Archive for the ‘Zombies’ Category

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Blasphemous fun!

March 14, 2013

I haven’t made a zombie themed post in ages, it seems. After seeing the short film below, I knew I had to do my part in giving it some publicity. It’s silly, gory, way over the top and nonsensical, but there’s an endearing quality to it. Maybe it’s just the long day at work…

For more information see the official Fist of Jesus homepage, as they’re looking to turn this gem into a feature film!

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Author interview – Wayne Simmons

January 6, 2013

In the third Dawn of the Lead author interview, Wayne Simmons, the author of Flu and Fever, is put on the spot. Enjoy, and go check out his homepage!

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DotL: The important question: Why zombies?

WS: Because I’ve loved zombie stories since the first time I watched George Romero’s Dead series. Night of the Living Dead is my favourite because, in a way, it’s the most character-focused: the zombies themselves are only a plot device. The main horror comes from what the people in that movie do to each other, how an event like the zombie apocalypse, and the pressure it brings, can make even people with the best of intentions turn on each other, often with terrible consequences.

I write zombie stories because I love the human stories they evoke. And, of course, who doesn’t like a good ol’ gory headshot?

DotL: Any personal zombie favourites – for example books, movies or games – you wish to share with the readers?

WS: Definitely Night of the Living Dead, the original ‘68 version, of course (which I reviewed recently). I also rave about a lesser known French z-flick entitled Mutants. It’s an absolute winner. You should look it up, if you haven’t done so already.

DotL: Especially in Flu there seems to be a very strong anti-establishment sentiment, care to shed some light?

WS: I rarely talk politics, apart from with friends. Politics, like religion, is a hugely divisive topic and can leave otherwise perfectly balanced individuals at each other’s throats. But, without going too deep, I consider myself a left-leaning Libertarian and view all political parties and governments, whether to the left or right, with suspicion. I don’t on any conscious level try to hammer this, or any other message, into my writing: my primary concern is to entertain and engage readers. That said, these books are a product of me and a great deal of my experience, whether it be the characters or the world within which each story is set, can be found there. There’s an anti-establishment sentiment because I’m an anti-establishment kind of guy. Simple as.

DotL: On a related note, how did you feel about tackling The Troubles in your books? I assume it’s still a touchy subject for many. Have you received feedback regarding the subject?

WS: I think it’s a much less touchy subject these days than it might have been, say twenty or thirty years ago.

Again, because I consider myself apolitical so to speak, I don’t feel my writing sways one way or the other. The story is always told from the perspective of its characters, all of whom have a very different angle on The Troubles. You have Pat Flynn in Flu and Mairead Burns in Drop Dead Gorgeous, both of whom are ex-IRA yet feel very differently about their actions of the past. Then you have the two cops in Flu, who think another way entirely. Or soldier Roy Beggs in DDG.

Like I said before, the z-poc brings a lot of these human emotions to the fore. I like to think we see some very interesting drama unfold within my writing because of that.

Either way, I think us Northern Irish folks don’t take ourselves too seriously. Sure, there’s The Troubles and, while it is a very serious topic and I, like many others in Ireland and beyond, have lost family to the conflict, it’s also proved a great source of parody. Local comedians are forever taking the piss. As a novelist, Colin Bateman has been writing about The Troubles for a lot longer than I have, and isn’t shy of sending the whole thing up. And that’s cool.

DotL: Flu and Fever depict some of the most disgusting zombies I’ve ever seen described. Did you ever gross yourself out writing them?

WS: Ha! Not really.

As a lifelong horror geek, I’ve a pretty strong stomach. I’m an old-school gorehound. Love all the messiness of horror, and they don’t come any more messy than zombies!

It was fun going to town with the body horror of it all.

DotL: Fever was in my opinion a lot more bleak than Flu. Was this intentional, or did it just creep in there?

WS: It was bleak, for sure, but I like to think there’s plenty of dark humour within my writing to offset that. Whether the humour comes across, or not, is another thing. Some people mention the humour, and seem to enjoy it, others don’t seem to get it at all.

It’s no big deal either way: each reader’s experience will be different and that’s cool.

With zombie horror, it’s hard not to be bleak. It’s the most brutal survival horror genre out there. Richard Matheson set the precedence with his 1954 classic I Am Legend, the story of the last man to survive a vampire apocalypse (although the vamps behaved more like zombies).

