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.
Mt. Weather/The Black Rainbow: Review for Z Nation episodes 412 & 413 By A. Zombie
Remember Mt. Weather? Talk about a callback to the original mission. Mt. Weather went silent back in season one, triggering the move west for Murphy and his escorts. The gang is tasked once again with infiltrating the government stronghold, only this time it’s not to deliver Murphy over to be poked and prodded. They need the president’s thumb and the last place to deliver any official government orders is none other than Operation Bitemark’s original destination.
Things don’t look promising upon arrival. The President’s motorcade sits outside the security gate, doors ajar. Inside the lead car, the President’s husband rots after being eaten by his Secret Service detail. How will they get inside? Hacking things off the dead is old hat for the gang. Doc’s first idea is to scoop out the FGotUS’ mummified eye to get past the retina lock system—Murphy’s first idea is that they’ve all lost their mind at this point, but he’s proven wrong when the gag-inducing plan works.
For a facility claiming to house the entire remaining government, Mt. Weather is a ghost town. Everyone they encounter is dead, lending credit to the notion that everyone really did die back when Citizen Z first lost contact. Roberta leads them within yards of the New Oval Office’s door before they catch sight of anyone with a pulse. Not that Johnson and Johnson are stellar examples of humanity after eight years living in a bunker playing Secret Service to an audience of one. Yes, after all that careful planning on the government’s behalf, not even their most secure base protected them. Within the first weeks, most succumbed to the virus and remain locked in the facility’s lowest level. Luckily, the President lives. At least the current one. Unfortunately Roberta and crew are not the first to ask for her help. The previous visitor ensured no one else could use the loophole in Black Rainbow’s launch procedure, cutting off both of the President’s thumbs. If only he were more patient and listened to the before mutilating her. The thumbprints to operate Black Rainbow actually belong to the sitting PotUS during the outbreak. And he just so happens to be downstairs, somewhere amongst the growling horde.
With all hands on deck, they descend in the lone functioning elevator. Leading the charge, 10k and Sarge ram through the undead clogging the hallway until everyone is forced to duck into an office for cover. Except Roberta. She’s cut off, retreats to the elevator to regroup, and winds up zipping down to the Omega floor, which isn’t listed on the control panel. While the gang and the President systematically check each individual zombie for the former PotUS, Roberta follows music to a broadcasting room for the Press Secretary of the United States where the teleprompter clearly has a speech ready for the PotUS. The man himself sits backstage, apparently duct taped to a chair moments before he turned. This part is far, far too easy. One wants to call bull. Then the other shoe drops
The sitting President is on Zona’s side. In the argument, she talks Sarge into following the oath she took upon entering military service and they take everyone else captive. Is St. Lilley seriously down with genocide? No. No, no, no. Once she realizes the President intends to let Black Rainbow run as Zona intends, Sarge defies her orders and kills her superior. The others sort out Johnson and Johnson, leaving behind three wicked pissed mad-Zs to chase them out of the facility. Roberta uses the adrenaline from re-killing the President to spark her dream for the next set of orders. Though vague, the vision tells her to find the Washington Monument and the underground facility at the edge of its vast shadow.
Much like Mt. Weather, the Strike Facility below Washington D.C. is inhabited by the dead and nothing more. The gang is focused on the task and clearing the zombies in their path, though there’s a quick joke about Murphy being responsible for the Third Strike as they pass the office where it normally would’ve been launched. For the most part the second episode is pretty somber. Not even Doc’s punchlines sell well when balanced with the revelations finally pouring in about how Roberta came to possess so much knowledge about Black Rainbow.
