Fire in the Hole: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 107 By A. Zombie

Does it feel like the honeymoon is over? For me, the shine on the blood-encrusted gold rings AvED slipped on fans’ fingers dulled. Why? The formula. The movies series used the formula well—Ash arrives, evil, death, and chaos follow. In the end, our main man walks away, dirty, tired, possibly maimed, and alone. Though they negated the alone part physically, Ash is mentally alone on this trip. Breaking the formula down to fit the series means each episode is pretty predictable. We can only have so much fun watching Kelly and Pablo take two gallons of blood to the face for five minutes in each twenty-something minute episode. While they do tend to mix up the fights and gross-out gags, it’s not enough to make us sit up and go, “Oh.”

When did horror television become about maintaining the same instead of breaking boundaries? This franchise, most of all, was the last I expected to play it safe. Showing Bruce Campbell’s butt in the first episode is not living dangerously.

AvED 107 Ashmanda

When we left the gang, they’d killed deadites in a restaurant and left with a bonus team member—Amanda. We catch up with them in the middle of a misty forest, discussing the merits of Ash allowing the others to join him, though he’s still hesitant considering the formula and everyone except Ash dying as a result. Now would the show really kill off Pablo, Kelly, and Amanda? I want to say no, to give it something more to hold over the films—and also give them a solid base for the future considering season two was green-lit before episode 101 aired.

But here we are. Again. With Ash doubting his team even as he leads them to meet with his old pal Lem’s militia group in order to gear up for the final battle with evil. Before they even make it into the camp, they find a gutted corpse, an injured man babbling about an attack, and masked militants who shoot first, ask later. Luckily, it only applies to the injured man, who they think is, “…one of those things,” and their leader makes his head the consistency of oatmeal.

Ash talks his way into an actual meeting with the armed brain trust—that’s sarcasm if you can’t tell. Before they get to haggling for the good guns, evil arrives in the form of DeadLem, who’s mostly naked and possessed. The militia think he’s been gassed by Big Brother. If that’s a demon’s name, then they’re so on point. Unfortunately, these goons are slow on the uptake. Don’t get attached. Most end up dead. The others survive, but only to run away once they realize they’re way out of their element.

AvED 107 DeadLem

Lem’s attack, times with the team’s arrival, make the militia nervous. Ash and Amanda are handcuffed together,  then dumped in another section of the compound. Why not, say, a jail cell? It’d be easier to keep captives captive if they’re not left to wander through endless tunnels, one of which surely leads outside. It does give them time to discuss Ruby, who isn’t dead, but rises from the ashes and reclaims her car. No worries, DeadLem somehow finds his way into the labyrinth to stalk the handcuffed—and flirting—duo. I’d hoped they would forego forcing one of the women on the team into Ash’s bed, but there it is, Ashmanda. DeadLem makes several attempts to blow up the pair. At last Amanda gets one over on the deadite. Ash thanks her by almost kissing her, until they’re interrupted by the cavalry.

Kelly and Pablo escape captivity after DeadLem’s meeting-time attack. The militia spread out to find them, though they manage to hide pretty much in plain sight alongside the dirt road leading to the compound. The big plan? Steal a gun, a gas mask, and take over the compound with Pablo posing as a militia member. The plan works, up until they miscalculate the number they’re against and get nabbed mid-theft. They’re dumped in a truck, but the vehicle goes nowhere. A deadite wipes out the guys holding them. Pablo takes out the deadite with the militia’s truck. Kelly makes sure it’s really dead after testing the new-to-her semi-automatic rifle. She unloads the gun into the deadite. Pablo is covered in blood. Off they go to save the day and interrupt a kiss which I believe should never happen if they wish to maintain the integrity of Amanda’s character.

The team catches—and releases when they leave—the militia, then pilfers whatever they may need for the fight at the cabin. Ash gives a rousing speech about how much he appreciates everyone.

AvED 107 Team BadAss

Then Ash ditches the team. Because, formula. Or he was abducted. But my guess is he ran to save them. Annoying since it’s been his stance since the get go and they negated actual character growth by perpetuating his distrust. “But he’s protecting them!” A group who a minute before he leaves calmly pumps a deadite full of bullets. No hesitation. No worrying about the human it once was. They put the deadite down, saved the militia, and helped Ash secure weapons. They’ve earned trust, but the show’s writers are stuck on the notion that Ash’s appeal is his swagger and lone wolf routine. His appeal is the ability to adapt to any situation, even if that situation requires competent backup.

Knots Untie: Review for The Walking Dead 611 By R.C. Murphy


WARNING: This review contains episode spoilers.

So naked Rick and Michonne don’t turn Jesus into swiss cheese.

TWD 611 ChatWithJesusMatter of fact, once the cavalry arrives to restrain Jesus again, they somehow end up listening to what he has to say. They’re totally onboard with sending the town’s ruling council and the majority of their top-tier fighters with this stranger, as well, even after hearing he’d taken full stock of their supplies and people before essentially turning himself in to Rick. They were more suspicious of Morgan, the man who may be the sole reason Rick saw more than a week outside the hospital after his coma. Yes, Morgan snapped his Slim Jim after his son passed, but he is fully not crazy now and Carol still watches the man like he’s about the club them all to death and make sachets from their skin.