There is no way out. Everyone is most likely going to die.

DotL: What’s next? Are we going to see a third book in the Flu series?

WS: Absolutely. The third will probably be the final book in the Flu series, although I plan to return to that world on a regular basis with short stories and the like. I hope to have it written some time in 2013.

Before that, I have a cyberpunk book to get out there, as well as two crime books, a vampire book and a fun homage to 80s slasher horror (co-written with fellow genre hack, Andre Duza).

I’m very busy, but, as a lifelong fanboy, very happy to be working in this industry.

DotL: Let’s say an actual zombie apocalypse happens. How do you rate your chances for survival?

Pish-poor.

Everyone has a plan and here’s mine: get to the safest and most secure spot I can find. Grab some food and water, and a good book or two, and lockdown. Then try and enjoy the little time I have left.

DotL: Wayne Simmons, thanks very much for the interview. Any last words for the readers?

WS: Just a big thanks to you, Mikko, for your time. Thanks for the reviews and taking the time to talk with me. And a HUGE thanks to all my readers and potential readers. Means the world to me that people take an interest in what I do.

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World War WTF?

November 9, 2012

The first official trailer for World War Z, the adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, is finally out, and it’s..well…it’s..

This trailer really left me with mixed feelings. On one hand it looks like a cool enough large budget zombie fest and I usually like Brad Pitt in his films. On the other, there are quite a few things that bug me:

  • Apart from the title and the general theme, the movie sadly doesn’t seem to have much in common with the book. This is a huge letdown, as WWZ is one of the best works of zombie fiction written to date. It’s the age-old gripe with Hollywood: if you want to base your movie on an original work, and are paying for the adaptation rights, then why on earth would you make a completely different movie?
  • The elementary family angle. Seriously, what is it with Hollywood, disaster films and the family unit? War of the Worlds? The Day After Tomorrow? 2012? Apparently 6-7 billion people dying isn’t a big enough tragedy unless it also results in a father being separated from his family.
  • Silly CGI. Instead of a massive army of shambling or even sprinting undead, we have the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings, sans green glow.
  • Damon Lindelof. Seriously, your movie is failing, so you bring in the writer responsible for Lost and Prometheus, which are basically huge plot holes with some story around them? Good luck with that.

I know I’m sounding a more than little bitter, so I have to point out that this is mostly fanboy rage. Who knows, the movie might turn out to be a positive surprise! It’s at least nice to see a large budget zombie movie for a change – we really haven’t seen too many of those. Still, I can’t shake the feeling of disappointment. It’s most apparent when the synopses are (rather unfairly) compared:

The book

It began with rumours from China about another pandemic. Then the cases started to multiply and what had looked like the stirrings of a criminal underclass, even the beginnings of a revolution, soon revealed itself to be much, much worse. Faced with a future of mindless, man-eating horror, humanity was forced to accept the logic of world government and face events that tested our sanity and our sense of reality. Based on extensive interviews with survivors and key players in the 10-year fight-back against the horde, World War Z brings the very finest traditions of American journalism to bear on what is surely the most incredible story in the history of civilisation.

The movie

A U.N. employee is racing against time and fate, as he travels the world trying to stop the outbreak of a deadly Zombie pandemic.

Oh well.

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Fever – a review

November 3, 2012

Earlier this year I reviewed Flu by Wayne Simmons. Fever is a sequel to the book – or rather a prequel and a parallel story. Fever exposes the origins of the virus and takes a look at the entire epidemic through the eyes of various different players. I was originally supposed to review Fever right after its publication, but never received the review copy and proceeded to forget about the whole thing until recently. Better late than never, right?

The book follows different characters and their storylines. As is typical of a structure like this, the storylines are somewhat interwoven. What made me happy were the references to Flu, seamlessly tying the two books together. Many of the things I wanted to see more of in Flu were present in Fever, for example the military aspects that felt a little detached in the first book.

There are many similarities between the two books and many of the same comments still apply. Simmons keeps his writing compact and efficient, and there’s a lot crammed into the 290 pages. At times this borders on excess, with a lot of different storylines and characters getting introduced, but it gets easier as the book progresses. The style is still very brutal and carnal, and I think Simmons still holds the title of “Author with the most disgusting zombies”, with the flu-ridden corpses (and soon-to-be ones) spewing bloody mucus from every orifice and so on.