Turns out Roberta woke twice from the coma. The first time, Teller wakes her to ask for her help thwarting Zona’s plan to launch Black Rainbow. He gives her everything she needs via VR simulations—all the codes, hidden keys, and secret locations are run through the simulation over and over in order to burn it in her subconscious. The lynchpin to trigger the instructions, which will repress during her return to the coma, is the vision of her own flesh burning away under a black rainbow. Things take a turn moments before she’s to sleep again. Zona’s founder comes in to thank her for serving The Reset in such a monumental way. At some point, Teller is compromised and never tells Roberta until it’s too late. She’s not delivering an airborne zombie cure as originally promised. She is The Reset. Now either Teller is still legit, lying to The Founder, and the canisters in her possession contain the cure, or they’ve actually been racing to see which Zona faction can release Black Rainbow first for the entire season.
Inside the Strike Facility, Roberta pretty much checks out as her ingrained directive surfaces. She leads everyone to the control panel where the former President’s thumbprint will start the launch. Before that, she must install the canisters on the drone. Alone. That’s if she can beat Zona’s Mr. Sunshine to the punch. Which of course she does, but not before the red canisters get mixed up. Roberta installs what she thinks are the correct canisters in the drone and is hit with the end of her memories, the moment when Teller and The Founder explain about The Reset before returning her to the coma to finish healing. It spurs her to swap canisters. But before she gets to them, Murphy rushes to save her from an ambush by Mr. Sunshine and is exposed to whatever is in the red canister Teller had Roberta retrieve. In the rush to change humanity’s fate, Roberta winds up locked in the drone after swapping red canisters.
The gang can’t save her this time. Launching without problem, the drone takes her high above D.C. and dumps thousands of mini drones into the air. Her drone, having done the job, crashes in the mountains. Roberta’s last words are “Have mercy!” Are we to believe she mercied herself? Doubtful, but that’d be one hell of a way to wrap up the season. Roberta’s not the only one in danger. The others watch helplessly from the launch bay as the drones spread whatever chemicals made it aboard. Murphy is scarlet from the gas exposure. Doc’s happy-go-lucky nature takes a hike. In a fun last-minute twist, the underlying thing between Sarge and 10k is finally addressed. She opts to spend her final moments kissing the guy whose prowess with weapons kept her titillated since they met.
Like always, the writing team soundly wrote themselves into a corner to round out things for the season. Unlike last season, we’re back to massive-scale global destruction as The Thing To Overcome going forward instead of the fans simply having to worry if a handful of lead characters make it. It’s going to take fancy footwork to make it through alluding to the lead character’s death and maybe poisoning the entire world. I’ve got faith. While this show has an issue keeping the pace, it has no problems making weird, improbable things make sense in the end. Good news is there will be a season five. Syfy renewed Z Nation just before the holidays, making it one heck of a gift for the show’s fans.
How It’s Gotta Be: Review for The Walking Dead 808 By R.C. Murphy
Slow your roll, pal. Just need to let you know there’s episode spoilers in this review. Now you may proceed.
They went through all of that killing just to get to this? We saw this coming. Everything which happens on screen, save one or two surprises, is exactly what Negan told us would happen back when all this grandstanding and one-upmanship began. Who didn’t see two of the three safe havens falling to the Saviors? Hilltop was never, ever under threat. Maggie could’ve locked the gates and shrugged with the same result and more of her people left above ground to tend crops. Yet now we’re going to believe she’s grabbing this metaphorical warhammer Rick dropped and wants to ram it down Negan’s throat? Why? She’s lost enough and despite her part gets a pass. There’s Saviors galore in her prison cell to use as leverage. Hell, give Negan Gregory to use as a pet in exchange for prenatal care or something. Why should the woman with everything to lose be the one to save Rick and his people from his ego?
Who else will pay the price for Rick’s actions? Enid sure isn’t going to be the same after her own ill-considered attempt to recover resources squandered in the secondary attacks—namely fighters. She and Aaron take off for Oceanside with no real plan, just a sense of urgency gripping their throats. Which explains why they think stopping at a distillery to grab a hostess gift is the thing to do instead of, oh, giving them their gun back or, gasp leaving them alone so they don’t cost the women any more lives. They park the truck near the community and wait. Aaron is caught when the women do come for them. Enid shoots first, thinks later, and Natania goes down for the count. This. This is why I think Rick’s influence is the real evil in that world. There’s no way Enid or Aaron on their own would have thought to further harass the women they robbed at gunpoint on their own had they never met Rick. Now one’s a murdered and the other lost his husband in a pointless war.