With no real concern whatsoever, Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Abe, and Jesus climb into an RV—there’s always one which just happens to be nearby—and take off toward an undisclosed location with only their vague threats to keep Jesus from driving them into a trap.

Which exactly what it looks like not long after we rejoin the gang on the road. A car, one Jesus swears belongs to his people, crashed on the roadside moments before they drove past. Now, not only are the fighters separated from the group, they’re being put directly in harm’s way for people who may still turn around and put bullets in their brain pans. There’s an urgent rescue. One of the guys, Dr. Carson, thanks Maggie and Glenn by being probably the only OB left alive in the state and offering to care for their baby. How’s that for luck?

TWD 611 WalkerUndercarriageGagDuring the entire episode, Jesus is essentially Google—feeding Rick and Maggie exactly what they need to manipulate Gregory, Hilltop’s chicken-livered and misogynistic leader. It’s all too easy, this plot. Somehow we end up at the right place at the right time for these unfortunate people to demonstrate the kind of antics keeping Negan top dog in the county. But with all the bad Negan has done—namely, his men murdering a sixteen year old boy upon The Saviors’ first meeting with Hilltop—Jesus seems not concerned at all about being in the room with two men confessing to blowing up quite a few of the boogeyman’s goons. If that were me, I’d wash my hands of Alexandria, not matter how badly we needed another trading post.

Hilltop itself is designed to resemble a walled medieval estate during wartime, with all the folk from the farms and homes under care of the lord encamped within the walls. It’s so blatant, Gregory turning out to be a world class jerk doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s even less surprising that one of his own men would then stab him, hoping Gregory’s death would secure the release of a man Negan took captive. Why did he take this guy and kill another Hilltop citizen? Gregory sent his people to deliver their usual payoff knowing it wouldn’t be enough. It’s never enough. Negan will demand more and more. Though Gregory survives, this hasn’t done a thing to teach him to grow a pair and take on the man running their lives from afar.

In comes Rick and his band of killers.

TWD 611 NotFingerPaintingTimeRickSeriously? This is where the story goes? They veer from attempting to set up a functioning ecosystem in Alexandria to hired mercenaries who’ll just kill and take what they want. These are the people Rick wants to kill, usually. But when it suits them, murder is on the table. They wouldn’t need to kill Negan so soon if they’d stopped to do the boring things like clear fields. But they need food now. Hilltop has a functioning system in place which produces enough food to send half to Negan without forcing strict rationing in Hilltop. If Negan doesn’t need that food being dead and all, Alexandria will take it. Now. Half of whatever is on-hand is cheaper than the cumulative price to keep Negan at bay via bribes.

But again, this is all too easy to follow to the conclusions the writers want. They’re trying to make fans guess who’s going to die. Is it Glenn? Negan and Glenn’s comic book story is well known, spread by every reviewer trying to make the show into something it’ll never be—an accurate reflection of the comics. They drive more nails into Glenn’s coffin during this episode, finally giving us a glimpse at his and Maggie’s child in an ultrasound. Every happy character dies on this show. It’s no surprise. Abraham seems a tad happy himself after some soul searching and a near-death experience, but he’s mostly in the story now to fire large weapons and make us question Glenn’s fate going into the season’s end. Some say golden boy Dixon will bite the big one. It makes sense, seeing as he did blow up Negan’s people.

It’s all so boring, this weird dead pool going on in the fandom. I never watched the show to see who would die. I kept watching because the characters made rational decisions in an interesting setting and the story pace never lagged so much, I wanted to wander off for a snack ten minutes into an episode. They’ve killed the Negan story line before it begins.

No Way Out: Review for The Walking Dead 609 By R.C. Murphy

This episode is not for the weak-hearted. Matter of fact, I highly regretted filling my coffee mug just one more time before settling in to watch. Twenty minutes into the episode, I paused and took a five-minute break to watch puppy videos. Otherwise my heart would’ve exploded.

Warning! Walking Dead Spoilers ahead, as well as graphic descriptions of violence.

Now, I’m not doing a complete 180* flip on my stance on the show using easy outs. There were simply too many deaths in this episode which in the end tied up a loose thread in the plot. Sure, they were somewhat spectacular deaths, but that then comes down to a simple A-B reasoning for offing the character. A, the character over complicates the plot—yet Father Gabriel, who has done nothing but get people killed, remains safe; heck, he’s mentally recovering from his sins far better than anyone left alive on the show. The B reason for these producer-targeted deaths then shifts to making them so astounding visually, fans will confuse a visceral reaction to the death with a genuine connection to the woefully two-dimensional character.

There’s no ride with these people. No thrills, lulls, love, empathy to make them matter. They’re cannon fodder tossed on the field to make the generals look like they have the numbers to win the battle. Sad thing is, they’re right. The producers gave us cannon fodder and we, the coveted item in the television ratings war, bought into their bluff. “We can change,” they promise. “It’ll be just like the comic books.”

