Portrait of a Zombie (US title: About a Zombie)

Portrait_Zombie_PosterWeb-773x1024Back in February 2010 I stumbled upon the trailer for a new zombie movie I hadn’t come across before: PORTRAIT OF A ZOMBIE. I was so taken by the short clip that I posted it on this site and I also got in touch with the director, Bing Bailey. We spoke on and off over the years but it wasn’t until recently that I finally managed to watch the movie. I was browsing around Lovefilm one night, looking for a horror movie to watch which a). wasn’t crap, or b). I hadn’t seen a hundred times already, and there it was, right at the top of the list, just begging to be streamed.

And man, I’m glad I watched it. POAZ (as I’ll call it from here on in to save typing) was a real treat that I’m happy to recommend as part of my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club. So please watch the trailer below, then click the link for my thoughts and a few words from Bing Bailey.

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Post-apocalyptic movie club: LIFEFORCE

220px-LifeforceposterTobe Hooper’s unforgettable 1985 horror/science-fiction movie LIFEFORCE has been in the news a lot recently. Based on the 1976 novel SPACE VAMPIRES by Colin Wilson, the film recently received a stunning blu-ray release through Arrow Video in the UK and Scream in the US (more about that in a moment), but it also hit the headlines when it was announced that a new TV series is in development based on the original Wilson novel. Sadly, mere days after the TV deal was announced, Colin Wilson passed away at the age of 82.

For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, check out the brief synopsis, watch the trailer, then click the link below for my thoughts.

A mission to investigate Halley’s Comet discovers an alien spacecraft. After a deadly confrontation, the aliens travel to Earth, where their seductive leader begins a terrifying campaign to drain the life force of everyone she encounters. Her victims, in turn, continue the cycle, and soon the entire planet is in mortal danger.

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PLASTIC JESUS by Wayne Simmons

plastic-jesusBy now Wayne Simmons should need no introduction. He’s a good friend, my industry partner in crime, and a fine writer. His new novel, PLASTIC JESUS, was recently released by Salt Publishing, and it goes without saying that I’m going to recommend you read it. But I’m not just saying that because Wayne’s my mate, I’m saying it because PLASTIC JESUS is an original and thought-provoking novel and it’s a damn good read. The book has a wonderfully realised setting (more about Lark City in a minute), and a cast of genuinely interesting (and hopelessly flawed) characters. Here’s the blurb. Click the link below to find out more.

Plastic Jesus grabs you by the throat. From the opening paragraph, without warning, it plunges you into a world of fear and confusion and visceral emotion. When it spews you back out again, you are left dizzy, overwhelmed – and desperate to read more. And it’s then that you take your first fearful steps into Lark City…

It is the near future, following a devastating Holy War. Once part of the US colonies, Maalside, the New Republic, now stands alone in the Pacific, separated from the heartland by 200 miles of salty ocean. Lark City is its capital, watched over by a 50 foot, pouting, stiletto-heeled and garter-belted ‘Miss Liberty’, a crude parody of the famous landmark across the water.

In this brutal neon jungle, Code Guy Johnny Lyon writes a Jesus social networking AI, to rebrand religion following the war. But something goes wrong; a virtual hell breaks on the streets of Lark – a violent, surreal and uncontrollable social breakdown.

Caught in this terrifying web of danger are Sarah Lee, Johnny’s co-worker, drug lord Paul McBride who is determined to exploit the chaos to wipe out his enemies, and McBride’s junkie daughter, a prostitute called Kitty.

Now, only Johnny can save Sarah, Kitty and the city.

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Recommended reading – ZOMBIE SURVIVAL by Sean T Page

By now I’m sure you all know Sean T Page. He’s the Ministry of Zombies chief who sealed himself in a nuclear bunker last May (remind yourself here). More than that, he’s an all-round good man, one of the lynchpins of Moody’s Survivors, and a zombie survivalist expert. How do I know that? Because I’ve just read his latest book.

