Do Not Send Us Astray: Review for The Walking Dead 813

Do Not Send Us Astray:
Review for The Walking Dead 813
by R.C. Murphy

Watch out for those episode spoilers waiting to ambush you.

Well, this episode certainly has a different tone than anything we’ve seen this season. It’s almost like they remembered that the genre is more than a bunch of angry men hitting each other. Sure, there’s a long firefight in the middle, but bookending it are a good ol ghost story and a little love note to low budget zombie flicks.

Hilltop is more than prepared for the Saviors when they finally roll in after dark. Maggie’s focus isn’t on the gift Georgie gave them. She admits after that her plan is to lure the Saviors into Hilltop so Negan dies where Glenn rests eternally. Which, you know, I get to a point. What puts her on a different level is Maggie, unlike Rick, looks at that same graveyard after the fight and knows she caused those losses. Dianne positions herself at Maggie’s side quite often, first providing encouragement, then as a source for us to check into Maggie’s emotions at the episode’s end. “What is it,” Dianne asks at the graveyard. “The cost,” Maggie replies. The price for this war is getting too high for her conscious. This last move, pushed by desperate fear on her and Rick’s behalf, has taken everything from their people. Alexandria and the Kingdom are lost. Hilltop’s remaining gardens can’t produce enough food and their stores went to the Saviors as payment. The populations of the communities combined have been wiped out, with countless more passing in this episode alone. Will this be the straw to break the alliance’s back? She may be new to the job, but Maggie doesn’t seem like the type to put her people through that kind of horror again.

The fight itself perfectly illustrates why Simon is a crap leader who’ll send his people straight to their deaths. Not only has he failed to send a scout ahead to check for traps on the road, which they then drive over, but Simon follows right along with the plan set to trap them by chasing Daryl through the gate into the first ambush. He does it again when Maggie signals for the lights to be doused and smoke bombs set off. Sure, he divides up his forces, but the bulk of the Saviors are front and center for the second surprise attack from the main house’s windows. If they followed Negan’s plan, attacking with bows from outside to wound as many as possible and picking off what they could with other gore-coated weapons, the Saviors would’ve lost half a dozen men maximum. Simon can’t even claim a win here at all. It’s not his part of the Savior’s fight which yields a higher body count. Negan’s bio warfare tactic claims far more Hilltop citizens while everyone’s sleeping. He may be the bad guy, but you gotta admire his problem-solving abilities, which are so great, he doesn’t have to be within ten miles for a plan to go right.

There’s a whole lotta weird going on in Morgan’s head. I . . . I kind of like it. The flashbacks and such were getting tired, but this new approach to Morgan’s mental illness is top notch horror fuel. Ghost Gavin won’t stop badgering the guy. He’s always there, beside Morgan, ragging on him about something which is never given a name, really. I assume this is Morgan’s mind telling him he should’ve been the one to kill Gavin in the most spectacularly screwed up way imaginable. How long until others notice Morgan’s talking to the air? How can he convince his subconscious that there’s no way to re-kill a guy? This is a great twist to this character. And of course it’s coming about the time he’s jumping shows so I’ll either be forced to watch FtWD or wave goodbye to all this character development. Not today, Satan. I’ll just enjoy the time I’ve got left with Morgan and his bloody Jiminy Cricket.

The other side of Morgan’s story is where his influence has led Henry after his brother’s death. This kid’s determined to bloody his hands via vengeance. First he goes after Ezekiel and Carol for refusing to arm him to fight in the main battle. Later, the kid steals the prison cell key, takes a military grade rifle, and casually threatens a group of men like a good little terrorist in the making. This is why we must teach men that “eye for an eye” thinking will only lead to bloodshed. Justice is not a mirror to reflect the offender’s pain back onto them. That’s not how humanity as a whole decided to handle the people who are too dangerous to remain amongst us. Not only will Henry grow into the very type of man he’s trying to kill, but he’s unleashed those men back into the world when Maggie had them safely sequestered where they couldn’t cause harm. Someone get this kid in-hand, already. He’s not Carl. This isn’t even a good attempt to set up a child character with the same mentality. It’s just tossing angry male patterns into the wind, hoping it works because otherwise they’ve lost their young white man representation on a show dominated by the dumb decisions made by middle-aged white men. How will the white guys find themselves in this show without someone young and angry at everything? Yes, that’s sarcasm. It’s also to illustrate that we don’t need every stereotype on-screen in every show. The writers are blatantly writing Henry to be the new Carl in ways which will never work. All these years listening to how fans treated that character, yet none of it reflects in Henry’s story line.

Jason Douglas as Tobin, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 13 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

That final action sequence with Tobin and the others injured in the fight turning walker is aces. Some of the tensest zombie action we’ve had on the show in a while. Honestly, I’m shocked Tobin is the one to go in this episode. He’s been that one person I look for in the crowd to see whether or not Alexandria is present in certain scenes. For as little as they used him, Tobin being a constant for the Alexandrian people was reassuring. As long as he makes it, this won’t be another prison or Woodbury situation. And then he doesn’t make it. Worse yet, he turns on the people he protected. I didn’t think losing this one guy would hit so hard, but the more I think about how much I assumed he’d survive, the more my brain wants to reject reality. Carol’s reaction to Tobin’s demise is probably what pushes it over the edge. She’s genuinely gutted to see him turn. Melissa McBride yet again acts her backside off to really drag those emotions from the fans.

