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Today is your last chance to vote in our vampire vs. zombie poll, and so inspired by Deanna’s movie list (and in one final desperate attempt to save my sinking undead ass) here’s my 15 (count ‘em!) reasons to vote zombie (BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!)…

  1. Zombie Walks: Healthy fun for all the family. Ever heard of “Vampire Walk”? No. Because vampires have no friends and it would be rubbish.
  2. Chainsaws: What kills zombies? POWER TOOLS. What kills vampires? Wooden stakes. WTF? Where’s the fun in that?
  3. Zombie Bikini Babes from Outer Space iPhone App: Zombies. Girls in bikinis. And throwing shit. What have you got Dracula? Oh, “a cape”. Nice.
  4. Marvel Zombies: Written by Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead (another good reason to vote zombie), and with a plot more complicated that cannot possibly be explained in a sentence, all you really need to know is that in an alternate universe the Marvel heroes you know and love are flesh-hungry zombies (and they eat The Silver Surfer m’f@ckr!). ‘Nuff said.
  5. The “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” scene in Shaun of the Dead: Old Skool 1980′s hip hop references AND zombies. What else do you want?
  6. The record throwing scene in Shaun of the Dead: ‘Purple Rain’? No. ‘Sign o’ the Times’? Definitely not. The ‘Batman’ soundtrack? Throw it. Genius. Name one even remotely funny vampire movie. JUST ONE. Vampires = not a good time.
  7. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: ignore all those new literary bandwagon-jumping vampire mash-ups. P+P+Z was the original literary Jane Austen horror remix.
  8. George A. Romero‘s “Living Dead” films: Dude. They’ve defined horror movies for like 40 years (Night of the Living Dead was made in 1968. NINETEEN-SIXTY-EIGHT!). And apparently George A. Romero is writing two zombie novels for Grand Central Publishing. Oh yeah.
  9. Thriller: The 14 minute  Michael Jackson music video directed by John Landis (director of the awesome An American Werewolf in London – see below) is proof that zombies CAN dance. Did I mention it also includes  not a rap by Vincent Price? Vincent F@cking Price.
  10. Resident Evil: The video game even I’ve heard off. Capcom’s zombie-riffic survival horror game — arguably one the most influential games of all time — that has now spawned several sequels, not to mention movies, novels, comics and action figures. Any vampire video games done that? Uh-uh.
  11. Emperor Zombie: The scene-stealing evil genius in the awesome 2002 comic The Amazing Screw-On Head by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola (published by Dark Horse) and the v. cool TV pilot adaptation created for the Sci-Fi Channel in 2006. Emperor Zombie (voiced by Frasier’s David Hyde-Pierce in the TV pilot) has a “petty vengeance fetish” and plots to take over the world. With a turnip. Oh, and in a nice twist, Emperor Zombie has a vampire sidekick.
  12. Frankenstein’s Monster: Mary Shelley’s reanimated corpse has had more influence on modern horror than any other fictional character than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But what makes Frankenstein’s monster more important than fang-face is that Shelley was actually making a point about modern science or something. Bram Stoker was just… I don’t know… writing some shit. Is Frankenstein’s monster actually a zombie? Well, you could say it’s debatable. I would say “hell yeah”.
  13. A Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen!
  14. Nazi Zombies: What’s worse than the undead? NAZI undead. If I remember one thing about watching John Landis’ An American Wolf in London as a teenager (apart from Jenny Agutter), it is the trauma-inducing Nazi zombies, and – oh dear god – and they recently made a comeback in Swedish horror movie Dead Snow. Truly. F@cking. Terrifying.
  15. Zombies aren’t vampires

VOTE ZOMBIE.

As UnDeath Match: Vampires Vs. Zombies enters its last week, it looks like that the zombies are done for. Despite my best efforts, vampires are leading our poll 59% to the zombies 41% at the time of writing.

WTF people? Really?

Boo.

Apparently there are a lot of shallow people who hate Canada and women, and secretly (or not so secretly) want to sleep with gay men (while sipping on your pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks).

I can’t say I’m not disappointed and I hope all that everyone who voted for kitten-eating vampires instead of the humble (dare I say cuddly?) zombie, is feeling quietly ashamed of themselves.

You all suck… (Did you see what I did there? Oh never mind…).

