Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Walking Dead at SDCC

As most everyone probably knows, this weekend is the ever-growing San Diego Comic Con! I am not there but I know people who are and they've shared some of The Walking Dead exclusives only available at the SDCC!

First off, two variant covers of issue 100:

Next, a great limited edition watch (only 500 were made) signed by Robert Kirkman:

Third up is a Skybound variant action figure featuring Michonne "bloodied":

Finally, there's a really fantastic hardcover Walking Dead Compendium that's been limited to only 1000 copies!

If any of you Deadites have photos you'd like to share from the SDCC please send them my way!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Profiles in History Hollywood Auction 44

Profiles in History is gearing up for their 44th Hollywood Auction which takes place May 14-15, 2011.  There are several great items that might of interest to readers of this blog.
First, there are several zombie masks or prosthetics created by Greg Nicotero for AMC's The Walking Dead.
There's also a great Walking Dead poster autographed by Nicotero, director Frank Darabont and renowned poster artist Drew Struzan.
The auction also includes some super-rare zombie puppets from Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness.  There are three of these available.
There's also a nifty platform with puppet skeletons.  The skeletons still move by using wheels on the platform.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Very Zombie Holiday

Here's a fun instructional video on YouTube called A Very Zombie Holiday.  It gives you some good tips on how to make your holiday season safe during a zombie apocalypse.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

"Yeah, they're dead.  They're all messed up."
Though the word "zombie" is never mentioned in it, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead really marks the beginning of zombie movies as we have come to know them. Romero and his friends may simply have been trying to come up with an inexpensive idea to break into feature filmmaking but they did much more.  Romero and John Russo wrote a screenplay that is tightly suspenseful.  There are some interesting subtextual comments on America's socio-political situation in the 60s and it's really scary.  Romero is known for using really quick shots and fast edits and you can already see that technique developing with this film.  He creates an almost documentary-like feeling with close shots at strange angles that really draws the viewer in.
The story begins with siblings Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) driving to a remote cemetery to leave a wreath on their father's grave.  While there, Johnny teases Barbra about ghouls coming to get her.  Little does he know that actual ghouls are about!  A zombie attacks Barbra and Johnny comes to her rescue but is killed in the process.  Barbra then flees and finds an old house where she takes refuge.
Traumatized, Barbra becomes almost catatonic.  Soon, another survivor locates the house. His name is Ben (Duane Jones) and he immediately sets to fortifying the house.  He boards up the windows and doors.  Ben soon finds the owner of the house, dead upstairs and as the night becomes darker more and more zombies begin to gather outside the house.
The sounds of Ben's work soon reveal that there are other occupants in the house when a man named Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman) comes upstairs from the cellar.  He's accompanied by his wife and their injured daughter as well as a young local couple. Immediately, there are tensions between Ben and Harry.  Harry feels the safest place to be is in the cellar but Ben refuses to box himself in.  
The captives manage to work together to finish fortifying the house and they get a television working.  On the news, there are reports of strange radiation from Venus which might be causing the newly dead to rise and feed on the flesh of the living.  The news also reports that a rescue station has been set up by local authorities not far from the house.  Ben takes the lead and concocts a plan to escape.  There is a gas pump outside, if they can get by the zombies they can gas up a truck and escape to the rescue station.  The plan goes horribly awry when a torch lights leaking gasoline on fire and the young couple are killed when the truck explodes.  Ben barely makes it back to the house in one piece and the zombies make quick work of the remains of Tom and Judy.
Now, with tensions even higher in the house and no way to escape, the zombie horde outside grows ever larger.  The zombies begin to break through the fortified windows and doors.  Harry Cooper's cowardice asserts itself and Ben finds himself forced to shoot the man.  Meanwhile, Helen Cooper has revealed that her daughter was bitten by a zombie and we soon learn that such a bite equals a fate worse than death when young Karen arises as a zombie to brutally kill her mother and finish off her father.
When Barbra finally breaks out of her shocked state to try and help keep the zombies out of the house she is confronted by a zombi-fied Johnny.  She tries to hug her brother but he pulls her out of the house into the waiting arms of the zombie horde.  Now, left alone, his defenses compromised, Ben has no choice but to retreat to the cellar and barricade the door.  He manages to survive the night and the next day when a rescue party arrives he is awakened by the sounds of gunfire as the locals destroy the zombies who are roaming outside.  Ben carefully exits the cellar but when a rescuer sees movement through the window of the house, Ben is taken for a zombie and is shot and killed.  It's a brilliantly tragic and horrific ending to the film.
Romero's suspenseful and claustrophobic masterwork is compelling and horrible.  It would be the birth of a decades-long career that continues to this day.  Romero has become one of the masters of horror.  Unfortunately, when this film was released the prints did not include a copyright notice.  Laws at the time meant that the film quickly became part of the public domain and though it has made millions of dollars worldwide, Romero and his crew have seen next to nothing of those profits.  Thankfully, after the night would come an even more terrifying Dawn...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rise of the Living Corpse

I just found this very brief stop-motion zombie film online and thought I'd share.  It's called Rise of the Living Corpse and was directed and animated by Christopher Walsh who's a fellow Wilfrid Laurier alum and Canadian!