Will Maggie allow her people to continue this fight after she’s seen the cost? Rick will not give up until Negan’s dead, and Maggie wants that as well, but this isn’t justice anymore. Hilltop realizes that now. Can they back out of the war when they’ve become home base for an army?


Brainless in Seattle Part II: Review for iZombie 404

Brainless in Seattle Part II:
Review for iZombie 404
by A. Zombie

Watch out, you may swoon over the episode spoilers below.

Brother Love’s influence spreads through the downtrodden zombie citizens in Seattle. One man uses his rough encounter with Fillmore-Graves goon Russ Roche as fuel for Angus’ new persona to toss on the smoldering fire within the community. To them, he’s the only to reach out a kind hand since their sudden departure from living society. He feeds them. Picks up their spirits when they’ve resigned themselves to being “dead” to the people they love. Not to mention, he has this uncanny ability to pick a target for his rage and project that onto the masses with a few magnanimous acts to sew the seeds of Us vs Them. Major steps right into this perfect storm on the search for Tucker, the man Gladwell scratched while being recorded. After his friends abandon Tucker, he steals the phone with the video and finds solace in the anger Brother Love preaches. That’s where Major catches up with him. The congregation shout at the Fillmore-Graves employees. Angus uses the moment to praise the Chaos Killer, and issue a stern warning that if Major ever shows his face at church in Fillmore-Graves clothes again, that’ll be his last day having a face. And people think this dude’s a role model. Okay, Sure, Jan.

The Scratching Post crew drops a load of truth bombs in this episode thanks to the brain Blaine and Done E eat in order to find Renegade. The guys use honesty as the best policy, allowing the brain to cough up visions while they operate their businesses almost as usual. There’s a plethora of hilarious throw-away lines from these two. Blaine eventually gets enough information from his illicit snack to find the laundromat where Renegade operates. The calm sanctuary I enjoyed last time is a horror show this episode after Blaine’s guys shoot their way in to grab Mama Leone. Chase Graves doesn’t look too thrilled to be face to face with his supposed nemesis, but it seems like he’ll go through with Blaine’s deal. Wonder how Graves will justify his actions to Mama Leone’s face.

Catching Bruce the coyote takes a lot of patience, a dash of subterfuge, and a large dose of overacting. After several days running a stakeout at the building Bruce uses to torch his victims, Clive and Liv need a new method. Mama Leona, before she’s taken to Fillmore-Graves, tells Liv to try an online ad. Ravi offers himself as the bait, really overworking an upper crust British accent during the video call to set up a meeting with Bruce. The acting doesn’t get better when Ravi waits for Bruce with SWAT, plus Liv and Clive, on standby. Despite the flightiness from the romcom brain, Liv’s passionate about putting Bruce in his place when he claims they have no evidence. I think Mama Leone’s chat about wanting to feel needed after becoming a zombie put some pep back in Liv’s crime-fighting step—that conversation also reminds us how awful Blaine actually is when he’s not oozing charm.

Throughout the various stakeouts and meetings to prepare for catching Bruce, Liv is relentless about talking around Clive’s relationship problem. So much so, Clive snaps at her when she flat out says he should break up with Dale without giving a reason why. It takes the entire episode for Liv to open up about what she saw at The Scratching Post. Turns out Clive and Dale are trying an open relationship, but he’s not keen on hearing the details. Sorry, my man. If you haven’t already heard these details, you’re not in an open relationship, you’re just grasping for a connection that isn’t there. Communication is key, but Clive’s always been a locked door emotionally. It’ll bite him in the ass.

The Great Tim Saga comes to an end. Thankfully. When the gang head to The Scratching Post for the human/zombie mixer night, and Liv’s maybe-date, they must first face off with The Not-yo Man Major Savage. Gladwell and her new partner dose their commanding officer with blue wrestler brain as a joke. It leads to a heartfelt, but laughable scene with Major and Liv having a post-breakup talk about how much they just want to see the other person happy, no matter what. Kudos to the actors for getting through that scene at all. Every time Major opens his mouth, one can’t help but laugh hysterically. With that talk, and several others from Peyton about fate, ringing in her brain, Liv manages to just converse with Tim for the first time since they met. That’s when she finds out he’s a whackadoo Brother Love follower. Good riddance to bad rubbish; she tosses him like a pair of torn pantyhose. The episode wraps with the same sort of fun energy that charmed me during the last episode. We have most of the central cast in one place, hanging out, being silly, dancing, and no one’s worrying about anything. I forgot these characters could laugh so much without their faces cracking. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this, but I’m pretty sure the fun days are gone, what with Team Overlords getting ahold of Renegade and all.


The Key: Review for The Walking Dead 812

The Key:
Review for The Walking Dead 812
By R.C. Murphy

Warning, this review contains episode spoilers.

If I knew anyone as destructively stubborn as Rick during the apocalypse, I would’ve chained him to a house long ago for everyone’s good. It’s utterly ridiculous for this unhinged character to claim to lead anyone, let alone for his people to still treat him as the person who has their future in mind. Of all the community leaders, Rick’s focus is the narrowest, not moving beyond neutralizing a threat he provoked. Instead of moving on when the threat presented itself, he fought. Instead of treating Negan as an equal and negotiating, he took it as a personal affront that anyone would step in to interfere with how his people live. And now, with his son’s dying wish for peace ringing in his ears, Rick’s only focus is killing Negan. Like that’ll solve every problem he brought with him to Alexandria. Negan isn’t the most destructive force in this universe, Rick’s fear has a far higher body count. He took a community on the cutting edge, months from reclaiming modern technology on a mass scale, and turned it into smoldering ruins.