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this off just yet. There are still a few days left and as we all know, our zombie friends are remarkably resilient even if they don’t have a leg to stand on… So come on then, we’ll bite your arm off…

Vote Zombie! Polls close  Friday October 30th.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Note: I’ve previously discussed this book over at My Tragic Right Hip.

If the pure reason for writing a literary mash up like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is entertainment, then Seth Grahame-Smith accomplished his goals. It’s no literary masterpiece and it certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to being remotely as good as the original, but, well, I can’t deny that it made me laugh once or twice. The novel doesn’t take itself too seriously and I think that’s its saving grace.

If Grahame-Smith had come at this with the attitude of actually thinking he’d improve upon Austen, well, he would have failed miserably. One of the most interesting reviews I read in passing over the summer said something like the book would have been better had the author actually liked Austen’s original (I have no idea where I read this; so please correct me if I’ve gotten it completely wrong). I’d even go a bit further and say that there’s a definite misunderstanding of the time and customs in P+P+Z, and they’re often subverted so that the plot, those mash up aspects, can be clumsily inserted.

That said, the book read more like a current movie adaptation of Austen’s novel than anything else. In fact, entire sections of dialogue read almost verbatim to the Keira Knightley version (yes, I’ve seen it enough times to know), which sort of made the whole enterprise a little more palatable for me. Grahame-Smith got quite a few things wrong — the shrill nature of his Mrs. Bennett doesn’t have any of the savvy humour from the original, and Elizabeth seems to share a lot of her inner thoughts in ways that would have made the original Lizzie cringe (and the whole scene where she almost chops off one of her sister’s heads was just ridiculous).

But in terms of The Undeath Match, it’s hard to compare this book to The Strain. If I’m here to smack it down, as I’m supposed to, I’d say that the “unmentionables” are not remotely as scary as a vampire with a probing half-jaw/half-tongue thingy that ejects from their mouths to suck your blood. They seem to be easily dispensed of and seemingly endless, which I guess is the point of zombies. But, yawn, in terms of the endless discussion of different fighting techniques, and double yawn, in terms of the faux “battle of the sexes” stuff between Elizabeth and Darcy — this definitely works far better in the original and as it was intended to be read. However, the last scene pivotal fight scene, and I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, is truly awesome. And I can’t really criticize it at all, actually.

I suppose there’s something to be said about keeping up what is kind of a joke of a premise on a semi-serious level throughout the book. But doesn’t it fall flat? There’s no emotional currency running through the book added by the zombies. I mean, other than Charlotte (and gross, gross, gross), not a single character is truly affected by their presence. They’re almost like members of the lower classes — forgotten until they get in your way on the road from one estate to the other. In The Strain, the vampire-like creatures provide a very real and very sustained threat to the life and livelihood of the main characters, there’s something at stake, there’s a reason to be fighting them. And trying to fold “fighting skills” into the ideals of the time, the education of women and the idea that to be considered of consequence you must have excellent skills, feels a little forced.

Regardless, all the power to P+P+Z for creating a brand-new “form” of fiction at a time when the death of publishing in general is being touted, and for proving that the words “internet sensation” aren’t just lip service.

So, holler back Wagstaff — how do you come at The Strain?

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been away for a couple weeks (anyone? Aw come on! Surely someone noticed? Mom? Geez…), and while off on my adventures I missed a whole bunch of vampire/zombie action, so here are some links for your undead reading pleasure:

Zombies are the New BlackThe National Post reports that George A. Romero, legendary film director of the zombie cult-classic, Night of the Living Dead, has been commissioned to write his debut novel. No prizes for guessing what it is about…

The Everything Vampire Challenge — Ardeth Blood wants you to do 6 things vampire related and blog about it. Huh. Is anyone doing ‘The Everything Zombie Challenge’???

Vampire-Hunting Kits in LA Weekly — “Some of these vampire hunting kits are ‘authentic.’ Some were assembled by artists aiming to capture the antique beauty of the things. Others are straight up hoaxes.” No shit.

8 Horror Webcomics To Read in the Dark compiled by io9 (Raising Hell by Andy Belanger shown above!).

Little Women and Werewolves — *cough* shameless-bandwagon-jumping *cough*

An oldie but a goodie — Capcom’s Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles tee for the San Diego ComicCon a few months back (above). On a related note ThinkGeek have Zombie Brains Hoodie… Who says zombies aren’t stylish??

