Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Zombie Gore

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I like violence. I write very graphic and brutal scenes and I like it. Does that mean that I'm going to go out with an Uzi 9mm and gun a bunch of people down? No. Just because I like violence doesn't mean I like violence. I enjoy watching a decent fight scene and on the screen, it's very dramatic and screenwriting is all about the drama. So yes, I like violence. But no, I'm not a crazy knife-sharpening psycho. Got it? Good. Moving on...

What better way to take advantage of my love of violence that through a zombie movie? Zombie movies are famously graphic. They pull no punches. Anything can go. Neck ripping, stomach eating, head pulling, eye gobbling - it's all fair game. There is one slight problem however - they are a hell of a lot of zombie movies.

The first zombie movie was one called White Zombie in the 30s if I recall. And since then, there have been hundreds of movies centred around the brain eaters. So it's pretty bloody hard to come up with an original idea.

The way I see it, there are 3 basic stories for a zombie movie.
  1. The 'However will we survive all these zombies?' movie - Basically, you have a bunch of attractive people held up somewhere (preferably a nice big, spacious area with some handy weapons and strong barricades). A f*ck-load of zombies then attack and it's a case of holding them off for as long as possible. The 'survivors' are killed off one by one until the last remaining 3 (2 men and a woman) take a last stand...and die. Pretty simple. Good examples of this sort of movie are Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead.
  2. The 'How did we get in here and how the f*ck do we get out when zombies are all over the place?' movie - A bunch of attractive people are inside a facility that is crawling with zombies. It's not so much a survival sitch as an escape scenario. They're not safe where they are, so they need to get out. Alas, when they do, they're confronted by bucket-loads of other brain-eaters. Sigh. A good example is Resident Evil.
  3. The 'We take the classic zombie structure, add a bit of humour and make it our own' movie - you have to have a bit of humour in zombie flicks to balance out the craziness. With scary (but funny-looking) critters tearing around the screen ripping out peoples' innards, you need something to balance it out. And what better way that a tongue-in-cheek approach? A satire. A parody. In today's age, where original ideas seem a thing of the past, spoofs are the thing. And since you can't copyright an idea, they're fair game. Films like Shaun of the Dead take the zombie movie structure that we all know and make it hilarious. Not a bad thing - I enjoy the film.
So there we have it - the 3 basic zombie movie plots. So why do we love them so much if the plots are so basic? Because we don't care about the story; we care about the 'leave your brain at the door or you'll get it eaten' kinda gore. See what I did there? With the brain....no....? Oh well.

I did a bit of research and found a list of the Top 10 Zombie Movies on www.zombierama.com - you gotta love the names of these sites. So here's the top 5:

5. 28 Days Later
4. Army of Darkness
3. Dawn of the Dead (1978 version)
2. Dellamorte Dellamore
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968 version)

So now I'm confronted with the dilemma - how do I write an original zombie film?

Step 1 - Who are my shiny characters? I could have a band of army guys with heavy guns, providing hours of shooting and head exploding fun. Or I could go with the everyday people that use cricket bats to bash heads in. Or I could do both....

Step 2 - What is my basic story? As mentioned above; story isn't really important. Or is it? If stories just get recycled, why not come up with an original one, like I would with any other film. Take the plot, add a few zombies and there you go - original zombie film.

Step 3 - How much is too much? You can't have a zombie film without the gore. It just doesn't work. But how much is too much? As a writer, I have the fun of showing a character's death, but leaving it to the director to decide what exactly to show. Flesh-ripping, brain-eating and head-removal are all a definite. But zombie rape (can't believe I just thought of that) is out.

Step 4 - Expectations - who will survive. You have to play on the audiences' expectations in any genre now (although the writers of soppy romantic films don't seem to have caught on) and the same goes for zombie films. As much we like to work out who will survive at the end, if we get it right, we feel cheated. A lot of zombie movies end with a few survivors finding themselves in a worse situation that before. This does two things - One, it doesn't dampen the tone of the film and two, it leaves it open for a sequel. So who will survive? Haven't a clue. Oh well.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of this mammoth post. I thought of all this while trying to get to sleep last night. Needless to say I had a dream about zombies, but it's ok; I woke up before I died. Wait for the sequel.

One last thing before I go - zombie clowns. Is there anything more terrifying?



Michelle Goode said...

"Step 3 - How much is too much? You can't have a zombie film without the gore. It just doesn't work."

How do you know? It's exactly these kinds of questions that should get you thinking on the track to originality. What better way to make an original zombie film than by turning the whole thing on its head and taking a totally new approach? So cut the gore, scrap the weird eyes and make the zombies almost unrecogniseable...I so would! It's just asking to be experimented with!

Neil said...

Interesting Michelle, interesting.

Well I can't get rid of the gore, cos...I just can't. It would be like taking the lightsabers out of Star Wars.

But completely unrecognisable.....maybe they turn blue!!! I jest. There's something in that though...need to make them look completely different. Thanks!

Michelle Goode said...

When I thought briefly about an original take on zombies an old film came to mind - Village of The Damned... Even though you might not class them as zombies, the children, born naturally but destined to cause havoc, seemed a pretty good disguise! lol... As if anyone would suspect cute little children...

Neil said...

Can't say I've heard of that film, but it sounds interesting!

I know one thing I'm going to take care of straight away - why are the zombies there??? I don't know! I won't explain it. People don't really care and some films can go into way too much detail in that area.

Child zombies are scary as hell and makes it all the more brutal when you slam a pole into their face. That and clowns (as mentioned in my blog).