Fear the Walking Dead Crawls Back to AMC by R.C. Murphy
Over the course of the fourth season for Fear the Walking Dead, the production team flipped the show on its head. And the season isn’t even halfway finished. Gone is the linear timeline—with no promises from the showrunners to return to the storytelling style from before. Fans were treated to a whole new set of characters and their ever-evolving problems. A strong love story came in, highlighting the need for happiness in the show to keep it feeling fresh. Happiness that wasn’t yet another temporary, overly dramatic, possibly ill-considered relationship for Alicia. Then came the biggest turn in the show’s history: The family is no more. In order to move in a new direction, they cut most of the ties to the past via Madison doing what she did best, right to the very end. Not only was it a shock to the fans, but the cast, as well. Coleman Domingo spoke in an interview about the dual departures, going into how hard it was to lose coworkers who’d been there since day one. What did it take to translate that emotion to the screen? “It required intense amounts of grace, and patience, and frustration, and being honest about your feelings,” Domingo said.
I’ll be honest, I lost track of this show again, despite the appeal of Morgan’s crossover—the character is amazing and I kinda wanted to keep in touch with his story. When the Madison/Nick news dropped, I regretted lagging behind and seriously considered a quick season four catch-up. Other things the cast and production team said during their 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel made it even more apparent that the deeply problematic show I left behind is not the show that’s on air now.
Not only that, much like the cast from the sister show, those who were onstage for the FtWD SDCC panel appeared happier. More relaxed. The jokes and banter were actually funny. At one point, everyone in the hall wished Alycia Debnam-Carey a happy birthday. More than the renewed joy, even the concepts they spoke about morphed from discussions which highlighted the cringe-worthy, racist nature of the previous seasons’ plots, to pointing out how the incoming storm teased in the trailer is, essentially, a visual representation of Alicia’s grief. It’s a massive difference and makes the show more inviting to new audiences.
And let’s not forget the drastic uptick in poo jokes thanks to Lennie James and the showrunners, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg. Believe it or not, it’s completely relevant to the show. Let’s just say they’re bringing in a whole new level of realism to Morgan’s story line and leave it at that.
The second half of season four will find Morgan struggling to figure out if he belongs with these people, or where he belongs if not with them. Alicia’s forced to mourn her family while enduring a storm chalk full of airborne undead. She’ll even have her own character-centric episode at last. Strand grasps for comforts from the days before hell came to Earth and seeks shelter in a mansion, complete with wine cellar. Everyone else from the stadium will use the remaining episodes to find their purpose and place in a world suddenly devoid of their leader. Chambliss told Syfy Wire, “The back half of this season has all of our characters asking themselves . . . ‘What do we do to move forward? Who are we to each other? How can we come back from all these really dark things we did?’ We really view this as an ensemble show, and we’re going to be telling stories throughout the back half of the season that will focus on different characters grappling with those existential questions in different ways.”
On top of the already introduced new characters for season four like Jenna Elfman’s multiple-named character, Maggie Grace’s Althea, and Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie, there are even more new faces coming onboard to flesh out the ensemble. Aaron Stanford, who just wrapped the astounding Syfy series 12 Monkeys, makes his way over to FtWD for even more genre weirdness. Parks and Recreation‘s Mo Collins has the potential to bring a whole new vibe to the cast with her vast comedic career. Tonya Pinkins, who played Ethel Peabody on Gotham, is also slated to make her appearance soon. Daryl Mitchell, better known for his comedic roles in Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, will bring something different to the franchise—a disabled character played by a disabled actor. It’s about dang time the genre got better about disabled representation, and Mitchell’s on-screen energy makes the casting choice just that much better. Stephen Henderson (Fences) rounds out the new FtWD cast that’s been announced so far. It’s an insanely talented group coming onto the show at a time when everything is in flux.
Oh. Oh, man. So this is what it’s like to be actually excited about the show again. Never thought that sensation would ever return.
Speaking of returns, Fear the Walking Dead returned to AMC on August 12th, so there’s no need to wait any longer. Jump into season four. Go ahead. I think it might actually be worth the time.
The summer of 2018 has been quite transformative for the cast and crew for AMC’s smash hit series The Walking Dead. Right off the bat during the San Diego Comic-Con panel we know something’s changed. There’s a serious difference in the energy onstage. It’s not just Yvette Nicole Brown’s infectious enthusiasm, either. For heaven’s sake, even Andrew Lincoln has an earnest smile on his face throughout the entire thing instead of just looking as tired as he should be after filming. Let’s be honest, working on the show is hard. We’ve all heard the stories about the heat and ticks. Usually everyone’s rough around the edges and thankful they’re in an air-conditioned building. Not this year. This year they vibrated with excitement. Too much excitement, sometimes. New showrunner Angela Kang let fly an f-bomb during a mutual respect fest with Jeffrey Dean Morgan at one point. Most everyone took a minute to sing Kang’s praises, in return. This was a level of affection between the production team and the cast we’ve yet to see, honestly. Even amongst the production team, too!
