Zombie Reviews . . . Day of the Dead


Zombie Reviews . . . Day of the Dead

by A. Zombie

Rated: Not Rated (Contains extreme violence, strong adult language)
Language: English
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Richard Liberty, Jarlath Conroy, and Sherman Howard

In tribute to the man who brought us all to this weird zombie life, I snagged Day of the Dead for a re-watch . . . and realized I’d never covered the film for this website. Well, that’s just wrong. We’re going to remedy the problem right now.

Sarah and her band of scientists are perhaps the last to continue research work during the zombie apocalypse. They’re aided by thuggish army personnel who’ve just about had their limit of hunkering down in an abandoned missile silo while the man they call Frankenstein carries out gruesome experiments. The team’s goal is to find any way to lessen the zombie impact in an earth overrun by the undead. Sarah wants a cure. Her blood-coated coworker, Dr. Logan, thinks he can tame zombies using positive reinforcement and their own latent human traits. It works. Somewhat. There’s one zombie who’s not like the others: Bub. But their progress with Bub isn’t enough for Rhodes, the military man in charge. He snaps and all their hard work hits the fan.

Now, admittedly, Day of the Dead isn’t many people’s favorite Dead film. The language is beyond foul. The racism makes any sane person’s blood boil. The way the men treat the only woman is abhorrent, and while there’s no sexual violence, it sure is threatened a lot. We’re meant to be disgusted by these men. The best shortcut was to make them outrageously racist, misogynistic, and flat out a-holes of the highest caliber. They’ve existed in an echo chamber of hatred while stuck underground. Basically, this is Romero saying that if you put a bunch of awful white men in a jar, they’ll become even more hateful before turning on each other just to have someone to fight other than their own thoughts. Unfortunately, they weren’t alone and those caught in the crossfire are people who don’t deserve to be treated so badly. Almost everyone pays with their lives because Rhodes is, deep down, a frightened little boy who requires a death grip on everything he can possibly control since the world above is absolutely insane.

The ethical questions raised by Dr. Logan’s experiments lead to some of the best conversations Romero’s ever brought to the table, on-screen and off. At what point do the undead stop being human? For Logan, it is never, ever clear. He has no qualms about using the military men as fresh zombies to operate on while he searches for what makes them tick. On the other hand, he treats Bub as an adoptive son, is painfully patient with him, and goes to great lengths to ensure the zombie’s well-being. This is night and day compared to the way Logan talks to the scientific team and the military men. With humans he speaks from a place of deep entitlement, never bothering to hide that he believes himself to be far superior to them because he’s so dang smart. He gets away with it, for the most part. However when Sarah snaps and puts Rhodes or his men in their place, she’s nearly shot. Logan made himself important, far more important than his peer, and forced Rhodes to see her as disposable. Frankenstein was never in the silo to help humanity. He was there to help himself by gathering knowledge about the one thing no one else had access to, and did it in a way he knew Sarah wouldn’t replicate so she could never be on the pedestal he built for himself.

There’s so much going on with the dead in this film. This is where Romero drove home the notion that they’re not much different from us, only they have something primal driving them instead of the complex rules humans live by every day. They’ve got more freedom than the humans. Even Bub and the others imprisoned in the silo for experimentation are at liberty to do what they want because there’s no social rules for the undead. Their only restriction is placed on them by another species. They just are whoever they are and nothing can change that. Bub already possessed the reasoning capabilities Logan exploits in the film. How do we know that? Land of the Dead. In that film, the dead communicate, have returned to a human-less life where they repeat the tasks ingrained in their minds from their living days, and eventually band together to seek something which is missing from their lives. If Bub were taught how to reason, future generations of zombies wouldn’t have been able to accomplish their great trek to Fiddler’s Green. We owe a lot to Bub.

The makeup FX are some of the best . . . for 1985. Except for a few background actors in full masks who accidentally shuffled too close to camera, the zombies are a collection of what everyone considers a stereotypical zombie. Go look at your local zombie pub crawl. Most of what’s there can also be found in the final act of Day of the Dead. There’s even a clown, for heaven’s sake. Romero did it all back in a decade when zombies weren’t the cool thing to produce. That influence echoes throughout anything dealing with the undead to this day.

Day of the Dead signaled a change in the way the undead would be presented for decades. For that reason, and so many more, I’m giving it four oozing eyeballs out of five.


Dead-Diego Comic-Con

Dead-Diego Comic-Con
by R.C. Murphy

This year the San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead was a vast departure from the way the show’s run things for the last seven years. Yes, the cast was there in force. Yes, the series’ showrunner and producers were on stage to guide the conversation away from spoilers. But Hardwick was nowhere to be seen. There were no prepared questions or discussion, and they jumped straight to audience questions. There weren’t even name tags on the table. The mood on stage was about eight notches down from past years. They’ve had a seriously rough summer, and given everything it’s surprising they still came at all instead of sending a smaller delegation with the trailer. No one would have blamed them for cancelling.

Scott Gimple opened this year’s panel with a touching statement about John Bernecker, an accomplished stuntman who tragically lost his life after an on-set accident a couple weeks ago. Prompted by a fan’s question later in the discussion, Robert Kirkman and Greg Nicotero also took a moment to remember late director George Romero, the man who created the zombie genre as we now know it.