There’s so much wasted time in the episode. First, flashbacks to Rick’s argument with Carl after saving Siddiq and the revelation that Carl doesn’t even consider the war necessary. Then those over-dramatic slow-mo reaction montages just keep popping up whenever they pleased, dragging the action to a standstill, and all to deliver one gotcha moment. Yeah, Jerry’s car accident works as a surprise. But it would’ve been better had I not been rolling my eyes through the umpteenth such montage this season.
And yes, I yelled at the TV when they dared threaten Jerry’s well-being. I’ve lost one favorite character already, if Jerry goes, I’ll riot.
Everyone’s trapped in their corner of the world by the newly liberated Saviors. Hilltop is stopped on the road by Simon’s team. They hold Jerry’s life over Maggie, giving her an ultimatum. She and the jolly guy bite the big one and then the walker horde clears Hilltop, or Hilltop pays the price of one soul for the honor of returning home unharmed in order to continue farming. One minor character’s death later, they’re home sweet home. Maggie vents her frustration while venting a Savior’s chest. The guy’s packed up with a message for the Saviors and dumped for them to find, triggering Maggie’s dumbest decision to date, which is perpetuating Rick’s war when they’re clearly going to get dead sooner rather than later if they continue down this path.
Gavin’s rounding up The Kingdom’s people to flush out their batter and bruised leader. Ezekiel takes the time to spring a plan. An explosion draws the Saviors away while he drives a bus between them and his people. Everyone flees past Carol, who’s only just arrived from magically saving Rick from himself. Let’s take a break here for a second. I want a legitimate answer as to how Carol and Jerry just so happen to drive by as Rick arrives with Jadis. It makes no sense for them to be driving that close to Sanctuary when they didn’t even have confirmation Rick made it out of the dump because the snipers were gone after the truck did its job. Even if they did hear him on the radio, they still made it to the Sanctuary in record time. Nothing about this makes sense. They waste Rick for two episodes dealing with the Scavengers just for Jadis to order a retreat the instant the Saviors open fire. Then he’s snatched up by Carol like a stray kitten in a storm like it’s the most normal thing for her and Jerry to have their Sunday drive right then and there. By the way, if Jerry and Carol were patrolling, why didn’t they report the Savior’s escape when they heard the firing squad doing its job? This is a frustrating example of the ways the show screws itself up to save a main character so flawed by male ego, he should’ve rightly died five seasons ago.
But back to The Kingdom. Everyone runs for it, leaving Ezekiel behind. Carol assumes he’ll lock the Saviors in. Nope. Ezekiel sacrifices himself to keep the Saviors occupied. After all, he’s the target, not the innocents living in the community. There’s always hope in the wings, however. Morgan lurks outside the gates. Will he save Ezekiel or let the Saviors use him to send a message to everyone involved in Rick’s war? Looks like the former, but it’s hard to tell with Morgan. He’s not alright anymore.
Bombs away! Alexandria’s undergoing some drastic structural changes. Negan’s cool ran out about the time he hid in that trailer with Gabriel. It’s time to send a clear message to these communities and how can anyone ignore the sound of their house blowing up? Trying to get ahead of the damage, Carl orders everyone to evacuate. It’s not a popular call. Michonne is aghast at the idea of giving Negan their community so easily, but Carl is in charge and he says run. While they make his plan work, Carl buys time chatting up Negan. It’s a great scene for the guys. Shows promise for those moments they talked about wanting back at SDCC. But all we’re going to get is this one moment.
For the most part, Carl’s plan is a success. Everyone makes it to cover ahead of the Saviors invading the residential section. Daryl, Michonne, Tara, and Rosita thin out the enemy by drawing a guard post away from the rear gate. Dwight helps them lay the trap and is outed by Laura as a traitor. They take his wounded self to the spot where everyone’s laying low and wait.
