Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zombie Ritual - A Decrepit Assault on Your Senses

With The Walking Dead on AMC having just started back up this past weekend, I've been in the mood to watch some classic zombie movies and listen to "zombie metal." I'm one of the seemingly few people who could never get burnt out on the awesomeness that is zombies and zombie culture. Unlike vampire lore, zombie lore never gets old to me. There's just something inherently more dark and terrifying about zombies than there is with vampires. I would fuck a vampire, but never a zombie. so, bearing that in mind...

Behold my Zombie Ritual.

First I'll give you a soundtrack to listen to while you read. Then I'll throw you some cool trailers and scenes from some of my favorite cult zombie films. I may even share some non-Walking Dead zombie reading material for your enjoyment.


ZOMBIE RITUAL PART 1: ZOMBIE METAL


Tankard
"Zombie Attack"
Zombie Attack
Noise Records (1986)

Tankard is quickly becoming one of my favorite thrash metal bands, as there's nothing better to listen to when you're full of alcohol and want some metal. Tankard has been around for nearly 30 years, and every single album of theirs is dedicated to beer and alcohol. It's become their running theme, and in my opinion grows old after their first few albums. Their first album, Zombie Attack, is somewhat of an enigma in the Tankard discography, as its clearly more influenced by slasher films and booze rather than booze alone. While there are certainly tracks dedicated to Tankard's favorite vice, Zombie Attack starts off with one of the best intro tracks about horror movies, and in particular...zombie attacks.


Necrophagia
"Mental Decay"
Season of the Dead
New Renaissance Records (1987)

Necrophagia hails from Ohio, and sometimes claim to be the world's first death metal band. I highly disagree with this assertion, as having graveled vocals over thrash metal riffs doesn't count as "death metal" in my opinion. Regardless, Necrophagia is often grouped in the early death metal scene and I suppose its somewhat accurate. But to call them innovators? Hardly. The one thing that does stand out about Necrophagia's debut Season on the Dead is that vocalist Killjoy seems to talk in a graveled voice more than "sing" in one. It's an interesting way of delivering horror-themed lyrics that I don't think I've heard anywhere else. I'm not the biggest fan of Necrophagia, but Season of the Dead does have some good guitar riffs peppered throughout an album that sounds like it was recorded in your neighbor's basement.


Repulsion
"Eaten Alive"
Horrified
Necrosis/Earache Records (1989)

Hailing from Flint, Michigan and considered to be one of the groundbreaking bands in the grindcore scene, Repulsion was a band that gains more and more popularity as time goes on. Having a demo compilation distributed by grindcore legends Carcass at their early UK shows, the demand for a Repulsion album came after the band had already broken up. Horrified was a collection of their demos and was put out by Necrosis Records, a demo label partly owned by Carcass and Earache Records. Repulsion's one and only album, Horrified, has been re-released by several record labels over the years and stands as "the most influential grindcore album of all time," according to critics of such things. I'll leave you to debate that all you want. All I know is that Repulsion was awesome and Horrified is worth owning by any metalhead.


Faith No More
"Zombie Eaters"
The Real Thing
Slash Records (1989)

The undisputed greatest rock and roll band of all time did a song about zombies because even they know that zombies rule. Faith No More is a band that never grows old and gets better with every listen, no matter how many times I listen to them. While The Real Thing was their most commercially successful release, this is actually my least favorite album. However, The Real Thing is full of post-'80's proto-metal that was way ahead of its time when it came out. Sometimes regarded as "godfathers of nu-metal" (a tag that vocalist Mike Patton despises), Faith No More's The Real Thing perfectly captures the feel of the early 1990's, a year before the style of the decade was known.