With their similarities, we’re still talking about two different books. While Flu had a strong political vibe, with a large part of the conflicts rising from an establishment/anti-establishment setup, Fever draws more from the pool of social conflict. This is helped along by a cast of characters different from your usual zombie fiction fare, through which themes such as sexual minorities and disabilities both physical and mental are explored. This results in a book that feels refreshingly different while retaining a solid genre feel. While not as prominent as in Flu, the anti-establishment sentiment is still present, and you definitely get the feeling that the government isn’t doing a very good job at reacting the problem to say the least.

On a related note a word of possible warning: Fever is bleak – very bleak. While not quite reaching excessive, David Moody -like proportions, this book definitely isn’t a happy read. Personally, I liked it, but I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. A large part of the dark humour present in the previous book is missing this time, making Fever pretty depressing at times. This is something of a double-edged sword: humour helps you relate to the characters (Shaun of the Dead being a prime example) but can easily lead to the whole thing getting silly and unbelievable. Luckily, Simmons is a good enough character writer that his characters function even with the humour turned down a bit.

Overall verdict: If you liked Flu, you’re bound to like Fever. It’s a gripping, bleak zombie read, with thoughtfully crafted characters and plenty of interesting storylines and points of view to keep the reader interested. While it probably won’t leave you feeling warm and happy inside, it’s an interesting, harsh example of a worst case zombie outbreak scenario. If you haven’t read Flu, I suggest reading it before Fever.

As usual, I picked up my copy from The Book Depository.

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The Undeading

October 9, 2012

We’ve seen zombies associated with a lot of things, but they’re rarely doing good. Here’s an exceptional (in many ways) PSA by the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation:

The campaign also features a pretty awesome site at http://www.theundeading.ca/

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About Otto

October 5, 2012

I think I’ve mentioned my 30th birthday a few times, but I haven’t reported the thing that crowned my party.

When most of the guests had arrived, I was given a short speech, in which it was assumed (correctly) that if there ever was a zombie apocalypse, I had a weapon of choice. I was asked to go get said weapon – a clawhammer – which I did. I was then blindfolded and spun around repeatedly, and the blindfold was removed.

I met Otto, who I proceeded to batter to further death with my hammer, for this here is Otto:

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Yes, my amazing friends had built me a zombie piñata. After some spirited hammering, I was rewarded with a shower of money, candy and other assorted gifts. I just couldn’t stop laughing, it was insanely awesome.

I promised I’d give due credit to not only those who conceived the idea, but also the actual builders, Satu and Taape, so here are the two artisans (who luckily documented Otto’s creation) in their glory:

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Trivia: Otto was named after the lead character from the staggeringly horrible zombie/gay porn flick Otto, or up with dead people.

As proof of my zombie slaying expertise, here’s Otto in his current state:

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At the risk of sounding sappy: I love my friends, thanks everyone.

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The Walking Dead season 2 – a review

October 3, 2012

My relationship with The Walking Dead in its various forms is not an entirely easy one. When I first started reading the comic (from issue #1) it was pretty much the best thing I’d ever seen. Lately I haven’t read it – it started getting a little tedious as things kept going from bleak to bleaker to even bleaker to mega bleak and then some, and the series just kind of lost a lot of its effectiveness.

I was looking forward to the TV series a lot, and apart from the final episode of season one, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. When season two started, I was…well, if not as thrilled as about season one, still pretty interested. I started watching season two, and it was, in a word, boring. The season didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Around episode five I simply stopped watching. It was a huge disappointment.

My interest in the whole TWD franchise waned, until I ran into the amazing adventure game. All of a sudden I was interested in TWD again. This was further fueled by a friend of mine giving me a TWD book, Rise of the Governoras a birthday present.

Skip forward a month, to the day before yesterday. I’m on a work trip in Mikkeli, and find myself with a lot of spare time. I visit the nearest (“only”, I’m told) video rental store, and decide to give TWD’s season two a chance. After four paragraphs of rambling, the review begins!

I’m happy I gave the series a second look. As it turns out, after a sloooooow start the season starts picking up pace, and in my opinion ends up being as good as, if not even better, than the first one.

