, cave lead school.

But school is dark and empty. No lights; wires ripped from walls. No equipment. No classrooms. No furniture in offices or dormitories. And no bodies in pit.

Claude in shock. He run around empty rooms, pointing. He say, “This was here, that was there.” Points to ceiling and walls, he shouts, “The symbols are gone! Someone covered them over with fresh paint. There was graffiti, and long murals. All gone.”

Is one mark on walls. I find in torture laboratory. Is large painting of seven-pointed sun, symbol of vampire House Inceput. My friend Maryanne knows this symbol well. But does she know why symbol freshly painted in Paris catacombs?

I search laboratory and classrooms. Find papers. Documents, sketches of torture. Lists of names. Your name, it is on a list with others from Undead Bar Association. UBA itself is named. This paper, I try to bring to surface, but in sunlight it shatter like glass.

Claude search dormitories with care. Search with skill of cataphile, knowing limestone crease and crevice. Find hidden drive. One file on drive, file I send you.

What does it mean, my friend?

Mark of vampire House Inceput, I know what it mean and I know what I must do. But as to the rest, I need your information.

- Absola

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Doubled Jeopardy - Part 3. Maryanne M. Wells

This is Part 3 of a serial story.
Absola Trotsky to Maryanne Wells
Sun, Oct 2, 2011
Re: Re: Re: Re: Are you well
Attachment:  Sent Mail of Stanley Obsert

Maryanne -

Is good. I have more information.

Attachment to this message is files from Sent Mail folder of man, Stanley. Only electronic records found. Contact of mine in Paris broke encryption this morning. I am rushed today. I scan most recent message only. Again, read you name.

This man part of society called Vildru. You know this Vildru? Read attachment, please.

- Absola

Maryanne Wells to Absola Trotsky
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Are you well

Absy -

What kind of egotistical jerk saves only the contents of his sent mail folder? Never mind, rhetorical.

And what are you doing in the Paris catacombs? If your answer is either hunting vampires or hunting Vildru my next question will be have you lost your gothic, obsessive, Transylvanian mind.

Damn, I need coffee. Do you know what time it is over here? Crises should only occur after breakfast. New rule: no crises before breakfast. I mean it.


© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.