The cast and crew were excited to announce that episode 801 is actually the show’s 100th episode. Danai Gurira misspoke at one point, saying, “100 years,” instead of episodes, to which Lincoln claimed it felt like it. To celebrate the occasion, AMC has a few things up their sleeves for social media and the likes come October. The producers also brought a retrospective video to show the panel audience to kick off the celebration. I’m not sure what clips they used, but Reedus was especially touched by the video and took the chance to gush about his time on the show toward the panel’s end.

The panel had about 30 minutes of fan questions after the retrospective. We didn’t get much about the new season outside the 5-minute trailer. Kirkman did put his foot down about possible future story lines—there will be no immune characters or another search for a cure, ever. They also teased new characters, but intentionally left the answer so vague, I’m just going to assume an alien invasion is a go until proven otherwise. Gimple joked that as part of the 100th episode, Judith will get her first zombie kill. “Three’s old enough,” Gimple said as everyone laughed. Kirkman promised that season 8 will be, “action-packed and fast-paced.” Chandler Riggs and Jeffrey Dean Morgan stated they hope the show story line falls in line with the comics, as both would love to delve into that particular Carl/Negan dynamic. When asked about Glenn’s legacy living on in the baby, Lauren Cohan hoped the writers give Maggie the chance to instill his strengths in the child as it grows, as well as passing on tales of Hershel, Beth, and the extended family they’ve left behind.

The rest of the fan questions prompted some levity in the group, but not much. On a few occasions, Gimple acted as moderator, urging actors who weren’t answering fan questions to talk about, well, anything. To wrap things up, they showed that baffling trailer again.

No, I don’t think they’re pulling a Dallas, guys. Calm yourselves. But the end does raise a whole truckload of questions.

 


Catch You on the Z-Side: Vol. 1

Catch You on the Z-Side: Vol. 1
by R.C. Murphy

Too many to count have found their way to the great zombie-free haven in the sky. If one thought other shows were out for main cast blood, while compiling this series, I discovered it has the highest main character death rate, and the secondary characters who’ve bitten the dust likewise captured the audience’s heartstrings. Rarely is a death on this show a “good riddance they’re gone” moment. It just so happens that the adventure-of-the-week storytelling style lends wonderfully to writing many, many deaths because next week, the main cast will find someone else to help them or hunt them. Not to get caught in a pattern, the show’s writers also aren’t afraid to tap side characters to make a comeback, like Sketchy and Skeezy. Unfortunately for those we’re revisiting now, that is not an option.

The cuts to what fans assumed would be the main cast came fast and hard in the first season. One episode in, we lost the commander for the troop trusted—kinda—with the task of saving humanity via Murphy’s inoculated blood. Lt. Mark Hammond didn’t have any surviving Delta Force members at his back, but he required the same discipline from the ragtag group he conscripted for the operation. They weren’t quite prepared for such a daunting task, and when Hammond stepped in to take care of a super-speedy zombie baby, he was caught off-guard and eaten. At least he left humanity’s hope in mostly capable hands.

Harold Perrineau played a brief, but vitally important part of Z Nation. In no time at all, Perrineau hit the small screen again, ditching the fatigues for wings and a tense friendship with DC Comic’s surly demonologist on the woefully short-lived Fox show Constantine. After the disappointment at Fox, Perrineau went on to appear on The Mysteries of Laura, Golaith, and Criminal Minds. Currently, he’s set to appear on the TNT dramedy Claws which stars Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) and premieres in June. Fans can also catch him in Without Ward, out later this summer, and I’m Not Here, also starring J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, and Mandy Moore.

Losing a leader so early kept fans on their toes, waiting for the ax to fall again. Sure enough, six episodes down the road, they knee-capped the audience with feels and sacrificed Charles Garnett to the greater good. Garnett proved to have the compassion necessary to lead the mission without sacrificing an ounce of bravery. He got them far, but not far enough. In the end, Garnett’s commitment to saving mankind was greater than his selfish desire to love again during the world’s demise. He took a bullet meant for Murphy, and for his generosity, Roberta gave Garnett mercy so he could find peace in death.

Bringing the fallen leader to life was Tom Everett Scott. Since waving goodbye to the Zs, he’s appeared on How to Get Away with Murder, Criminal Minds, Elementary, and most recently Scott appears on the breakout Netflix show 13 Reasons Why portraying Mr. Down. As Queen Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil, Scott first appeared in the latter half of Reign‘s second season and made regular appearances throughout the third season. Scott was also a regular on MTV’s Scream: The TV Series. On the big screen, fans can find him in La La Land, Sister Cities,and The Last Word, as well as in the upcoming flicks Collusions, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, and Danger One.

STARZ presents the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Ash Vs Evil Dead’ – Arrivals
Featuring: Pisay Pao
Where: Los Angeles, California, United States
When: 29 Oct 2015
Credit: Charlie Steffens/WENN.com

 

Hope as I might, Cassandra didn’t last terribly long on the show, and the latter half of her time was spent enthralled to Murphy, therefore stripping her of pretty much everything which made her such a wonderful character. Someone had to be the example of how Murphy’s bite worked, she drew the short straw by nearly dying from an infection and found herself the recipient of one of Murphy’s rare altruistic moments. His bite saved her, yet doomed her to a mindless life. When her feral behavior became too much, when the group couldn’t control her without Murphy’s interference, 10k stepped in and gave Cassandra mercy.

Post Z Nation has been pretty chill for Pisay Pao. She’s traveled the country making appearances at conventions, meeting fans, and reuniting with the Operation Bitemark gang. When not on the road, she’s working and auditioning.