That’s the purpose of “The Key” as an episode, to fully illustrate how far this slice of humanity has fallen under Rick’s umbrella. While the men butt heads to see who’ll come out as the Supreme Leader, a group of women participate in a negotiation which will be the sole reason any of these people live to see another generation through adolescence. Not only are the women leaps and bounds ahead of the men as far as future preparations go, but they master the art of compromise with minimal shouting and only one daft, fear-driven, outburst. The initial meeting with Georgie, plus her associates Hilda and Midge, isn’t the best first impression because Maggie reacts to the offer to barter like Rick reacts to anyone presenting themselves as possessing a better plan for the future—everyone’s armed, on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop without actually hearing the words coming from the other party. When Michonne puts the brakes on back at Hilltop, remembering what Carl asked of them, that’s when reason wins the day. The future must have a position at the council table, otherwise what are they fighting to protect? Are the people they’ve lost along the way not worth building something more than a temporary encampment from which one fights day in and day out? If they continue down this path, the future leads toward Mad Max territory, and that’s just not what some of these people want. So they’ll fight their own way. It’s about time. Maggie ends the episode radiating hope. That’s what Rick dropped down the road, along with a heap of the integrity which made him a compelling leader at the beginning. Without any hope, his people trudge to the next catastrophe, mentally saying their goodbyes because Rick’s plan has claimed too many lives to count at this point—starting at the quarry and up to now where we’ve got just three characters left from season one. With Georgie’s help, Maggie may just be able to salvage the three communities this mad warmongering tore apart. It’s nice to see hope return to this show. Refreshing, even.

Hilltop better use their time wisely; a hearty dose of hope won’t stop the incoming Saviors. Negan’s forces do, however, have to deal with a slight delay, first.

Wound like a top shot off a drill, Rick can’t stay at Hilltop after he arrives and inserts himself into the perimeter patrol in a nearby town. He’s the first to spot the Saviors on the move, yet holds off alerting the others to chase Negan. Of course he does! I’ve got to give it to them, though, it’s a fun sequence altogether. And a bit ridiculous. Rick’s just gonna Rick no matter what at this point and all that’s left is enjoying the weird trouble he gets himself into every episode. The car chase sets up the unhinged action once the guys get to the basement scene rather nicely. I’m not sure I’d believe Rick would fight a guy in the middle of a flaming walker horde without him first chasing the guy down like he’s back in his sheriff’s uniform. His mindset is right there in his eyes in the close-ups during the chase. If Negan saw Rick’s face then, he wouldn’t have goaded him once they got inside the building. Dude’s dropped all his marbles and everyone else trips over them, yet again.

Despite the sheer amount of WTF on Rick’s part, the flaming zombie gag is solid. Negan’s reactions say everything. He knew the guy wasn’t all there, now he sees firsthand how dangerous Rick is when he feels he has nothing to lose. Oh, he has things to lose. As I said before though, he’s so narrowminded, he’s not really thinking about Michonne, Judith, or the civilians caught in future crossfire. How does this show decide to illustrate such character depth? By lighting Lucille and some walkers on fire, then having Rick and Negan fight around them. Only this show could make its fan base believe the main character would be so willfully self-destructive yet somehow both men survive.

Negan’s survival spells trouble for a certain lieutenant with the gift of gab. Simon wastes no time campaigning for himself once the Saviors roll out of Sanctuary toward Hilltop. When Rick takes Negan out of the caravan, Simon is slow to respond, hides several smirks. The entire time, Simon jaws at Dwight, working him toward his side, a side where the Saviors just move on. Move on is slang for kill them all and find new people to harass, by the way. Dwight’s slow to the new lingo, having been with the Alexandrians for a little while. It’s not until they meet with the Saviors post helping Simon cover Negan’s tracks after he disappears from the car wreck that he realizes, this guy does not have the same agenda as I. Well, you think? Simon’s days are numbered, but that number is indefinite since Negan’s sitting in the front seat of Jadis’ car with a gun to his head.


Brainless in Seattle Part I: Review for iZombie 403

Brainless in Seattle Part I:
Review for iZombie 403
By A. Zombie

Before you zip on by, please know there’s episode spoilers in this review.

The human smuggling subplot takes the spotlight in this episode, highlighting a too-real fear about trusting a stranger with your complete safety while in the pursuit of something highly illegal. In this case, romance trumps common sense, bringing Annie Wallace to New Seattle on Love’s light wings . . . okay, so they roll into town in a nondescript vehicle. This episode encourages one to wax poetic, believe it or not. There’s a lot of ridiculous commentary on lust versus love, but the non-romance portions of this romcom are probably some of my favorite scenes from the last two seasons.

You’re soulless if you don’t enjoy a good makeover montage once in a while, I’m just saying.

Back to our victim. Annie unfortunately never meets up with her online sweetheart. Once she is in the city, Bruce the coyote shows his hand, murdering the girl to sell her brain on the black market. She’s a scrapper, puts up a bit of a fight, leading the killer to leave part of her brain behind—just enough for Liv to make milk chocolate brain-bons. This woman went through life falling in love with every other person, always assuming they approached her with good intentions. That’s rarely true, as shown by how easily Annie fell into Bruce’s trap instead of finding someone like Renegade, who so far appears to be the genuine article, someone who just wants to help. Annie’s brain makes its way to Romero’s, where Don E purchases it to feed their high-end clients, along with a mime’s brain to mix things up a little.

