Let’s talk zombies…


There is currently an obsession with zombies that might be on it’s last legs now, however it’s bred so many sub-par and mediocre zombie movies and pop culture references that some people (me included) are ready for a moratorium on them for a few years.

The Walking Dead (which, admittedly, is a good show, tho the comic is a little better) has ushered in a new era of unprecedented zombie love (tho the build-up to zombie overdose has been going since before it started).

I’m constantly asked by people what my fav zombie movie is, and I constantly see people renting and buying terrible, sub par, or (worst of all) boring zombie movies thrown together to make a buck off the craze.

So, to celebrate this day of the most famous zombie to rise from the dead of all time (Easter), I’m going to list my top most fav zombie movies that came out before the zombie craze of the 2000s (so no Zombieland, Shawn of the Dead, Cabin In the woods, etc., great as they may be) , with the exception of George Romero’s oeuvre (because you’ve all already seen all of them, RIGHT?) as well as some that you just need to see if you’re a zombie fan and haven’t.  So, in chronological order…

one of the first cinematic zombies?

one of the first cinematic zombies?

1) Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) probably don’t totally count, but I’m listing them anyway because they are excellent movies and classics (and much better than the atmospheric but ultimately fairly boring White Zombie (1932)).
children2) Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973)- in the commentary, the writer says “I’d taken a whole bunch of friends to see Night of the Living Dead and we’d decided we were just going to rip it off, only this time in color!”, and that’s pretty much what they did, except they mix in a strong Hammer studios feel to it as well.  Really, the main reason I’m listing this one is because of it’s historical relevance- it has a quirky charm to it, and does evoke a good atmosphere at times, but it’s also very slow moving, and the characters (esp the main character Alan) are pretty annoying and grating to watch.  It concerns a group of actors who go to a graveyard to rehearse a movie, and they bring along a real corpse to act with.  They perform a ritual to bring back the dead on him (among other disrespectful actions) which seemingly doesn’t work, then retire to an old house to bitch and argue and do weird things for awhile.  At some point the movie finally picks up when it’s revealed that the ritual just took longer than usual and didn’t just bring the one corpse back to life, but the whole graveyard full of them!  The movie is pretty damn good from that point on, and is a necessary watch for zombie completists.  It was directed by Bob Clark (Black Christmas, A Christmas Story, Porky’s).children_shouldnt-gore-scene-small

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3) The Living Dead At the Manchester Morgue (aka Breakfast At the Manchester Morgue,  Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) (1974), is a pretty well put together and ambitious story for an early ’70s low budget horror movie.  Two outcast/ hippie types are suspected of some Manson clan-esque crimes by the bitter inspector of the police department, but it actually turns out to be the acts of zombies brought back to life by chemical pesticide.  The zombies are still the Romero-style not so gory looking ones (tho they are a bit faster), and the gore isn’t over the top (tho still more graphic than NOTLD).  The characters and story are more interesting than most low budget zombie movies, and an actual star (Arthur Kennedy of Lawrence of Arabia fame, among many more) is in it.