Sean, cunningly disguised as Shaun, with his invaluable guide (photo: Grace Elkin - www.graceelkinphotography.co.uk)

Sean, cunningly disguised as Shaun, with his invaluable guide
(photo: Grace Elkin – www.graceelkinphotography.co.uk)

When I bought my first car I remember my parents proudly presenting me with my first Haynes Manual to go with it. I’m not sure if this is a peculiarly British thing… just in case it is, I’ll explain. Haynes manuals were produced for just about every type of car around, and they showed you how to strip them down and repair pretty much every fault you could imagine. Times have changed, of course, and with the technology inside our vehicles becoming ever more complicated, home garage repairs are increasingly less viable (to be honest, Haynes manual or no Haynes manual, fixing my own car wasn’t something I ever had any success with). So, in order to survive, Haynes diversified and began to produce all manner of other guides, from the Millenium Falcon to Thunderbirds via everything in between. You can see more at their website here.

zombie-survival-owners-apocalypse-manual-sean-t-pageEnter Sean and his zombie survival expertise. To coin a phrase, the Zombie Survival Haynes Manual does exactly what it says on the tin. What more can I say? It’s incredibly detailed, beautifully put together, and absolutely hilarious. From a section on the science of Zombology, to home preparation and defence, to weapon selection and use, this book is the only book you’ll need when the inevitable zombie apocalypse begins. There’s even an exam at the back to make sure you’ve been paying attention. Buy copies for all your family and friends this Christmas. Not only will they have some interesting reading for the holiday season, but you might just save their lives too.

Invaluable. Required reading. Get it now.

Amazon / Book Depository / Hive / Indiebound / Waterstones

STALLED

stalledIf you read my post earlier this week from Grimmfest, you’ll know how much I enjoyed STALLED, a great new British zombie movie. I couldn’t find any release dates (other than VOD in the US from 20 October), but I wanted to give you a heads up so if you see the film showing anywhere, you can make sure you catch it.

Zombie movies are, as we all know by now, easy to get wrong. There’s a tendacy to veer towards clichés and gore at the expense of the story (though I accept there are a huge number of folks who just want clichés and gore…). To my mind, the same is true of both straight-laced zombie movies and comedies (I refuse to call them zomedies, though lots of people apparently do). Okay, so you can have a laugh finding endless gruesome, slapstick ways to get rid of the undead (I’m looking at you here, Zombieland), but I think all zombie stories, whether being played for laughs or not, need a solid plot and characters you give a damn about to succeed.

I’ll be honest, I went into STALLED thinking I was going to hate it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Watch the trailer then hit the link to read more.

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THE DAY

I’m on a mission to work my way through as many post-apocalyptic movies as I can and report back here with my thoughts (check out the tag Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club). This week a recommendation from reader Paige Topinka – 2011 indie horror, THE DAY.

TheDay.jpgHere’s a brief synopsis snatched from IMBDA group of five people working to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic future discover what they think is a safe, abandoned farmhouse, but they soon find themselves fighting to stay alive as a gang of bloodthirsty predators attack. And I’ll keep my thoughts equally brief, because that’s pretty much all there is to it.

I’m on the fence with this one… whilst I thought it looked the part (definite muted shades of the movie adaptation of The Road) and it established an interesting (and interestingly vague) post-apocalyptic world, the performances were pretty standard and the story felt frustratingly linear, very much by-the-numbers. I read elsewhere that the film is part of a planned trilogy, and I’m interested enough by this first part to want to know how the story pans out.

All in all, though, I found THE DAY to be entertaining, but nothing special. It’s filmed with a very grey, washed out and grimy colour palette with occasional flashes of colour, and that really summed the movie up for me: relatively formulaic, but with very definite hints that there’s much more to be seen in this rain-soaked, dying world.

The film’s available now on DVD and Blu-ray. UK folks can stream THE DAY on Lovefilm and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Any PA films you’d like to recommend? Please let me know. And thanks again to Paige for the tip!

