Thursday, May 26, 2011

You're Never Fully Dressed Without an AK-47 and an Apocalyptic Grimace

In the olden days, back when men were men and the dead crawled, but seldom walked, let alone ran and vomited up hemoglobin, the question of whether or not zombies were going to make it to the party could be summed up with one iconic image: a single hand, green and sickly, thrust from beneath the earth's surface and into the fog of an unseasonably dewey night. Yellowing fingernails clawing at the dirt as an unnamed monster flailed out of its own grave to the soft, gutteral moans of 'braaaaains'. Because this is thriller! Thriller night! And no ones gonna save you from the beast about to strike...

I don't care what the hipsters are doing, and I don't care if I am one; I love zombies. Something about humans turning on humans in a situation where it is morally okay (nay, encouraged) to take down your neighbor with an ice-pick to the skull warms the frozen cuckles of this young girl's beater. AMC's series, The Walking Dead, recently out on DVD, premiered to unexpectedly high ratings last October when its mere 6 episode run out-shone both of AMC's highest ranking original series, Madmen and Breaking Bad (more on that in this weeks New York Magazine, with that fantastic Amy Poehler on the cover).

I watched it this weekend, surrounded by the misty woods of Belfast, Maine, and I was pleasantly surprised. While some plot points of the series had a derivative ring to them, (in the pilot, the main character wakes up from a coma in the hospital only to find the world has been taken over by zombies; very similar to what happens to Cillian Murphey in the first 10 minutes of 28 Days Later) the acting was what I would refer to as "legit", the effects where impressive, and I found the quality of the zombies satisfying. They were somewhere between the total automatons of the early Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead ilk, and the vicious, blood-spewing animals of 28 Days Later variety. I also know that 28 Days isn't technically a zombie movie, if you wanna fight about it you can email me.

What with our recent collective brush with eternal hellfire and all, this got me thinking about the trend of zombies and a post-apocalyptic world. Its true that there's no accounting for what is about to explode into trendy infamy next; I mean, who could have foreseen mustaches and "Keep Calm and Carry On"? I got eyes, readers. I sometimes moonlight in the card and gift room, as you well know. When customers wander up to the counter and pick up the iPhone plunger stand, I see the defeat in their eyes. God dammnit, they seem to say (or sometimes literally say but I'm too busy nodding in sympathy to hear them) why didn't I think of that?

But, as usual, I digress. What is it that we find so fascinating about the end of the world? Could it just be that its something we can't experience until it happens, and that very knowledge makes it exotic? I know that, for myself, a large part of the enjoyment from watching zombie movies (or horror movies at all, for that matter) comes from speculating about what one would do in a similar situation. I've had a zombie action plan for every apartment I've ever lived in. One hot summer day a few years ago, an old roommate and I drew a map of out neighborhood and figured out the best escape routes. We had that business on lock down. If you will.

I also can't help but think that the modern day obsession with end-of-the-world scenarios is, in some way, a reaction to the environmental state that our planet increasingly finds itself in. I have been hearing from environmental lobbyists talk about our imminent collapse for most of my life; a destruction totally different from the bomb threats of the 50's and 60's. That devastation was gruesome but also total; in that scenario, potential survivors would starve out in their bunkers or die from radiation if they weren't killed immediately. When the resources of the modern world dry up, we'll first squabble and fight over the final supplies before we take to killing and eating each other, just like...hey wait!

Could it be that the movies and speculation about zombies could just be a modern generation's response to their own mortality? BUMMER, man. Why did I write this downer of a blog post? Why do I always go down the path of introspection when I know what I find there just leads me to listenin' to somber bluegrass and takin' to the drink?

At any rate, if you're into the apocalypse like I am, you should get to taking a look at these novels. Three terribly different interpretations of the end-of-days, World War Z is the well-known zombie novel from last season, but in case you haven't gotten around to reading it yet, it comes highly recommended (by myself, sitting on a very tall chair). Written journal-style at the end of the world, we see the POV of a character staring into the drooling, flesh-hungry abyss. Which, of course, stares back.

Speaking of drool, Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas is peppered with a bevy of bodily fluids which are no less provoking than the power of Butler's intensely descriptive prose (ok seriously DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE, who's got two thumbs and is an english major? THIS GIRL). If you were the type of kid who stayed up all night in their SLAYER t shirt, (heavy metal or Buffy, either is fine) eating pizza and discussing the various ways to make rubber tubes, condoms, and hamburger meat look like intestines, you'll probably love this.

Finally, I threw Hunger Games into the mix despite not having read it myself, which could be a mistake, but I know enough about the series to know the basic plot line. I have also heard, from a number of sources (see: people I work with and my roommate who is an even bigger nerd than I am), that it's an excellent series and definitely worth taking a look at. It's in the Young Adult section, but don't even start. You read all the Harry Potters, you read Holes and the Lois Lowry books, you read The Book Thief, and you loved every second of it, so I don't even want to hear your crabbing. Just kidding. You know I love you.

See? That's my trick, I lure you in with insight and facts and then I turn on you real fast. This is how I'm going to climb into the hearts and minds of America. Business plan 2k11.

Until we meet again, Brookline, I advise you to travel by day, don't waste the ammo, and if one of your party gets bit...well. One bad apple, you know the rest. Good luck, and via con dios.

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