Rick makes it back to Alexandria just in time to see it lit beautifully by massive flames. Negan greets him at his house for a chat. By chat I mean fight. Rick takes the chance to run for his life after Negan forces him out a window. Down the street, Michonne turns a Savior into ground beef. Rick hauls her off the bloody mess and she leads him to the sewers where everyone’s hiding. Even Judith is down there, safe with Uncle Daryl.
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Know who’s not safe? Carl. For some random reason, he shows up at the end with a walker bite to his stomach. We’re lead to believe Carl was bitten while saving Saddiq. So this whole time he’s been dying and hiding it? Sure. Okay. Way to write off one of the major characters in the most anticlimactic way possible. He doesn’t even get to go out in a blaze of glory. We get no real closure with Carl here. He’s going to die in a friggen sewer, probably. The guy who maintained more heart than the rest, even after murdering his mother out of mercy, is written off with a whimper after all that build-up for something with Negan? This smells fishy. How insulting for Carl to die this way, too. And how weird for this death to be so public despite Carl not actually passing in this episode. I found out in a spoiler the next morning because there’s approximately five thousand rumors as to why Carl, a character who is still alive and kicking in the comics, dies now on the show in a lackluster way, tagged onto the very end of the mid-season finale like an afterthought.
So we’ve got that to look forward to when the show return from hiatus. Plus, figuring out how everyone else will move on after this setback in the war against the Saviors. Will anyone be left on Rick’s side to fight this fight?
Zombie Reviews . . . Zombie Wars (2007) By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains zombie violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Adam Stuart, Alissa Koenig, Jim Marlow, Kristi Renee Pearce, Billy Hayes, and Jonathan Badeen)
Sometimes, just sometimes, I regret closing my eyes and jabbing a finger at the TV to determine what film to watch next. This time around, Fate brought Zombie Wars to my attention. Fate is fickle and persnickety and if they know what’s best, they’ll avoid dropping any such movies into my path again. Yes, I feel betrayed by the universe for not making an executive decision—this film is that painful to sit through.
The premise is, surprisingly, not half bad: Fifty years after the undead rose and swept the cities clean of humanity, the struggling few left alive have banded together in militias or small settlements. Brothers David and Brian, under the leadership of General, take it upon themselves to track a zombie gang who’ve been kidnapping droves of humans then herding them to a farm not far from two human settlements. During a mission, the brother rescue half a dozen women. The heist doesn’t go unpunished. Pushed from their camp by vengeful dead, the militia regroups, but David and newly-rescued Star don’t make it. They’re put into the breeding program at the intelligent zombies’ farm. Eventually word gets to Brian and General. A rescue plan kicks into gear, despite no help from the human village nearby. Inside the farm, the humans who speak out are eaten. Those who behave work on growing food or growing babies. David and Star find an ally, Sliver. But he’s not who he says he is, and once everyone learns the truth about Sliver’s purpose with the undead, the farm’s days are numbered. That being said, what’s captured on-screen doesn’t live up to the potential.
The sudden twist audiences are always begging is right here. Unfortunately, the execution lacks everything, especially a budget. The sets are mostly tents or on location at a rundown farm with little built for the production and Spartan set dressings. Costuming is all straight out of a thrift store, dragged through a hasty apocalypse makeover, and tossed onto whatever actor passed by—the exception is General who gets a stereotypical Tough Woman wardrobe, complete with cleavage for the few scenes where the script tries to make her and Brian a thing. As for the zombie makeup? I’ve seen better at a school haunted house. Some zombies look like they went the DIY greasepaint route. Featured zombies were only slightly better. Some have homebrewed FX appliances to make elaborate wounds . . . which unfortunately looks little better than ye olde classic liquid latex and toilet paper bite marks.
