The Walking Dead, saison 1
We’ve opened Pandora’s box…

The Walking Dead season finale contained one of the most violent scenes I’ve witnessed in a film of any kind and it didn’t involve zombies at all. A ruthless gang of survivors had the protagonists of the series dead to rights. And then the heroes turned the tables, eliciting vile payback. Rick bit open the throat of his captor and then guts the heathen who was about to rape his son. More death. Like that.

The previous week’s episode featured the entirely unexpected murder of a young girl, who’d lost her mind and killed her sister trying to prove that her subsequent “turning” would be evidence that the undead were, what, normal? These episodes were brutal, nihilistic and, basically amazing.

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The living people have become the walking dead themselves. They move forward killing everything in their paths, like zombies. The flicker of hope for humanity grows ever more dim. It’s barely there.

During a commercial break (yes, I watched the network broadcast) was a preview of a sequel to The Purge, a film about legalized crime including (and especially) murder. I didn’t see the original movie but enough people did to warrant a sequel.

Then came a Hyundai spot where you can build your own zombie killing car. Benign in terms of mayhem the spot is meant to be funny. I suppose…

My, oh my. So many visions of the Apocalypse! We Are What We Are is the title of a film about modern day cannibals, itself a remake of a Spanish film about people eaters.

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Read it with the lights on…

I’ve been a horror fan since I can remember. The first real book I ever read for “fun” was Salem’s Lot. As a boy I thrilled at Hammer’s vision of the undead. Christopher Lee’s Dracula and his gory sexy brides formed my world view –or at least provided lurid escape from the sketchy real world: my parent’s divorce, step-father’s suicide, gang-bangers on every corner, teachers that didn’t give a shit, friends who had it worse than me and acted accordingly.

By comparison, fictional evil was somehow… attractive.

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Lee’s Dracula and friend. What’s not to like?

For me, hanging out with miscreants on the street corner was far more threatening. Pretending not to be scared in real life was a lot harder than bearing monsters in books and on screen. Enduring evermore-gruesome fictions was (and is) a way for a young man to demonstrate courage. It’s a theory.

And now you feel it don’t you? The mainstream embraces horror like never before, as I did as a teenager and still do. In films, books, comics, games, television, music and even commercials. Always profitable but formerly seedy, the horror genre has risen from the grave!

You have become like me, God have mercy on your souls.

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“Hmmm, Rapture.”

Do you think the elimination of people constitutes the “end of the world?” I sure as hell don’t. Frankly, I believe the world would be just fine without us, better even, with demonstrable improvement every day we’re gone.

All this ‘end is near’ talk reminds me that doomsayers need to speak for themselves and not for every living creature on the face of the earth. Frankly, we are all culpable. We immediately think the world has no meaning without us in it. This sort of arrogance drives me crazy. So much so, I wrote a novel about it. Entitled The Last Generation, it imagines a world where people can no longer bear children. The book’s tagline: “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of us.”

Years later, Alan Weisman wrote The World Without Us, which explored these ideas even further. It was far more popular than my book and almost as good!

Still, mine is a minority opinion. Most people tend to believe in some form of human manifest destiny. It goes something like this: We possess souls and other creatures don’t, therefore we have dominion over them and everything else under the sun. Non-believers can substitute “intellect” for “souls.” Either way, when it comes to our perceived superiority even normal (and presumably smart) people can be as sanctimonious as Glenn Beck, as unbridled as Donald Trump, and as relentless as any given dictator. We say we deserve ‘our place in the sun’ (at the expense of other lesser organisms) merely because we exist.’ We mistake the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a license to commit all manner of atrocities, big and small, many without even thinking. The bible tells us we are created in God’s image so naturally we are in charge of everything else.

Like you, I didn’t particularly want to perish on Saturday but I’m calling bullshit on the arrogant position that if the Rapture did occur it would have meant the end of the world. Like hell.

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Oh my Gods…

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry God hires an advertising agency and all hell breaks loose. Some of you already read the book and reviewed it on Amazon. God bless you! The rest of you – here’s the link:

Buy The Happy Soul Industry on Amazon

If you think my premise is whack wait until you get a load of the trailer for the new movie, Legion coming this fall. Holy crap. This picture takes the Christian prophecy of Armageddon to a whole nutha level. From what I gathered, the story is about the archangel Michael, who cuts off his wings and joins the human race in a fight to stave off the apocalypse. Why not? Regardless, you’ve got to see the trailer. I’ve attached the PG version but there’s an even nastier one online if you search…

Legion Movie Trailer

Most of you know I’m a big horror fan, in particular when it comes to the zombie-apocalypse genre. Something about the end of the world makes me happy.