4) Zombie (also called Zombi, Zombi 2, and Zombie Flesh Eaters) (1979)- definitely one of my topmost favs of my favorites  (along with Return of the Living Dead and Dellamorte Dellamore (see below)), this movie oozes atmosphere and horror.  The zombies are the coolest looking there are, caked in mud and blood with wriggling worms and maggots hanging off their faces.  The story is about an island being slowly overrun by zombies and a doctor who is trying to figure out what’s going on.  His daughter travels from New York to find him, and unfortunately for her, does.
The movie is permeated with a mood of hopelessness and decay, and the gore is quite graphic- there’s a scene of close up eye trauma (with a splintered piece of wood no less) that doesn’t flinch, many flesh ripping scenes, and even a fight between a zombie and a shark.  A company called Arrow just released it last year (under the title Zombie Flesh Eaters) on blu ray and dvd uncut with loads of cool extras and in a metal box, so look for it.
5) Gates of Hell (aka City of the Living Dead) (1980)- Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan of this movie, but am including it because I know so many people who would call me a blasphemer if I didn’t include it.  Done by Lucio Fulci (same guy who did the last movie on this list Zombie), this one is pretty silly and kind of confusing (truthfully, it doesn’t make a lot of sense).  A priest (I think) hangs himself, which opens the gates of hell.  Zombies attack, gore flies rampant (including the famous drill to the neck scene), and a couple of people (including a psychic) scramble to close the gates.  Entertaining but not a fav.
6) Burial Ground (aka Burial Ground- The Nights of Terror) (1981)- here’s the third Italian zombie movie in a row, and another good one.  I actually watched it recently after having not seen it in awhile, and it’s a little slower than I remembered, but still the horror creeps along and catches you eventually.  A beardy professor unleashes a horde of rotting, wormy zombies (the effects were done by Gino De Rossi, the same guy who did Fulci’s zombies in Zombie) who converge on a group of hipster socialites who he invited to his mansion before becoming zombie chow.
The director really tried to ape Zombie, even copying the pierced eyeball close-up (tho with a shard of glass instead of a splinter of wood) as well as the look of the zombies, but he doesn’t quite attain the sense of dread that Fulci does.  He does pull off a lot of creepy scenes, however, including one in which an extremely homely and creepy looking little kid (played by a dwarf in real life) wants to nurse from his Mom (he’s supposed to be like 8 or so) in a kind of incestuous implication, and she slaps him for it.  later on when he comes back from the dead she’s so happy to see him that she lets him, and of course he bites her nipple off in gory detail.  Highly entertaining.
7) Return of the Living Dead (1985)- another topmost fav of my most favs, this movie is pretty much pure mayhem from beginning to end.  This is one you just need to take my word for and watch if you haven’t seen it- it’s awesome.  A couple of working class slobs release a poisonous gas that makes the dead come back to life, and have to team up with some ’80s punk rockers and the yuppie owner of the company they work for to survive.  These zombies, in a twist not seen before, are fast and indestructable (we’ve since seen fast zombies, but this was the first movie I saw with them in it) and they even talk.  The movie mixes humor and gore (not in a cheesy or annoying way, but very well done, which isn’t accomplished very often) with horror and a good story, and goes over the top in a lot of scenes.  It was co-written by two of the guys who helped out on the original NOTLD.

8) Re-Animator (1985)- Another over-the-top gorefest from 1985, this one concerns an old fashioned mad scientist trying (and succeeding) to bring the dead back to life and his roommate.  The pace is slightly slower than Return of the Living Dead, but it’s still a mayhemic movie full of horror and black humor.  It’s another one you just need to see if you haven’t.  Jeffrey Combs became a cult star because of his excellent performance as the determined and demented Herbert West.  It’s supposedly based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, but the connection is tenuous at best.  It includes the infamous ‘getting head from  the dead’ scene as well…


9) Dead Alive (aka Braindead) (1992)- This was Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson’s third movie, and quite a doozy!  It’s possibly the most violent movie I’ve ever seen- super bloody and over the top.  Imagine the gross-out craziness of something like Ren and Stimpy transported into a zombie movie, and you’d have an idea of what this is like.  The story is about a guy and a girl who fall in love, however the guy’s mother is an overbearing control freak and while trying to sabotage their relationship gets bit by a ‘Sumatran rat monkey’ (claymation) and becomes zombified.  Soon the whole town is overrun by zombies and our protagonists have to try to survive.  Includes a scene where a horde of zombies get mowed down by a man holding up a lawn mower.   Fast paced and bloody fun.

10) Dellamorte Dellamore (aka The Cemetery Man) (1994)- Another of my topmost favs of my favs, and another offbeat, crazy one.  The plot concerns a man who attends to a cemetery (and his helper) where the corpses rise a second time after they are buried.  The movie is pure atmosphere, and attains an almost fairytale like quality.  The scenes and cinematography are masterful, the violence and storyline once again over the top (absurd in places) and full of black humor.  It takes several twists and turns before the strange ending, and main star Rupert Everett flirted with A-list celebrity status for a short while in the late 90s.  Directed by Michele (The Church) Soavi.