The undead are reaching the desperation point with the low brain supply. Fillmore-Graves suspects there’s only four months of brains on-hand for the expanding New Seattle population. Legal sources ae slim. Illegal sources can’t bring them in fast enough without garnering interest from the government. As it is, Clive suspects there’s a serial killer connected to Annie’s death, bringing them that much closer to pinpointing the cause as a black-market brain trade. Cracking down on border crossings isn’t dissuading the desperate from entering the city for what they see as their only chance to thrive—for example Annie witnesses an execution when they pull up to the gate. Desperate for a hand-up against the coyotes, Chase Graves appeals to Blaine’s business sense for aid. If Blaine delivers Renegade, he gets to run his businesses without interference. It’s too good a deal to pass up. By the episode’s end, Blaine locates, and devours, one of Renegade’s clients. Yet again proving he’s one of the most determined people in this universe. Finding the woman herself won’t be as simple. Liv can’t even locate her again after revisiting the laundromat and has to wait for Mama Leone to find her instead to ask about the other coyotes in town.

By far the worst part of the episode is Liv’s constant, “Oh, this is the guy for me. He’s amazing!” On the flip side, this easy-going, happy Liv pumps life back into this character. She’s hanging with Peyton again. They harass Ravi into a makeover montage, which brings such a smile to one’s face, their nose might just crack off. Not saying it happened to me, but I heard a friend suffered such a sad fate. Ahem. Anyway, I’m thankful we get another crack at this version of Liv. She’s the Liv we’ve been missing and didn’t realize it. Although she never actually finds it, Liv drunk on love is by far the best Liv. That truth makes it even harder to accept the production’s decisions to kill everyone Liv’s fallen for since the beginning. Give us what we want, people. Content Liv without the angst for a little while longer, please. And more montages.

On the romance flipside, Bozzio might be stepping out on Clive. While playing tonsil hockey with a random guy she fell in love with, Liv spots Dale in a similar situation moments before she takes the guy off the dance floor at The Scratching Post. Of course romantic-brained Liv thinks the only way out of the situation is to tell Clive the truth. So far she’s declined to come right out with it. Instead Liv winds up harassing the new uni, Michelle Hunter, insinuating that she should hook up with Clive. Yes, it’s a moment worthy of a thousand facepalms.

The romcom brain antics go into the next episode, thank goodness. It seems unlikely they’ll wrap the entire brain trade story now, but I suspect we’re heading back toward the good ol days where Team Zombie went head-to-head with Blaine’s empire. Mix in his new, powerful allies and this fight is far more one-sided than last time when Major almost single handedly wiped out the brain smuggling business by blowing up a butcher’s shop. Speaking of Major, will he stick by the company when he learns they sent the city’s mob boss in to do their dirty work?


Dead or Alive or: Review for The Walking Dead 811

Dead or Alive or:
Review for The Walking Dead 811
By R.C. Murphy

Don’t just rush ahead! Watch out for episode spoilers.

In the wake of Negan’s fiery revenge in Alexandria, the village’s people are on the run. Saviors hold blockades on all the roads. The only reason Daryl gets the Alexandria survivors to the halfway point is because none of these oh-so intelligent souls think to look under the freeway they’re guarding. In order to ensure his people make it to Hilltop unscathed, Daryl’s willing to listen to Dwight when the reformed bad guy suggests they pass through the swamp, declared too dangerous to pass by Negan and therefore unguarded during the lockdown. So long as everyone keeps up and cooperates, they’ll get there in one piece. Oh and if we ignore Tara’s existence since she’s still on this whole “Kill Dwight even though he’s useful” kick. She’s so focused on him, Tara is willing to turn away from a walker-filled swamp where her friends are clearing a path in order to yet again threaten Dwight, and yet again fail to follow through. The posturing is boring and isn’t helping with Dwight’s story at all. If anything, it’s making him repeat the same tired redemption story, which isn’t nearly as interesting as his actions. These writers will always talk a plot to death long before they let the characters do what they need to do. Show, don’t tell. I’m not sure how such a basic thing escapes this writing team, but here we are.

Despite Tara, Dwight’s story and his tentative friendship with Daryl steals these scenes. We see Daryl fight the urge to rely on anyone, but Dwight’s resolve to help is a balm for the renegade’s soul. This is probably the most useful version of Daryl to date. Why, though? Why now? Is it because he’s able to act on his own plans with Rick in mourning? We don’t see a lot of initiative from Daryl on large scope problems, he’s the type to sit back and wait for someone to point him at something he can kill. When they reach the swamp, he’s already shedding his reliance on Rick’s leadership. His call to cut through the swamp on Dwight’s suggestion, the willingness to put his body on the line to secure a path through the walkers, and his refusal to flip his lid when told how close the Saviors are is a surefire sign that this character is finally maturing past the plateau he reached after Merle’s brutal demise. This Daryl may even surprise us and attempt to recover Dwight, since the guy proves himself big time by leading the Saviors away at the swamp, losing his hard-won freedom from the organization.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan; group – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 11 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The rescue will get interesting, if it happens. Negan’s strategies adapt to whatever pressure comes from outside forces. If the Saviors were a single creature, I’d say octopus. They’re wily beasts and there’s numerous studies devoted to their cognitive ability to take advantage of any situation. Step one in the wargame adaptations puts Eugene at the middle of a new outpost, charged with supplying the Saviors with bullets at inhuman speeds. There’s also a degree of comfort to bribe Eugene, keep him productive. In true fashion, this character uses his miniscule power to lord over a woman in such a manner I fully believe his mother’s ghost smacked him upside the head. The second step introduces bio warfare to this universe on a large scale. Negan encourages his people to use walker blood/innards to contaminate their weapons. Why waste so much effort killing when a single infected scratch will sign everyone’s death certificate—unless it’s a case like Hershel where amputation stopped the disease from passing into his blood system, but how many will get that lucky in the midst of war? They barely have medical care as it is, there’s no way Siddiq and the others with minimal training will keep up with the incoming infection rate thanks to this new fighting strategy. Hilltop will go from a safe haven to a walker corral.