“Slumdog Millionaire” was swell but for me Danny Boyle will always be the director of “28 days Later” and “28 Weeks Later.” I believe the visual intensity he brought to Slumdog was absolutely learned making the above-mentioned horror films.

Like a lot of people, I’m frothing at the mouth to see the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s terrifying novel, “The Road.” Early reviews promise no compromise in the delivery of McCarthy’s bleak, dystopian vision. John Hillcoat directs from a script by Joe Penhall.

Another Academy Award winning director, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) just released a novel he co-wrote with author Chuck Hogan. The Strain is a vampire tale but, rest assured horror fans, it is far removed from the fey Twilight series. Thank God! Maybe 14 year-old girls and bored suburban housewives find those vampires threatening but I’ve had roommates who were more frightening. The Strain is about a gruesome virus let loosed upon New York. The resultant strain of vampires are hideous, blood thirsty monsters. They want to eat not forge relationships.

From what I’ve read online, the gifted director tried to sell The Strain to cable TV but the project got nixed. So he teamed up with Hogan (himself an accomplished thriller writer) and created the novel. It is apparently book one of a trio.

What’s also cool is there are films advertising The Strain on the Internet. I’ve posted one above. These “commercials” were made to look like movie trailers and, indeed, they had me fooled. The fact that they are for a novel should give readers and writers of the printed word a reason to cheer. Imagine: viral films made for a book! The fact that they are so baddass should give horror fans a thrill.

For my first novel, The Last Generation I also made a faux trailer. For legal reasons, I couldn’t really use the film. But it’s pretty cool. Take a look. If you’re smitten, The Last Generation is still available online. Right next to The Happy Soul Industry.

images-14images-23Ladies, Ladies…There’s plenty of blood for everyone!”

I’ve been a devoted horror aficionado since childhood, when I regularly snuck into the Parkway Theater in Chicago (now, I believe, a Lenscrafters) to watch wildly age-inappropriate triple features with my miscreant peers. Horror, Kung Fu, and Detective were the most popular genres, with Horror being the going away favorite. In many ways, my dark side was shaped in this grind house. Here, I became a lifelong devotee of Hammer Films, the UK production company best known for Christopher Lee’s canny and lurid Dracula. Being a 12 year-old boy, imagine my (psycho)sexual awakening leering at the scantily clad brides of Dracula as they emerged, always in sheer nightgowns, from their coffins in the cellar. I swooned every time one plunged her pointy fangs into each of the gentleman lured by wanton desires –hers, theirs and mine!

As I got older, my tastes in horror evolved to include the burgeoning Zombie genre. Danny Boyle’s “28 Days/Weeks” pictures are current standards, but, to this day, nothing compares to George Romero’s blunt and terrifying Night of the Living Dead. I defy you to watch it alone, in the dark, in a basement as I did some 30 years ago.

Much has been written about the Zombie/Apocalypse genre, especially given the spate of above-average movies in the last decade. Cormac McCarthy’s upcoming “The Road” should be a jewel in this gruesome crown. Critics rightly point to society’s collective fear of imminent apocalypse (global war and warming, overpopulation and pestilence) as reasons for the genre’s growing popularity. Undead people (often our loved ones!) relentlessly trying to eat us are at the heart of our deepest, darkest fears. Mine anyway. That and focus groups.

With this segue in mind I want to talk about a movie I saw at the Chicago Film Festival, now in limited release. “Let The Right One In” is about a bullied young boy and the special bond he forms with the little girl who moves in next door, who also happens to be a vampire. At times lurid and frightening, it is the intelligence and beauty of this Swedish film that make it stand out. Sweden is grim and cold and the two unlikely characters find certain warmth together, not to mention bloodshed. A lovely film. Go see it, regardless of your age, sex or temperament.

And for those who crave a far scarier ride, pick up a DVD of “The Signal.” Imagine an LSD trip with zombie-like psychopaths. And the psychopaths are…you! No mere shock fest, this 2007 low budget film imagines all of us as killers, our sanity undone by strange undulations emitting from our televisions, computers and cell phones. That conceit is not new, but everything else about this movie is. The acting and direction are first rate. I was blown away.

Trust me on both of these films. They are that good.