Something They Need: Review for The Walking Dead 715

Something They Need:
Review for The Walking Dead 715
by R.C. Murphy

Warning! There’s episode spoilers below.

The action targets three story lines; a blessing since the Oceanside invasion is a snooze-fest and utterly predictable. If it were the sole story line in the episode, it would have been one of the most boring hours of television in creation. The only curveball in the episode is Tara’s complete lack of give a dang once decision time is up and the invasion begins in earnest. Mind you, they have a plan to rob women and children, yet ask any Alexandria resident exactly how they plan to employ these guns against Negan and there’s crickets. So why would Natania trust a woman holding her at gunpoint with no provocation, and then just hand over every gun to hyper-aggressive people who can’t say what they’ll do with them? Obviously Natania is never going to agree to such ludicrous demands. The second Oceanside’s leader fails to say yes, Tara blames her for making the only logical decision available. Women and children needlessly suffer emotional and physical harm for failing to fall in line with Rick’s demands. Didn’t anyone stop to think that if they used explosives to scare the residents, it’d also attract zombies? Why hold civilians in an unsecured portion of unfamiliar territory? Nothing about the invasion’s resolution makes sense, unless you realize it was written to indebt Oceanside to Rick, therefore forcing Natania to surrender their weapons to the people who saved them or look completely unhinged. Don’t forget, Oceanside could have protected themselves had Rick not ordered his people to disarm their fighters and hold everyone outside the secure perimeter. How does Rick react to her grudging gratitude? By taking every last gun in the community. That pettiness is exactly why this show is going downhill. Enough tit-for-tat revenge schemes. How about an episode where Rick treats an outside group with respect? Would it have killed him to speak to Natania in person before getting her people attacked, or is he like our sitting Vice President, unable to be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his spouse?

Who’s holding him accountable for his questionable decisions? It sure as heck isn’t God—a.k.a. the writers.

Who does suffer drastic consequences for their actions on TWD?

Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

It all boils down to punishing women. Sasha’s irrational decision to join Rosita’s mission means she must be pushed, in this case via David’s rape threat and molestation. When Rick jumped on the crazy-hair train and promised Jadis a ton of weapons they’d never have a chance of finding? He’s rewarded with armloads of guns falling in his lap with little to no effort on his part and a whole lot of grandstanding. Daryl’s decision to hit Negan cost someone their life, yet his punishment on-screen is some dog food sandwiches and gopher duty. Excuse me? How is raping Sasha going to make Rick’s war happen? It isn’t. It’s a message to women to stay in their place, listen to the man in charge, and to rely solely on the good graces of another man in order to make it anywhere in life. This show if chock full of these jabs at the strong woman stereotype. Maggie endures a dozen moments like this per episode in this season alone—and let’s not forget her near-rape moment back during The Governor’s reign of terror. There are few exceptions to this rule when it comes to TWD women. At some point or another, they’re a forced-sex object. Can’t the writers move past this already? Name anything a man finds terrifying and I guarantee it’ll also frighten a woman. Lean in close, writers. Not every strong woman needs a rape story in her history in order to make her a true survivor and therefore worthy of becoming a leader.

Playing off the rape threat, Sasha depends solely on Negan to survive the night locked in a closet with a soon-to-be walker when he gives her a knife and several “difficult” decisions to make. Obviously she isn’t going to lay there and wait for an attack—that’s what David wanted to do in the first place, now he gets a second change to molest Sasha after death? Bull. But we’re supposed to believe Negan Is Great And Merciful. He’s not. He’s the bad guy, and despite Jeffry Dean Morgan’s insane amount of charm, he will remain a scum-sucking monster no matter how much positive PR the writers give him. Standing up against rape doesn’t negate murder, mental abuse, and torturing those who step out of line. Negan gives Sasha the right to life, and orders to strategize how to stop Rick’s plans before they fully hatch. She turns around and makes some grand lie about wanting to kill herself in order to manipulate Eugene into giving her a weapon to use on the bossman.

I’d like to remind writers that suicide is not something to arbitrarily throw into a script because your character needs or wants something. Too many depressed people are ignored or belittled when they do reach out during an emotional crisis because pop culture trains us to believe they’re exaggerating, or worse trying to manipulate. There were numerous ways for Sasha to convince Eugene to give her a weapon, yet when hard-pressed to deliver something clever, the writers use the lowest form of mental manipulation. F for effort. Go back and write something which doesn’t harm an already ostracized subset of people.

Back in Hilltop, it’s really more of the same. Maggie’s role as a leader solidifies as she expounds expert farming advice to receptive ears, much to Gregory’s chagrin. This is where it gets eye-roll worthy. Gregory stalks Maggie, cornering her to discuss her intentions in the community now that their doctor serves Negan. The scene is only fun when it comes to realizing Gregory can barely tie his shoe in a tense situation, let alone protect a pregnant woman and take on a zombie. Of course Maggie saves him. She also has the gall to tell passersby that he just made his first kill. The second she shames him in public, Gregory rushes to look up Simon’s address and plans a trip to tell Daddy about Maggie’s bad behavior. Gregory is that manager who’s so afraid a woman in his employ will take his position, he winds up ruining his own career undermining hers. Simon doesn’t want Gregory to whine at his doorstep. He only gave the guy his address to get information about whatever Rick’s planning. Once Gregory fails to deliver more than babbling about women taking over his mansion, he’s walker food. I know, I know. I keep predicting Gregory’s death. At some point it’ll happen. I honestly cannot see that character surviving until season eight. He’s just too . . . pathetic.

