Tag Archives: Zombies

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

As those of you who have been returning to Celluloid Zombie over the last few months might have noticed, my site has become something of a barren wasteland, starved of shiny new content and increasingly reliant on dusty old posts and hapless passers-by. Truth is I’ve been gut-wrenchingly busy lately and just haven’t been able to find enough of your Earth minutes to sit down and write new stuff. I need minions but unfortunately they’re too expensive. So, failing that, my good friend, fellow writer and proprietor of the entertaining Conjuring My Muse, Margaret Reyes Dempsey, has kindly offered to donate a blog post to the cause.

Enjoy!

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For many of us who read novels or watch movies in genres that are outside the realm of “this could happen in real life,” there is a willing suspension of disbelief before we enter the theater or open the cover of a book (or press whichever Kindle button). We’re excited. We’re ready to be entertained. And we participate in the experience by opening ourselves to what realists would call the impossible.

In an instant, vampires and zombies walk our streets. Strategic great whites have a place in our oceans. A writer and his guests encounter aliens at his cabin in the woods and we not only accept it, we’re chilled to the bone.

It seems so easy and natural to let go of reality and believe the incredible. Then, all of a sudden, some trivial detail rears its ugly head and we are blasted out of the zone. At least, that’s been my experience, but this is where the kind host of Celluloid Zombie and I disagree and begin yet another heated debate.

Case in point: I watched the first two episodes of The Walking Dead – Season 2 on Sunday night and was enjoying it. Their RV is stranded on the highway, death and devastation visible for miles in either direction. Still, the guy on the roof of the RV is using binoculars and that’s okay with me. You can’t be too cautious with hungry zombies roaming the earth. But then, he raises the binoculars to his eyes again and gasps. The camera angle shifts and there are 300 zombies in view…a mere 10 feet in front of him. Did 300 slowly shuffling and loudly grunting zombies materialize out of thin air? Did no one see them coming? Smell them? Hear them? Come on! I laughed out loud and threw a piece of popcorn across the room at the TV, which my cat gobbled and then coughed up with a hair ball. (Okay, that last part is just a bit of gory fiction.)

The fact is, the inattention to detail grabbed me right out of the moment, and the suspense that I had been enjoying up until that point lost some momentum. Some 3500 miles away as the crow flies, Rich is screaming over a static-filled Skype connection. “You have no problem believing in 300 zombies but the manner in which they show up is a deal breaker???”

I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker because I did enjoy both episodes. However, I’m unable to gloss over stupid stuff like that. Especially when it happens twice in the same episode.

Another example of things that can make me willingly unsuspend disbelief can be found in the movie Hereafter, a two hour and ten minute film that follows the lives of three people dealing with mortality. Despite wonderful performances by Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard (wasted in a go-nowhere role), and the McLaren twins, this movie could not be redeemed. Afflicted by bloated, plotless scenes and poor pacing, it is slow and sleepy. And pausable. Yes, I admit two-thirds of the way through, with nothing much going on yet, I paused to get a snack. But the moment that turned what was supposed to be a serious movie into a comedy was the opening scene. Oh no!

On vacation with her lover, journalist Marie Lelay steps out to buy souvenirs and gets swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Just before it hits, she purchases a bracelet for a dollar from a woman and her young daughter. (We won’t question why the merchant requests dollars instead of, say, rupiah or why a French woman on vacation there would happen to have dollars in her possession.) Suddenly, there’s a deafening roar and palm trees snap in the distance. (For a moment, I thought I was watching an episode of Lost.) The impressive special effects result in genuine horror as the huge wave comes into view. The journalist grabs the little girl’s hand and they run, but the wave takes them down. She claws at the water and air with both hands, trying to recover the child but it’s no use. Seconds later, she gets caught on something underwater and rips herself free only to be knocked unconscious by debris.

All is working for me until Director Clint Eastwood decides to go for the nice shot and has her slowly open her hand as she sinks in the water, allowing the bracelet to float free. The bracelet? She was still hanging on to that bracelet? That meant when she was stuck underwater, minutes from drowning, she kept one hand tightly closed around the bracelet and tried to free herself with just the fingers of her other hand? Right. For this, Clint, you are unforgiven. As the bracelet floats to the surface, it’s as perfect looking as the moment she bought it. That’s one well-made bracelet and what a bargain at only a dollar.

