Looking back at the AUTUMN movie

So, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the AUTUMN series a lot recently. AUTUMN was the first of my books which really took off. As you may recall, I gave it away free online between 2001 and 2008 (when, strange as it now seems, eBooks were rare and very few people were giving them away), and it was downloaded many hundreds of thousands of times. I wrote a series of sequels which were well received, and the first book was even adapted as an online full cast audio drama which you can still listen to.

But then HATER came along and my focus shifted. I then moved onto other books and projects, and it’s now a sobering five years since the last book – AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION – was released. Yet even now people still get in touch regularly to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the series.

When I wrote the very first draft of the very first book, way back in 1997, no one was writing about zombies. Very few people were watching zombie movies, either. In fact, no one was paying zombies any attention in any way, shape or form. But in the years which followed, a totally unexpected thing happened and, for the first time, the living dead became mainstream. In films, Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER was a huge hit (which sparked endless pointless debate about whether zombies should run or not, and whether or not his infected were zombies at all), and Zack Synder’s remake of George Romero’s ground-breaking DAWN OF THE DEAD bucked the trend and proved that not all remakes were worthless cash-ins. THE WALKING DEAD comic was launched and a number of writers including myself, BRIAN KEENE and DAVID WELLINGTON precipitated the flood of zombie fiction.

And despite hearing rumours to the contrary every few months since then, the bubble hasn’t burst. People still love the living dead.

I’m going to write two more AUTUMN novels. There – I’ve said it out loud and in public now. I have an idea which I can’t stop thinking about and that, for me, is the acid test. If an idea for a book won’t go away, then that book needs writing. I have a couple of other projects to wrap up first, then I’ll dive straight into what I’m currently calling AUTUMN: DAWN. I don’t want to say too much at the moment, but I think the time’s right for these new books. As I’ve already said, the world has changed dramatically since I first wrote AUTUMN. To my mind, zombies have always been the ultimate story-telling device for allowing writers and film-makers to study the human condition. By turning people into something so similar yet inherently different, it enables us to look back and consider what makes us human in the first place. Socially we’re in a vastly different place now to where we were in 2001, and I think it’ll be fascinating to imagine how we’d react to the events of AUTUMN if they took place today. The new books won’t replace the original novels, nor will they undermine them. Same dead world, different people. Not a rehash or reboot. It’s funny… one of the rules of zombie fiction and movies when I first started writing was that the characters had to have an unspoken innocence and couldn’t know what a zombie was. Given the pop culture explosion I’ve just been talking about, there’s no way I could get away with that in the new AUTUMN books!

So what about the movie?

It was released in 2008 to a torrent of abuse and ill-feeling. It creaks and it groans. It was made on a shoestring budget and it shows. People either loved it or hated it (mostly they hated it). I stopped trying to defend it and used the backlash to try and promote the books, working on the dubious premise that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Tellingly, none of the publishers of the series around the world mentioned the film in their marketing, though an editor who worked on the books did once tell me that ‘it’s always better to have a bad film made of one of your books than no film at all’. And with hindsight, I think I agree. But how bad a film is it? Was all the negativity justified? This week I took a deep breath and watched AUTUMN from start to finish for the first time in a decade. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. I’m under no illusions, it’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think it’s the absolute car crash that most people assume.

Here’s a trailer, and my thoughts follow. And yes, that is me on the DVD cover above.

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Steven Rumbelow – the director of AUTUMN – has passed away

I’ve sad news to report. Steven Rumbelow, who directed the 2009 movie adaptation of AUTUMN, has passed away. You can read Variety’s obituary here.

rp_51mrBhRXn3L._SS500_.jpgIf you’ve heard me talk about the AUTUMN movie, you might be surprised to hear this, but I think I’ve a lot to thank Steven for. I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about my feelings for the film – it was a valiant attempt to adapt the film for the screen, but it fell well short of its potential. The main cast was great (in particular Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson and David Carradine) and some scenes really caught the look and feel of the novel beautifully. Technical shortcomings hampered production, and ultimately the level of the budget didn’t allow the film-makers to fully realise their ambition.

Some people loved the film, though. The UK’s well respected Empire Magazine called AUTUMN “surprisingly downbeat and intelligent“. 365Horror.co.uk said “It’s slow and thoughtful and mesmerising to watch, allowing the viewer to think and reflect. Rumbelow has created something worthy of the Romero tip of the hat here.Reviewer Nicholas Bergquist wroteIf you’re a bit tired of the same-old same-old zombie films, you need to see Autumn. If you’re just keen for a good horror movie that eschews standard formulae and obligatory kill counts, you need to see Autumn. If you want to watch a really damned fine end of the world tale that tries for a more measured pace… Autumn’s your movie.