8th Annual Toronto Zombie Walk

Yesterday, the 8th annual Toronto Zombie Walk took place.  I couldn't attend as I was at the first annual Toronto Speculative Fiction Colloquium (which was awesome) but I did see a lot of zombies roaming the rain-soaked streets in the evening.
Toronto has a very large and growing horror community.  We've got the fantastic Rue Morgue Magazine, the After Dark Film Festival and zombie master George A. Romero has even recently moved to Toronto and shot has last three films here.

The very first Zombie Walk was organized by the terrific Thea Munster in Toronto in 2003. That year there were only six undead walkers but in the intervening years the event has grown hugely popular.  Last year, over 6000 zombies walked in Toronto!  The event has also become worldwide with even many small cities and towns organizing their own Zombie Walks.
I was thrilled to participate in Vancouver's first Zombie Walk in 2005 and have enjoyed attending the Toronto walks since I've been back in Ontario.  I was sorry to miss this year's event but check out this video that I shot at the TIFF in 2009 when George A. Romero was on hand to celebrate the premiere of his Survival of the Dead.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

White Zombie (1932)

"A cloud of vultures always hovers over the house of the living dead."
Film historians usually point to White Zombie as the first film to feature zombies.  It was written by Canadian Garnett Weston (Supernatural) and directed by Victor Halperin (Party Girl, Revolt of the Zombies).  Though the film has largely been panned by critics, its financial success was enough to influence Paramount to place Victor Halperin under contract.  White Zombie is an independent film that was shot largely on rented sets at Universal Studios.  It was then distributed by United Artists.
The film stars the incomparable Bela Lugosi as 'Murder' Legendre, a student of voodoo who supplants his Haitian voodoo master and turns his enemies into zombies as free slave labour.  The story begins when Madeline Short Parker (Madge Bellamy) and her fiance, Neil Parker (John Harron), arrive in Haiti at the invitation of the wealthy Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer).  En route to Beaumont's house, the carriage driver is startled by a group of what he calls walking corpses and Legendre lets his strange gaze fall upon Madeline.
The couple eventually arrive safely at Beaumont's home where they are met by a missionary named Dr. Bruner (Joseph Cawthorn) whom Beaumont has called there to perform the couple's wedding ceremony.  Beaumont feigns interest in the couple but, in truth, he has fallen in love with Madeline and hopes to convince her to marry him instead of Neil. Beaumont greets his visitors and then leaves them to freshen up for the ceremony while he goes off to take care of some business matters.  
Beaumont is picked up in a carriage driven by a strange, emotionless zombie and taken to meet Legendre at his factory.  At the factory, Beaumont sees a small army of zombies working restlessly at various tasks.  When he meets with Legendre, he discusses his love of Madeline and his fear that she will not throw off Neil to marry him.  Legendre says there is only one way to ensure her compliance and he explains how he creates his zombies using some kind of drug.  Beaumont insists that there must be another way but Legendre insists he take the drug in case he changes his mind.  Beaumont then leaves for home where the wedding ceremony is shortly to begin.
Back at his home, everyone is ready for the wedding, and as Beaumont walks Madeline down the aisle he tries to convince her to marry him.  She refuses and Dr. Bruner marries her to Neil.  After the ceremony, Beaumont proposes a toast but he has tainted Madeline's drink with the drug given to him by Legendre.  Madeline faints and shortly thereafter is pronounced dead.  Neil is distraught and turns to drink.  Sometime later, Beaumont and Legendre remove Madeline's "corpse" from her tomb and it is revealed that she is actually undead; alive but drained of any soul or mind.
Almost immediately, Beaumont begins to regret what he has done.  He realizes that Madeline is practically lifeless and everything he loved about her is gone.  He confronts Legendre and begs him for a way to restore her.  He even offers his life for hers.  Legendre refuses as he has taken a liking to Madeline himself.  He poisons Beaumont with his zombie drug but Beaumont takes so little that it takes a long while for him to completely change. He remains living and thinking but loses the ability to speak.
Meanwhile, Neil and Dr. Bruner discover that Madeline's body is missing.  This confirms certain suspicions of Bruner's about Legendre and Beaumont.  They seek out a local witch doctor who informs them about zombies and how they can be created.  The duo then seek out Legendre to confront him and they discover what has become of Madeline.  Legendre commands a zombie to knock Neil unconscious and when he is, he commands Madeline to kill him.  However, some deep part of Madeline is still in love with Neil and she is able to resist the command.
Neil regains consciousness and the action moves outside to a terrace that overlooks the ocean.  Legendre sends a group of zombies after Neil but he is able to outwit them and they fall off the cliff to their doom.  Then Legendre faces Neil and Bruner himself but he has forgotten Beaumont who manages to attack from behind and as they grapple, Legendre also falls to his death.  Legendre dead, his powers are dissolved and Madeline returns to her living self.
Though critics often comment on the film's poor acting I've seen far worse.  I think the story is a bit simple and I would have liked a little more clarification on the zombies and whether they're actually dead or just under some kind of spell but I have a feeling that even the filmmakers didn't have those kinds of answers.  They certainly couldn't know that they were giving birth to an entire horror sub-genre that would become so popular.  Rob Zombie famously named his first band after this film.  If you're a Bela Lugosi fan (and who isn't?) you really have to check this film out and zombie fans will also enjoy seeing the origins of the species.