TWD 609 Road Standoff
Apparently that translates to adult language, mass slaughter of plot-hampering B-list characters, and the icky kind of tension. The tension a woman gets walking in the dark by herself and heavy boot steps follow half a breath behind her. It’s the wrong tone for where I think they want to take the show heading into the season finale. You can’t run head-first into the terror about to come. This was their toe-dip to warn us. Hopefully this unwanted tension tone shifts. I mean, the primary perpetrator was blown to about six-billion pieces. By Daryl, no less. With an assist from the time-wasting and convenient rocket launcher.

The walker footage for this episode is beautiful. If there’s one thing Nicotero does well in his episodes, you see the FX love up front and center. Good thing, too. Most of the Rick-centric scenes happened mid-herd. The few times there aren’t walkers in-frame, we’re lead to believe they somehow found a corner within the tiny community to hide where one of five thousand walkers couldn’t find them. These moments are when Rick passes Judith, his last tie to his deceased wife aside from his son, to Gabriel. The Father will shelter her in the church until Rick and the others draw the walkers away with the cars they left at the quarry. Jessie tells Sam to go with them. He refuses, stating he can make it.

TWD 609 Sam and Jessie
You know where this is going, right? They’ve intentionally mishandled Sam’s PTSD, hauling us by the nose to the moment when his mental disorder takes the forefront, driving back rational thought and costing the boy his life. Jessie, frozen by grief, is swarmed and eaten, as well. Sorry, Rick. But, wait, why aren’t you moving, Rick? He hesitates just long enough for the walkers to almost get Carl, who can’t move because Jessie has him gripped tight in her death throes. There’s a weird fascination with cutting off hands in genre pieces. Jessie loses hers to save Carl. Father and son recover just in time for Ron to be a moron. Grief-numbed Ron rightly blames Rick for his family’s death. In the following struggle, Michonne impales Ron and Ron accidentally shoots Carl in the eye.

Well, heck. By this point we’ll assume literally everyone is on the chopping block this season. Which is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. They want us so concerned for everyone, it means they don’t have to rely on character growth to keep us on their emotional journey. The only two who knocked it out of the park growth wise this episode are Denise—kidnapped by the lone Wolf until he saves her as they attempt to escape Alexandria, taking a bite in the process—and Eugene, who finally joins the fight without reservations. Characters like Aaron and Heath are only on screen as proof of life and extra bodies in the epic fight montage at the episode’s climax

TWO 609 Rick Fight Montage
After Carl is shot, things move quickly. Denise jumps to action, having slipped the Wolf when Carol killed him, but not before Denise had promised to save his life. Michonne helps Denis stabilize Carl. Rick, without saying a word to anyone, grabs a machete and heads outside to, well, collect some heads. He becomes a zombie mowing machine. After some debate, others join him, even Michonne after ensuring Denise had things in hand.

While they fight, Glenn and Enid hatch a plan to save Maggie from the rickety guard platform. The plan is beyond dumb. Glenn will stand at ground level and shoot walkers. Enid climbs the platform. Maggie freaks out, refuses to climb down the wall with the improvised rope, and uses her last bullet. Right at the last second, Abraham and Sasha magically mount the wall and mow down the walkers, all without injuring Glenn. Daryl waits in the truck and Glenn joins him. What will they do? Daryl has a plan. This may be a first, to be honest.

TWD 609 WalkerFirePit

Flaming zombie pond! That’s Daryl’s big plan. Honestly, it’s effective. The nearby walkers shamble into the flaming pond without reservation. When the herd shifts direction, Rick and company mow them down. Though I don’t one-hundred percent believe all the walkers would simply ignore yelling, grunting, sweating live bodies in favor of one big fireball. They win the battle, though. There’s no more casualties. Even Father Gabriel got in on the action before it ended. Okay, so three characters had some emotional growth.

The episode ends with what’s supposed to be a touching monologue with Rick at Carl’s bedside. The kid is alive, but unconscious and honestly doesn’t look too good with a third of his face bandaged. Where this scene went wrong is language choice. Rick doesn’t go into his feelings for his possibly dying son, oh no. Instead he crows over being able to unite the townsfolk for this oh-so important cause. He then goes on to talk about making the town bigger, badder. There’s the hint of emotion, but Rick never gives it a proper label, just that he hasn’t felt it since before he awoke from the coma. The scene has no punch until Rick begs Carl to let him show him the new world. Our hope for Carl is in a single moment, his fingers closing around Rick’s hand.

Obviously, we’re not done with Negan despite blowing up a chuck of his goon squad. How soon he’ll arrive at the gate is a variable no one in Alexandria can account for with any surety. They’re knocking on war’s door while licking their wounds again. Will this too-similar setup have similar endings to Woodbury and the prison? *shakes Magic 8 Ball* Most likely

TWD 609 Morning After

From the Beginning: Review of Fear the Walking Dead Episode 101

Warning: Again. Spoilers.