The finale is around the corner. I have absolutely no expectations and have passed up every preview so far. All I know is Dwight’s about to hand Rick the key to this war, and I’m livid that everything goes so smoothly for a guy who honestly can’t pry his head from his backside long enough to realize he’s gotten everyone killed thus far, with more deaths yet to come.


Bury Me Here: Review for The Walking Dead 713

Bury Me Here:
Review for The Walking Dead 713
by R.C. Murphy

Head’s up! This review contains episode spoilers.

Pardon me while I try to wrap my head around something. A white man is radicalized through his own apathy at a refugee camp. He suffers heart-shattering losses due in part to this. When he’s safe, he turns to leadership-approved violence to cope. When his vengeance against the Saviors is constantly put on the backburner, the man turns to terrorism, going so far as to stalk and recruit an accomplice. Turned away from his vendetta yet again, this time by a kindred spirit, he executes a dramatic suicide-by-baddie ploy to finally spread his message. When his poorly considered exit claims another life instead, he backtracks and blames everyone else, only ever taking ownership of his original cowardice at the camp where his wife perished in a fire. Despite the method of his murder, this man dies thinking he’s a martyr. His end at the hands of a man half a sneeze from Full Crazy is pathetic, really. What was Richard ever going to add to the community? He came in ready to go out with a bang. A glory hog to make up for past sins. His death delivers a message: Terrorism hurts those who are given the dubious position of profiting from destruction with no consideration for civilian safety. How much effort does it take to stop and ask yourself, “How many people will die because of what I’m going to do?”

Okay, I think I’ve got it now. I understand. The writers weren’t happy just making a point, but they yet again proved said point with the tried and true white martyr story. The story line pushed the tension a little, mostly because fans were waiting for Richard to die, and motivated exactly one person to take up arms against the enemy. I wasn’t sure who’d end Richard’s woe-is-me festival. It was a tie between Morgan, Ezekiel, Gavin and co., or Carol should she catch wind of his intent to drop The Kingdom in the middle of the war without any time to prepare. Trying to guess gave me about a minute of enjoyment. Then the writers blew the surprise with foreshadowing when they took this as their golden ticket to trigger Morgan—adding an “unpredictable” element to liven things up, I presume.

Now we’re down a fighter and the Saviors have word that mutiny has been on The Kingdom’s mind. Thanks, Richard. Your legacy thus far is astounding.

Morgan is pretty much useless now, except for clearing the undead from around the community’s perimeter. That puts the burden of caring on Carol’s shoulders once more. She knows the truth at last, even if asking requires her to examine why she turned her back on humanity. Kudos to the writers for passing on clunky dialog in favor of allowing McBride to just react during two character-changing conversations—the first changed how she sees herself living in the mad world, the second demolishes the emotional barriers holding her back from engaging in battle. The minute she suspects her people suffered, she straps on her badass cap and goes to get answers she knows will break her heart. And they do. McBride’s genius is in her eyes as Morgan lays out what happened in Alexandria since their departure. Without much to-do, she delivers a gut-twisting performance. It’s probably one of my favorite acting moments in the series from the last three seasons, despite the tears it inspired.

Richard the Coward shoved the Kingdom into the warpath, whether Ezekiel thinks they’re ready to defend the front lines and the home front simultaneously or not. Morgan went ’round the bend again and can’t stop killing walkers. To clean up the mess, Carol’s coming out of violence retirement. It shouldn’t come down to one woman to smack sense into everyone, but since we’re here, I’m glad Carol is that woman. The Kingdom is being dragged into a mess they want nothing to do with. How will the average citizen react to the news?

Next week, Hilltop is likewise forced to choose their side in the war. Can they kill off Gregory as their sacrifice to the war gods, like the Kingdom did with Richard? His misogyny is tired and boring. We need to move on to more productive narratives, not the same ol’ men-holding-women-back bull, if this show is to get anywhere during the last three episodes in the season.


A. Zombie Reviews . . . Resident Evil: Extinction

A. Zombie Reviews . . . Resident Evil: Extinction
by A. Zombie

Rated: R (Strong Violence, Nudity)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, and Iain Glen

In the franchise’s third installment, not only has Raccoon City fallen to the dead, but the T-Virus spread like wildfire, decimating the global population. Mother Earth has set to reclaiming the land, sweeping it clear with vast deserts. Few living survive, mostly as nomads. The Umbrella Corporation thrives in underground bunkers. Their scientists, led by Dr. Isaacs, work tirelessly to use clone Alice’s blood to control the dead and reclaim the surface for human kind. The woman herself? She lives off the grid, so paranoid she can’t make a friend, but still cannot resist the urge to help those in need. A convoy, led by Claire, finds themselves in need of Alice’s special skills. In return, they help her break into the home of the very people hunting her down.

There’s actually quite a bit crammed into this deceptively simple film. It handles touchy topics like Alice’s survivor’s guilt, and the ethics behind using human clones for experimentation. We see a woman, Claire, leading a large group with none of the usual male arrogance costing innocent lives because they can’t be bothered to listen to the little lady. There’s ramifications for Umbrella’s genetic meddling, demonstrated when the arrogant, rich bastards sit down to wring their hands over dwindling supplies while they’re no closer to a solution to the undead problem they created.

But there’s also quite a bit of bullcrap pushing the plot along, like magically appearing undead and male egos.