Most real horror fans have probably seen most of these (or at least heard of them), and there are a lot of more obscure ones I could have mentioned (the Blind Dead series comes to mind), but this is a good list for casual fans who want to watch a good zombie movie but are having trouble distinguishing between the good, bad, stupid, and boring masses of zombie movies available to rent, buy, or watch online.

Happy Easter…

Exploitation Retrospect #37

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Exploitation Retrospect was a long running digest-sized ‘zine that was pretty small (page wise) but came out fairly frequently.  The writing was very well done and witty; an enjoyable read.  The name makes it sound like another underground extreme horror/ exploitation/ grindhouse type ‘zine, but that’s a little misleading because it mostly covered action and horror movies (mainstream and more offbeat ones) and alternative/ punk/ “college rock” music.  Sometimes it included other commentary such as book reviews or political commentary (usually with a somewhat (but not overly) conservative bend to it).

This issue has an interview with Zoe (Ms. 45) Lund, the editor’s ‘Best (and worst) of 1992’ lists, a DANZIG show review, a Sin City comic review, movie, music, and ‘zine reviews, letters (including one from early horror ‘zine publisher Dave Szurek sharing his disgust (shared by the ER editor) for Henry Rollins and a dislike for Alan Funt and Candid Camera (which ER had an article about in a previous issue) as being an intrusive bully (one wonders how horrified he must be by the current state of reality television and privacy invasion)), and a political article (“American Me”) that makes some good points but still comes across as sounding a bit like your kind of rednecky annoying old uncle bitching about the state of the world, and seems a little out of place in an exploitation movie ‘zine that favors punk rock.

But overall ER was a very entertaining read and another fixture in the underground movie ‘zine community.

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Godvomit #2

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Godvomit #2 was not near as big as #1, but it was twice as sick.  A lot of people were offended, and I always wondered how they could take something so silly so seriously (I cringe looking at some of it because of how goofy it is).  Looking back, I guess it did have a lot of over-the-top and disturbing things in it (I’d probably get arrested for putting it out nowadays, since everybody is scared of everything), but it was the early ’90s and we were all trying to out-offend each other.  I put a lot more art and comics in this issue, and started doing smaller, one page interviews with some bands  (which was my answer to a lot of music ‘zines who would do one page ‘features’ or biographies on bands- usually just reprinting or rewording their press sheet which I was never a fan of).

I put the first issue up as a PDF, and some people said it took too long to load up on their computer, so I’m doing this one like all the other ‘zines I’ve done, and just putting images of the pages up (except it’s the whole thing).  You can, of course, click on them to make them bigger.

Interviews in this one with CORPSEGRINDER, BATHYM, DR. SHRINKER, DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, NOCTURNUS, SUPURATION, EYE GOUGER, and CREMATORY (which I think is the least amount of bands I interviewed in any issue except the half size #8).

Needless to say, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, NO ONE UNDER 18 (or really no one at all) SHOULD READ THIS…

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Killbaby #2



Killbaby was a really cool ‘zine that focused on horror/ gore/ exploitation flicks, but also had some music content (mostly old school (’70s) punk).  The layout was very appealing- more interesting than most ‘zines done on a computer with a desktop publishing program (they usually tended to be kind of blah), and included a bit of art and humor thrown in randomly as well.

Issue #2 came out Sept of 1989, and featured an interview with Charles Pinion (who did a skate/ splatter movie back then called Twisted Issues), and Donald Farmer (who did several low budget movies including Cannibal Hookers), an Udo Kier biography/ filmography (including reviews of most of the films on the list), an article on Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom, as well as one on a couple of blaxploitation movies, letters, ‘zine and music reviews, and a bunch of long, informative movie reviews including a lot of obscure and hard to find movies.  The writing is good and informative without being pretentious or too scholarly sounding, and this is a nice little ‘zine.  A fun and informative read…

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Uniforce ‘zine #6

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Uniforce was a fairly long running (for an underground ‘zine) hardcore and extreme metal ‘zine put out by Mark Sawickis, guitarist for cult horror obsessed grind/ death band IMPETIGO.  It was an underground mainstay in a time when ‘zines were the veins that spread the blood of music information to the underground fans and people who were into it.
It always featured a lot of interviews (including some with bigger bands that often didn’t answer interviews with little ‘zines) and reviews; and included reviews of albums, demos, and even music that a lot of underground ‘zines ignored (more commercial metal and rock bands).

