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Sunday, July 5, 2009

zombies on the brain

I have never been a fan of horror movies because basically I am a big wimp.

The horrific images stay with me far too long, lurking in dark corners, creeping down shadowy halls with quiet creaks that almost sound like footsteps, as I try to steel my way to bed at night.

But ever since I saw An American Werewolf in London over 20 years ago, I have made an exception for those horror movies that also make me laugh.

The movie is about a young man backpacking through Europe who gets attacked by a werewolf. I saw it when I was a young woman backpacking through Europe while staying at a youth hostel in Switzerland, the audience all young people backpacking through Europe. We laughed at the references that hit home for us, visiting strange taverns, speaking with odd locals. We laughed as the hostel staff rewound the video tape and added their own Moondance to the sounds of Van Morrison (this movie has a kickass moon soundtrack).

But there are also horribly bloody scenes and scares and frights that are (mostly) leavened with a dark sense of humour that made them bearable to me. Making this the first horror movie I actually enjoyed.

However, I'm sure none of us in the audience that night were too keen to go exploring the moors on foggy nights any time soon.

Since that night, I have found myself venturing off the main road and onto the foggy moors of horror movies, looking for the ones that provided that loopy mix of comedy and horror. But those kind of movies are few and far between.

I found one last night in Shaun of the Dead.

I have stayed away from zombie movies even when I knew they had a sense of humour. The Evil Dead movies in particular have attracted but repelled me as well. The scenes of zombies pounding at windows, trapping their would-be victims in the false safety of their homes, falling on the unlucky ones and the gore that follows. Too intense for me, too unrelenting and hopeless for the desperate souls trying to survive their night of terror.

But I made an exception for Shaun of the Dead because I heard it was so funny. And it is.

Shaun and his friends are leading a zombie existence even before the terror descends, and it is hard to figure out at first when the real zombies have actually shown up. The movie shows us that the drudgery of every day life often causes people to move through their lives with the same sort of lost zombie shuffle, but at least with less bloody show.

The crisis forces Shaun to shake off his inaction and turns him into a cricketbat-wielding action hero, albeit one who chooses rather inopportune moments to finally address the factors that are holding him back from a fuller life, e.g. it is inadvisable to confront your boyhood pal about his juvenile ways while dozens of zombies are advancing upon you. The zombies may be slow, but they have no patience and will not wait for you to obtain closure.

Ironically, what makes the movie so funny is that it can also be very scary. Its climactic moments have just the kind of scenes that I find so hard to put out of my mind, but with a delicious black-humoured spin that makes me laugh and breaks my heart all at once.

Like all zombie movies, too many people you care about fall along the way, often because they are too busy arguing about the stuff that they are normally too afraid to confront, e.g. it is inadvisable to defend your prior questionable behaviour while standing in front of window being pressed upon by relentless zombies.

Zombies eat that stuff up.

Afterwards, even though the crisis ends with some survivors and the movie ends on a laugh, I found myself with a sense of unease. Her Father turned to me and told me it was time for bed, yet I did not feel like I wanted to go to bed.

I thought of staying downstairs and watching tv for a while afterwards but then looked suspiciously at the basement windows, one cracked, the other with the exterior pane broken out by rampaging black labs - how long could they withstand a zombie attack?

I went to bed instead, trying to read the zombies out of my head, but they wouldn't go. Too fond of brains.

So instead I told Her Father that we needed to press forward in our plans to beef up our zombie defenses, er, I mean, replace our old windows and siding.

And maybe purchase some cricket bats.


  1. Testing new comment protocol. Please ignore.

  2. So that didn't work. How about this?

  3. here i go again

  4. Sorted. Anyone may now comment, even you, Anonymous. Please keep it civilized. :-)

  5. Shaun of the Dead is a great movie! I should watch it again one of these days. Same with An American Werewolf in London.

    I'm not afraid of zombies. Of course, I do live in a second-floor apartment so they can't come through the windows. I think my door is sturdy.

    Maybe I should be afraid...

  6. We have windows at ground level in our tv room. Although you do have to get up some steep stairs to get to them. Unless you climb over the back fence from the back yard behind us. Can zombies climb stairs or over fences?

  7. I think zombies can climb stairs. Well, they can claw their way up out of their graves no problem, so they should be able to handle a few stairs. As for the fence, they are pretty relentless, so I think they would keep at it until they got over the fence, or beat their way through it. Be afraid. Be very afraid

  8. ceevee, She Who Does Not Obey must never see your comment because I just got her to go to sleep tonight by telling her that zombies cannot climb stairs. I have never seen them climb stairs, so they don't climb stairs. Also, Blankie Blank is a magic blanket and keeps children safe from harm. Given the fact that all this zombie talk is starting to make me want to put Blankie Blank over my own head, I am going to keep on believing that zombies can't climb stairs too.