Dr. Isaacs’ demeanor is much like that weird clump of gunk one collects on their shoes after walking a mile through alleys in the seedier side of the city. There’s no professional ramification for his obsession with Alice, nor does anyone actually stop him from torturing dozens of women. It’s not until the film’s climax when Isaacs is desperate to survive after being bitten that he pays for all his sins. And it isn’t enough to make up for the nauseating male arrogance propelling the character like a shark. Umbrella itself continues on, despite losing Isaacs and his American lab. The only price they pay is the woefully low supplies in their worldwide bases. While there’s some satisfaction in the end for Alice, it’s not the solid win one expects at the end of an action film. The full blame lies with the way the franchise was written early on, forcing each film to flow nearly seamlessly into the other. A stand-alone film would have to deal with Umbrella in a more complete way. It also wouldn’t have shipped off the entire cast, save one, and never follow up. They languished in knowing they could leave an open ending, and that’s not stellar storytelling. Each entry in the series should be written as its own entity. Cliffhangers aren’t actually all that fun.

The undead in the third film were pretty sparse up until the second half. For the most part, we had human foes and infected animals going for Alice’s blood and body. The infected dogs are a personal favorite. We also learn what happens when animals ingest infected meat—the crows proved far more terrifying than their canine counterparts. The avian threat wiped out a large piece of Claire’s convoy in a scene Hitchcock would’ve watched with a grin on his face. And the human infected? Well, much like other RE films, there’s various types of human dead. This time around there’s the mundane infected, like those surrounding the fence protecting the entrance to the Umbrella base, and the Alice-enhanced infected who’re far more aggressive. Makeup applications for the mundane are standard for the franchise—great detail on the hero dead, with just as much attention spent on the background actors so the blend is natural during in-horde shots. What irritated me was when they opted to strip individual characteristics from the enhanced dead, making them all the same angry white guy zombie in a jumper. The reasoning? Stunt work. The enhanced infected swarm what’s left of Vegas during Isaacs’ grand scheme to finally grab the real Alice for testing. In order to film so many simultaneous stunts, using masks instead of fragile prosthetics saved money and time. It also allowed performers to be swapped out at will in order to achieve different physical performances. But it looks bloody awful ten years down the road on a high definition screen. The scalps jiggle. The heads are too big. Try as I might to focus on the foreground fighting, I kept watching the Jell-O headed zombies in the background.

So how does Resident Evil: Extinction compare to the genre offerings which have come since? It fails to adhere to the typical gender roles for zombie flicks, that’s a huge bonus. The plot—a savior type wanders the countryside, helping others while fighting their inner and outer demons—isn’t original, but fit so well within Alice’s story, it’s almost refreshing to escape crowded RE sets in favor of gorgeous desert landscapes. And it’s certainly an improvement over seven seasons of Rick’s people being unable to see zombies in a sparse forest. The personal interactions go deeper than some films—Alice and Carlos’ scenes in particular—without devolving into time-consuming, but not plot advancing, sex. Honestly, the film is solid. I keep trying to poke holes in it, but the problems I found were small enough to ignore. The only real thing showing its age is the trademark glossy computer graphics from the turn of the century, giving every CGI element a wet look even when it wasn’t supposed to be. I give Resident Evil: Extinction four oozing eyeballs out of five—the same rating I gave it ten years ago.


Life After Death, Vol. 8

Life After Death Vol. 8
By R.C. Murphy

Unfortunately, the reality during an apocalyptic scenario is that most people will not make it far with their families intact—these solo folks tend to fall to the wayside on the show quite often. Over the course of season two, we said goodbye to several mainstays from the original camp crew. We also got to know, then lost horrifically, a couple newcomers who could have gone far had they not become walker lunch.

Browse photos from the set of the two-hour series premiere of Heroes Reborn.

Browse photos from the set of the two-hour series premiere of Heroes Reborn.

Otis was doomed from the get-go, to be honest. First, he accidentally shot Carl, then he volunteered to go on a supply run with Shane as backup. The latter, despite Otis attempting to make up for the accident, was probably one of the worst ideas throughout season two. He didn’t know Shane like we do. Didn’t realize that man would do literally anything to keep Lori happy. Anything meant hobbling Otis to provide cover for himself so he could escape a walker horde and deliver the supplies.

Pruitt Taylor Vince has one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces, so it’s no surprise that after his short stint on TWD, Pruitt rolled right along with his career. Since hanging up his hat as Otis, Pruitt has filmed nearly a dozen film projects, including Beautiful Creatures, Bending the Rules, 13 Sins, Broken Blood, and Homefront alongside Jason Statham and Winona Rider. As Casper Abraham, Pruitt helped introduce everyone to a new generation of super-powered people on Heroes Reborn. Over the years, he’s had a reoccurring role on The Mentalist as J.J. LaRoche. He took a turn on HBO’s True Blood during the show’s sixth season, playing Dr. Finn, a psychologist who develops a fixation for Pam while she’s held in a vampire concentration camp. Pruitt’s next project is The Life and Death of John Gotti, also starring John Travolta and Kelly Preston.

Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades Sr. in Billions (Season 1, Episode 1). - Photo: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: Billions_101_0466.R

Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades Sr. in Billions (Season 1, Episode 1). – Photo: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: Billions_101_0466.R

No one, and I mean no one was prepared to say farewell to Dale Hovarth after only two seasons. Too much of the group’s stability relied on Dale to be the voice of reason. Not to mention, Jeffrey DeMunn has a calm about him in the role which reaches out to the audience. The fact that it was actions within his own group which caused Dale’s death is no accident of writing. They had to kill their conscience early in order for Rick to spiral to the point they are now. Doesn’t mean I have to like Dale’s death, though.