Then there’s the downtime in the script. It takes so long for David to reach out to Brian and General, the rescue squad pretty much literally twiddles their thumbs for more than half the film. Every time we cut back to them, it’s another awkward conversation about how they should do something, or they’ve cram in a scene which is in the end meaningless because it’s an excuse to plant a romance subplot which is eventually resolved, but not in a satisfying way. However, over on the farm there’s this whole intrigue with the supply chain and Sliver’s seemingly magical ability to get whatever he needs without being eaten. The characters spend so much time in so few locations, all the scenes blur into one long, droning memory when looking back. Instead of breaking the action bits into smaller scenes and dispersing them through the whole film, it’s bookended by fighting, leaving the middle lacking tension.
Overall, the film’s potential doesn’t outweigh the execution. I’m giving Zombie Wars two crumbled skulls out of five. This isn’t even a good film to torture friends with after copious drinking.
Return to Mercy Labs: Review for Z Nation 411 By A. Zombie
Free from Chicago’s toxic foam, the team heads south for days. No one knows why, or where, or when this new side mission will end. Some weird sense of duty leads most of them along Roberta’s hazy path. 10k’s plan is a tad more complicated, but he knows deep down that the only way for his future to end happily is to follow the woman who kept him alive this far. It’s a little weird and slightly culty thinking, but 10k has a history of blind loyalty which fate happens to reward, though he’s got to be running out of universal brownie point by now. Everyone’s patience pays off when they reach a familiar building complex: Mercy Labs. Makes sense. During the original episode there was ample background building for Teller and his wife, seems a waste of effort not to bring it all back at some point.
This episode suffers from a little gratuitous time-killing in the form of flashbacks to the fight against The Man and his armored zombies, plus side trips to remember 5k and Red. There’s also too much filler when Roberta’s dream-walking through the lab, plus flashbacks to fill in information about Teller and Sarah’s son Andrew, and all that time the crew up north spends digging through files to find the Black Rainbow information. Getting to the meaty parts takes a bit, but once we’re there, it’s solid on the writing and acting front. Not to mention we finally, finally have the mission details in-hand.
Tracking down what they need means splitting up yet again. Roberta wanders, with 10k chasing behind after he takes a moment to mourn his losses alone. The dream takes her to an industrial refrigerator with about a dozen chains and just as many combination locks. A fungus-zombie interrupts the process. In order for Roberta to dream up the last combination, 10k has to hit her. Which, oh man, he does not want to do. If their lives depend on him ever selling that they’re arguing, they’re doomed. She goads him into getting the job done. Surprise, the fridge has a canister to match the one she’s already got. They join the others in Teller’s lab.
Sarge thinks she can reroute the solar powered batteries to work their radio for a few minutes. Doc and Murphy take her to the lab to find the power source. They find more than they bargained for after clearing a blockaded doorway at the back of the lab. During their first visit, Sarah worried about her son’s fate, begged Murphy to figure out what happened. Turns out Teller lied to his wife. Andrew naps in a suspended animation chamber powered by the solar panels atop the lab. Sarge faces a dilemma: Steal the kid’s saving grace or get the radio online? Opting for a middle ground only gets them so far. They barely make contact with Kaya and Citizen Z before the power cuts out, leaving the vital parts of Kaya’s message unheard. Roberta and Sarge have their first real heart to heart moment debating their next move. The fate of the many outweigh the fate of one, and Roberta spares Sage from pulling the plug on Andrew.
Getting the word out to Roberta isn’t as easy as digging through some files. Kaya’s having a little trouble readjusting to having her full family under one roof again; it’s distracting to want Simon, give him time to bond with JZ, but also figure out why ZONA was all up in their systems in order to maybe, probably, save the world. Plus there’s that mad-Z they never dealt with who almost chews Simon’s face off. Saving everyone’s day, Kaya pulls it together and what she discovers is . . . pretty much what they’ve been alluding to this entire season. So why this whole mystery thing? I don’t know.
