Tag Archives: zombie

What Are We Afraid Of?

Well folks, October has come and gone, and gone with it is the movie industry’s litter of trope-y, recycled Halloween cash-ins.

Yes, I’m talking about you. Now get out of here. Scram.

This means we can get back to the horror movies being made as movies first, rather than cynical money-grabs.

Excluding the Paranormal Activity franchise, but obviously that goes without saying…

See, say what you like about horror flicks (and there’s no shortage of criticism to be leveled), I do truly believe this is a genre just as important as any other- heck, possibly even more. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s a better gauge for contemporary culture than the things we fear most as a society. Continue reading

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The Strain: It’s Nosferatu on Steroids

My last quasi-review on this blog was of Helix, a sci-fi horror show about a strange and deadly contagion which had overpowered a research lab in the arctic circle. My issue wasn’t with the set or the story, but rather that Helix wasn’t really about anything. Science fiction is a medium for us to explore big ideas, like the line between humanity and technology, free will, and responsibility. The horror genre functions the same way, with its stories serving as ways for us to examine the duality of our nature…

…our place in the cosmos…

…and questions of faith.

Going into The Strain, my biggest question was “what’s this all about?”, and readers, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that it’s a blast.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Dark, Gritty Fan Art of Beloved Childhood Characters

I was in a dark place when I wrote the post I am least proud of: Fame Day: Creativity [and Imagination]. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a relevant topic, especially right now when it’s more common to see children in front of screens than playing make believe with their toys, it’s just that at the time I figured that writing it was the easy way out. As luck would have it, all of that segues really smoothly into today’s topic-

I hate dark and gritty fan art because it is both uncreative and lazy.

To be totally transparent, I was a high schooler once, so I did think these were really awesome once upon a time. It wasn’t until much later when I realized that if you want to take a beloved childhood character and make it appeal to a large section of the internet you have three simple options:

1) Make said character a killer/capable of killing.

There are altogether far too many gritty Inspector Gadget pictures out there.

Continue reading

Internet Disgusted By Video Game Promotion [Also: Zombie Breasts]

Way back in the February of 2011 the following trailer was released for the video game Dead Island:


It was so impressive that last I heard, Lionsgate was going to make a Dead Island film based on the trailer. Not the game, the trailer for the game. A feature-length film based on the trailer for a video game. Think on that for a bit.

What it does is speak volumes for the game’s publisher, Deep Silver, and those it hired to advertise the game. There was an emphasis placed on the feelings of terror and loss and the need to protect one’s family; it sought to set itself apart from other zombie games [of which there are so many]. Unfortunately the game turned out to be your fairly standard run-of-the-mill zombie hack and slash, but that’s not the point here.

The point is that this trend was actually continued in the promotion of the game’s sequel, Dead Island: Riptide, the trailer of which can be viewed here. The tone is once again consistent with that of the first, highlighting the terrors of a vacation gone horribly, horribly wrong. Which is great. And which is why the following seems so shockingly out of place.

The image you see above is a promo image for the European “Zombie Bait Edition” of the game, the crowning glory of which is the statuette at the centre. This was, earlier this week, described as being “Dead Island’s grotesque take on an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture.” This was met with understandable outrage and disgust from the internet, which prompted those at Deep Silver to scramble wildly and release the following apology:

“We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide “Zombie Bait Edition”, the collector’s edition announced for Europe and Australia. Like many gaming companies, Deep Silver has many offices in different countries, which is why sometimes different versions of Collector’s Editions come into being for North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

For the limited run of the Zombie Bait Edition for Europe and Australia, a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.

We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the Dead Island community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver’s entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.”

 So no harm now foul, right? Dead Silver took back their horrible statuette and we can chalk another victory up for the internet! But why exactly were people upset? An article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun which I linked to but will link to again said this about it:

This is beyond disgusting. It’s as if someone were attempting to demonstrate the most misogynist idea that could possibly be conceived, in an attempt to satirise the ghastly trend. A text book example of the most extreme ends of misogynist fantasy, a woman reduced to nothing but her tits, her wounds hideously depicted in gore, jutting bones, and of course barely a mark covering her globular breasts.

It’s very prevalent in a lot of zombie imagery you can find nowadays, and it’s certainly present in this picture of a zombified Snow White on the left. Her body is mutilated [appropriately so, for a zombie] but her breasts remain completely untouched. There’s this sense of the grotesque from the image as a whole, but her chest remains an object of potential titillation.

I don’t think I have to say too much about how grossly sexist this is, and how prevalent it is in the society we live in. What I am going to say is thank God that on some level we can make enough of a public outcry to stop stuff like this before it happens. The bottom line is this: if we as a community [on the internet or otherwise] care enough about something, we really can do something about it.  Even if it’s just stopping the production and sales of a tasteless statue.

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A rebuttal to essentially everything I’ve written can be read in an article by Daav Valentaten on Venture Beat entitled “The Dead Island: Riptide reaction was an equality fail.” I present it as a counterpoint to my own post.

The Horror, The Horror

Today, I’m going to talk about horror.

Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.

Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.

So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.

Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.

Fear For Self

First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.

Fear Of Self

Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.

Fear Of No Self

Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.

Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.

So what do we fear as a society right now?

Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.

At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.

Fame Day: George Romero

Who invented Rock-and-Roll? Who should be credited as the inventor of the video game? Who’s responsible for the Zoidberg meme? Who is responsible for the way we celebrate Halloween?

Simple truth of the matter is, we can trace plenty of elements of culture to the general time period or people group where they originated, but never just who first came up with the idea of shoelaces, or “push it somewhere else Patrick.”

There’s plenty of our culture that we just accept without being able to credit the inventor, however, this Fame Day we’ll be shining the spotlight on someone we can.

The one and only George Romero, whose influence on our culture arguable is on par with Rock-and-Roll.

Romero, for those few of you who might not recognize the name, is the creator of such films as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, and according to many the father of all zombies.

Now while that affectionate title has been attached to him, the fact of the matter is, Romero did not invent the concept of the living dead. What he did do, however, was bring the concept out of obscurity, and do it so well that his work has become the basis for all subsequent zombie-horror. Zombieland, The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, Left for Dead, World War Z, Plants Vs. Zombies, Stephen King’s Cell, “Thriller,” I am Legend, you name it. There’s hardly an aspect of our culture that hasn’t had some zombie influence or spin-off (even before our recent craze), and there’s hardly an aspect of the zombie mythos that hasn’t been cemented and popularized by Romero. The man has simply hit it out of the park.

Now I’m not saying you have to like zombies- you don’t. I’m not saying that you have to like the films of George Romero- I don’t. But you have got to respect a man who has had such a profound influence on not only American, but world culture over the past half century (that’s right, half-century).

So, George Romero, in this last minute before midnight on Halloween 2012, we here at Culture War Reporters are tipping our hats to you.