Promoting Kang seems to be the Thing. That Thing some fans have waited for to turn the tide. Dare we hope things are actually changing for the better? Keep in mind, Kang is responsible for the heart-wrenching episode where the gang says goodbye to Dale. You know, the one with that amazing speech? Including this too-fitting gem: “If we do this, we’re saying there is no hope. Rule of law is dead. There is no civilization.” Color me a little excited to see a return to that style of drama on the show.
The SDCC panelists for 2018 were: Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, Gale Anne Hurd, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Norman Reedus.
Right off the bat, after everyone settled down, Kang confirmed that the long-awaited time-jump will happen leading into season nine. Maggie has the baby at last! Thus endeth the longest pregnancy on cable television. Kang alluded to the survivors building on the hope seeded in season eight, while simultaneously watching the infrastructure from the old world crumble around them to return to nature’s rule. Nicotero later expanded on this idea by pointing out how far-outdated (he says “ancient”) technology will have more value for the survivors than, for instance, guns with their finite amount of ammunition and supplies to continue making it. So they knock off a few museums and make off with the covered wagons, who cares? Now they’ve got the means to move without scrounging for fuel that isn’t there anymore. But all that forward progress has other kinds of consequences, as Gurira pointed out. Some people will want to do things their own way. We saw a group at the end of season eight who were very much not onboard with Rick’s “kill them with kindness” plan. That distrust doesn’t just vanish. Cohan talked super vaguely about how Maggie will deal with Negan’s continued survival in this better world she’s helping build—basically, she will deal with it, so just wait and see.
As Lincoln pointed out, there was a rather large elephant on the stage with them. For weeks the rumor mill churned out talk of his departure from TWD. Kirkman accidentally spilled the beans on the reality of the exit in his own panel before the TWD one in Hall H, so all Lincoln had to do was try not to cry while confirming his exit. He went on to pour his heart out, sharing the devotion he’s felt from the cast/crew and fans for the last decade. In an aside, he pointed out that his two of his all-time favorite episodes are coming up in season nine. Wonder if it’ll be easy to spot them. He later called the upcoming season, “Cowboys and zombies.” Which is more in-line with where some thought the show would go than where it ended up during “All Out War.”
Expect some new settings in the new season, specifically D.C. (at last!). Other new things include new styles of undead, according to Nicotero. Kirkman teased a “whispering zombie”, as seen in the trailer. There’s some new animals on the show, namely horses, which forced the production team to relearn the meaning of patient, it seems. Lastly, there’s a handful of new cast members joining the gang. Zack McGowan will play a Savior. Dan Fogler will be Luke. Samantha Morton was announced a little later as Alpha, the leader of—well, look at that—the Whisperers. Guess that explains the talking supposedly-dead person. There will be more cast announcements soon, no doubt.
The main panel portion rounded out with some funny stories from the cast. Gurira and Lincoln ribbed each other about their horse riding skills. Reedus gushed, yet again, about the forbidden wheelie he popped during filming while Lincoln clung to the back of the seat valiantly delivering his lines. There was even a prank war update, complete with a heated discussion as to the validity of Lincoln’s latest volley in the long-standing battle of wits. Brown passed question duty off to the fans for about nine minutes to end the panel.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 7th. There is a season nine preview special, hosted by Brown, on Sunday, August 5th at 9 PM.
The Z Nation Universe Expands with New Series Black Summer by R.C. Murphy
Not long before SDCC 2018, a few gossipy news bits flitted across social media alluding to huge news from the Z Nation team. Without any evidence behind the stories, it’s easily brushed off as the usual comic-con driven theories; best to opt to wait for actual news from the production team themselves. We didn’t have to wait long.
One of the first big genre news items out of SDCC this year was confirmation that Z Nation will indeed expand with an upcoming series on Netflix titled Black Summer. There’s some quibbling over the exact wording regarding this being a spin-off, though. It sounds like this is their answer to Fear the Walking Dead in a way, what with the trip back to the chaotic parts of the apocalypse. The new series is slated to be a ZN prequel of sorts, with totally new characters, in the early stages of the zombie apocalypse. Or as showrunner Karl Schaefer said during The Asylum’s panel, “Black Summer is before the apocalypse got weird and was just scary.” Joining Schaefer at the helm is fellow ZN producer John Haymes.
The series will have eight episodes. However, where BS differs from ZN is the season will be one giant story. None of the zombie-of-the-week or enemy-of-the-week type of gags, here, as with Z Nation‘s early seasons. I suspect the new show will be something to set aside a day and just binge-watch in order to fully appreciate the story. During the panel, the showrunners promised that Black Summer would be the more serious cousin in the universe, bringing old school zombie horror to the franchise. So maybe make it two days. These guys are getting good at gore. It may be a tad much to digest in one day.