Baphomet
"Valley of the Dead"
The Dead Shall Inherit
Peaceville Records (1992)

Baphomet...the little death metal band that couldn't. Being one of the bands in New York's burgeoning death metal scene (which formed in response to the scene in FL), Baphomet often gets overlooked. Bands like Suffocation, Internal Bleeding and Pyrexia took the spotlight as far as the NY scene went, and Baphomet was sometimes lost in the shuffle. While their album The Dead Shall Inherit may not be groundbreaking or necessarily memorable, there are some badass tracks on this album worth listening to. I recommend you listen to this album on Youtube or Spotify or whatever the next time you're in a death metal mood, instead of listening to a band you already know inside and out. You may find something enjoyable here.

ZOMBIE RITUAL PART II: CULT FILMS

Since I'm a person who has honestly sat through and watched movies such as Flight of the Living Dead and Zombie Strippers, I can honestly say that it's possible to make a really bad zombie film. There are far more bad zombie movies than there are good ones. However, with The Walking Dead being such a smash on TV and movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland maintaining strong cult followings, it's fair to say that there's nothing better than a well-made zombie movie. 

Here's a few of my favorite clips from some cult zombie movies. I'm sure all of my friends have seen these movies. Perhaps the random google-searcher or extended family member will find something fun below.


Return of the Living Dead 
(1985)

Everybody's favorite zombie, Tarman! Return of the Living Dead is one of the best zombie films ever made. It might even be my favorite of all time, even above the Romero films. This was one of the first zombie movies I ever saw, so that's most likely the reason. Regardless, Return of the Living Dead was one of the first "zombie comedies." Films like Zombieland have followed the same formula that Return of the Living Dead started in 1985. You've got zombies as the backdrop, check. Teenagers with angst issues, check. Lots of gore and violence while hilarity ensues, check. If you haven't seen this movie, for the love of god remedy that right now. It's a classic!


Re-Animator 
(1985)

The cat seen in the clip above that is unceremoniously killed off in a hilarious fashion is none other than Rufus, the Zombie Cat from Re-AnimatorRe-Animator is weird and creepy as hell. It also happens to be one of the best zombie films that the 1980's produced. Starring B-movie extraordinaire Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott (the ex-husband of Linda Hamilton, or Sarah Connor from Terminator to you), Re-Animator is the tale of Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), an eccentric and creepy student at Miskatonic University who is fascinated with reviving the dead. After bringing Rufus the Zombie Cat back to life, Herbert's thirst for giving life to death knows no bounds! I'm sure this movie can be found cheap on Amazon. Do yourself a favor and enjoy some Re-Animator.

If you've never seen Re-Animator but the name rings a bell, you might be recalling the introduction of the Ricky Fitts character in the excellent 1999 film American Beauty:

Ricky Fitts, you creepy kid....


Night of the Living Dead 
(1990 remake)

I've always enjoyed the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead much more than the original. It stars Tony Todd (of Candyman fame)! His performance in this movie is worth the rental price alone. The remake follows the script of the original very closely, but changes a few things here and there. Most notably would be Barbara's character, who goes from a wimpy textbook waif in the original to a strong-willed and capable hero in the remake. Directed by horror make-up and special effects legend Tom Savini, Night of the Living Dead is full of surprisingly well-acted scenes. You'd think a movie like this would get shitty actors, but everyone plays their part very well. You can tell that the actors involved were dedicated to making a good zombie movie. They succeeded. 


Dead Alive (1992)
known internationally as Braindead

Before Peter Jackson made his millions on those Lord of the Rings movies he directed, he was busy making weird independent horror films like Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Dead Alive was known for years as "the goriest movie of all time," however I'm sure that title has been claimed by others since 1992. Dead Alive is another entry in the "zombie comedy" genre, and is one that still holds up well today. Dead Alive is the story of Lionel (basically the Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory of New Zealand circa 1992), a man who lives with his dominating and smothering mother. After she's bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey, insanity ensues in the small New Zealand town as zombies take over. Dead Alive features many classic moments, such as the zombie baby's stroll through the park, the priest who "kicks ass for the lord," and even the mother's ear falling off into her custard. Peter Jackson really needs to get back to doing stuff like this!