The season has plenty of elements that make it excellent. There’s a large, coherent arc that runs throughout the season. There is some great acting, with Jon Bernthal as Shane standing out especially. Some very heavy themes are dealt with, and there’s a fair amount of unexpected twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. There are character deaths, and these are not dealt with lightly, but are important events. The tone is kept pretty dark and sombre, but there are lighter moments as well. Also, the series doesn’t go down the comic’s route, heaping bad things on bad things and piling some more bad things on, which keeps it much more relatable.

The Walking Dead‘s group dynamics work fairly well. There are interesting schisms, which in turn are often dealt with realistically enough to keep the series believable. Some strange decisions are made, seemingly just to further the plot, but these are in the minority. All in all, TWD manages to put together a group of characters that alternatively both garner sympathy and irritate – much like real people. Even the worst of the bunch have some genuinely likable moments, which is a huge plus in my book. This is helped along by quality actors who do a very good job.

While I’m not much of a gore hound, I must remark on the awesomely disgusting stuff pulled off by the effects crew. This isn’t the kind of stuff you usually see on TV, apart from wildlife documentaries. The zombies in differente states of decay are also wonderfully done, and if you get your hands on the dvd box, I recommend checking out the extras.

Of course, it’s not all perfect. The series does use the whole “Carl disappears and appears inconveniently” over and over again. Note to the writers of The Walking Dead: if your repeating plot device is getting turned into a meme, you’re doing something wrong.

Also, as mentioned before, in the first five or so episodes, nothing much happens. This does pay off handsomely towards the end of the season though, as it allows for much more character development than the six episode season one.

Character development brings me to T-Dog. This character, despite having been with the series since approximately the beginning, hasn’t really received any screen time nor character development. Don’t believe me? io9 noted this too, in their article (with some spoilers) in March. I have absolutely no idea why this is, but it’s a glaring mistake and starts to get pretty funny and noticeable around episode 8 or 9.

Overall verdict: Despite a slow start, The Walking Dead season 2 builds up to some very nice zombie action and drama. While there are some weaker elements – “Where’s Carl?”, T-Dog and the slow start, basically – the whole manages to deliver, often exceeding season one. While I almost lost my faith, it seems TWD is back on track.

You can get The Walking Dead season 2 from any decent dvd retailer. Or a video rental store in Mikkeli, your call.

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There Will Be Blood – a gore painting tutorial

August 7, 2012

A lot of miniature painters like to paint blood on their minis. I think most of us have at some point painted that splash of red on a sword blade or something similar – I know I did that with probably the third or something mini I painted back in the roaring 90s. Nowadays I don’t have too many blades to paint, but tend to dabble in zombies, Xenomorphs and all sorts of critters that leave splashes of blood around. Gore is definitely called for. In this tutorial I will show a few quick and simple techniques for painting gore – wounds, blood spatters and the like.

Lately TCR or Tamiya Clear Red has been all the rage in the world of gore painting, and rightfully so. It produces a very nice, realistic effect when used correctly and looks great when properly done. Just google “tamiya clear red blood tutorial” and you’ll see what I mean. Unfortunately the TCR method doesn’t really fit my style of painting, as it results in a very glossy, sticky look whereas I tend to make my miniatures as matte as possible, using gloss for choice bits such as visors or scopes. This is what I do when I need to paint some gore:

Step one – Red base

Take some dark red paint. My choice was Citadel’s Mechrite red, which according to Citadel’s paint conversion chart (pdf link) is currently Mephiston red.

Apply said red paint around wherever you wish to have gore. Remember, sometimes less is more! Painting half of the model red isn’t always the best possible solution.

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Step two – Brown ink

Paint some brown ink (I used Citadel’s old Brown ink, but any thickish dark brown will do) over the red. Don’t obscure the red completely. It’s more effective if you let the brown pool up in some places for a thicker, coagulated look. Depending on how dirty you want your blood to look, you can stay within the red or slightly overlap its edges.

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Step three – Black ink

Dab some black ink (I used Citadel’s old Black ink) around. Blood tends to be quite dark, especially when it dries and coagulates. For a zombie, more black may be appropriate. At this stage you may already call your gore finished.

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Step four – Red highlight (optional)

At this stage you can add some highlights with the original base color. Especially suitable for wound edges and the like.

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Step five – White (optional)

Gruesome wounds? Add some bone fragments for that little bit of extra. You can give them a light brown inking, depending on how much you want them to stand out.