As promised, Fear the Walking Dead starts with a little undead action. We find Nick Bennett in a church which has been turned into a shooting gallery for heroin addicts where they partake in “Junkie Communion.” He wakes, looking for Gloria, the girl he shot up with the night before. Unbeknownst to him, she’s already up and eating breakfast. Not too sure how much nutrition is in a guy’s face, but it doesn’t stop her from chowing down on a poor sap’s cheek and lips. Nick freaks, as one does when facing an aggressive cannibal with freaky eyes, and bolts from the flophouse. He’s hit by a car when he stupidly stops in the middle of the street to catch his breath.


In the first five minutes, they establish Nick as an unreliable narrator. This position is reinforced after he’s checked into the hospital. A cop asks Nick all the usual questions—what happened, why was he running, where’d he get the smack from? Despite being freaked out, Nick responds with sarcasm and lies, calling his delusional ramblings about blood and gore a, “Runner’s high.” The lies continue when he mother, Madison Bennett, arrives at the hospital. It isn’t until much later that Nick opens up to Madison’s boyfriend, Travis Manawa, about what he saw. He admits he’s terrified to think what he saw isn’t real, but cooked up by his drug-addled mind. “If that came out of me, then I’m insane, Travis. Yeah, insane. I really don’t want to be insane.”

The episode’s tempo drops drastically once Madison and her daughter Alicia leave the hospital and head to school. Alicia is a student at the school where Madison is the guidance counselor. Travis also works at the school as an English teacher. At this point in the show, Alicia is only present to show just how screwed up her brother is compared to a “normal” child raised under the same circumstances. She has a steady boyfriend, a place at Berkeley after she graduates, and a serious chip on her shoulder when it comes to trusting her druggie brother. The last, I’ll give them a pass. It’s gut-wrenching to see a sibling fall into drug dependency and unable to help them in any way that sticks. But couldn’t they do more with Alicia? Anytime she’s given decent screen time, she’s latched onto her boyfriend, repeating, “One more year,” referring to her great escape to college. And then the oh-so-essential personality point, her boyfriend, goes missing. At least she gets more screen time than Chris, Travis’s son, and his mother Liza. There is more zombie footage than their bit part in the episode.

The mid-episode doldrums grabbed hard and fast. In an eye-rolling attempt to break it up, the show kept zooming in on people facing away from the camera and playing, “OMG, this guy’s a zombie,” music. Or they latched onto Madison’s near-belligerent refusal to listen to Nick and Travis when they told her about Gloria and the murders in the church. For heaven’s sake, Travis put his hand in a gore puddle, yet it’s not enough to convince Madison there’s something going on. Instead, she accuses Travis of using her son as a Band-Aid on his broken relationship with Chris. It’s not until Nick breaks out of the hospital that Madison will consider going to the church to see what happened with her own eyes. Even then, she has a minimal reaction to the blood on the floor, yet completely breaks down over a needle in one of Nick’s books.

After Travis and Madison leave the church, they hit traffic—not unheard of on L.A.’s notoriously awful freeway system. They hear police warning people to stay in their cars and gunshots. Travis pulls onto the clearer road and they head home. The next day, however, we find out what happened on the freeway via a viral video the school’s staff watches together. After a car crash, EMT’s treat the victims. One man, lying on a backboard, attacks an EMT. Police beat him with batons, to no avail. Eventually they shoot him about eight times in the chest and, surprise, he stands again. Finally, an officer shoots the man in the head. This isn’t the first documented case of this nature. Tobias, a student Madison has taken under her wing because he’s prime bully bait, brings a knife to school the morning of Nick’s accident. He says, “We’re safer in numbers.” Madison asks why, but he doesn’t really answer. She voices her concern about his future if he continues acting out, bringing weapons to school. Tobias goes on to tell her, “No one’s going to college. No one’s doing anything they think they are.” The kids online are hip to what’s going down. All the adults have their head in the sand, apparently. Well, the adults and Alicia. She assumes the footage from the freeway incident is fake. When the police order the school to cut classes short, her belief wavers a little.

Nick’s a free man. So what’s the first thing he does? Call his drug dealer, Calvin. Madison and Travis think Cal is just Nick’s friend. Yeah, the only friend a junkie needs. Cal and Nick meet at a diner, then drive down to the Los Angeles River. Nick assumes he’s about to score dope. Cal assumes Nick is an idiot and plans to shoot him. They fight. Cal gets a bullet to the gut. Nick bolts like his stolen pants are on fire. Unsure what to do with the corpse, he calls Travis. Yes, because your mom’s boyfriend is always the first logical choice when dealing with murder. Being a good boyfriend, Travis brings Madison along and they all drive back down to the river. Only, there’s no body. Now Madison and Travis think Nick’s completely bonkers. That is until Cal shuffles up behind them when they go to leave. Madison tried to help. Cal mistakes her for a hamburger. Taking matters into his own hands, Nick runs over Cal twice to save his mother. It doesn’t kill the undead, just disables him enough he can’t attack anymore.

All Madison can say is, “What the hell’s happening?” Travis replies, “I have no idea.”