Coming in as the star for the series is Jaime King (Sin City, My Bloody Valentine 3D). King’s character, on the surface, sounds a little like a Carol (TWD) type. She will portray a mother separated from her daughter during the worst summer of the zombie apocalypse and nothing, absolutely nothing, will get in her path while she searches for her. To make due, she pairs up with other survivors just to get through to tomorrow.
There’s no release date just yet. There’s not even official sites or an IMDB page for the project yet, let’s be honest here. They’re just getting started with production, so it may be a while before there’s any substantial news, but we’ll keep an eye out and pass on word.
Season Five News from Z Nation at SDCC by R.C. Murphy
With all the chaos they left us with after the season four finale, it’s a good thing Z Nation survived the Syfy off-season guillotine in order to wrap up the extreme intrigue planted in last season’s disjointed romp through Warren’s mental snap and the Black Rainbow mission. Not many specific questions regarding the finale were answered during the discussion segment of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel, but that’s standard operating procedure for almost every show which isn’t screening an episode or premiere during the massive convention. Sometimes a few secrets leads to greater fun down the road.
There was, however, a five minute trailer to whet everyone’s appetite for the upcoming season. Or should I say wet, according to some initial reactions to the gory footage? The trailer is not currently available online, but keep an eye on Z Nation‘s social media pages for the online premiere sometime soon.
This year’s panel was attended by D.J. Qualls, Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, showrunner Karl Schaefer, executive producer David Michael Latt, and series newcomer Lydia Hearst.
Panelists discussed where some of the outlying characters would be in the upcoming season, physically and emotionally. Qualls says Citizen Z will stay way up north with his crew. Baranova revealed a little of what long-lost Addy will be up to now that her world’s been upended even more, though she doesn’t know it yet. Addy’s comeback story line promises to take us deep into the world of a new zombie breed—deemed Talkers by the production team. These Talkers are coherent, intelligent undead, and they’re out to get our heroes. On the flip side, Addy feels a kinship with these evolved zombies, and that’s bound to cause ample problems for everyone down the road.
The producers wrapped the panel by showing the trailer for The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, since it’s the same production team and all. No, this does not mean there will be anymore crossover between the franchises than what’s already happened. Probably. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there’s no announcement about the Z Nation season five premiere date. Syfy has only confirmed that it will air sometime later in 2018. It’ll probably be late September or early October, but assume nothing until Syfy makes an official announcement in the upcoming months. To keep your memory fresh, all current seasons of the show are streaming on various platforms now.
And He Shall Be a Good Man: Review for iZombie 413 by A. Zombie
Before you march into this battle, make sure to watch your six for episode spoilers.
It’s been a rough year for Seattle, and things are not looking up for the newly crowned zombie haven. Despite Peyton’s best efforts, the federal government halts all support to the city. Fillmore-Graves’ kidnapping scheme is for naught. Liv and Levon’s sacrifice for each other won’t matter if the people they’ve saved starve to death. The city needs a plan. Unfortunately for them, their self-appointed leader is so focused on slaughtering anyone who breaks the rules, he can’t find a way to work together to stay alive.
Starving to death, or being devoured by ravenous zombies, isn’t the first or even third priority for Team Zombie in this episode. Everyone thinks they know what they need to do, then the calls start—Liv and Levon are being executed in the morning. One thing this show did well was make sure Liv’s chosen family were worthy of her never-ending sacrifices. They prove it in this episode when those friends drop literally everything to hatch a rescue plan. Even Major makes it back into Seattle in time to deliver a heartfelt pep talk to Renegade’s crew. Gladwell, driven by Ravi and Major’s concern for their friend, risks her livelihood to be the mole in Fillmore-Graves and feeds the rescue squad intel. You’ve got to admit, that team is scarily efficient. In no time at all they have a solid plan in place, including contingencies for any security FG set up in the park. They also waste all that time for nothing. The documentary Levon produced forces Chase to bump up the execution time and change locations after the crew releases it to garner civilian support for Renegade. The plan goes from expertly planned to basically a pitchfork mob with some extra strength.
We should have known we weren’t going to get a huge fight scene. This show hasn’t pulled one off yet. In this episode they attempt two large-scale fights which fall so flat, they can use them as tarps to cover all the dead zombies left at the end. The execution scene starts off pretty good. Wonderful moments from the actors, and of course the shock-not-shock from yet another dead boyfriend story line conclusion. At this rate, all we can do is shake our head and ignore the writers the next time they say the boyfriend might survive to see another season. Where this scene fails is the actual action sequence. It’s edited with cut-to-black frames. The editing is supposed to make the scene tenser, but in this instance the cuts take out any interesting action, giving us a few seconds with Major jumping instead of an altercation between unarmed resistance fighters and the regime in charge. And while the end of the fight is super satisfying for obvious reasons, the editing left much to be desired as far as a conflict goes. The same can be said for Angus’ final charge into battle. There’s so much time dedicated to showing how much force the zombies are up against at the gate, only for us to see a little bit of running, then close-ups of battlefield executions. The production brought in a tank and didn’t let us see Angus’ head getting knocked clean off by it? Why even bother? I got my hopes up for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Angus still pays the price for his evil deeds while alive and undead. This time he’s staying dead. Good riddance.