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Aaaand that’s it. To finish the tutorial off, below are some of my examples. If you end up using this, do send me some pictures!

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Cockneys vs. Zombies trailer

August 4, 2012

Haven’t posted film trailers (or anything else for that matter!) in a good long while. Here’s a trailer that is filled with awesome! If the movie’s half as good as the trailer, I’m looking at one of my new favourite Z-flicks. Cockneys vs. Zombies seems to be just that – kind of Snatch meets Shaun of the Dead meets Dawn of the Dead meets Attack the Block.

According to IMDb the movie opens in the UK on August 31.

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The Walking Dead by Telltale Games – a review

July 17, 2012

The Walking Dead. I loved the comic up to a certain point. I somewhat like the tv series too, although to be honest I haven’t watched the second season completely. There’s plenty of potential in the franchise, but it seems some of it is being squandered. To my delight the new adventure game shows none of this.

The TWD adventure game by Telltale Games tells the story of Lee Everett, who’s on his way to prison when everything goes to hell. Lee’s story runs parallel to the comic book’s, and there are some cameos – at least Glenn makes an appearance in the first episode of the game.

Yes, episodes. Something of a trademark of Telltale Games, they tend to release their games in tv-series like episodes. Each episode provides 2-3 hours of gaming, and five or so episodes compose a season. I found the format enjoyable when playing the new Sam & Max, and it works equally well with  TWD. Why? I don’t always have a lot of time for gaming. Sure, I can stay up until the small hours, but that means shambling zombie-like into the office in the morning. The ability to play through an entire adventure game in pretty much the same time it takes to watch a film is simply excellent. The short length of individual episodes means a coherent story and zero filler material. Everything in the game furthers the story, enhances the characters or otherwise contributes to the whole.

The story? It’s naturally filled with the typical zombie genre tropes. Loyalties, conflicting interests, tough decisions, jump scares…it’s all there. Thankfully it’s executed with class. Telltale obviously has some talented writers, as the game just works. Having seen a fair few zombie movies and read a lot of zombie literature, I’ve definitely seen my share of bad writing, hollow characters and other similar annoyances. None of that here. The game is very much like the first graphic novels in that regard. There are some scary moments, some actually touching ones as well as humour thrown in. None of it breaks the atmosphere of the game. All in all it’s an immersive story, helped along by the game mechanics. Furthering this immersion is the fact that the game changes depending on your choices. A bit of dialogue just might be referenced two hours later and affect how a character treats you.

TWD works well and sounds and looks nice. The game runs smoothly on my several years old PC, and the cel shaded graphics really make for a great comic book look. See below for yourself, this is an actual in-game graphic.

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The voice acting and dialogue is top notch. There is a lot of talking in this game, but it isn’t wearisome. In most dialogues you don’t have the option to go back, and there’s a time limit to pick your answer. Miss the limit, and your character just stands there silent. None of that traditional god-awfully boring tediousness of going through every single dialogue option to find the relevant info. Bioware, I’m looking at you. The dialogue mechanic actually sometimes leads to you blurting out the first thing that comes to mind and regretting it later, or staying silent since you don’t know what to say. I love it!

As a game, TWD is standard adventure fare. There are puzzles, picking up objects, clicking the right hotspots and the like. As it is a zombie game, there are some action sequences too. These are usually pretty simple stuff, and mechanics-wise tie in well with the rest of the game. These offer some really tense moments at times, and are used sparingly to keep them effective. The puzzles aren’t very difficult, and the game plays more like an interactive film than a hardcore adventure game. Some people might not like this, but I really enjoyed not having the story stop for hours because I couldn’t figure out some inconsistent problem.

Honestly, I can’t think of a lot of bad things to say about this game. To a genre fan, some of the tropes might seem too familiar or some of the plot turns too predictable. Then again, I’m a genre fan and didn’t mind at all. At the moment my biggest gripe is having to wait for the next episode to come out.

Overall verdictThe Walking Dead is a great adventure game, that plays pretty much like an interactive zombie movie. The story is compelling and the execution brilliant, so if you’re looking for a great zombie game experience, look no further!

The first two episodes of TWD are currently out, and the third one is coming in August. The game’s RRP is $24.99 which includes all five episodes. You can get the game from Telltale’s own site or Steam, where it’s currently (July 17th, 2012) on offer at -25%.

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