Which is pretty much how I feel after watching a ninety-minute episode for maybe twenty minutes of actual plot. This isn’t TWD, with its non-stop walker action, that’s for sure. But it’s also got a long ways to go in order to become a solid genre show which will keep fans in their seats instead of wandering off for snacks every time Alicia is on screen or Madison waves off Travis’ well-founded concerns for the thousandth time. They could have done so much more with the extra time for the pilot episode, and I don’t mean just cramming in more walkers or slow pans to show downtown Los Angeles.

Don’t Forget How to Use It


Don’t Forget How to Use It

Review of “The Walking Dead” 513 – “Forget”

Head’s up! There’s spoilers in the rest of this review.

c6a19207-1c00-8798-6c5b-d834abba8f70_TWD_513_GP_1016_0045One of the last hold-outs to fit into life in Alexandria is Sasha. She’s not sleeping. Wakes with the sun to use someone else’s family photos for target practice. At no point does she attempt to get along with the locals—not even effervescent Olivia. How can anyone resist home-cured meats and pickles? Her erratic behavior puts everyone at risk. Deanna won’t put up with her for long. Neither will Michonne.

Sasha isn’t the last round peg refusing to fit in a square hole. Carol, Rick and Daryl are very much on the fence—do they start taking over now or wait to see what their new neighbors can really do? More importantly, how quickly can they establish their own weapons cache? Never mind what’s actually coming out of Deanna’s mouth—making Rick and Michonne the town’s law, reestablishing civilization, a future for their children. Matter of fact, Rick looks terrified at the prospect of Judith remaining in Alexandria past next week, let alone when she’s Carl’s age or an adult. He has to see the potential in her as a leader, but too long scraping by to see tomorrow makes him jumpy, unable to trust in anyone. Which leads to one of the best-acted scenes on this show this season—Carol and Sam in the armory. Melissa McBride does an amazing job showing just how good Carol is at lying to everyone around her. The two sides we see—the soccer mom and the ruthless killer—are drastically different. Carol loves kids, but in that moment she needs Sam more afraid of her than anything else in the world. It works. But is Carol’s remaining humanity really the price Rick should pay to obtain a security blanket?

“…longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.”

TWDIf Daryl finds out how far down the rabbit hole Carol goes to get the guns, his tune will change pretty quick. As it is, he’s slowly warming up to Aaron. Or at least I assume that’s what it means when he grunts more than five words at a person. The guys had an unfortunate bonding experience with the doomed horse, Buttons. They tried to help and in the end, that help cost Buttons his life. How many times has this happened with humans on the show? So many deaths in the name what’s supposed to be kindness. Except, kindness is as foreign as flying to Disneyworld for vacation in their reality. Losing Buttons doesn’t put a damper on the kinship of sorts brewing between Aaron and Daryl. While everyone else is dragged to the welcoming party at Deanna’s, the guys join Eric for a spaghetti dinner. Over dinner, they pop the question—will Daryl take Eric’s spot as recruiter for Alexandria. There’s a signing bonus, too. Plenty of parts to build a custom motorcycle. Something changes for Daryl during that day. He went from covert meeting in the woods to agreeing to recruit for the town. If he can be won over, who will follow next?

A. Zombie Reviews . . . The Returned


A. Zombie Reviews . . . The Returned
By A. Zombie

Starring: Kris Holden-Ried, Emily Hampshire, Shawn Doyle, and Claudia Bassols
Rated: NR (Adult language, partial nudity, mild drug use)
From Filmax International:

Kate (Emily Hampshire) works at the hospital in the Return Unit, helping those who have been infected by the virus that turns people into zombies. Kate’s dedication to her work is absolute, but few people realize that for her it is also a personal matter; Kate’s own husband, Alex (Kris Holden-Ried), has been returned.

After various brutal and prolific attacks at the hands of Anti-Return groups and rumours that the “Protein” stock is running dangerously low, Kate fears for Alex´s safety. Suspicious of the government’s order that all the returned should report to a secure medical facility ‘for their own safety’, the couple decides to flee, taking with them all the doses of “Return Protein” they have. At no point does the couple imagine that the real threat is a lot closer than they think…

The Returned came from the same house as the [Rec] series, and the quality shows. I went into the film expecting one of the random, low-budget films that are usually slid under my cell door. Boy was I in for a surprise. While The Returned isn’t a blockbuster, it’s not something to snub at a glance.

1-the-returnedLet’s get down to it. The film starts with what feels like a random, bouncy flashback scene. It isn’t entirely clear why we’re seeing this scene until the final minutes where it becomes clear this is a pivotal moment in Kate’s life, one that shapes how she deals with the fallout of so many harsh decisions from those around her. The importance could’ve been made clearer. Possibly by cutting some of the post-production additions—all the “noise” added to make the footage feel old—and pushing the credits until the following scene set in the present time.
As for the characters, I’ve found a rare film in that none of them are, as I call it, Too Stupid To Live. Every decision made throughout the movie is thought out, or when done impulsively there’s decent character-driven reasons, as is the case for Jacob and Amber when they ultimately are forced to make a hard decision that may put them at odds with their friends, Alex and Kate.