Speaking of, the upcoming siege isn’t the most pressing threat to the remaining community. Hilltop’s food supply never recovered from paying off the Saviors. Feeding the citizens alone will deplete their pantry in less than a fortnight, and they’ve promised humane imprisonment to the Saviors, so they’ve got maybe a week of food max. Scouts are out searching, but they’ve picked the county clean. Jesus won’t walk in with half a grocery store this time. The stress from trying to figure out how to balance being a prison and a home leaves Maggie at her wit’s end. But not so much that she doesn’t see the odd behavior from Morgan and Henry, who’ve appointed themselves as the guards outside the Saviors’ cell. After speaking to Gabriel and some others, Maggie does some deep thinking about how to groups treat each other. In the end, Maggie plans to allow the Saviors a little more freedom in the form of armed escorts to take them from the cell to work details. They get to move around more and she gets the gardens ready for the next planting season. You know someone, likely Jared, is going to screw up this system by next week.

We’ve finally caught up with Dr. Carson and Gabriel after they slipped free from Sanctuary with a little inside help. The infection burning through Gabriel’s veins is attacking his vision. Worse yet, the stolen car is dead and they’ve got no clue where they are in relation to Hilltop because the navigator can’t even read a map an inch from his nose. Following God’s plan, as detailed by a man whose brain bakes itself with each step they take, leads the duo to an abandoned home. Somehow while looking suicide in the face—the homeowner failed to make contact with other survivors and ended it long before the men arrive—Gabriel still thinks his God wants all of this to happen. It’s hard to deny that when so many things go right for them thanks to Gabriel’s vague feelings about their destiny. The much-needed antibiotics, an impossible shot to save Dr. Carson from a walker, the hidden treasure of car keys and a map are all lovely red herrings leading us to think maybe, just maybe Gabriel is blessed by an otherworldly power. He’s not. He’s just lucky and manages to use it all up before they drive away from the house. That fortunate gunshot drew the Saviors. Gabriel’s brash belief leads Dr. Carson to fall into the same fallacy, only what he assumes is a sign from above is just another way to get dead faster by assuming everything will go right. No matter how many times he’s fallen from his faith, Gabriel always bounces back. I’m not so sure that’ll happen this time. He’s well and truly broken, covered in blood from a man who he thought would be the savior everyone needs during this trying time.

But do they need a savior? Or does this group simply need to cut their losses and move on before this war takes everyone’s life? If I were in Hilltop when the Alexandrian refugees arrived, that would be the only sign necessary to kick my butt in gear to leave by morning. This war is no longer who’ll win or who’ll lose, but who will see reason and leave the others to kill themselves while they find a new safe haven to call home.


Zombie Reviews: Rise of the Zombie (2013)

Zombie Reviews . . . Rise of the Zombie (2013)
By A. Zombie

Rated: NR (Contains violence, gore)

Starring: Luke Kenny, Kirti Kulhari, Prem Thapa, Pinky Negi, Ashwin Mushran, and Benjamin Gilani

Language: Hindi and English

Let’s see what happens when someone takes a micro-budget film and does the genre justice, just for once. Please. My brain couldn’t take another poorly executed script. Luckily when deciding to take a chance on Rise of the Zombie, it didn’t end in utter disappointment. That’s not saying this is an insanely great film, but for what they accomplished, it’s not awful. It may even be—dare I say it? Re-watchable.

Here’s the abbreviated storyline:

Relationships are difficult to maintain when Mother Nature calls to your soul, even more so when that love leads one to become a wildlife photographer. Neil Parker’s love life isn’t anywhere near as stunning as his work in the field. Matter of fact, it’s become extinct. Vinny Rao is tired of spending days, sometimes a week or two, wondering where Neil disappeared to this time. In typical Neil fashion, he makes an appearance at his buddy’s bachelor party right after the breakup and before his hangover’s played out, he is on his way to his favorite place out in the middle of nowhere. Does he tell anyone? There’s Thapa and a few others from the nearby village who bring him supplies when he doesn’t want to bike in, but no one from home has a clue.

While on a hike, Neil is bitten by an aggressive bug. The wound festers, no matter how much he cleans it. Neil hallucinates, falls into a fugue state, and suffers intense nightmares. A few times he goes into town, inspired to reach out to Vinny, but she ghosts calls made from unknown numbers. The infection on Neil’s arm spreads. His lucid moments are fewer and fewer. A shift in his appetite leaves him scrounging for bugs. Unaware of any changes, the villagers invite him to party with them. He leaves with a woman at his side . . . then wakes with her bloody hand, only the bloody hand, in his tent. Neil’s appetite grows unchecked. Anytime someone comes to help him, he attacks. The nutrition gives him blessed few aware hours to try and reach Vinny, pushed by visions of their relationship.

