Guest contributor William Todd Rose is the author of Apocalyptic Organ Grinder. The first book to be released from Hydra, a new digital-first imprint from Random house.
Read Part One of “Fun With Dead Things” here and download Apocalyptic Organ Grinder next Tuesday!
A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.
Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead?
Fun with Dead Things: 10 Zombie Comedies You Don’t Want to Miss (Part Two)
William Todd Rose
6) Return of the Living Dead Part 2: This list wouldn’t be complete without the XXXX zombie classic, Return of the Living Dead: Part 2. The first installment in the series was a good movie, but the sequel really packs in some comedic punches and I’ve always preferred it , partly because it often draws on the events of the first film for its humor. If there’s actually anyone out there who hasn’t seen this movie, the beginning of the end starts when a barrel of Trioxin falls off the a military truck; the barrel is subsequently found (and opened) by some kids, thus unleashing a gas with the ability to reanimate corpses. Unlike most other films in the genre, these zombie have the ability to speak, regardless of how advanced their decomposition might be, and simply destroying the brain does nothing to stop them. Speaking of brains, the Return of The Living Dead series is solely responsible for the idea that zombies are connoisseurs of gray matter. The stereotypical image of a horde of zombie shambling about as they repeatedly moan, “Braaaiiiins” is lifted directly from this series, so the influence of these films on zombie lore is staggering.
7) Die-ner (Get it?): I have to admit that I hate this movie’s title. The Get It? within parentheses seems superfluous and almost comes across as insulting. Luckily, the film quickly redeems itself. We are introduced to Ken, an itinerant serial killer who wanders into an all-night diner during the graveyard shift. Being the only customer, Ken eventually kills the waitress and cook, cleans up his mess, and stashes the corpses within the walk-in freezer. Forced to assume the role of an employee when more customers (including the local sheriff) enter the diner, Ken does remarkably well… until, that is, the waitress and cook come back from the dead as flesh eating zombies. What makes Die-ner so much fun is its dialog. Ken is a very matter-of-fact serial murderer who takes everything in stride; when questioned as to why he has so much rope and duct tape on hand, he genuinely seems befuddled, answering the question with one of his own: “It’s my rope and tape bag… what else would I have in there?” In another scene, Ken casually mentions he killed the employees earlier and then responds to the shocked questioning of his captive by explaining that he does it all the time, but the victims usually don’t come back. Deadpan humor is key in this movie with Ken masterfully acting as the straight man. So don’t let the title put you off… this is really one you don’t want to miss.
Dead Alive: Before sharing his vision of Middle Earth with the world, Peter Jackson also directed this low-budget, and often overlooked, zombie movie. Known outside North American as Braindead, the zombie menace in this film is unleashed by a Sumatran Rat Monkey, which according to legend was the results of tree monkeys on Skull Island being raped by plague-riddled rats. The animal eventually infects Vera, the overbearing mother of Lionel Cosgrove, while she’s spying on her son’s new love interest at the zoo. After passing away, Vera’s pathologically dedicated son attempts to sedate her reanimated corpse with heavy doses of veterinary anesthetic while simultaneously continuing his courtship of Paquita, the local shopgirl who’d accompanied him to the zoo on that fateful day. Despite Lionel’s efforts, his undead mother manages to kill several townspeople, furthering the zombie epidemic. One of my favorite scenes in Dead Alive pits a Kung Fu-wielding priest against a small group of the walking dead in an all-too-short flurry of fists and feet. With its in your face campiness and over the top gore, Dead Alive will never be hailed as a cinematic masterpiece… but it’s a great way to kill a couple hours when all you’re really craving is some lighthearted, zombie goodness.
9) Juan of the Dead: This little gem comes to us from Cuba and follows the exploits of the titular Juan, a middle-aged slacker who isn’t opposed to making money, as long as it’s easy. His partner, Lazaro, is just as lazy as Juan, but a bit more bumbling, and the pair’s schemes inevitably lead to trouble. This has caused Juan’s daughter, Camila, to want nothing to do with her father as she seems him as nothing more than a petty crook and thief. When people seemingly become violent and attack others without provocation, the government labels them “dissidents”… however, Juan quickly recognizes the true nature of the problem: zombies. The best way to deal with a zombie apocalypse, he decides, is to turn it to his financial advantage; he starts a business called Juan of the Dead whose slogan is, “Juan of the Dead: We Kill Your Loved Ones”. Which is one of the things I love about this film. In most zombie-themed movies, the characters’ focus is purely on survival. They are trying to get from Point A to Point B or defending their stronghold against waves of attacking zombies. In this movie, however, we see someone who witnesses a national catastrophe and finds a way to make it work for him, which is one of the things which makes this such a great film.
10) Tokyo Zombie: As you may have guessed from the title, the final movie on this list comes from Japan. Based on a 1999 manga, the plot centers around two employees at a fire extinguisher plan (Fujio and Mitsuo) who have secret dreams of being wrestling champions. While practicing their moves at work, the pair accidentally kill their boss with a fire extinguisher and try to cover up the crime by dumping his body at “Black Fuji”, a mountain of refuse and garbage where residents dump anything and everything. Black Fuji, however, is also responsible for churning out zombies. After the initial setup, the film jumps five years into the future where gladiator-style zombie fights are held by a woman who keeps the undead (as well as a few survivors) as slaves. This is a slapstick comedy and the humor isn’t quite as dark as some of the other films I’ve mentioned, but that doesn’t detract from the movie in any way. If you’re a fan of comedy, Asian cinema, and/or zombies this is one you’ll definitely want to add to your To Watch list.
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