Freed from playing a nomad in a broken-down RV, DeMunn went on to guest star on The Good Wife, The Affair, The Blacklist, and Divorce. He teamed up with TWD creator Frank Darabont for TNT’s Mob City, co-starring Jon Bernthal and Milo Ventimiglia. DeMunn has a reoccurring role on Showtime’s Billions. He plays Charles Rhoades Sr., father to Paul Giamatti’s character. The senior Rhoades spends his time being obscenely wealthy and meddling in his son’s life. Billions has been renewed for a second season, starting February 2017.

BernthalDaredevilIt was no great secret back when season two aired that I could not tolerate Shane’s overly-aggressive nature, especially when it came to how he treated Lori or he decided to make safety decisions for the group, which always ended in bloodshed. Those very things lead to his death at the hands of his best friend. Oh and then, wonderful man that he was, the kid he considered a son had to kill his reanimated corpse.

But just because I couldn’t stand Shane doesn’t mean I didn’t love Jon Bernthal’s performance on the show. This is one man who left TWD and, zoom, his career skyrocketed—it’s still on a straight shot to the moon, too. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you know Bernthal was brought into the Marvel universe to play Frank Castle on Netflix’s Daredevil. His jaw-dropping performance in the episode “Penny and Dime” pretty much guaranteed he’d land a spin-off. The Punisher hits Netflix during November 2017, which is not nearly soon enough. Need another Bernthal fix before Mr. Castle gets his own show? He also appeared in numerous films and shows since leaving TWD—Snitch, The Wolf of Wall Street, Fury, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Mob City, to name a few. His other upcoming projects include Pilgrimage with Richard Armitage, The Accountant alongside Ben Affleck, Sweet Virginia, Baby Driver, and Wind River.

JAMcCuneBlairWitchJimmy wanted desperately to be the hero he felt Beth deserved to protect her gentle soul during the apocalypse. In a way, he fulfilled his dream, but at too-high a cost. We mostly saw Jimmy in the background, helping the Greene family tend to the farm or giving Beth emotional support. He did get his hands dirty gathering walkers to keep in the barn where they couldn’t attack anyone—until Shane let them all out. During the chaos after Shane was killed, walkers swarm the Greene farm. Jimmy was in the thick of it, using Dale’s RV as cover to shoot walkers, then driving it over to help Rick and Carl get off the barn roof. Unfortunately, an RV is not a tank. They broke in and Jimmy became supper.

James Allen McCune is just as generous and kind as Jimmy, but still has a heartbeat. Post-TWD, he went on to appear in Snitch, Congratulations!, and the made for TV movie Anna Nicole. James joined the cast for Showtime’s Shameless during their fourth season as Matty Baker. In some seriously exciting—and surprising—news, James was introduced as the star of a brand new film, The Woods, which is actually Blair Witch, a direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project. James plays brother to Heather, the missing woman from TBWP. The film’s real title and plot was made public during San Diego Comic-Con when the cast and filmmakers were in attendance to screen the film. Blair Witch will have a wide release on September 16th after showing at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11th.


Breaking Up with a Show 

Warning, the following contains show spoilers and a strong opinion.

I’m a die-hard fangirl. When a show gets my attention, I hang on to the bitter end—anyone who saw my reaction to True Blood‘s final season know what happens when a show lets me down like a frayed guide rope while climbing Half Dome. At least that show started pretty strong. This show never really found its footing. Every time I thought they’d stepped up to the plate, wanted to be good horror, they failed to follow through. In the two episodes before the mid-season break, they lean toward the macabre. First with Celia’s guests in the cellar. Then they opened the mid-season finale with Ofelia’s face peeling off, only for it to be a dream. The cellar bit? We saw the same plot on TWD when they found the walkers in the Greene’s barn, put there because Hershel believed they weren’t lost causes. Celia saw it as evolution, driven by divine intervention in the form of zombies. Both think the undead are worth our love and care. No part of me was surprised to discover Celia ran a freaky suicide/mercenary side business. Nor did the religious slant surprise me. When they steered the Doomed Ship Lollipop toward Baja, I knew they’d use the culture this heavily. Why not? It gives them the perfect scapegoat to rehash the tiresome but-they’re-family plot. On Z Nation the Zeroes, based just south of the border, worship death. I guess FtWD thought they could do something similar and have it work as anything but somewhat insulting to an entire culture’s intelligence just because they’re constantly portrayed as chill with Death.

The effects gags just aren’t worth the effort to pay attention to the story-telling anymore. In the season opener, I called them out for using the boat propeller in the face gag. Since, it’s been more of the same bland infected action. Why? They set the first half of the season on a boat. Their human bad guys were as interesting as watching leg hair grow. So where does that leave us on the tension front? Bickering and nagging, occasionally silenced by an actor in zombie makeup limply shaking his arms at the lead actresses while they flail a fishing pole at it. Some shows are salvaged by the action when the story goes bad. But when nothing happens in the story or the action? What’s the point? Then it’s just people making bad decisions, living on a yacht, and yelling at each other.