With the acting leadership, save Peyton, pushing up daisies, someone else has to fill the void before there’s a power vacuum in the tumultuous walled city. We knew Major was tapped to lead, but thought it nothing more than a ploy to test his loyalty. Turns out the best way to test someone is to present them with the truth and see what they’ll do. Major takes the reigns before someone with bad intentions beats him to the punch. His first act is to join with the military to stave off the zombies rushing the gates. The second most important thing to take care of? It’s the pressing problem everyone overlooked in order to rescue Liv. With few resources at hand, Major looks to the only people he knows can get brains into Seattle, Blaine and Don E. Guess Blaine will do okay without his father’s help, after all. The trio strike a deal which will drastically change how everyone sees the resident bad guys in the upcoming fifth, and final, season. From the looks of it, our whole crew will go out on top of their world. That’s probably just wishful thinking after four years watching the writing team emotionally torment the star characters.
The happy note for the season is, we’ve got a functioning relationship within the plot that doesn’t end in death before the wedding. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of logic jumping to get there. Also, we’re going to have to ignore the fact that Michelle even exists, because that’s a ball of unresolved feels I’m pretty sure got dropped somewhere under the writing team’s table. But, hey, Clive smiles for an entire scene, and that’s the happiest we’ve seen this character, well, ever. The wedding scene is one of those great rom-com moments, capped by a literal miracle. Liv gives up her chance to be normal again, gifting Isobel’s curative brain to Dale as their wedding gift. If my tear ducts weren’t so rotted, I may have cried a little.
This season as a whole got a little messy. The plot was huge, with so many remaining loose threads I’m not sure if they were intentional or a product of realizing there’s no way to address that many issues in one go. We can only wait and see if the same writing problems make it to the final season. It’d be a shame for this show to go out with grousing from the fanbase, though.
Rated: TV-MA (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Caren Pistorius, and Anthony Hayes
When we think about current affairs in genre films, the adage has ventured far from, “Less is more.” With streaming services like Netflix dipping their toes in the game, we’ve seen stronger and stronger independent horror films popping up like mushrooms after rain. Given such support, filmmakers seem to be willing to venture further from the standard ho-hum zombie flick. Cargo is not a movie you’ll watch through your fingertips. But that’s not to say the movie lacks anything. The emotional and cultural depth are what put it on new level. So while this movie has less, well, everything than something like World War Z, it’s not one to overlook because it’s, “Just another indie movie.”
Even Netflix doesn’t believe in it, giving me a sixty-something percentage on the compatibility scale, despite my watch history being almost entirely genre films—including several indies with similar vibes, but inferior cinematography.
Here’s the plot rundown:
Australia’s coastline and major cities teem with people infected by a cannibalistic virus. Aboriginal people still connected to the old ways make their way to their ancestral homes seeking refuge from the “ghosts” haunting the plains. Other lucky souls make it away from the worst by sticking to the waterways.
Andy, his wife Kay, and their infant daughter Rosie are supremely lucky to have a houseboat and a smaller motor boat at their disposal. But food is scarce. Scavenging for supplies comes at a steep cost. With a 48-hour timer on Kay’s final moments, Andy makes the call to find help at the nearest town. Kay never makes it after they cross paths with a wandering ghost on the road. Andy winds up infected in the chaos. The ghost isn’t alone, trailed by his daughter Thoomi. The pair are on the lam, Thoomi fearing her people will put her father to rest without giving the Clever Man a chance to reunite his soul with his ghost. Which, ultimately, they do while the girl is imprisoned by Vic.
Vic, the man with a plan for “after” the apocalypse, will get his way no matter what—just ask his wife-not-wife, Lorraine. Andy likewise has a run-in with Vic, also ending with his imprisonment. Together, Andy and Thoomi escape with Rosie. They help each other across the unforgiving Australian landscape in search of anywhere safe for Rosie to grow up. Eventually Thoomi’s home is the only logical choice. Getting there will take every last bit of life left in Thoomi and Andy.
Right out the gate, one can’t help but wonder over how well the filmmakers utilize Australia as the setting in general. With so few city or building locations for the characters to return to, it makes sense to use what they have in abundance to fill in the gaps and establish the groundwork for a seriously well-shot movie. As said earlier, you won’t watch this one through your fingers, and that’s because you won’t want to miss a second of the gorgeous Australian landscape.