Two weeks pass before Vinny realizes there’s actually something wrong this time. With the help of Anish, Neil’s soon-to-be-wed friend, and Dr. Dave Parker, his father, they eventually track down a phone Neil uses often in the village. Unfortunately, luck’s not on their side after that.

For the budget, this film is beautifully shot—with a few exceptions toward the end where the quality intentionally degrades to heighten the weight of Neil’s transformation. The overly-shaky attacks aren’t how I’d handle that transition, but it still works for this story. The opening sequence is mesmerizing, making the audience forget for quite some time that they’re watching a horror movie. They play a lot with the overall tone of the film. It’s very much a romance at the get-go with the gorgeous POV shots as Neil works, then shifting into the break-up scene after, followed by the raucous bachelor party. Even Neil’s decision to bolt to the middle of nowhere fits a romance outline. Everything changes after the bug bite. Gone are the crisp landscape shots. The world is unfocused. Neil’s attention shifts down, down, down as his appetites change, taking the camera with it. It’s rare to see this much attention in a genre film this size.

The use of quiet time in the script is probably what saved the film from being tedious. Neil is alone a lot. When he is around people, the discussion is all mundane because there is no mass outbreak. Neil’s the sole threat to the villagers and up until the end, he has no clue just how dangerous he is to those around him. The heavy lifting on the speaking end is left to Vinny and the others in Mumbai. They’re always pushing the urgency to find Neil, though we know he’s too gone to care. Where everything, unfortunately, falls apart is the final act. The resolution isn’t satisfying because there’s no resolution. Vinny makes it to the village and it more or less ends there. Five more minutes of story to wrap it up wouldn’t have hurt.

Special effects and makeup are the weakest link in this movie. Neil’s wounds are simplistic and don’t stand up to close-ups. There’s a moment where he angrily rakes the flesh off his arm, except the makeup is obviously nothing more than greasepaint over liquid latex so it’s not graphic, as intended, but more like we’re watching the actor clean up at the end of the shooting day.

Where the makeup falls short, the actors pick up the slack. Kenny does a bang-up job bringing a unique physical presence to Neil’s transformation. When he plays through the lucid moments, it’s gut-wrenching. Honestly, this single performance makes the film worth at least one watch. He’s bringing a lot to the table in a film most people won’t give the time of day, which is a disservice to oneself as a genre fan, honestly. Cringe through the makeup and watch Kenny deliver a zombie acting class. Seriously.

There’s a lot which could’ve made Rise of the Zombie a higher quality genre offering. However, for the budget, they managed to deliver a better movie than domestic releases with the same kind of money. I’m giving this film three disemboweled torsos out of five.


Are You Ready for Some Zombies?: Review for iZombie 401

Are You Ready for Some Zombies?:
Review for iZombie 401
by A. Zombie

Don’t lose your heads, there’s episode spoilers in this review.

There’s no toe-dipping when it comes to introducing the audience to New Seattle. The episode opens with a look into the city’s brain processing plant. Up close. In full, glorious detail. Some of the show’s best cinematography went into making those brain tubes look as appetizing as possible. I mean, for us zombies, that is. The humans working in the processing plant aren’t as impressed by the product they produce. Matter of fact, the Dead Person of the Week spends this opening scene lamenting about the new world order within the city. Guess having the only meaningful employment come in the form of basically creating Soylent Green gets to people. The divide between living and reanimated humans is wide, only helped by Filmore-Graves’ policies, including one stating only the living can work in processing plants like the one employing Clint Hicks before his at-work demise inside one of the large brain grinders.

Here we are, touring a new, zombie-led city, and Liv’s first full day to show us the ropes is spent parroting bigoted statements and football stats. It’s like the writers enjoy listening to the lead character speak ill of herself or other lead characters in reworded racist dog-whistle phrases. This is the character who set the standards for zombie-police relations, but sure, let’s have her spend what should be her victory lap taking digs at her people. Add in the Z door tagging, the children abandoned for their new identities, and half a dozen other problems, it’s like they want to take a predominantly white-cast class of people and present them as Every Embattled Minority Ever. Then a subset of that group is set up as dictators, again with a predominantly white cast, and their plan is to use the handful of actual poor minorities in their midst as hastily-trained cannon fodder in their new goon squad.

Hello, yes, I’d like to report someone for exposure? Their privilege is showing. Big time.

The poorly handled social commentary aside, the plot for this episode is just not that thrilling on the surface. The murder turns into an allegory for abused gay teenagers. On the subplot front, we’ve got a city on lockdown, with death penalties in place for certain behaviors, such as scratching a human to turn them due to brain shortages—likely a fabricated shortage since Filmore-Graves hands out brain tubes to their staff like it’s candy. It only gets interesting when Ravi hits the screen, giving fans a look at how non-zombie he is after that cliffhanger last season—there’s a small catch in the form of “monthlies” where he randomly Zs out and chows down on brains. Then they killed the excitement of a hybrid by having Ravi eat a naturalist’s brain, leaving him to traipse around nude. Like Ravi needs to be a laughingstock at every turn to justify his continued existence, or something. Peyton and the living in higher-ranking positions are being treated as checked boxes, as demonstrated during a tense dinner with the new mayor. Blaine is Chase Graves’ lapdog in return for a lot of looking-away when it comes to running his businesses, which surprises absolutely no one. Nor will it surprise them when Blaine eventually tires of the yes-man routine and vies for control of the city via brains, violence, or hostile takeover. Possibly a combination of the three.