AND lastly — Deanna (our resident blood-sucking harpy — no wait, that didn’t come out right… Umm… ‘Vampire-In-Chief’? Note to self: STOP DIGGING…) has reviewed P+P+Z at her blog Tragic Right Hip. Expect a more scathing take here at a later date…

(PS special thanks to @AliasGrace for sending me most of these links!)

George A. Romero, legendary film director of the zombie cult-classic, Night of the Living Dead, has been commissioned by UK publisher Headline, to write his debut novel

There’s nothing like a list to spark some controversy, so tell us what you think of the Boston Globe‘s list of the 50 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time.

There’s some obvious choices including 28 Days Later (#18), which Deanna and I will be reviewing soon, and I’ve got to tell you Audition at #10 certainly gets my vote as flipping terrifying, but there’s some not so obvious choices as well — hello Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at #47 and er… documentary Jesus Camp at #17.

Of course,  it’s good to see the zombies (and pft… a few vampires) represented, but what would you choose?

Zombieland starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg

Zombieland starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg

Cinematical has a great article up about “Why Zombies Make Better Horror Movies Than Vampires” — and while this goes directly against what I’m fighting for here — I just had to post some of it up (thanks Kath for the link!):

The battle of the undead on the big screen has been under way for some time now, and after months of hearing that vampires are taking over pop culture, it seems like we shouldn’t quite put our friends the zombies (no, not those ones) down for the count. Over at Newsweek, Sarah Ball put together a few reasons as to why zombies will never beat vampires in a pop-culture zeitgeist-off thanks to our long-standing love-affair with the pale tortured types. But just this weekend, audiences proved that when it comes to the walking dead, the zombies still have what it takes to bring in the crowds.

Everybody has their personal preferences (and man I love those bloodsuckers), so even though I’ve watched more vampire content than I care to remember (I even sat through the pilot of The Vampire Diaries), and I’ll always be a dedicated ‘fan of the fang’, I think that sometimes those drooling bumbling walking corpses might be better suited (at least these days) to the world of horror. Here’s why:

After the jump: my top 3 reasons Zombies (might) make better horror movies.

And while they may make their point for movies, I’m still to be convinced that zombies do better in books than vampires do.

Dear Dan,

We’ve been dancing around this vampires vs. zombies thing for a few weeks now. Back and forth, blaming each other for the audacity to defend one another’s tastes and anti-Canadian sentiments; anything really, to pull ahead in the poll. As of yesterday, vampires were winning, taking 53% of the popular vote. So, now that we’ve spent the last few weeks slinging mud, I want to take it back to the books. You know, the whole reason we’re here in the first place. One thing I’m not going to state outright is that one book is BETTER than the other; I’m simply going to compare and contrast the villains, namely the zombies and the vampires.

1. For the most part, the zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (P+P+Z) are secondary to the story. Sure the “unmentionables” make a few appearances but, for the most part, they’re off screen. They’re hiding in the bushes and moaning in the hills. There’s no “main” zombie character (except for Charlotte; and even then, I’d call her a secondary character). Sure, there’s a lot of talk about how to fight them, where you were trained, and the unfortunate reality of living in a world where they exist.

1.5 And while the vampires in The Strain are similar in the sense that they’re something humans are fighting against, there’s a master villain who sets off the entire situation. Ancient, strong and essentially the whole reason the scourge starts in the United States, this vampire is bad-ass. Something you can truly fear. Like David Arquette floating outside your window in the original Buffy movie freaky (am I remembering that correctly?).

Score: Vampires

2. (SPOILERS) Both books have main characters who rile up an emotional response when the inevitable happens. In P+P+Z, it’s Charlotte. In, The Strain, it’s Eph’s wife. As I think it’s kind of unfair for poor Charlotte, who everyone realizes is plain and ends up with the insufferable Mr. Collins, to also be inflicted by the horrors of turning into a zombie, I’m going to give this round to P+P+Z.

Score: Zombies.

3. The heroes. It’s impossible to compare Eph to Darcy. I mean, Darcy is DARCY, the quintessential male hero in all of romantic literature. That said, of course Darcy fights the zombies with aplomb. I mean, he’s from the upper classes, had all that great training in  Japan and eventually needs to win his way back to Elizabeth’s heart. But honestly, whatevs, to an extent. It’s a story we know (and love) well. In The Strain, Eph not only has to fight the strange vampire/zombie hybrids, but also convince the entire world that there’s a major epidemic. See, Darcy doesn’t have to make anyone believe that there are unmentionables, he’s got it easy, I’d say, all he has to do is grab his sword and start beheading. Eph’s got to discover the problem, convince everyone there IS a problem and then fight the problem. Also, the vampires in The Strain are damn scary. DAMN SCARY.