The cast makes acting in a location-heavy genre flick look easy, and it’s far, far from it. On this shoot in particular, the weather was downright terrifying, but one would never know that from the way everything’s edited together, aided massively by the seemingly effortless acting from the leads. Freeman and Landers are on the exact opposite ends of the experience spectrum, yet you’d never know it unless you looked further into the film. Their skill and ability to use it to forge a bond on-screen is what makes Cargo so compelling in the second half. Despite the audience knowing early on how things will probably end, they’ll still find themselves rooting for the duo to win against this unseen foe.
Said foe isn’t unseen for long. The zombie effects are a far cry from what we’ve seen lately. I know I say that at least once a year, but this time it’s real, dang-it. For one thing, these zombies are a little goopy. Their blood is gelatinous, discolored, and ample. Each victim undergoes a slow change, suffering seizures and leaking goop until their orifices seal over with it, which signals the final death and transformation. The eye and mouth sealing effect is downright nasty. World’s worst eye boogers. As for the rest of the makeup? The zombies are generally pale with oozing wounds, relying heavily on movement and the crusty face to sell the idea. It works for what this is, and that’s not a grand zombie chase across the countryside. It’s two broken families desperately finding a way to make sure the next generation sees the future, and that’s nearly impossible because mankind’s corruption has rotted the world so much, even the dead are wrong.
A breath of fresh air, Cargo far exceeded my expectations. I’m going to give it four smoldering corpses out of five. Grab a few friends and treat them to just under two hours of quality time together watching this movie. It’s a great way to take a break from the corruption rotting the real world.
You’ve Got to Hide Your Liv Away: Review for iZombie 412 by A. Zombie
Oh no, darling! You can’t possibly go on without knowing there’s spoilers in this review.
With just two episodes left in season four, it’s expected that the plot will whip into a whirlwind with hopefully enough momentum to push the ongoing story into the next season. The problem with this season is there’s too many stories. Too many new characters. Even if one watches this episode without commercials, it seems to take an eternity to get through all the important bits. Why? Because every scene, every moment has to count. The number of info dumps in the episode is staggering. Info dump is a term for dialog laying out a substantial portion of a story line with little to no action to accompany it. It’s usually something novel writers are guilty of, but a few shows have taken to this style of storytelling as a shorthand to get to the good stuff. At least this show, unlike GoT, didn’t use the one sex scene to info dump with breasts on screen in order to keep viewers’ attention.
The Brain of the Week case this time around goes to Ravi since Liv’s occupied with Renegade problems. While the victim this time is a woman—yes, what a shocker—she’s insufferably narcissistic. McKenna is, was, the kind of girl to walk up to a bar, ignore the bartender, and place an order via their “squad” of wannabes. The selfie queen, and former zombie, is a New Seattle celebrity. The Scratching Post brings her in as an “influencer” of sorts one evening, but by the time the sun rises, McKenna isn’t part of the undead or living crowds. Finding out who wants her dead isn’t hard. Ravi’s sole vision leads to a Brother Love follower who dishes the dirt about the pseudo priest’s call to rid the world of the woman’s offensive behavior. Angus himself didn’t do the deed, he’s too careful for that. Yet he still shows up to the interrogation wearing his robes, carrying the hammer we’ve seen him use against humans. Don’t get your hopes up. Angus walks free when Tucker, the bigot turned by Gladwell, confesses to the murder. It’s not a lie, either. Tucker doesn’t do any time for the murder, thanks to Lambert’s interference. Because that’s just what we need, a Fillmore-Graves employee drunk on Brother Love’s Flavor Aid. The day this story line ends cannot come soon enough. It’s cluttering the plot and, quite frankly, the religious extremist plot doesn’t hold any appeal since it’s been done a million times before.
Liv still gets a personality shift from a brain, but it’s not because she decides on her own to eat this particular, love-stricken woman. In a rush to save Liv from herself, Major wanders up and casually kidnaps her, like he didn’t leave his Chaos Killer days long behind. His security clearance gets them out of Seattle and into the next state to a safe house. It’d seem like an extreme measure, but everyone who knows Liv is Renegade—including Clive, now—agrees that her first move after Fillmore-Graves publishes a statement threatening Curtis will be to turn herself in to Chase. Matter of fact, that’s what Liv is doing when Major nabs her outside the apartment. Where this story goes wrong is when Major uses old lovers’ brains to lull Liv into a false sense of security. He roofies her. We’re not quibbling over this fact. There’s no legitimate reason for Major and Liv to ingest these brains, save to give Major his happily-ever-after no matter what. The thing that gets me is, the actors are so good together, we’re almost charmed by these scenes. For the entire season, the Liv and Levon connection felt forced, marred by Liv the pickup artist coercing Levon into sexual situations. Their relationship only feels right once in a while. This episode is one of those moments where the relationship works, and then there’s Major screwing it up by drugging his ex for one more chance to play house after his repeated failures as a partner. Not to mention, this story line is a mess. Repeated info dumps. The sub-story with the missing couple is ridiculous. Are we honestly to believe two zombies can be in a house for a day before hearing the others in the basement? Then there’s the return of Roche. Out of the blue. Just shows up, forcing Liv to save Major after he destroys the last of her trust in him. Major’s on the outs with everyone, suddenly. His bro Chase even calls it quits after sending Hobbs to do a little loyalty test. Major’s going to have to do a lot to out-hero Liv now that she’s turned herself in to save Levon . . . who turned himself in to save Curtis. For Chase, it’s a case of, “Double the execution, double the fun.” He’d gladly triple it if he gets word of Major’s part in everything.