First, Blaine’s got to get his whackjob father in-hand again.

Angus gets a little help from Dino, his former enforcer who turns to working for Blaine in the meantime. Once free from his watery nursery, Angus demonstrates just how bonkers he is, repeating segments of Blaine’s tirades against the ruling class in New Seattle like scripture. Dino pays the price for aiding a murderer, leaving an out-of-his-mind Angus to wander the city as he pleases. A theater, converted to a church for zombies, catches his attention. Now begins the reign of Angus the Saint. I guess. This is an unfortunate story line on top of several plots involving white men being the absolute worst people in a city which is given the chance to start over, but it’s more of the same tired bull.

But, hey, Liv got to yell about football for the whole episode, so it’s totally worth wasting an hour of my Monday night.


The Lost and the Plunderers: Review for The Walking Dead 810

The Lost and the Plunderers:
Review for The Walking Dead 810
by R.C. Murphy

Before you mosey down this road, just know there’s episode spoilers ahead.

Is now the appropriate time to say that Rick Grimes is literally the worst character to ever be propped up as the hero of a show? His actions alone make Rick a villain, not even a decent one at that because he wastes so many opportunities to better his people and delves into the tiresome lone-wolf terrorist mentality. Dude has a family relying on him, but they’re some of the last he considers. For Pete’s sake, he just buried his kid, then turns around to do some astounding gymnastics. The mental kind, that is. How else could he listen to Carl’s final plea, then have the gall to ask a likewise grieving Michonne what the dying boy meant by begging for peace between the communities? Carl had this entire dream for their people, for all people, which he confessed during a painful, slow death. That still isn’t enough to convince Rick to move on. No, no. He wastes precious time finding guns, which don’t exist anymore, and then boasts about his plans to Negan in the same breath as he uses to absolve the Saviors of Carl’s death.

Negan’s right, folks. Rick Grimes is the sole reason his son perished. But not simply because Rick wasn’t there that one day, but because Rick hasn’t been there for his son since the prison. Not since Carl killed Lori after Judith’s difficult birth. One could make an argument for Rick never really being there for Carl at all—since the day he arrived at the quarry, Rick’s schemed and fought for power within their group, and any other community they come across. Sure, there’s bursts of paternal activity, but Rick has the focus of a child. Without someone or something to force him to focus within his family, he’ll seek other forms of excitement. Rick’s loyalty is to Rick, yet he demands everyone around him be willing to die for his personal morals without question. Carl dies chasing someone else’s moral code, Siddiq’s, and it’s a rock in Rick’s throat that he can’t use this as an excuse to nuke the Saviors and piss on their graves.

Sounds like a real hero, huh?

The Saviors are in a slightly better position now that they’ve reclaimed Sanctuary from the dead. Time has come to get their house back in order, and Negan wastes no time dispersing his lieutenants to the communities—except Hilltop, which will require a significant show of force to bring to heel. With so much in the air, one man feels it’s his time to shine. Simon demands they make examples of everyone who went against them, starting with the Scavengers. For a hot second, I thought Negan would pop a new hole in Simon’s head and go on with his afternoon. No such luck. Simon doesn’t get his massacre order, just a command to stick to their typical M.O. to reaffirm relations between the communities. Since all the men on this show are so predictable, it’s no surprise when Simon takes offense to Jadis’ stoicism, ordering his men to wipe out the Scavengers. The best part? Simon thinks he can hide it. Boy, that’s not going to be a pretty scene when Negan hears the truth.

Alone for the first time in a long time, Jadis finally lets the gag slip. She’s not some enigmatic, alien-like leader. Art is in her blood, and that love for art made her look at the apocalypse as the best way to art harder, turning the entire landfill into a museum populated by the kind of people she thought should populate her new world. Sure it meant completely changing her dialect pattern, but artists are weird, y’all. I fully believe someone out there might go, “Zombies, huh? Time to become a weird, monosyllabic cult leader who fancies cats.” Whatever works to keep oneself one step ahead of the undead, right?

We can’t talk about the Scavenger’s demise without addressing the meat grinder scene. Okay, I know it’s an industrial grinder, but a whole load of ground people comes out at the end, so my statement stands. Not that I want it to, because I’m fully, totally off ground meat for at least a year. Not only is the gore too much to handle with a snack in-hand, but the acting from Pollyanna McIntosh during Jadis’ final goodbyes is astounding, heartbreaking. And frustrating. If she can put out that kind of performance, why aren’t they using this character better?

On the week of International Women’s Day, we have yet another example of Rick’s machinations leading to undue turmoil within the women-led Oceanside community. Last episode, Enid shot Natania. This episode, they deal with the fallout from that murder. A murder Enid insists she was forced to commit. But, uh, no one told her to go harass these women again. For what? They don’t have the weaponry needed to fight Negan’s army. Enid and Aaron barge into this community with nothing to bargain with, blood on their hands, and the bold demand that these women become cannon fodder in an ego war between Rick and whoever’s in his way this week. To add insult to injury, after Cyndie spares their lives, Aaron plans to subvert Oceanside’s commanders by manipulating fringe members, convincing them to join the fight. Leave these women alone, already. They’ve done nothing to anyone, but over and over again they are forced to sacrifice their well-being to meet men’s demands. This isn’t entertainment anymore. It’s watching some dude’s ego waft around on screen with a soundtrack and occasional explosion.