Score: Vampires

So, it looks like the vampires are still coming out ahead. Whatcha got now?

I’m not going to lie, I found this hilarious. Dan and I reviewed 28 Days Later; it’ll be up later this week. But for now, I’m going with the argument that even this dude can kill a whack of “unmentionables” in 60 seconds or less. Ohhh, I’m shaking in my $400.00 boots at the scary, scary zombies. Yawn.

Don Roff‘s new book Zombie: A Record of the Year of Infection will be published by Chronicle Books (and available from Raincoast in Canada) in October.

A screenwriter and former US Army Ranger (!) Don seemed like an excellent person to chat to about this whole ker-razy zombie vs vampire thing we’ve got going on, and so I decide to email him a few questions about his new book and who would kick whose ass.

(In retrospect I really, really should have asked him about efficacy of various firearms in close combat with zombies and other undead, but maybe next time?)

What’s the premise of Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection?
The book is based on a manuscript discovered in rural Canada, following the 2012 zombie invasion called the “Year of the Dead” that wiped out over sixty percent of the earth’s population. The manuscript, authored by a Seattle-based blood scientist, Dr. Robert Twombly, has been organized carefully to serve as a treatise, survival guide, and the single most comprehensive study of the zombie species ever published.

What was the inspiration for the book?
Believe it or not, Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet was the original inspiration. And you can still see some of that if you compare the covers. The idea, which was born from Becker & Mayer in Bellevue, Washington, was to lampoon the popular, ubiquitous Gnomes book with zombies. Before I was brought on, there had been some concept sketches done for the book proposal. My friend and collaborator, Ryan Hobson, who works at B&M as an illustrator told me that there was “a zombie book in the works.” Immediately, I started emailing contacts at B&M to find out who the editor was on the project. Unfortunately, they already had a best-selling zombie writer considered for the project. But the editor, Amy Wideman, asked me if I wanted to help “flesh out” the book outline and write some copy for the already drawn-up illustrations. Naturally, I was stoked. It was work that I would have happily done for free.

If you’ve ever read Gnomes (and if you haven’t you should, it’s a charming book), it is an illustrated observation in the life of the little woodland creatures. They build houses, protect the forest, get married, and all that. The problem with zombies is that they do none of that. They just shuffle around, kill, eat, repeat. That’s it. This was supposed to be a 144-page book. So there didn’t seem like a way to have somebody just observe “zombie behaviour” without it getting, well, a little dead. So I had to create an entire story of a survivor and why he was documenting this information as he also tried to stay alive.

Since the word count of the book was 15,000 words tops (that’s about the word count to a 105-page screenplay) and I have the most experience writing screenplays, I first wrote up a story “beat sheet” of the narrative and then added observations that could be gleaned by the protagonist, Dr. Twombly. I wrote up a 1,700-word outline in about a week and turned it in. B&M was really happy with the outline and the text that I wrote for the sample illustrations. And lucky for me, the other author dropped out of the project. So I was brought on to complete what I started.

Was it a lot of fun to write?
Absolutely. I didn’t have as much time to write and develop it as I wanted (who ever does) but I’m happy how it turned out. Ultimately, the story had to be character-driven since we were following Dr. Twombly around. I believe that the main appeal for zombies is the What-Would-I-Do-In-This-Situation fantasy. People want to be put to the test to see how they’d perform, and end-of-civilization scenarios seem to be the most seductive. So I wanted to make the character the antithesis of somebody who would do well, like say, John Rambo from the films. Dr. Robert Twombly works in a blood lab and for fun is a birdwatcher. He really has to learn to survive along the way and with help from people he meets. I also wanted to throw a bit of narrative irony in there. He’s a guy, a lab nerd, who’s really experiencing life in the great outdoors for the first time, amidst all of this death. There was irony with him being a birdwatcher, but never really noticing things before. He just lived in his little humdrum, routine existence like most of us do. I hope that is what will make Twombly more relatable to readers. He goes to an office everyday, does his job, but then one day, the world comes apart around him and it’s he who has to deal with it.