This issue was a return to a full-size ‘zine after trying out a digest sized one (that was incredibly thick), and featured a bunch of ads (mostly for other ‘zines), and some show reviews, but mostly it contained interviews and reviews (no frills no filler).  The reviews were earnest and unpretentious and honest (but positive- I never saw him rip on something, even if he didn’t like it much).  The layout was unspectacular, but like I said the music was the #1 focus, everything else was unimportant.

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Gore Gazette #100

Gore Gazette was a very long running (made it to 110 issues) horror/ gore/ exploitation/ grindhouse ‘zine.  Each issue was fairly short, but most o them were free.  Editor Rick Sullivan went to all the grindhouse movies in New Jersey and New York throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, and wrote about the movies he saw there in this ‘zine.  This was back before most every underground/ cult/ offbeat/ short run gore and exploitation film was easily available on dvd or written about online, and people would read through Gore Gazette then seek out the hard-to-find movies he wrote about.  He also wrote about more mainstream movies (really most any movie he went and saw), and the writing style was very down-to-earth and sleazy (and VERY anti-P.C..  You didn’t read Gore Gazette if you were easily offended).

The 100th issue featured the usual assortment of news, reviews, commentary, and insults plus a list of every horror movie that had been released in New York City from 1980 to 1990.   It was newspaper sized (4 pages) and printed on newsprint.


Poison Planet ‘zine #2

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Poison Planet was put out by Ty Smith (who I recently found out passed away a couple of years ago- R.I.P.) of the old hardcore band RESIST (as well as the short-lived but awesome NAMLAND with members of IMPULSE MANSLAUGHTER), and featured a good mix of hardcore, punk, grindcore, straight edge, and death metal.  Most every band he featured was pretty bad ass, and he also did show and ‘zine reviews, had some funny art and comics (mostly stolen from other sources), and did longer reviews (and even reviewed a few more mainstream things like RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and FAITH NO MORE- he has a very broad musical taste and his own unique opinions, even giving good reviews to things that a lot of underground ‘zines panned like VOIVOD’s Nothingface and later DIE KREUZEN (yuck!) ) that seemed pretty thought out.  The interviews were fairly short (tho he did some with bands you didn’t see interviewed much, such as BROTHERHOOD, who featured a young Greg Anderson who went on to found Southern Lord records and play guitar in the bands  GOATSNAKE, SUNN 0))), THORRS HAMMER, and a bunch more) and he also did a few articles on bands where he wrote a longer bio for them.


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Greatest albums of all time: CONFLICT – “The Ungovernable Force” (1986)

When people ask me what my favorite punk/ hardcore album of all time is, I can’t answer honestly- there are several that are tied. However when pressed, I usually say this album- CONFLICT’s masterpiece The Ungovernable Force.



It starts off with a crude noise collage called “You Cannot Win” that goes into the intro from their album Increase the Pressure (the whole album has nods to CONFLICT’s past, as well as a punk history lesson in the lyrics), then some piercing feedback.   The next bunch of songs are all connected to each other, almost a punk and hardcore medley that starts off with two incredibly ripping tracks (with a  savage bass line) that sound like one song, then a marching nod to C.R.A.S.S. (which a lot of the members of CONFLICT were also in).
“Custom Rock” comments on radio-friendly bands who join corporate labels to get famous, and the music kind of apes U2, but is 100% CONFLICT.  Then they go into another march that brings us up to date on the state of things (at the time).  All of these songs have their own feel and flavor but flow into each other seamlessly.  Another savage commentary on popular music comes next- this one about bonehead metal bands and tough-guy hardcore bands (the music is suitably matallic as well).  The last song on side A is a brutal and pissed diatribe about standing up for what’s right and fighting the powers that be when they are oppressive.  Lyrics like “Riot- there ain’t been a riot but ones knocking at your door; you’ve seen nothing yet but household pets, you’ll feel the lion’s claws!” are pretty call-to-action provocative.  This song is accompanied by samples from a big riot that happened in London.