ON THE BEACH

onthebeach

You know, when I started writing up these suggestions for my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club a couple of years back, I looked back on films about the nuclear holocaust with a mix of relief and nostalgia. In the early 1980’s it felt likely – inevitable, almost – that’d we’d all disappear in a white hot radioactive haze at some point. And then things felt like they’d somewhat improved, that we’d stepped back from the brink. Over the last ten years or so, the threat of terrorism seemed to me to make the global situation feel inherently more unpredictable, and yet the possibility of large-scale, international conflict still felt relatively distant. Am I alone in feeling the global mood begin to change again? Of course I’m not. It’s just that, for a little while at least, I think we were distracted. The reality remains: self-serving, gob-shite liars are still in charge wherever you look, working towards their own agendas at the expense of everyone and everything else. It seems that the chasm-like disconnect between leaders and the people they purport to lead is growing wider every day. As Jarvis Cocker so eloquently put it, c**ts are still running the world. Scary.

Mini-rant over.

I recently re-watched ON THE BEACH. Though dated (it was made in 1959), it was interesting to watch it again recently in light of current global tensions. It’s a film that makes you think. It’s a film that, to me, perfectly encapsulates the inevitable futility of nuclear war, and one which illustrates how defenceless we all are individually in the overall scheme of things. If our elected representatives decide to fight, it is they who take that decision. It’ll be you, me and everyone else who has to deal with the consequences.

Hit the link after the video to read more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxMT7SQpZo4

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Possession

images-3Back in February last year I wrote about my excitement at the relaunch of Starburst Magazine. For much of the 1980’s, Starburst and Fangoria were my only sources of horror-related news. One issue I remember particularly vividly featured picture of a bizarre tentacled creature from Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 movie, POSSESSION. Of course, it was impossible to get to see the film back then – not just because I was only 10 years old, but also because it was categorised as a video nasty and whipped off the shelves here in the UK. In fact I only got to see the film earlier this year, and I’d been meaning to write about it here as part of my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club. Possession is released on blu-ray in the UK next week, so this seemed an ideal time to feature it. If you haven’t yet seen this bizarre, haunting, disturbing film, I think you should. Watch the trailer and click the link to find out why.

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Recommended reading – James Herbert’s DOMAIN

Domain-James-HerbertWhen I’m asked to name books which have influenced me, I regularly mention DOMAIN by James Herbert. In fact, when I’m talking about books which have influenced my writing career, DOMAIN is the book.

For those who don’t know, DOMAIN is the third and final book in Herbert’s RATS trilogy (beginning with RATS in 1974, then LAIR in 1979). Set in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear attack on London, it remains a visceral and relentless read. To this day it’s still the only book I’ve ever finished reading, only to turn back to the beginning and immediately start again. Following the author’s untimely passing back in March, I thought I’d dig out my old yellowed paperback edition (now signed by the man himself – see this link to find out how) to see if the book still resonated with this forty-something bloke as it had when I was in my teens.

Short answer: not quite, but it was still a bloody good read.

Here’s the back cover blurb. Click the link below for my thoughts.

The long-dreaded nuclear conflict. The city torn apart, shattered, its people destroyed or mutilated beyond hope. For just a few, survival is possible only beneath the wrecked streets – if there is time to avoid the slow-descending poisonous ashes. But below, the rats, demonic offspring of their irradiated forebears, are waiting. They know that Man is weakened, become frail. Has become their prey…

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Paul Kane’s Sleeper(s)

SleepersCover2I’m sure many of you know of Paul Kane. Paul and I go back a fair few years now – I think we first spoke around the release of HATER in early 2009. Our paths crossed more recently when Paul and his other half Marie edited THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BODY HORROR which contained my story, ALMOST FOREVER (and that’s an anthology well worth checking out – click here to remind yourself).

Paul’s back with a new novella – SLEEPER(S). It’s a great book with a real Quatermass-like vibe to it, and I was honoured to be asked to write the introduction. Here’s the blurb:

The sleepy English locality of Middletown is about to get even sleepier, as a strange malady starts to affect the population. It spreads quickly, causing the authorities to quarantine this small city, and seek out the only person who might be able to help: Doctor Andrew Strauss. However, Strauss has a secret, one that has linked him to this place all his life, one that has linked him to a particular person there, though he doesn’t yet know who. But he’s not the only one hiding things – and as he ventures into Middletown to collect samples with an army escort, a mixture of UK and US troops, cracks soon begin to appear in the operation. Especially when his team come up against the most terrifying threat humankind has ever known…

SLEEPER(S), from Crystal Lake Publishing, is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.