Once again, Rich responded to my emailed rants with e-laughter and an e-shake of the head.

So, I ask, do any of you out there ever have challenges suspending disbelief and staying in the zone?


Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead Airs

Having been shot in a gun fight and put into a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes up in hospital to find the world around him significantly changed. The hospital has been trashed, corpses are everywhere and the streets are deserted. Sort of. Long story short, there are zombies. Lots of them. After an encounter with two survivors, Grimes determines to head for Atlanta to find his missing wife and son.

After all the hype surrounding Frank Darabont’s TV show The Walking Dead, the first episode, Days Gone Bye, finally aired to record numbers. Zombies, who have shuffled around cinemas for decades, have at last discovered television. Based on the Image comic books, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd (the Terminator movies), The Walking Dead is admittedly a very familiar story; world + zombies + survivors = horror fun!  But with Executive Producer Darabont, no stranger to horror, both writing and directing the pilot episode this was always going to be worth the time.

Truth be told, I don’t watch much television. I haven’t seen one episode of 24 or Lost, fell out of love with Star Trek years ago, and save my viewing time for movies. Then I read about The Walking Dead and, frankly, they had me at ‘Frank Darabont to make zombie television show’. Say no more. Having just watched the pilot episode, I’m glad I decided to set aside the 90 minutes. Okay, this is never going to win any originality awards (the genre is way past that) but all the ingredients are right there for something special. The set-up is similar to that of 28 Days Later, with the lead character waking up in hospital to find everyone gone. However, unlike the marathon runners of Danny Boyle’s infestation movie, the zombies of The Walking Dead are back to the classic shuffling undead in the Romero mould. Personally, I prefer them that way. Call me petty, but zombies should shuffle. It’s my thing.

Frank Darabont, who excelled with a TV production crew on The Mist, delivers an atmospheric and engaging pilot episode. The scenes in the hospital, as the bemused Grimes finds the first clues as to what happened while he slept, are spooky, haunting and will bring an approving smile to the face of even the most discerning zombie fan. As will the fact that television hasn’t dulled or restricted the icky factor. Darabont is incapable of overlooking the human element and there is a particularly moving scene involving a survivor and his wife. However, it was when the story moved to deserted, zombie infested, Atlanta that The Walking Dead really impressed, and I knew for certain that I was hooked. Damn you, Darabont! Now I’m one of those people desperate for the next episode! I’m a zombie!

Like a bad day, only worse.


Review: La Horde

La Horde

Starring: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney, Aurélien Recoing, Doudou Masta

Directors: Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher

Over the last few years the zombie movie has become a genre in its own right, with a new addition seemingly every month. Some are pure brainless fun. Some, as with Romero’s collection, are attempts at social commentary.  Then there are some, like this French offering, which attempt a little of both. Written and directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, La Horde does get its priorities right; fun first, message second. There are occasional nods to the growing poverty in France, life in the slums and even abuses in Nigeria. However, it’s not long before we’re back to the simple pleasures we came here for; busting zombie heads. This is where La Horde really delivers the goods.

Set entirely in a dilapidated high-rise building, a group of cops and the criminal gang they have come to apprehend are forced to work together when the building is besieged by hundreds of crazed zombies. No explanation is given as to why most of the population suddenly become flesh-eating crazies or why they all seem to converge on this building, but once it all kicks off you really don’t care to examine loose threads. La Horde is excessively violent, fast-paced and very entertaining. At times it’s a little like watching a video game; you do expect a score to appear in the corner of the screen as more and more zombies are dispatched with a variety of weapons, but the excesses are tempered by excellent performances from the cast, including Claude Perron, who may be the toughest woman this side of Sigourney Weaver.

The world's worst mosh pit.

There’s little that is original about La Horde, so don’t go in expecting any ground to be broken. Heads, yes. Ground, no. Rather, the merit is all in the execution. In a genre that perhaps has nowhere else to go, it settles on giving us an excess of what is expected.

Rating - 3 Stars