Black Rainbow is a biological weapon meant to destroy whoever’s left after a catastrophic event. This is ZONA’s Reset. They plan to unleash Black Rainbow, hide on the island until all’s clear, then claim whatever’s left of the world as their own. The launch system is locked. But Kaya finds one loophole—they can cancel the launch at the base, so long as they have the thumbprint for the President of the United States of America.
Grab your good camera, gang. We’re going sightseeing at the nation’s capitol next week!
A. Zombie Reviews . . . Children of the Living Dead By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Tom Savini, A. Barrett Worland, Damien Luvara, Jamie McCoy, Sam Nicotero, Marty Schiff, and Heidi Hinzman
Often when artists strive to find inspiration, they look to the past. For genre fans, there’s only a few franchises which define zombies in pop culture. Unfortunately, when it comes to grasping the same energy as the original films, that’s like trying to wrestle a greased zombie rabbit into a tutu. Sometimes the heart behind something can push past an obstacle or two. Children of the Living Dead doesn’t have that to fall back on. It’s a lackluster homage to the more ridiculous side of the living dead.
Life in a small town is hard enough, what with the gossip networks having so few souls to pick on and all. One town in particular has it worse than most after an incident in the late 60s left them fending off the living dead. They won, but only for a little while. In ’87, the dead rise again. This time notorious rapist Abbot Hayes returns and promptly resumes his kidnapping ways. Hot on his trail are deputies Hughs and Randolph. Only Randolph and the rescued children survive the encounter. Hayes gets away, laying low for fourteen years. One afternoon, he’s intrigued by a group partying on his mother’s grave, then he gets angry. The concert-goers make it less than a mile down the road. Hayes scares them over a cliff. After the funeral, he interrupts a couple grave robbers in order to collect the accident victims, turning them into his personal army. A year later, Hayes’ family property is sold to a car dealership. In order to build the showroom, the crew first has to remove the family cemetery’s occupants—they opt for mass burials over the hefty cost to move them to another cemetery, as any scuzzy contractor would. Hayes doesn’t take kindly to the Michaels’ family and their plans for his home. His army attacks, ever-growing as they move further into town seeking revenge . . . and a snack.
This is probably the slowest zombie movie I’ve seen to date. Not even the opening sequence with Savini is punchy enough to grab the audience and drag them along for the ride. There’s rarely a viable sense of urgency which isn’t artificially inflated with awkward dialog. For heaven’s sake, there’s a five minute scene with Hayes—a mute zombie who moves slightly faster than a slug—shuffling through the woods outside his family home, like that’s supposed to make us lean in for the kill that’s surely about to happen. It’s like watching Deadpool kill that guy with the Zamboni, but without the witty dialog to save it from being laughably bad. The final fight is such a waste of time, as well. Nothing of note happens. [Spoilers!] Hayes walks off unscathed. Our heroes live to see tomorrow. The dead are, for the most part, contained. What is at stake? Humanity wins the day again. Without his father in the way, Matthew Michaels can build the family empire in his name. Laurie yet again escapes Hayes’ grasp without injury. I’m all for a happy ending occasionally, but there has to be a resolution to at least one story line which isn’t so open-ended it’s like they assumed people would clamor for a sequel instead of calling them out for failing to commit to the story. The poor time management and overuse of time jumps is likewise to blame for limp motivation for the characters. For example, here’s Hayes, a guy who just loves to kill and he’s been reanimated, given a second life where he can wallow in gore. Yet we’re supposed to believe he’s content to live alone in his house, next to a major road, without incident for fourteen years. His brand is murder and mayhem, that part obviously doesn’t change after his death, so why does he twiddle his thumbs?
There’s some decent FX makeup in this film. Hayes’ face will stick in your memory thanks to the detail work. As will the awkward as hell gloves the poor actor has to wear. Watching him “grab” things is cringe-inducing. The wound appliances for the undead are great, but often the detail is lost in the poor image quality and copious blood. That’s where the good makeup ends. The standard for these zombies is, for some unfathomable reason, pale greasepaint and blood. On the same zombie we’re getting quality wound work, and a teenager’s attempt at Halloween makeup. It’s a head-scratcher, that’s for sure.