FtWD 207 DanCrazypants“So we’ll make one of them insane!” Nice try, guys. I’d totally buy it . . . if Chris had any actual reasons not to trust Madison and her family. At what point have they left him behind or put him second? Madison and Travis drove into a riot to save him. They made a deal with perfect strangers in order to secure safe haven until the riot passed. Nick jumped off the yacht thinking Chris wanted to swim away or drown himself. They staged a funeral so he’d have a chance to deal with his mother’s death. So why he’d snap, threaten Madison and Alicia, and run away to hold a family hostage is beyond my reasoning. Nick is a more likely choice, seeing as they laid the groundwork for it with his rampant drug use. He does some batty things, like willingly walk around covered in walker goo on numerous occasions—so much so, the original scene from TWD in “Guts” has lost its impact entirely. Now he’s fearless and buying into Celia’s bull about life eternal. Also so apparently broken, Madison—mother of the decade—asks Strand to sort her crap out while he’s digging his lover’s grave.

If I even start on how they’ve written Madison, I’ll break my keyboard. She’s by far the nosiest, indecisive, and nagging character ever to survive to season two in a show. Seeing as she’s the universal mother figure, I hate to hear what the people at the writing table say about their mothers. Somebody in that writing room needed a hug as a child.

FtWD 207 TravisChrisThe characters have no backgrounds. They’re all blank until they need convenient problems—Chris’ insecurity and psychosis, Daniel’s PTSD and hallucinations, Nick’s trip down sociopath lane. Alicia led the group to their first real bad guys in the season and we still know nothing about her except she’s impatient and bravery makes her do rash things. Travis has the personality of a jellyfish, only finding a backbone to salvage the weird Chris-Is-Crazypants story. Strand actually has this decent backstory, except it came too late in the game to salvage the damage done before Tom was introduced, and then swiftly killed off to avoid that whole messy gay character issue. Leaving Strand the outcast yet again, essentially a blank slate so he can resume being a prick. Instead of writing a world and characters living in it, they’re writing caricatures to manipulate how viewers see the world and what happens in it. It’s not good storytelling. There’s no consistency. Narrators, the characters driving the story, must be consistent. Someone suddenly sporting a raging case of PTSD leading him to burn a building at the behest of his dead wife just means the writers wanted to blow something up for the mid-season finale. It works for Z Nation because explosions are a part of parodying the genre. It does not work for FtWD in episode 207 when it’s painfully obvious the only reason any of this took place was to burn things on camera. Again, this entire story was lifted from TWD season two, right down to the main survivor group disbanding at the end.

FtWD 207So why should I keep watching? If this show refuses to stick to their characters, follow a coherent story, or just rob content from the mothership, it really isn’t worth my time. I watched in the hopes that someone would bring another quality genre show into viewers’ living rooms since TWD is bogged down by expectations. What I got was essentially the discarded ideas from the main show, stretched beyond believability, and crammed into a glitzy, Hollywood setting. The grand settings are an attempt to mask everything the show lacks. All it did was tie their hands trying to make zombies work on water. I mean, there are ways, but it requires thinking outside the box. AMC didn’t buy outside-the-box. They wanted TWD, but with a longer name. What they can’t buy is my time.

This is the last review I’ll scribble for FtWD. There’s no salvaging the mess they’ve made. I’m jumping ship before it gets worse.


The White Light: Review of Z Nation 202

It’s glorious. It’s bloody. Best yet, it’s simplistic. No complicated or contrived tension between the characters. The plot rolls out naturally. Are there parts which don’t make a lick of sense? Of course. This show is written for the most part to parody other shows which take themselves far too seriously at times. But that’s the beauty of this show. It’s not bogged down by things like physics.

Citizen Z is still on the run from the NSA zombies loose in the base. He left Dog alone in the command center with orders to stay no matter what. But where’s Citizen Z going? To the weapons locker, of course. Hilariously, even though he emerges from the storeroom with two full bags of guns, he still relies mostly on a baseball bat to dispatch any zombie in his path on the way back to Dog.

Z NATION -- "White Light" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Cedano as Vasquez, Pisay Pao as Cassandra -- (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z Ice/Syfy)

Matters aren’t quite so easy for everyone else. The broadcast from Citizen Z turns the small town in Wyoming into the O.K. Corral. Everyone and their psychotic mother is on the hunt for Murphy. A few factions are in play for this episode. First, the bounty hunter introduced in episode 201, Vasquez. Then there’s the Skull Face guys—who never stand a chance. The instant Vasquez sees them, he opens fire. That sets the tone for the entire episode. It’s a free-for-all. Every moving body has a target on their forehead, living or dead. There’s also Soccer Mom, fond of a shotgun loaded with less lethal bean bag shells. Her luck runs out after landing a shot to Murphy’s gut; Cassandra—still very much feral—eats her for lunch. Escorpion, played by Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy), uses a rocket launcher as his weapon of choice. His scenes are few and far between, but the damage he does with that launcher are felt for most of the episode after he deafens 10k with a blast. The last bounty hunting crew to get face time are the Rednecks. They’re just dumb enough to fail right in the pursuit of The Murphy.

Throughout the episode, the main crew get their backsides handed to them. This provides odd little flashbacks for everyone. Addy remembers riding her bike down a suburban street. Citizen Z recalls falling in a park and being scooped up by his mother for comfort. Roberta’s subconscious takes a dip in a pool. Doc doesn’t flashback, he has an out-of-body experience. While floating near the ceiling, he watches Redneck #2 strangling him, then spots a letter opener on top of a bookshelf and tells himself to knock it down. Murphy’s vision is, of course, smoking a joint with a beautiful woman.