Side B starts off with an older CONFLICT (from their first album It’s Time To See Who’s Who era) soundung track which quickly morphs into the catchy and humorous “Force Or Service?”.  These tracks are more catchy and punky, but then comes “The Arrest”, which is back to a faster hardcore track that tells what you should do if you get arrested (“Whatever you go through in a police cell is nothing compared to the suffering inflicted by governments; the state destroys tortures and murders, we must stop them using force if necessary- remember that and good luck!”).  This is followed by a mellower instrumental (that even sound a little Metallica-esque at tomes) then another savage and awesome song about a nuclear strike.  This is the climax of the album.
The last 2 songs are “This Is the A.L.F.”-  a very well put together song with a lot of interesting changes about animal liberation and the final song is a very quiet and poetic one with just a piano and a female singer.

This album is put together so well, the way all the songs flow into each other and build to a climax- the dynamics and riveting patterns of the songs, and the way they all have so much going on in them- the multi-instrumentation, the 3 vocalists, plus the samples and noises.  The only complaint that I would have is that most of the songs don’t stand up as well on their own (tho some do), because they are fragments of an overall piece.  But make no mistake- this is an excellent and ambitious album well put together by talented musicians with a lot of spirit, fire, conviction  and personality.  Find it…

The album sounds better if you lsiten to it as a whole, but this song stands well on it’s own and is a good example of the album’s excellence:

Screem #3


Screem is almost not a ‘zine- as a matter of fact, I think it later became glossy and was distributed through a real magazine distributor. But it always felt like it was assembled in someone’s bedroom with love, and photocopied at Kinko’s.

Tho primarily a film magazine, they also covered music and other mondo topics. Each issue was pretty fun to read and contained a lot of stuff packed in. This issue featured long articles on the Ed Gein movie Deranged, and Alejandro Jodorowsky; an interview with Danny Mills (who played the chicken raper in John Water’s Pink Flamingos); shorter articles on Coffin Joe, the return of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the Chiller Theatre convention, and the 1956 movie The Werewolf; a G.G. Allin obituary; news; book, movie, music, and collectable card reviews; letters, and more. If you ever see an issue of Screem at a comic shop or anywhere, it’s worth picking up.

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This isn’t happening… It’s only a dream…

No.  It’s not…

You aren’t dreaming- Phantasm II is finally being released in a proper collector’s edition with all the trimmings.  The gory, delicious trimmings.

This was always one of my fav horror movies- I liked it even better than the first one.  The Phantasm movies were always small part art house mindfuckery and big part horror movie with extra creep factor thrown in, but this one went over the top with it’s awesome practical gore effects and insane atmosphere.  As a matter of fact, the movie is mostly atmosphere- the acting is passable and the storyline is interesting but goofy and confusing in places, so you just have to kick back and let it happen; observe the insanity and  the script will just keep throwing cool things into the mix.  It’s like the movie Rob Zombie would make if he wasn’t so hung up on producing 2 hour rock videos with no soul.

The story is about the kid (Mike, now played by James LeGros (Drugstore Cowboy, Bitter Feast)) from the first movie getting back together with his brother to follow the Tall Man’s (Angus Scrimm) calvacade of carnage through towns he’s destroyed and catch up with him, to hopefully stop him.  

It features a Audio Commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Banister; “The Ball is Back!” Documentary (which has new interviews with director and primary cast members; several behind the scenes footage featurettes; trailers; still gallerys; alternate takes and deleted scenes; a 4 barrel shotgun, acid embalming, head drilling, a chainsaw that would make Leatherface blush, and of course the famous flying silver spheres with drills and blades and other tools of carnage popping out of them.
And, just to sweeten the deal even more, a rare short film starring Rory Guy (aka Angus Scrimm) as Abraham Lincoln.

It comes out 3/26/13 on dvd and Blu Ray from the awesome Scream Factory.

I haven’t seen Don Coscarelli’s new movie Jon Dies At the End yet, but I hear it’s killer.  Looking forward to it as well…