Using the chaos from his father’s speeches, Blaine has one hell of a plan on-deck. But first, he has to get God to send a sign so Angus will put the plan into action. That requires a secondary plan and, uhh, brain snow. Gotta hand it to them, brain snow is a brand-spanking-new concept. One I’d like to inspect. Closely. Hey, you can’t eat the yellow snow; no one said not to eat the pink-ish gray snow. Man, if Blaine gets his way, the plot for the next season is going to be super complicated.
Or maybe not. There’s a slim, and I mean slim, chance that Ravi’s long-shot testing with Isobel actually yielded an answer to the zombie problem. Once Ravi cleans his brain of McKenna’s influence, he dives into his grand experiment. The techno babble goes way, way over my head. However, the results are unmistakable. Thanks to whatever glowing chemical Isobel’s brain produces, Ravi cures a rat in virtually no time at all. Is it a definitive cure? Of course not. It’s one test subject in one testing sequence. Science requires far more work before Ravi declares he’s found anything beyond a hard-to-identify chemical in Isobel’s brain, let alone the cure to zombiesm. That being said, he needs to test faster before Blaine and Angus turn half the USA into the undead. Or he runs out of brain to test.
In happier news, Clive and Dale realize they’re grown adults. This entire season, they’ve simply failed to talk to each other in any meaningful way, as grownups who want a life together should. Clive’s fear made him blab to Liv about the kid thing, instead of taking it to his romantic partner. Dale’s fear of Clive’s desires make her lie about a non-existent lover. It takes a reality check from someone on the outside to convince them to talk. And wouldn’t you know it? They actually want the same thing—each other. The ‘ship still sails!
For weeks, I’ve kept my eye on a different variety of teeth-gnashing undead staging an invasion. As more and more news pours in about this threat, I feel compelled to warn you all about the newest vampire menace.
Coming from Netflix sometime in the near future is V-Wars, based on the 2012 book edited by Jonathan Maberry. V-Wars spawned three follow-up books, as well as a game and comic book series.
About V-Wars the book (via jonathanmaberry.com):
They are already here. They hide among us. They hunt us. They feed on us. They ARE us. V-Wars is the chronicle of the first Vampire War. From the savage murders committed by the patient zero of the plague to full-out battles with vampire terrorist cells, these are the stories of the most terrifying war mankind has ever faced! With stories by Gregory Frost, Nancy Holder, John Everson, Yvonne Navarro, Scott Nicholson, and more.
Bringing the beleaguered characters to life on the small screen are Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries), as Dr. Luther Swann. Coming in to play Swann’s best friend Michael Fayne is Arrow‘s Adrian Holmes. Peter Outerbridge will add his particular spin to one of the untrustworthy characters, elegant yet duplicitous Homeland Security Team member and science expert Calix Niklos. Rounding out the currently released cast list is Jacky Lai (Beyond), who will play Kaylee Vo, a hard-hustling reporter who’ll do anything to land the biggest story of her life, but when she does, it puts her in the path of dangerous enemies.
About V-Wars the series:
Dr. Luther Swann is in for the fight of his life when a virus is released via melting polar ice—thanks, climate change. The disease turns his best friend, Michael Fayne, into a ravenous predator who isn’t afraid to sate his newfound hunger. This terrible disease spreads; more and more are transformed. Humanity crumbles, leaving normal people fighting the rapidly expanding vampire population. Swann struggles to understand what’s happening, while Fayne sets himself up as a powerful vampire leader.
24’s Brad Turner is set to direct the pilot episode for the series. He will stay on to act as an executive producer under showrunners William Laurin and Glenn Davis—both of whom produced Syfy’s Aftermath series. Season one of V-Wars will contain 10 hour-long episodes.
Filming is currently underway, with locations in Sudbury, ON and the Toronto area. Maberry and Holmes have dropped some pictures and video from the first week of filming on Instagram, if you want to take a peek at the behind-the-scenes process.
We’ll update you, dear brigadiers, when the vampires announce their invasion day.
A. Zombie Reviews: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains: bloody violence, gore, adult language, nudity, and sexual violence)
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, and Shari Watson
Let’s address the elephant in the underground bunker right off the bat. Yes, this movie has the same name and basic premise as the Romero movie. That’s pretty much all they have in common, though. When it comes to all these tired reimaginings of cult classics, this may very well be my least favorite. The writers took the bare minimum from the original, enough to call this mess an homage or whatever, and ran with their own bizarre plot dripping in misogyny.