Z NATION -- "White Light" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Keith Allen as Murphy -- (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z Ice/Syfy)

During the chaos, everyone eventually ends up in the world’s most depressing motel. This place was sad in its heyday. After the apocalypse, it became the place where happiness goes to die alone and forgotten. Redneck #1 and #2 are taken out by Vasquez and Doc in the motel. After #1 collapses, Vasquez decides to join forces with Roberta. She doesn’t say no; he just saved her life. Everyone is scattered in the building. Mack and Addy split up to avoid zombies and find Murphy. He goes down, she up. What neither could predict is the insane number of zombies drawn to the motel thanks to their prey. Caught alone in the stairwell, Mack is swarmed. The nearest door is chained shut. Addy does her best to get to him, but it’s too late. She stays with him, watching the zombies bite him, until he turns and she gives him mercy. Everyone else makes it to the roof where Murphy contemplates jumping. He and Roberta argue, but it’s mostly for show. Murphy jumps, landing in a swimming pool lined with zombies.

He doesn’t make it far. Angry, Addy tracks him down like a bloodhound. She yanks him from the van and beats him until the others drag her off of him. If Murphy hadn’t run from them, Mack would be alive. It’s a harsh truth they all realize the second Roberta asks, “Where’s Mack,” and Addy breaks down. Murphy’s fight leaves him in an instant. Even Cassandra complies when 10k motions her to climb into the van.

ZN202 MackBittenMack’s death is only the second main character loss on the show with any serious impact. It was just assumed he’d continue to be there for Addy even though they aren’t a couple. He made the trip to the compound she called home to make sure she survived the nuclear blasts. No one told him to check on her, he just did it. Mack was the one to suggest they rejoin Roberta’s mission to deliver Murphy to California. As much as he got in the way, he also helped round out the group.

They’re not down a fighter, though. Vasquez hops in the van with everyone at the end of the episode. His plans to sell Murphy to the highest bidder must be out the window after seeing how far the living will go to collect the bounty and promised cure. A solo bounty hunter won’t make it a block with Murphy in custody and he knows it. He also knows the nuclear fallout will make driving westward impossible. They have to skirt the worst damage and hope to find a clear way to the lab. If the lab hasn’t been blown up like so much else in the US.


Survival School: Psst . . . Do You Wanna Build a Safe House?

The best survival plan begins long before you and your family comes face-to-gnashing-teeth with danger. Figuring out where you’ll live now that home-sweet-home is covered in zombie drool should be high on the priority list. For some, it’s not ideal to leave their home due to disability, young children and infants, elderly parents, etc. Others already have their evacuation plans in hand with every route mapped out so they hopefully land somewhere z-free with a place to settle down. For the record, we don’t suggest an old prison, it doesn’t seem to end well.

For any location you choose to settle down, there are a few basic things to do which will give you a little more time for fight or flight if the zombies find you.

  • Cover every single window. Ditto with doors, leaving two with a relatively easy way to exit just in case. We suggest using corrugated metal, 5/8″ exterior grade plywood, or marine plywood. Screwing the boards in place will make them stronger. You may want to pack a battery-powered drill in your supplies cache. If that’s not doable, hammer and long nails will work. Place the boards on the outside of the house—it’ll prevent a horde from using sheer weight to push them free. Don’t forget to secure the garage door! You’ll want the extra safe space, anyway.
  • Grab anything outside your safe house which can be used as a battering ram and bring it inside—trash cans, barbeque, lawn furniture, gardening equipment, etc. We’re not saying the zombies will be brighter than the dirt on their feet, but one must take into account possible human invasion as well. Particularly people who have grown desperate and angry over failure to secure a place of their own.
  • Take the time to do a little yardwork. Clearing away grass, shrubs, and trees within a 10-yard radius around the house will prevent accidental fires. The cleared wood (if dry, or set aside to dry) will come in handy, anyway. Plus, if you get rid of the lawn, there’s not much holding you back from finally using that flamethrower you picked up on a whim. I kid. Mostly.
  • Bring all of your supplies inside the safe house—water, tools, food, clothing lines, wash buckets, firewood, etc. If you cannot secure your vehicle(s) inside a connected garage, drain the gas and bring it inside, as well.


It may not look like much, but it could be home sweet home with the right planning and preparation.

Here are a few health safety tips to remember about your newly secured safe house:

  • Establish a clean room for cooking and food storage. In another room, create a clean place to tend to medical emergencies. I’d highly suggest using vinegar to clean these rooms, not bleach. With low water supplies, you may not be able to rinse away bleach to safe-to-handle levels. However, keep bleach on-hand to purify washing water.
  • Do not use a barbecue indoors! If you are without a propane stove, plan to create a secure, well-ventilated patio outside one of your two emergency exit doors. As a bonus, this can act as a staging area if you must evacuate from the safe house.
  • Keep the generator outside. Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t pretty. This is the only survival item you must leave outside. Hey, if you build that patio, it can go there, as well.
  • Do not use kerosene for your indoor lamps. It smells awful and the impurities aren’t good for your lungs. Opt for lamp oil and make sure to read the label to see if the brand is safe for indoor use.
  • Keep all flames away from the secured windows/doors. If there is a breach, the flame will likely fall over. Don’t make the zombies’ job easier by giving them a way to burn you out of your safe house.
  • Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: Nausea, dizziness, weakness, confusion, disorientation, vomiting, and sleepiness.