But it’s fair to say, the criticism massively outweighed the praise. Also, the project never really stood a chance after David Carradine’s death and the subsequent leaking of an unfinished cut of the movie online which was seen (and slated) by hundreds of thousands of people.

I said I’ve a lot to thank Steven for, and I meant that. Watching the production of AUTUMN progress, both from a distance and when I was on set, and seeing how the film fared after release taught me a huge amount about the highs and lows of the movie business. I got to go to Canada and play zombie. I ended up on the DVD cover (yes, that’s me). I got to meet a number of very cool people along the way and was able to attend a number of film festivals and other events. Most importantly, in one way or another the movie had a huge effect on my demographic and made substantial numbers of people aware of my books who might not have heard of me otherwise. Someone once said to me it’s better to have a bad movie made of your book than no movie at all, and I’m inclined to agree. I think AUTUMN is a seriously flawed movie more than an out and out bad film, but I’m pleased it happened. I’ll never forget the thrill of sitting in the first UK cinema showing and seeing the words ‘based on the novel by David Moody’ appear on screen.

Visiting the set of AUTUMN in December 2007

Visiting the set of AUTUMN in December 2007 (pictured with Steven Rumbelow)

My sincere condolences go out to Rachel, Dickon, and the rest of the Rumbelow and Renegade Motion Pictures families.

AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION

Right, nearly there with my recaps of the AUTUMN series in readiness for the UK release of AFTERMATH next week. Today I’m going to look at the various short stories I’ve written to expand and compliment the overall story over the years.

As I’ve already explained, AUTUMN started small but grew rapidly in size, its cast of characters growing with each new novel. Apart from jumping back in time to the beginning of the outbreak at the beginning of THE CITY, and the parallel events of PURIFICATION and DISINTEGRATION, it’s told in a largely linear way. That’s all well and good, but as I introduced each new character, I found myself wanting to go back and tell their individual backstories. To have done that within the books would have made them unnecessarily complicated, and so I came up with AUTUMN: ECHOES.

Originally appearing online only, these (very) short stories explained what had happened to minor background characters from THE CITY to get them from the end of the world to the city centre university where the survivors had grouped at the beginning of the book. It seemed to work so well I continued and did the same with some of the new characters from PURIFICATION too, and it was while I was putting together the third book that these ECHOES seemed to take on a life of their own. Here’s a brief extract from a scene near to the end of the book:

Amy Steadman (day 3) by Craig PatonEight weeks ago this had been an intelligent young clothing store department manager with a bright future ahead of her. Now it was a mud-splattered, half-naked, emaciated collection of brittle bone and rotting flesh. Unlike the majority of the seething crowd, however, this one was beginning to exhibit signs of real control and determination. Unlike those which simply stood there vacantly or those which ripped and tore at the other corpses immediately around them, this body was beginning to think.

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AUTUMN competition reminder

Less than a week to enter the competition to win my copy of the AUTUMN movie on DVD. Here’s the question again (now removed as the competition has closed). Entries close on 31st May when a winner will  be selected at random.

Things I’ve found out this week #1: the UK DVD release is region free so anyone can watch it.

Things I’ve found out this week #2: if you’re in the UK and you want to see the film today, it’s being shown on the Horror Channel again tonight at 9:00pm.

AUTUMN at the QFT in Belfast

Here’s the information I promised in my last post about the screening of AUTUMN in Northern Ireland next month.

I’ll be introducing a 10pm screening of the film at the Queens Film Theatre in Belfast on Saturday 1st May. Prior to the film (from around 6pm) I’ll be doing a joint book signing with Wayne Simmons. You can find more information and book your tickets here.

It promises to be a great event. It’ll be my first time in Northern Ireland, and it would be fantastic to meet any of you who are able to attend.

AUTUMN – US DVD released today

It seems like we’ve been waiting forever, but from today the AUTUMN movie is finally available (legally available!) on DVD in the US. You can order a copy from Amazon.com, get it via Netflix or rent it from Redbox. I’m told it’ll soon be available from over 20,000 retail outlets too.

AUTUMN has always been a polarising story: lots of people like it, plenty more hate it. It’s an unconventional approach to zombies that seems to annoy as many readers as it pleases, and the movie adaptation is proving to be no different. In fact if anything, the reviews of the film have so far been even more divisive. I always knew a zombie story without flesh eating and mindless blood, guts and violence wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste!

I’m going to talk more about the film in the coming weeks (I’m trying to time my coverage to take advantage of today’s release, the UK DVD release in early May, and a screening I’m going to be introducing in Northern Ireland on 1st May), so I’ll not say much more today. All I ask is that you watch the film with an open mind and remember that it was made with huge enthusiasm but on a very low budget. I’m really interested to hear what you all think of it. Add a comment below or sign up and discuss the film on the forum.