The plot, at a glance:
The zombie apocalypse takes the world by surprise. Caught up in the chaos is Zoe, a young med school student with a focus on epidemiology. To make matters worse, when the dead rise, Zoe is in the middle of fighting off attempted rape from Max, a man with unique blood and a sick obsession. Fast-forward five years, Zoe survives and Max is long gone, but not forgotten. The bunker Zoe calls home serves as a military outpost and scientific research station. In other words, humanity’s last chance to find a cure. If a more mundane epidemic doesn’t take them out, first. A sick girl may be Patient Zero of a new infection. Luckily there’s still medication locked away at Zoe’s nearby medical school. Miguel, the jerk in charge, agrees to the trip. The scouting team recover the medication, and unfortunately, Max, as well. The rapist’s blood kept him in a half-zombie state after the attack. He tracks Zoe through the compound. Despite their history, she saves him to maybe create a cure. Through the testing phase, Max harasses Zoe. Stress and lack of time after Miguel finds out leads her to agree to an ill-considered plan to get fresh rotter blood to test against Max’s. Undead swarm the bunker. Max breaks free. Zoe has to choose between keeping Max alive for her tests or ending his murder spree. For the sake of humanity, she makes the right decision.
The rape sub plot is the most infuriating piece of screenwriting this year. How? How does one look at the Bub character and think, “You know what his backstory is missing, bro?” “Family and friends?” “Psht. Nah, man. A sweet young woman to rape.” Frankly, it’s an insult to the work put into creating that character. They’re only saved from Romero fans grabbing pitchforks because they changed the character’s name. The guy is still styled after Bub post-turning, so they’re not hiding it very well, either. In typical fashion, once the rape idea is introduced, Zoe then relives the moment countless times. Max speaks to her as a zombie, claiming her as his. At one point she has to draw his blood and calls herself his property in order to make him comply. In what universe does someone take a beloved, if flawed, movie and turn it into a story about how not even death can stop a rapist from getting what he wants? This one. This crappy universe wins the prize for being simply the worst.
Sometimes the acting saves a bad script, though nothing’s saving this one from what I mentioned above. In this case, the performances are not where they’ll find praise for the movie. Few of the actors deliver a steady performance the entire film. In a few scenes, they sound like they barely remember the script. As for the content of what the characters say? It’s some of the most Captain Obvious filler dialog taken straight from someone’s first-time horror script. “This is a thing you are seeing with you own eyes, let me repeat exactly what’s happening with no new information.” That’s what I hear, instead of what I’m sure someone thought was witty dialog.
Maybe the makeup stands apart from everything else this year and they can use that for bragging rights! Yeah. Not really. Max’s makeup is disturbing, but the mouth effect loses impact after about the millionth time he roars. We can’t ignore the jet-speed blood spatter effects. They’re beyond ridiculous. In the opening scene we’re expected to believe all these people are full of pressurized blood capable of shooting halfway across a football field. The one zombie which stuck in my mind is the first, and the makeup is subtly perfect. The rest blur together in a wash of blood. At least the fake blood itself was high quality and super believable.
Just face it, this was a bad idea. It’s one thing to want to make your own zombie film, tons of people have and I’ve enjoyed each for its own merit in the end. But to force this kind of garbage onto a known, respected franchise is absurd. Play in your own sand box, don’t crap in someone else’s, let alone that of a dead man. I’m giving this film one and a half desiccated eyeballs out of five. Pass on it and go take a walk in a park, instead.
Insane in the Germ Brain: Review for iZombie 411 by A. Zombie
Clean off your hands and don’t touch any of the episode spoilers below.
This episode is . . . problematic. Countering a slew of character issues are a few golden moments. We witness this sweet farewell to someone too young to die, but they greet Death bravely. Chase has empirical proof of how far Major will go to prove he’s firmly with Fillmore-Graves. Not to mention, the romantic drama in Clive and Dale’s corner is just a gut-kick. These sub-stories tell me the production team can indeed make us care for the characters in ways which will make softer souls tear up. So why on earth are all the Brain of the Week cases in the last half of this season so cringe-worthy?
This week’s victim, Vince, winds up having his head bashed in after cross dressing to perform in a skit critical of the HR representative at his office. Right off the bat, the premise is pretty transphobic—oh no, it’s a man in a dress, let’s laugh about his penis! Ravi calls back to the penis gag several times in a couple minutes. Why? Why address the victim’s genitals at all if the trauma is to his head? Vince’s privacy is further obliterated when his office rival discloses his mental illness without any pressure from the police whatsoever. Then we’re slapped with a red herring in the form of Liv’s vision starring Softball Bigot and his pals. Because Of Course the first real suspect for the murder is a man who freaked out because his masculinity was bruised after drunkenly hitting on a Man in a Dress. This is probably the lowest, most loathsome way to treat this character—a character who isn’t even transgender, by the way. But boy oh boy, do they code Vince’s final night like a trans panic murder. It doesn’t take an overly enlightened person to see what the writers intended, here. And you know what? It’s gross. They should have shelved this idea and brought in a new brain for the episode. All the needed, really, was a victim for Crybaby Carl that’d bring him into the PD’s spotlight. It could have been literally anyone inside the city walls, not (yet another) white man, with a mental illness, who happens to be dressed as a woman. This whole rant of a paragraph doesn’t even cover the insensitivity of how they handle Vince’s mental illness after Liv eats his brain. As far as characters go, Vince is literally a Mad Libs page which finds itself on a camping trip, only to wind up toilet paper because someone didn’t pack right.