8-the-returnedThere’s not a lot of zombie action on screen. The film instead focuses on society’s inability to adapt to change and accept a new species of people. Because, that’s what the Returned are, something new and unpredictable. Forced to rely on a daily dosage of drugs, the Returned are given the same treatment as homosexual AIDS patients by the media. What happens when they stop taking their treatments? What will they do to others without treatment? How fast will this disease spread if the government doesn’t step in and micromanage their lives? Wouldn’t it be better if they were all just killed—gunned down while idiots seek to coddle the monsters? We recoil at the truth of it—anything new and uncertain is automatically handed a death sentence. That’s the way humanity is hard-wired. Kill the unknown to spare the larger population. Never mind who is traumatized in the process.

The Returned is a slow-burner. The plot pushes steadily forward, forced along by the characters, their decisions and reactions, and not the evil undead waiting to tear them limb from limb. This is not an action film. It’s a statement on a society that cannot change without first destroying itself. If you want hack-and-slash, keep moving. However, if you’d like to think about the implications of how zombies would change everyday life, give The Returned a chance. I’m giving it 3.5 bloody scalps out of five.


Survival School: Keep Comfortable – by RC Murphy

Comfort. That concept is the antithesis of what it means to survive in the zombie apocalypse. For the most part, we’re prepared to leave our cozy homes with their soft mattresses, refrigerators, filtered water, and indoor plumbing to chance it on the road in order to stay one step ahead of the undead menace. But without taking a couple moments to pamper yourself, life will start to suck and thoughts will wander. What if I went back home? Surely the zombies skipped my house and moved out of the city.

Yeah, and while they were there, they gave the living room a fresh coat of pain and reupholstered the couch your cats scratched up. Instead of putting yourself in danger’s path with daydreams of normalcy, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do for your road-weary body.

Take care of your transportation: Better get used to hoofing it around the country once gasoline and diesel supplies run out. Walking takes forever, but any forward progress is good when the enemy is shambling in your wake.

  • Invest in good insoles for your shoes/boots. Something graded for a ton of walking or high-impact work insoles.
  • Clean socks. If there’s one thing you over pack in your go bag, make it socks. A quick change will give your tootsies a burst of energy—caffeine for your feet.
  • Freedom. Feet trapped in shoes for too long stay damp and court fungus. Take some time to give them a wash and let them dry out every day. As a bonus treat, give yourself a massage with a dollop of minty lotion.

Soothing sore spots: Not only will fighting the undead take a toll on your muscles, but so will everyday chores—made much more difficult by the lack of modern conveniences. Spas will be seriously lacking, as will a bathtub to soak in, but heat a cold applied to appropriate muscles will help.

Rice heating pads are wonderful and ridiculously easy. Take a tube sock, fill it with dried long grain rice, and warm it. Dried beans would work, as well. Warming will be tricky without a microwave. Put a brick-sized rock near your campfire for about half an hour. Pull it away from the fire with tongs or a pot holder. Set the rice-filled sock on top and flip it over every minute or so until it feels like the rice is heated through. Apply the heating pad to any sore muscles

Ice packs come in handy, too. They’re also pretty easy to make. However, you’ll need access to an ice chest still filled with ice to refreeze these packs once you’re away from home:

  • Method #1: Alcohol/Water Ice Pack
    You’ll need:
    2 cups water
    1 cup rubbing alcohol
    2 zip-top bags (quart or gallon)
    Dump the water and alcohol in the first bag. Seal it, pressing out as much air as possible. Secure the filled bag in the second—just in case there’s leakage when it defrosts. Freeze the mixture for about 12 hours before the first use. It’ll be squishy, but that helps it mold to your body better.
  • Method #2: 1-Ingredient Gel Packs
    You’ll need:
    Corn syrup or dish soap
    2 zip-top bags
    Pour the dish soap or corn syrup into the first bag. Secure the filled bag in the second. Freeze for about 12 hours. These may freeze harder than the above method, but still work well.

Pucker up: Being out in the elements won’t do pretty things to your lips. Wind, sun, and inevitable mild dehydration will chap your lips, possibly to the point where they’ll bleed. Keep Chapstick handy. Or make a quick and easy lip balm from the recipes below.

  • Method #1: Mint and Honey Lip Balm
    You’ll need:
    1 teaspoon petroleum jelly (or Un-Petroleum Jelly)
    peppermint extract
    one teaspoon honey
    small container with a lid.

Heat the petroleum jelly for 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix in 3 drops of peppermint extract and the honey. Put the mixture into the container. Let the lip balm set overnight without the lid. Once the mixture is set, pop the lid on and you’re good to go.

  • Method #2: Drink Mix Lip Balm
    You’ll need:
    A small container
    enough petroleum jelly (or Un-Petroleum Jelly) to almost fill the container
    a packet of flavored drink mix (water bottle add-ins like Kool-Aid or Crystal Light, try to avoid any with aspartame).