The war continues despite Carl’s plea. I fully believe Negan would’ve at least signed a temporary cease-fire in the kid’s honor. JDM twisted that knife all over again with Negan’s sincere condolences to Rick. Then Rick blew it off and I found a whole new flavor of hate for the character. So cool that I’m learning new things about myself when it comes to this show eight years down the road, huh? Too bad it’s only confirming that if the main character died, it’d improve my opinion of the show a thousand-fold.


Now Begins Our Long Watch

Now Begins Our Long Watch
by R.C. Murphy

As if this week wasn’t busy enough, what with everyone rushing to see Black Panther approximately a dozen times before Saturday, we’ve still got a trio of zombie shows making their way back to the airwaves starting Sunday, February 25th.

Speaking of Black Panther, there’s a new Walking Dead season eight mid-season premiere trailer rolling before the feature film. By the way, the movie includes TWD star Danai Gurira in one of her fiercest performances to date, so don’t miss it. There are also trailers with about half a dozen other TWD alumni in them right now. I went to see a super hero movie and still had a chance to enjoy footage showcasing some of my favorite zombie-killers. Wins all around.

Here’s the latest trailer to help you wrap your head around saying goodbye to a certain young character:

The Walking Dead returns to AMC this upcoming Sunday at 9 PM.

Opting to go head-to-head with TWD, Ash vs Evil Dead‘s third season hits STARZ on Sunday at 9 PM. This season we’re learning about Ash the Family Man and what lengths he’ll go to in order to protect the family he kinda-sorta didn’t know he had. Evil finds a new target, Brandy, Ash’s daughter, and it’s determined to get to his offspring no matter what. It’ll take some cryptic warnings from Ruby, the reformation of the Ghost Beaters, and a lot of weird supernatural stuff to save everyone from a bigger, badder threat than ever before.

Season three looks like a heck of a ride, doesn’t it?

While still basking in the glow from some of our favorites returning to TV, don’t forget to tune into The CW on Monday, February 26th for the season four premiere of iZombie at 9 PM. Everything’s changed after zombies were revealed to the general public. New Seattle is walled up, but humans still scramble to get inside in order to save themselves from mortality. Zombie life is big business. But as we all know, embracing capitalism with both arms eventually rots society from the inside out. Will it happen quicker in this New Seattle thanks to the ruthless nature of some zombies? Not if Liv and her team can help it.


Frenemies:  Review for Z Nation 410

Frenemies:
Review for Z Nation 410
By A. Zombie

Something’s foamy in Chicago. With all the damage done to Mother Earth in the name of eradicating the zombie problem, she’s finally fighting back. A thick, toxic foam spreads from Lake Michigan across the city. Some sections are easily ten feet deep. On the outskirts, scant few buildings peek through the foam, blessed oases to recover from exposure to toxins. If only Doc and Murphy stumbled into one of those places, with 10k and Sarge following later. Instead, they’re reunited with Trouble One and Trouble Two, plus an odd yet competent barber who may have a few things to hide. Could it be the Tiny, the silent and heavily armed man upstairs? Or perhaps the carefully placed zombie pit under the barber’s chair? The list of what’s wrong with Sal the barber is long. Which is why Sketchy and Skeezy opt to swindle everyone instead of explaining how dead they all are once Sal hatches his great plan.

Nefarious duos are the honored guests in the episode. There’s our old friends, Sal and Tiny, then in stumbles two dudes who were nowhere near the radar for a surprise comeback, Dale and Roy—you’ll remember them as the saps who let Skeezy bite them during their “The Murphy” scam. Dale and Roy get the drop on everyone by pure chance, stumbling in from the foam shortly after a vomit-slick brawl. If there’s one thing to love about the Sketchy and Skeezy episodes, it’s the insane fight sequences. This one takes the prize for best so far, in my opinion. Cornered by the new pair, the mentally agile hucksters spring their plan. Skeezy’s been bitten by a mummified tanning bed zombie—or so he says. Obviously he can’t stay, so everyone votes, with the new pair breaking the tie. Sketchy opens up about his feelings for his friend before Skeezy is tossed into the foam to fend for himself. Dale and Roy move on with their own scheme, and with a little coaching from Skeezy opt to lock everyone in the basement. With the zombies they don’t know about. In no time at all, the bad guys are taken care of. Skeezy rejoins them, alive and well, and ready to take over the barber shop. The guys are finally settling down to earn a respectable living ripping people off from their own building. Good for them.

Where’s their fearless leader who should’ve kept them out of the mess? Lost in the foam, chasing phantoms and whacking Zs. Roberta can’t make heads or tails of Chicago’s crowded streets. Where there’s not foam, there’s zombies or abandoned vehicles blocking the way, further confusing the woman who’s been discombobulated since waking in Zona. At last she finds someone wearing a hazmat suit. They spot her and run, away from her or toward somewhere safe? Roberta plays chase with the speedy stranger until her body shuts down from exposure to the foam. Somehow she still makes it outside the toxic zone. The stranger? Doubtful he helped much. Turns out it’s Harold Teller, the man who set her on this path. Uh, one problem, he’s dead-dead, not undead. Whatever drives Roberta’s subconscious right now is powerful enough to create a fully-fleshed phantom, but is it compelling enough for fans to see this nameless mission through to season’s end? I don’t know. This seemingly aimless quest for something existing only in her mind isn’t occupying screen time nearly as much as the interpersonal problems in the main group, yet neither are pushing the plot forward with any urgency anymore.