Honestly, this script needed a hefty revision before they started shooting. There’s so many plot holes, and even more plot threads left in the wind at the end in a most unsatisfactory way. Cliffhangers are a cop-out. Even with how slow the film is, plus the ever-repeating dialog, and underwhelming zombies, if they just stuck a solid ending I was ready to forgive a lot of the bad. But they didn’t. Children of the Living Dead gets one bloody, matted clump of hair out of five.
We’re closer to New Seattle than everyone anticipated. Which is a relief, honestly. Not having a premiere date in-hand was worrisome. Why put off an announcement until less than two months in advance? We went through this already with Z Nation. One had hoped iZombie wouldn’t fall into that late-to-press trend, but here we are, less than two months out and CW finally drops the good news. It’s great and all, but the information delays are getting old. Likely it’s a way to create false panic, drum up news and viral campaigns to “Save this show! Let the network hear you want season blahblahblah.” There’s enough to panic about in the real world, could we stop with the fear-mongering when it comes to the future of people’s favorite franchises? Just spit it out. We all know no amount of online petitioning will really save a show—look at the footwork Dark Matter fans, cast, and creators put into saving their ship; if anyone deserves another season based on effort alone, it’s those guys. At least for now iZombie seems to have a future through season five after details emerged in the recent news regarding Knepper’s future with the CW franchise.
On Monday, February 26th at 9 PM, iZombie’s fourth season will take us into a changed Seattle. Zombies are free to live their truth in the open. It’s transformed the city from top down. Even the police department gets with the times, bringing in zombie partners for their detectives so everyone can share in Liv’s whacky brainventures. The extra hands on deck are necessary. This season the gang isn’t fighting a someone so much as a something. That something being mass migration to the newly dubbed zombie safe-hold on the notion that anyone can save themselves from terminal illness and constant pain with just one tiny scratch. The walls won’t keep desperate humans out for long. Their heightened security certainly doesn’t keep out a new character, Levon (Daniel Bonjour), or the smugglers bringing the ill into Seattle. Levon follows their story for a documentary detailing the changes to the city.
Over at AMC, they’re planning a little further in advance than everyone else and on January 13th during a press tour a spokesperson announced a slew of premieres for their spring schedule, including Fear the Walking Dead.
FTWD shambles into its fourth season on Sunday, April 15th at 10 PM. Fret not, those who aren’t night owls, that late start time is only for the premiere. The show hops back to its normal 9 PM timeslot for the remainder of the season. This time around fans will watch through Morgan’s eyes while Madison and her family struggle to survive. Because we needed that family to be even more removed from the fanbase who’re still struggling to connect with the lead characters. Sure. Right. Maybe the perspective change will bring fresh energy to the show. But honestly this reeks of a desperate grab to save a floundering fish. The producers crowed for years that there’d never be a crossover. Well, those quotes did not age well at all. On top of Lennie James coming on-board, the newest cast members for the AMC spin-off include Jenna Elfman, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, and Kevin Kegers.
AMC shook things up for The Walking Dead, as well. Rick and company will be returning for a ninth season, according to the latest press release. They won’t be coming back with the same showrunner, however. Scott Gimple plans to move on and oversee the entire TWD franchise as its chief content officer. Taking his place as showrunner is TWD’s co-executive producer Angela Kang. TWD returns to AMC for the second half of season eight on Sunday, February 25th at 9 PM. There’s no premiere date for season nine just yet. Expect that news sometime this summer.
The 25th is going to be a busy night. Ash vs Evil Dead also returns to the small screen on February 25th at 9 PM. Ash took on the evils from his past last season. Well, there’s one last blast from way-back to rock his world. Ash gets in touch with his inner papa bear in the third season of the Starz show after learning he’s actually got family to defend, since, ya know, the others all went deadite. Can he break the grip Death has on his family tree? With a chainsaw hand, he can do anything. But I don’t know if a chainsaw will help him become a better parent.