Cemetery Man (1994)
known internationally as Dellamorte Dellamore

Cemetery Man rules! This cult classic grows in popularity each and every year in the horror movie circles, so it's mind-boggling to me that there isn't a Blu-Ray release for it in the US yet. Starring Rupert Everett and better known internationally as Dellamorte Dellamore, this Italian zombie movie jumps back and forth from being "a serious zombie movie" to "a comedic zombie movie" to "trying to make you think"-zombie movie. Usually flicks with this much going on have the tendency to lose a lot of plot points in the shuffle. Cemetery Man is lucky in that it finds that decent balance without getting bogged down. The story revolves around the caretakers of a cemetery, who put down the zombies that rise each night. The town at large has no idea what happens in the cemetery, yet rumors abound. The soundtrack for this movie is pretty good too.

Noggie gets his brain back. Awww....


ZOMBIE RITUAL PART III: ZOMBIE STORIES

I've given you zombie music. I've given you zombie movie scenes of utmost worth. And now it's time for the finale, as I share with you zombie stories to read. I'm not going to recommend The Walking Dead, as you no doubt are already familiar with it. Nope, I'm going to share a couple of stories that might have flown under your radar, yet are worth tracking down.

iZombie
by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
DC/Vertigo Comics 
2010-2012

As with many Vertigo books these days, iZombie was unfortunately canceled prematurely and was forced to wrap things up in the fourth and final volume of the series. iZombie was lucky in that even though the ending had to be rushed, it was still an extremely satisfying read and the conclusion felt right. Written by Chris Roberson and art by the cult favorite Mike Allred (of Madman fame), iZombie was the story of Gwen, a zombie who has to eat one brain a month to prevent herself from becoming a shambling, rotting zombie. Throughout the story, you find out that there's an existential threat to the universe, and only Gwen can stop it. The book also features monster hunters, were-terriers, ghosts, mummies and even a talking monkey. iZombie looks and reads like a 1950's horror comedy, in the vein of The Addams Family or The Munsters. Mike Allred's art style really helps bring that feeling out of Roberson's writing. There are 4 volumes total for this book. Highly recommended.
Mike Allred's art style never changes. Who cares.


Though I Walk Through the Valley
Short Story By S.P. Somtow
originally featured in The Ultimate Zombie collection
(1993)

This was a story that I loved when I was 13 years old. Though I Walk Through the Valley is a 25-page short story in The Ultimate Zombie that's about voodoo zombies. Voodoo zombies are different than the modern interpretation, as voodoo zombies are docile and mindless yet don't eat people. Believe it or not, "voodoo zombies" are a real thing. People are given a tribal concoction that basically gives them permanent brain damage and leaves them in "a zombie state." Though I Walk Through the Valley plays around with this theme a bit. Taking place in a Los Angeles ghetto, the story revolves around Oz, a teenager who is favored by his uncle. While the uncle parties and hangs out with his nephew Oz, he also has his own son whom is neglected and mistreated. After awhile Oz notices that there is something wrong with his cousin, and that his uncle is involved in some black juju. It's a fun little story to read while you're in bed or on the john. Unfortunately, I can't find a pdf of the story online to link in for you to read here. Even though The Ultimate Zombie is out of print, you can get it used on Amazon for around $5 (shipping included). You might even be able to torrent it somewhere. The Ultimate Zombie also features stories by Anne Rice, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and more, so you'll likely enjoy more than just this story alone if you feel like checking it out.

So there you have it. My zombie ritual is complete and if you listened to all that music, watched all those clips and read those stories...you are now a mindless shambling zombie yourself. Even though I've posted this song on other blogs, its the only one that's appropriate to bow us out. Catch ya next time. Uggghhhhnnnn......

Death
"Zombie Ritual"
Scream Bloody Gore
Combat Records (1987)

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