Mix the drink mix and petroleum jelly until you reach a color/flavor that appeals to you. Spoon it into the container and close the lid. Done!

Biting pests: We’ve covered bug repellents before, but I’ve discovered a new, super-strong recipe to share. Don’t forget, in a pinch you can simply rub fresh peppermint, spearmint, catnip, pennyroyal, citronella, lemongrass, basil, or lavender on your clothes for moderate insect repelling powers.

  • New recipe: Four Thieves Vinegar
    You’ll need:
    32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
    2 tablespoons each of dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme and Mint
    a quart size glass jar with airtight lid.

Pour the vinegar and dried herbs into the jar. Seal tightly and set it on the kitchen counter near the coffee pot (or a place you see every day). Shake the jar vigorously every day. Continue for 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 weeks, strain out the herbs and store the vinegar in the fridge. To use on skin, dilute with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

There you have it, a few ways to make life running from the undead moderately comfortable, or at least tolerable until the spas open up again

Survival School: Hungry like the Wolf

Gray-Wolf-15We’ve covered food quite a bit. Understandably. While a human can survive for three weeks without food, it isn’t pleasant. Starvation means no fuel to make our bodies move, and we’re all about mobility here at the ZSC. Staying put, unable to defend yourself is the very thing we’ve been preparing our brigadiers against. A stationary target becomes zombie chow pretty quick. But how are we supposed to maintain a balanced diet on the run? You won’t. However, if you focus on finding steady sources for protein, keeping one step ahead of the undead will be much easier.

The CDC recommends teens and older eat about 50 grams of protein a day. It may sound like a lot, but not when you consider that a single fillet of striped bass contains a whopping 28 grams of protein. Just remember, the more active you are, the more protein you’ll need to keep your muscles going. Despite running for your lives, you’ll need to self-check your health anytime you stop to rest.

Are you overly exhausted despite adequate sleep? Lethargy and the overwhelming urge to sleep is a huge red flag for protein deficiency. If you’re having trouble finding motivation or focus to do anything or curling up for an afternoon nap when you’re normally not a nap person, time to take a look at what you’ve eaten the last few days.

Feeling weak as a newborn lamb? Muscle weakness is one of the first signs that you need to up your protein intake. Look for trembling muscles, wobbly knees, along with trouble focusing your eyes.

Not filling out your clothes the same anymore? It’s an old wives tale that says a starving body will go for the fat first. Bodies need protein to keep internal organs going. They’ll start cannibalizing healthy muscle tissue in order to get what it needs. Sure, you’ll look like you lost weight, but you won’t be able to swing a q-tip, let alone an ax at a zombie.

That cut on your arm refusing to heal? Slow healing goes along with the bit up above. Your body will focus on keeping your internal organs going, only sending excess protein to help rebuild damaged tissue such as wounds and sprains. If you have a fellow survivor who is injured, don’t think their lack of mobility means they need to cut back on food.

Bald isn’t your hairstyle of choice? Hair loss and brittle finger/toe nails happens for the same reasons stated above—your body is conserving protein and energy for vital functions.

Where can you find protein? Below are two lists, arranged from the highest amount of protein per serving size on down.

Protein sources to pack: Dry whole milk, pork chop, chicken thigh, chicken breast, turkey breast, edamame, non-fat dry milk, steak, chicken leg, ham, kidney beans, white beans, lima beans, black beans, fava beans, mung beans, canned tuna, non-fat/low fat cheese, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, beef jerky, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, tofu.

Protein sources to find in the wild: Rainbow trout, beaver, striped bass, bear, catfish, deer, muskrat, rabbit, squirrel, opossum, boar, horse, goat, raccoon, freshwater bass.

The wild resources are numerous and vary by location. Best bet is to fish for your supper. One fillet of rainbow trout is well over half of what you need per day at 33 grams of protein.

A quick note for those thinking, “Why don’t I just pack a bunch of protein bars?” While that’d seem like a good idea, it isn’t. Most of the popular protein bars are a bunch of sugar and fat wrapped around a minimal amount of protein. The kick you feel from eating one isn’t from the fuel you need, but from the junk they used as filler. During my research, I found one protein bar that wasn’t full of fat and sugar. For the 20 grams of protein it’d give you, the cost (over $2 per bar) isn’t worth it. You’d get more from buying $2 worth of kidney beans.

You’ve got your shopping list. Better make sure your emergency food supplies include most of the dry ingredients listed above. They’ll keep you going long enough to establish camp and hunt.

Completely Unhinged: “The Walking Dead” 414

Completely Unhinged
Review of “The Walking Dead” 414 – “The Grove”


Have you recovered yet? We sure as heck haven’t. This week “The Walking Dead” pulled no emotional punches. They went there and didn’t bat an eyelash. Unfortunately “there” may have been a little too far for some of the younger actors involved. A lot was asked of them and it didn’t quiet . . . work. Some of the intensely emotional scenes failed to fully grab the audience and jerk them into the moment. Melissa McBride delivered a stellar performance in this episode. One of her best in the series. She succeeded where others couldn’t handle it and pulled the audience deeper into the heart-wrenching events of the episode. One woman cannot make a show, though. Certainly not a show built on a solid ensemble cast during the early seasons. The longer the show sticks to intimate cast sizes per episode, the more drawn out and god-awfully slow it feels. Not good for TWD fans who came to the party expecting copious amounts of brain-bashing action.

