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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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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World War Z and the Hater movie

I wanted to talk about WORLD WAR Z for a couple of reasons. A discussion of the film follows (stick around for a half hour video review from Mr Simmons and I) but, before that, I have a more personal reason to be interested.

world-war-z-movie-posterFor a long time I’ve thought that the immediate future of the zombie sub-genre would, to a large extent, hinge on the success or failure of the WWZ movie. It’s fair to say that after all the well-documented issues with budgets and scripts and reshoots etc., I don’t think anyone expected the success the film has had, nor for a sequel to have been greenlit so rapidly. That has to be a good thing, I think, and I’m hopeful that, as a result, Hollywood will have a renewed interest in large budget, zombie-style movies. I would say that… the HATER movie rights have just been re-optioned.

As an enjoyable, effects-laden, dumb old zombie flick, WWZ certainly delivered. As an adaptation of Max Brook’s novel, however, it failed on just about every level. But does that really matter? Looking at things from my perspective, with a film adaptation of Hater on the horizon, I can see two sides. Sure I’d like a fairly literal interpretation of my original story to be filmed, but I’d also like the publicity and sales that a more commercial movie would hopefully generate. I have to accept that such publicity and sales might come at the expense of the integrity of my story. As wrong as it might sound, at this stage in my career with mouths to feed and bills to pay and many projects in the pipeline but few under contract, if I’m honest I’d have to say I’d rather take the cash. With Guillermo del Toro still attached to Hater I’m happy to take that chance of course, and regardless of how any movie turned out, my original book would still be available. It’s not like it would disappear or be replaced. Despite his understandable frustrations with the filmmakers, I’m sure Max Brooks is more than happy with the thousands and thousands of people who’ve picked up his book because of the film…

Right, back to WWZ. Rather than write a long blog post, I’ll let Wayne and I do the talking.

If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. If you have and you’ve seen the film, what were your thoughts on the movie adaptation, and what are your hopes/fears for a Hater adaptation? I’d be really interested to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter etc.

Punishment Park

Punishment Park posterAt this point in time, when news about my books is thin on the ground (I am busy writing, honest!), I’d like to try and keep your interest by making regular book and film recommendations. So here’s another submission to my ‘Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club’ (click the link for previous films), and it’s one that’s a little more obscure than some of the others I’ve posted about.

Peter Watkins is a fascinating, controversial and, in my opinion, unfairly overlooked film-maker. Click here to be reminded of my thoughts on one of his earliest films – THE WAR GAME – a 1965, Oscar-winning BBC film which portrayed the effects of a nuclear attack on Kent and which, due to it’s unflinching treatment of the subject matter, remained largely unseen for over twenty years. Today I’d like to introduce you to another of his films, PUNISHMENT PARK. A movie made in 1971 which, at the time, was effectively buried and given only the most cursory of releases.

Here’s the trailer. Click the link below to find out more.

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BEFORE DAWN

L_Mtd414Dominic Brunt is a name more familiar to UK readers as a long-running cast member of the even longer-running ITV soap, Emmerdale. But there’s another side to Dom – he’s an obsessive horror fan. As well as being one of the organisers of the annual Leeds Zombie Film Festival (click here for information on the 2013 event), he’s also the director, co-writer (along with his wife, Joanne Mitchell) and star (also with Joanne) of an excellent zombie movie, BEFORE DAWN. Here’s the trailer. Watch the clip, then click the link to read why I think Before Dawn is, for me, one of the best zombie movies to come along in a long time.

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The Impossible

Most of the film recommendations I share here are post-apocalyptic movies, but today I’m making an exception. Kind of.

Back in 2008, just after Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the planned Hater movie had been announced, other names soon became attached to the project. Glen Mazzara (late of AMC’s The Walking Dead) wrote a script and Juan Antonio Bayona was lined up to direct. I immediately got hold of a copy of Bayona’s debut feature – The Orphanage – and was very, very impressed by the film. If you haven’t yet seen it, I suggest you check it out. Bayona was also kind enough to blurb Hater, saying ‘Be careful with Hater; chapter by chapter it will make its way into your soul ‘til it finds the seed of evil which lurks within.

The Impossible

For one reason or another (and I still don’t know exactly why), the Hater movie didn’t happen. And just for the record, because I seem to get asked several times every day, I don’t know what the current status of the project is.

Fast-forward to now, and J A Bayona’s second feature – The Impossible – has recently been released. I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about it. The film is based on the true story of a Spanish family of five who, despite being split up and scattered by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, all managed to survive and were later reunited. The sheer improbability of their story gives rise to the title of the movie.

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