Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stuff: Fast food.

Long time readers will know that I'm kinda zombied out at this point. The shuffling corpses have had a hell of run, but I think it's time for the walking dead to hit the showers. I support legislation that would actually pay people working on zombie-themed horror projects to destroy their projects rather than follow them through, the way we control agricultural overproduction by paying farmers to burn market-deflating harvests.

That said, this is pretty boss: The Run for Your Lives 5K zombie run - a 5K run in which runners haul ass through a wooded obstacle course while being chased by "zombies." It's a combination of obstacle run, flag football game, and the opening run-to-the-river bit of 28 Weeks Late.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Movies: "It will give you this wonderful new complexity."

Look at how awesome the poster for Bava's 1965 flick Planet of the Vampires is. Seriously, just ponder it for a bit. Soaked it all in? Are you ready to absorb all the weapons-grade spectacularness that poster implies?

You didn't really look.

No. I know you.

Yeah. Especially you Nathan. With your hyper ADD.

Look at it.

I'll wait.

Okay. Now: Are you ready to absorb all the weapons-grade spectacularness that poster implies?

Here's the bad news: The poster's BS. In fact, weirdly specific BS. It's not typical sci-fi "we hired some hack who didn't read the book, but he painted us a cover anyway" BS. It's the BS of somebody who watched the film, decided that they liked a fairly minor aspect of original and that they'd then spin out a weird alternative story about how they felt that more interesting aspect would play out if it was the focus of the flick. It's a poster from a weird alternate dimension where the poster artist was the director and screenwriter of Planet of the Vampires.

Here's the good news: The movie is still nifty. And I say that as somebody who is, more often than not, underwhelmed by Groovy Age Italian horror. I usually find their plotting lazy, their visual excesses tastelessly tacky, and their detached sadism more contemptuously hip than genuinely thrilling or horrifying. In this case, however, Bava set out to make a distinctly Italian answer to that cornerstone of cinematic sci-fi, American Fred Wilcox's 1956 classic Forbidden Planet, and the genre borrowed genre template and trappings provide a framework that prevents Bava from indulging in the fatal lack of focus that undermines so many of the of the flicks from him and his compatriots.

Solid screenwriting goes a long way to explaining why PotV works as well as it does. Sure, the dialog is a wooden and gets bogged down in clunky technobabble - the creation of top notch technobabble seems to be a poetic pursuit that English is uniquely suited to, sci-fi nonsense translated from another language always sounds extra fakey - but Bava and his writing team understand that the key to this flick to forward motion. The plot, which is involves two crews of space explorers fighting for their lives against murderous body-possessing alien entities, is lean and efficient. Furthermore, the campy artificiality of the sets and alien landscapes provides a context for Bava's visual excess that feels natural, rather than self-consciously showy. Finally Bava's icy brutality seems to have evolved naturally from the amorally genocidal Darwinistic calculus driving the film's baddies, instead of feeling like the heavy-handed imposition of a filmmaker hungering for extreme visuals. The result is a graphically restrained film whose darkness is conceptual and thematic.

With its dated sci-fi trappings, stilted dialog (which I'm sure isn't helped in translation), and lack of blood and guts, Planet of the Vampires doesn't demand the attention of contemporary thrill-seaking modern horror audiences. But if you're looking for a deliciously retro pop sciffy gem that's still solid entertainment, you could do far worse than Planet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meta: Uncle Strangely's Dark Mansion of Big Crap Scares

As much as I hate to Collins out on you and whore my other web projects here, there's now officially a Tumblr annex to the ol' And Now the Screaming Starts. For folks who dig on ANTSS, but find it a bit trying on the attention span, management is proud to introduce Uncle Strangely's Dark Mansion of Big Crap Scares. It's ANTSS without all the jibber-jabber. It is not a replacement for ANTSS, but a supplement. Think of it as ANTSS that forgot to take it's medication, so it's now all fidgety like.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mad science: "Activite their Capgras" sounds more humorous said aloud than it reads off the page.

Wired online has a short article and video presentation on the curious work of UC Berkeley neuroscientist Bradley Voytek. Voytek - who is not helping fight the pervasive stereotype that UC Berkeley is some sort of really expensive summer camp for really smart weirdos - has assembled a neurological picture of zombiism by translating zombie behaviors seen in a handful of popular flicks into known neurological conditions. From the article:

Based on that map of the zombie brain, Voytek and a fellow neuroscientist Timothy Verstynen established that the walking dead suffered from a condition they called Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder. CDHD is characterized by “the loss of rational, voluntary and conscious behavior replaced by delusional/impulsive aggression, stimulus-driven attention, the inability to coordinate motor-linguistic behaviors and an insatiable appetite for human flesh.”

After settling on a brain-model for the reanimated, Voytek extrapolated some survival tips for the zombie apocalypse. Notable exploitable bugs in the zombie-brain: Zack's probably got crap memory, so if you come up with a really neat way to kill zombies, feel free to keep it in rotation as long as you please. Also, Voytek speculates that zombies probably have difficulty visually tracking more than one moving object at a time. Certainly the resourceful zombie hunter could put that to good use.