Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.


By Emma on January 27, 2011

I watched the re-make of Dawn of the Dead this week. Well, almost all of it; I had to fast forward through the zombie pregnant woman scene. That was just too much for me, but otherwise, I handled it fine. In fact, I really enjoyed it. I thought the direction was excellent (especially the opening ten minutes) and the script was tight and funny. Yes, it ticked all the usual genre boxes, but hell, I don’t mind. That’s another blog post anyway.

I’ve seen woefully few zombie movies, mostly because I avoid horror movies at all costs. I’m wondering if I am finally old enough (approaching mid-thirties for heaven’s sake) to watch them.

They linger with me, for days, sometimes years afterwards, that’s the trouble. And I spent far too many nights as a child (and adolescent, and ok, yes, an adult) with the Fear, caused by some snippet or other that scared the hell out of me. I saw the end of Carrie when I was far, far too young, about five years old or so, and it scarred me. That sounds like a grand statement, but honestly, I couldn’t see a hand stretching upwards (like the one that comes out of the grave in the film) without feeling a flash of terror. I even changed the way I dressed every day, pushing my hands through sleeves with closed fists, so I would see a hand silhouetted on the wall.

There was an unfortunate skirmish with Salem’s Lot and The Fog, both before the age of ten (I think) that almost killed me with fright. What is it about my family and Stephen King?

I had this terrible talent for lurking silently in doorways. That same skill made me terrified of nuclear war (though I think that was very common in the 80’s anyway) due to seeing graphic documentaries not designed for children. One in particular stays with me, in which the manner a human being dies was described depending on how far away from the blast they are. From “instantly vaporised” to having one’s hair burnt away, eyes boiled etc. I had nightmares for weeks.

No wonder I write such dark short stories

But anyway, back to zombies. One of my favourite films is 28 Days Later, and that was the scariest I could manage for a long time. So, so good. I especially love the early sequence of him wondering through post-apocalyptic London. Funnily enough, the title for my novel “20 Years Later” was originally only a placeholder in homage to the film (there are no zombies in my book, I hasten to add). Somehow it stuck.

I wasn’t brave enough to watch another one until I saw “I am Legend” with my Dad last year. I’m ashamed to say I squealed and leapt across the sofa to bury myself under his arm at one point. It was very, very embarrassing. That film made me nervous, but I handled it. Soon after I watched The Omega Man, which had all the staples of living as the last human on Earth that I like, but one of the best things about it was discovering the source of some the wonderful quote samples on my much loved “White Zombie” album. Does he have the mark? Cracking!

Then “The Walking Dead” came along. I heard good things, and I love the zombie apocalypse sub-genre, so I recorded it. And I am so glad I did. It was fantastic. Which led me to recording Dawn of the Dead, thus completing the list so far. The only stupid thing I did was watch the first half just before setting out across black Somerset hills to pick my husband up from the airport. Really stupid. I watched the end at lunchtime, with a cup of tea. And a teddy bear. But don’t tell anyone about the teddy, ok?

So, now that I am big and brave enough to watch zombie films, which would you recommend and why?

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{ 9 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. Gracie says:

    Well, Zombies aren’t my all-time favorite genre, and I can take them much better if there’s silly humor involved. The best funny zombie tale? Shaun of the Dead, hands down. Silliest thing I ever saw. Then Zombieland, not a great movie, but the list of rules is great and the bit with Bill Murray made me laugh out loud. And the other day I caught this Norwegian film (subtitles!) called Dead Snow. It’s gore-tastic (be warned) and ridiculous.

    Zombies and giggles are a good combination. Have fun!

  2. Emma says:

    Oh my God – how could I have forgotten Shaun of the Dead? I *love* that film. Maybe because it’s filed under “safe and funny” in my brain… Yes, zombies and giggles are good. Thanks!

  3. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I tried to recommend Zombieland, the original Night of the Living Dead, Outpost, Braindead (1992 New Zealand version by Peter Jackson) and Dead & Breakfast earlier!

  4. adamjkeeper says:

    zombie films are like zombies themselves, watch one and another springs up in it’s place. Romero and Fulci (zombie flesh eaters) are most logical place to start, but try ‘the living dead at the Manchester morgue’ or ‘children shouldn’t play with dead things’ (good for the giggles). the old black and white movie ‘I walked with a zombie’ is also pretty cool.

  5. I never understood the appeal of horror films as a teenager… I had friends who had heads stuck in Stephen King, revealing in the fright, and who were dedicated fans of Nightmare on Elm Street, and all those other 80’s horror films.

    The first film I ever saw, that I’d classify as horror (under the terms of, it being horrifying) was the Omen, the several of the Nightmare on Elm Street flicks and then years later saw The Sandman at the movies with friends. I still won’t look in a mirror at night time because of that movie and for two weeks after (aged 18) I slept with the light on. I can’t even blame it on me being.

    So Zombie flicks were and really, until recently, haven’t been on my radar. Some mischevious lads I went to school with tried to slip Evil Dead onto the school video in the final week of school, due to our Geography teaching being totally clueless and it wasn’t until 10 minutes in he realised what it was and stopped it.

    Like you, 28 Days Later is one of my all time favourite films, and I can see it’s influence in a lot of my work, especially this story I’m trying to write at the moment. I loved ‘Sean of the Dead’ and braved ‘I Am Legend’ (though I am told the original short story is very different to the movie and lots of people were VERY unhappy with the movie) I guess I’ve got more of a penchant for seeing how vampires are portrayed across films than zombies! Looking forward to hearing more of what you think.

    Oh and Icy: Brain Dead was on the video player years ago, being watched by the deckhands at breakfast time. I will never forget the possess entrails moving up the staircase after the girl. So not appropriate for breakfast time!

  6. Emma says:

    Thanks guys, @icy – I haven’t heard of most of those, so thanks!

    @Jodi – possessed entrails following someone upstairs? Oh. My. God. I feel soiled now…

  7. dodgyhoodoo says:

    I’m still not sure if it actually counts as a zombie movie, but Pontypool is one of the best films nobody saw in the last decade. You could watch it with your eyes closed and it’d be just as tense and creepy.

  8. To be honest, I’m not so much into the zombie-type of stories – too gothic for me, I guess. I do like post-apocalyptic novels and movies though, and I published one myself in 2009: TWO JOURNEYS – http://doiop.com/95i302. You can contact me here: http://2journeys.blogspot.com/

  9. Emily says:

    :O You have GOT to watch Zombieland! It’s zombies mixed with funny. Fabulous!

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