Who did all the gory illustrations?
The magnificent illustrations were done by Chris Lane. I haven’t met him, but we’ve spoke via phone an email. When I first learned who the illustrator was on the project, I immediately Googled him to do some research. When I found his website, I knew that he was the right artist for the job. His stuff is gory and macabre, but oddly beautiful at the same time. When I first saw his pictures with my words, I got a chill. It’s as exciting as making a film. Maybe even more. He pulled this dark world from the text, which was darkened than I could even imagine, but it works. There’s an in-your-face, unrelenting quality to his images that’s important for this genre.

You also have a book called Vampire Tales coming out this fall with Scholastic. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Love to. I’ve been writing books for Scholastic Book Clubs for about three years now. It first started with Scary Stories, then when that sold well, I was brought back to write Tales of Terror, Dragon Adventures, True Scary Stories, Creepy Stories, and now Vampire Tales. Obviously, there are kids reading them, which is great. I received my first fan letter from a eight-year-old reader and I about cried. I was so happy that my words moved someone enough to compel them to write a letter to me.

Like the other books, Vampire Tales contains five original short stories, these, as you may have figured out, revolved around vampires. Having a lifelong love of vampires (Dracula has been my hero since age 6) I had many stories to share on the subject. Of all the Scholastic books, this is probably my best. One, because I’m getting better at writing shorter fiction, and two, I was passionate about the subject. Vampire Tales and the rest, unfortunately, are only available through Scholastic Book Clubs. But I’ve seen some of the books turn up on Amazon used or people have even told me that they’ve picked up copies at yard sales, which, I guess, is cool.

Each vampire story ends on a cliffhanger which prompts the reader to be satisfied with the ending as is, add to it, or even write their own original story. Their ideas are protected by a vampire-claw lock and key. The books, in a way, are story journals. My name doesn’t appear on the covers of the books for that reason.

You’re a screenwriter as well as an author, so did you watch a lot of horror movies for ‘research’?
I didn’t do much research for the project. Mostly I read the Gnomes book, since it was the book we were supposed to be lampooning, for ideas, but there weren’t that many usable ones since gnomes and zombies are such different creatures. I have had a lifelong love with zombies and have seen nearly all the films, so I wanted to filter those memories through the book without any direct reference. Edgar Allan Poe and the US Army Ranger handbook were just as much help as any zombie film that I could recall. Chronicle Books was also great in that they let me move around the genre in anyway that I saw fit. I had tremendous creative leeway. I wanted to stay with some of the preconceived zombie “rules,” but wanted to experiment with a few new ones. I also think that any self-respecting zombie film, or horror film, or science fiction film or book, should be a reflection of the time that it was written in. Especially with more sophisticated audiences where straight horror just doesn’t do it anymore. I personally like a little thought behind the horror films that I love—Psycho, Dawn of the Dead (original), The Exorcist, Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, (original).

OK, so you’re something of an expert here. Who do you think wins in a fight, vampire or zombie?
My original answer, after considering the question for only a few minutes is that the fight would be a stalemate. Vampires move faster, and are stronger and swifter than zombies. But what zombies lack in strength and speed they make up in volume. There are just too many of them. Three vampires could probably rip the heads of an army of 100 zombies, but it wouldn’t matter. The zombies, like the inevitable Death itself, would keep marching on unhindered. Now, thinking about it, I would have to give the fight to the zombies. Here’s why—vampires are a predatory creature. They NEED to feed in order to survive, zombies do not. Vampires cannot feed on the dead. Without humans, vampires would have to resort to animals to survive. Vampires would eventually eat their way to extinction. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Thanks Don!

You can find Don’s blog here and (please) follow him like a dogged zombie scenting brain on Twitter.

Just to reinforce the point that brainy women should be voting zombie, Suite 101 reminds us all of the appeal of P+P+Z:

Perhaps what is so fascinating about this new version is the light of strength and independance it paints the women in. While Elizabeth was often the more “mature” of her sisters in the original, in this she is even more clearly so, as the protector of not only the family but of the village.

Her relationship with Mr. Darcy hinges not only on their mutual attraction and developing friendship, but also on the fact that they are equals in the killing of zombies. Elizabeth’s personality quirks are certainly brought to the forefront when she exalts in the killing of “satan’s spawn”, going so far as to paint the blood of a vanquished zombie on her face as she chops off its head.

So to recap ladies: You could be swooning over vampires  OR you could be chopping the heads off zombies and smearing blood on your face. Your call.

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