Five Lessons Learned From Binge-Watching 31 Zombie Movies
Phantasm II, one of the few highlights of my torturous adventure in zombie filmdom.
By the time you read this, I will be 29 movies deep into my seventh annual zombie movie marathon month. This year, in defiance of both common sense and my own advice, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and clear out my backlog of unwatched zombie movies, so my marathon has consisted of only films I'd never seen before -- meaning no old favorites, no "safe" films that I knew I'd enjoy. And, since I've already seen more than two hundred zombie movies, the lineup has been a combination of newer releases and stuff I dug out of the bottom of the barrel -- sometimes both at once. Now, as I approach the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm here to share what this experience has taught me.
5) Zombies are tired Zombies are looking a bit decrepit at this point. Between the huge, inexplicable popularity of The Walking Dead and blockbuster zombie movies like World War Z, we've reached peak zombie obsession. It's all downhill from here, and the ride is kind of shitty, in all honesty. About half the movies I've watched have been made or released in the past four years -- and they are a sorry, sad lot. Some of them were reasonably watchable, but none of them were great, or even very good. That doesn't bode well for the immediate future of zombies (much to the relief of many of you, I'm sure).
4) Zombies are a joke Perhaps this goes hand in hand with the inevitable decline of the zombie empire, but the common denominator in the majority of the newer zombie films is comedy. The zom-com is the healthiest sub genre going at the moment, even if most of the movies aren't particularly funny (to be fair, this is true not just for zombie comedies; most supposed comedies are painfully unfunny). Apparently zombies have lost their bite, but watching them fall down stairs is still good for a laugh. Or something. Even one of the very few traditional zombie apocalypses I saw, Rise of the Zombies, incorporated elements that were almost certainly intended to be funny. Of course, that's from The Asylum, so who knows with those guys. In any case, if you like laughing at dead people, it's a good time to be alive.
! And also a generally bad idea...
3) Zombies and porn do not mix I know, I know -- this should be self-evident. Yet somehow, the idea of mixing zombies and porn seems to keep cropping up. I'm not even talking about "true" porn with zombies (yes, those exist). These are "serious" zombie movies that incorporate porn themes. One of them -- Erotic Nights of the Living Dead -- was an Italian film from the early '80s. The other -- Johnny Sunshine -- is a shot-on-video mess from 2008. Both were just distasteful in a way that wasn't even amusing, and either one could serve as definitive proof that zombies and porn should never come within a hundred miles of each other -- yet somehow I'm certain this combo will come together again and again.
2) Don Coscarelli is fucking rad (and the guys who made Supernatural are huge fans) I've been a big fan of Don Coscarelli's work for years, but somehow I had never seen any of his Phantasm films beyond the first one. (I thought I had, but a quick read of the Wikipedia entry while doing some related research set me straight.) I decided to rectify that, and my love of his work only grew as I watched Phantasms two through four. They have their issues, but they're really fun movies, especially the third, which unexpectedly mixed in some horror-comedy to great effect. I also discovered the second film is almost a blueprint for the CW show Supernatural -- two guys in a muscle car, driving around with a trunk full of guns fighting evil forces most everyone else seems unaware of? Yeah, that's Supernatural, and Phantasm II did the same thing years before. It's more than just the premise, though -- certain shots and visuals just gave me a creepy sense of deja vu that convinced me it couldn't be a coincidence. Still, if you're going to borrow, you could do it from a lot worse places than Coscarelli.
1) This was a terrible, terrible idea I really should have followed my own advice. Or listened to anyone who looked at me like I was crazy when I told them what I was planning. Binge-watching 31 zombie movies in a row is hard enough when you know there are some all-time classics and personal favorites waiting in the lineup. Watching 31 movies that you have either avoided on purpose or not gotten around to because other things seemed more interesting... well, it's about what you would expect. Let's just say I have a newfound respect for the suffering of Mike and Joel and what they went through in their respective times on the Satellite of Love. There have been some long periods of deep hurting this month, and I don't even have a pair of mad scientists to blame. I did this to myself. At the very least, next time I'm going to make a couple of robot pals to suffer with me.
Those are my lessons learned, and I pray you can apply these lessons to your own life instead of forging ahead on another fool's errand. If, for some reason, you want to suffer through the same movies I have, you can find the whole experience chronicled in greater detail, with a complete film list to date, on my site The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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