On the big-picture side of the plot, Don E. helps Angus reach a global audience. The disturbance from his visceral hatred for humans ripples far, far from the theater-turned-church. In the end, the violence wraps back around to affect the people Angus swears he cares for, yet he escapes, as always happens with this man. In Seattle, hungry zombies feel at liberty to envision devouring humans passing by on the street, and possibly act on it if it were darker and more secluded, perhaps? Local politicians, including Peyton, are on their way to their D.C. flight—where they hope to prove humans and zombies can coexist—when the edited broadcast goes live. Fillmore-Graves sees a gigantic PR disaster. Major’s guilt over dismissing Angus as a serious threat makes one want to smack him upside the head. Of course this monster would continue to be a monster, genius. Why not keep him under stricter observation? Particularly by zombies who aren’t so inclined to fall under his influence. Angus is a wildcard none of the leaders in town can afford to entertain anymore. I suspect instead of Renegade as the next public execution, Chase will swap to Brother Love. It’d certainly go a long way toward convincing the United States government that they shouldn’t nuke the city.
Before Peyton leaves, she and Ravi visit her parents for dinner. To say the scene is awkward is an understatement. Once again, Ravi manages to undermine Peyton’s authority. Admittedly, it’s to
tell her bigoted father to shut his trap, so there’s mixed emotions involved. The odd group do reach a consensus on one matter when it comes to Peyton’s safety—they’d all rather her stay in D.C. instead of coming back to Seattle. She, of course, is having none of this silent retreat plan. Any problem in Seattle is hers to meet head-on. Seriously. She’s the closest thing they have to a mayor currently, unless they’re going to give up all pretenses and just call Chase Commander of the city.
Peyton’s position is vital to the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, the need for her help comes after she’s gone. Doing her best to battle the brain’s influence, Liv busts into the border wall office dressed as Peyton. Why on earth would she be so bold? Well, Suki and a newcomer were stopped and held in the overly crowded waiting room. Liv lost one coyote to the authorities already, she’s not about to lose another. It’s a close thing, though, after she subtly freaks out due to the desperate people clamoring for help from the “mayor.” It seems reckless for them to bring in someone at this time, but the visitor is someone who desperately needs to reconnect with her daughter . . . Isobel.
Going into this story line, it was obvious Isobel wouldn’t stick with the show long. Then the actress made us all want to protect this darling, morbid as heck young lady. Even Isobel’s tired efforts to startle everyone by pretending to be dead provokes a little smile thanks to Izabela Vidovic’s acting skill. Where this story really works, and works well, is when Ravi comes to say his final goodbye. That goodbye comes after a heart-rending bout of denial. Rahul Kohli delivers his strongest performance yet in this scene. Seeing what could have been as far as a connection between all these characters makes one wish Isobel came in sooner. At least then maybe we would have seen the no doubt hilarious driver’s ED scene.
On the overlord side of the plot, Chase Graves screws up his own victory party. Big time. To even earn said party, first Major risks himself by knowingly walking into a bad situation in order to meet Roche’s boss. His team manage to not completely screw up the job and the bust is a resounding success. Then they fail to secure a weapon during prisoner transport, losing Roche in a city where he’s got all sorts of ties to people capable of making him vanish. After hearing the news, Chase snaps, blaming Gladwell for more or less everything that’s gone wrong in the last few months, if we’re honest. Anyone else uncomfortable with Chase being a neo-Nazi stand-in who routinely murders black women? Gladwell survives, so far, thanks only to being a zombie. Her partner doesn’t fare so well. Major would’ve died without those two in a stunt he only pulled in order to appease Chase. Now his white knight has blood on his hands. Will Major continue to march in Fillmore-Graves’ little army? He knows there’s a better cause to back just waiting for a savior dumb enough to join in.
As I said before, there’s just too much going on for this season. I’m loving certain sub stories, like Isobel’s visit, but dread Liv’s everyday work with the PD. Somewhere along the line, the focus went from telling quirky police stories with a zombie detective to complicated season-arcing plots which only vaguely fit together if one squints at the facts really hard and tilts their head. It’s a symptom of writers thinking they’re clever, yet the edited product is far from it because there’s only 40-ish minutes to tell all these stories. Sometimes less is more.