What are we going to do this week, Brain? Same thing we do every week, Pinky. Post TWD spoilers.

6da10c75-b85d-4979-04e1-72ecf57da726_TWD_414_GP_1016_0125It is no secret that Lizzie is completely unglued. Her grasp on her own mortality and the real danger the walkers pose to her safety was never solid. In this episode, it becomes painfully clear that she’s always been slightly off. Little Mika has obviously spent ample time learning how to distract her sister from whatever isn’t right in her head. We have no name for what’s wrong with Lizzie. She’s convinced the walkers are simply an evolved version of ourselves. They speak to her. Demand she take care of them and provide food. Somewhere along the way, being undead became an appealing prospect. Was this a way to cope with the losses her family faced since the walkers started shuffling around? Hard to tell now that we know she wasn’t all there to begin with.

Dealing with mental illness after the healthcare system has fallen to the wayside along with the government, sewer maintenance, water stations, etc., can’t be easy. Many suffering from mental health problems rely on medicine to recalibrate the chemicals in their brains. Others need the calming effects of a regulated schedule, which often includes regular visits with a mental health professional of some sort. None of the methods used to treat problems like Lizzie’s are available to her. Mika does her best, calming her sister while providing insight to the adults who’ve taken care of them since their father’s death. Did daddy dearest know how far gone his eldest daughter was before the flu claimed him? We didn’t see much, if anything, about the girls until his passing. Would Lizzie have snapped so completely if their father had been the one to take them from the prison instead of Tyreese and Carol?

Carol has tried so hard to become cold, calculating, and pragmatic since losing Sophia. She killed Karen and David, only showing remorse when it came time to confess to Rick and then, in this episode, Tyreese. The remorse came because Carol knew she’d betrayed their trust. She fully believed killing Karen and David would prevent the spread of a disease the prison population had no hope of fighting off on their own without medicine and a team of doctors. They were necessary deaths. Something she did for the better of everyone. Carol knows there’s people surviving in their new world who are only making it because of others. Sophia, as Carol put it, “Didn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Killing to survive was well beyond her comfort levels. Mika is the same way, despite Carol’s attempts to toughen her up.

Too bad her lessons didn’t stick.

TWD_414_GP_1015_0185Lizzie’s madness cost her sister her life. Is anyone to blame? No. Nevertheless, Carol’s guilt nearly cripples her, makes her hesitate to do the necessary thing. Is death ever necessary? In our world, no. Murder is senseless. Unnatural to the teachings of the numerous world religions which are the cornerstone of our morals. But in a world where every day is a fight to take just one more breath, one must weigh the good of the many against the individual. Carol and Tyreese were faced with that decision—try to save Lizzie, despite the depth of her mental illness or ensure Judith’s safety, as well as their own. In the end, Carol’s ruthless practicality stepped in and allowed her to make the hard decision. Lizzie had to die. No matter how they arranged it, someone would end up alone with her and Lizzie’s inclination to turn everyone into a walker would get the best of her, and them. What if Lizzie ran off and some do-gooder brought her into their camp? Nothing good could’ve come from her continuing to live unmedicated and unchecked by her sister’s kind soul.

In order for the show to catch their audience again, they need to pick up the pace. There’s only two episodes left in season four and the entire second half of the season has been spent backtracking. Why? They brought too many characters in too quickly during the prison days. None of the new survivors who walked away from the prison attack got much screen time, giving viewers a group of strangers to follow who they had no connection to. While yes, it’s good to get to know a character, it’s too little too late this long after the characters have been introduced. All the character development slowed down the pace of the show. It’s become “The Lord of the Rings,” with every single character’s progress no more than walking a few miles. Are they growing emotionally? Yes. Has anything really happened since the prison fight? Can’t say it has. We’ve got a budding fan-service relationship, two dead kids, and a lot of people walking on train tracks after six episodes. Not to mention two new groups of survivors who will likely get the same lack-of-development treatment as the others. The entire first season was only six episodes and look what they accomplished there.

Will everyone meet at Terminus by the end of season four? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Welcome to the Crew

Looks like our tenacious Commander-in-Chief, Juliette Terzieff, went on another recruiting spree. Welcome
James Allen McCune to the Zombie Survival Crew.


No stranger to dealing with the undead, James Allen McCune is best known for his role as Jimmy, Beth’s boyfriend in the second season of AMC’s hit drama “The Walking Dead.” We plan to utilize the skills he picked up while filming the show to help us. And won’t hold it against him if he has a flashback to his final days on the TWD set.

James is currently filming season four of Showtime’s “Shameless” . . . when he isn’t eating nachos and playing video games in his trailer, and hopefully practicing his skills with a sword.