Stock up on popcorn, guys. There’s a lot of undead entertainment headed your way.
Zombie Reviews . . . Birth of the Living Dead By A. Zombie
Rated: NR (Contains adult language, gore, brief nudity)
Starring: George A. Romero, Gale Anne Hurd, Elvis Mitchell, Mark Harris, Christopher Cruz
There’s days when one wants to sink into something comforting. Short a stack of fresh ribs, I went looking for the zombie classic and stumbled across this 2013 documentary. Birth of the Living Dead is a made-with-love documentary delving into Night of the Living Dead, its director, and the lasting cultural changes ushered in by this most unusual film.
The documentary itself is edited for peak attention-grabbing. What could’ve been an hour and change of people chatting on black backgrounds is mixed up with a metric ton of clips from NotLD, other zombie films and shows, and at the end there’s footage from a comic-con interview with the late Bill Hintzman. One of the stand-out moments is the segment where they check in with an instructor who teaches literacy through film and his subsequent discussion with the kids about the film’s impact on a generation so far removed from the political maelstrom which birthed it. Not to mention fresh reactions to the cult hit are always entertaining. How many times have you introduced NotLD to new people and waited for them to yell about the gas scene? That’s the kind of excitement this documentary captures. Yes, they’re talking about a film from 1968, but so much of what it says speaks to the uphill battle we’re fighting yet again.
Guests interviewed range from top television producers to novelists and film critics, all of whom share a deep appreciation for Romero’s work. However, the interview with Romero himself is what steals the show, here. He’s having a grand ol’ time. His interview isn’t really an interview so much as a hangout session with a bunch of other filmmakers to shoot the breeze and, oh, the topic of his film just happens to come up while cameras are rolling. There’s countless instances of gut-bursting laughter from off-screen crew when Romero lets a zinger fly. And while yes it makes one smile, there’s always that tug when the laughter fades—we won’t get any more of these gems again. George’s levity in his segments is probably one of the best gifts he left behind. Without the razor wit, all this war/death/zombie talk can get too serious.
This documentary also gives fans a look at exactly how difficult it was to make the film happen at all. Romero isn’t afraid to admit he didn’t think they’d finish the film. There’s no shame behind those glasses when he declares he’d never, ever take up playing a zombie because the real guts used in NotLD were flat-out disgusting. We learn cast doubled as crew and equipment suppliers all in the name of Getting It Done. By far the best did-you-know story details how they finally “paid” for the sound mix; but the most noteworthy tidbit for curious filmmakers is how easily NotLD fell into the public domain because someone failed to put one thing on the title card. Yes, most of the stories are ones we’ve heard before, but this is a nice compilation of them and the editing mixes it up with insight from others who make a living in the horror genre.
The most detailed part of this documentary pokes at the cultural and racial questions raised by NotLD. Casting Duane Jones was easy because he was the best for the role of Ben, but Romero himself admits he never, ever went into the filmmaking process after hiring Jones with the intention to use his race as part of the story. Which, honestly, probably makes a lot of fans sit back and say, “What? You didn’t mean for this to be one of the best statements on the racial divide in that era?” Lest you think they just blow by the topic, other interviews dig into how Ben’s bravery and heart-rending fate affected young black men who at the time had no character like him to look to in the media. Representation matters, even if the folks pulling the strings aren’t as clued in to the significance as they should be. Art is subjective, after all, and in this case a large portion of the audience sees equality in the production’s lack of rewrite to fit the cast.
If you’re like me, frozen to the core this winter and looking for a way to warm your heart, take a look at Birth of the Living Dead. I give it four and a half mangled faces out of five.
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.
Time for After: Review for The Walking Dead 807 By R.C. Murphy
From the looks of it, sense and reason has abandoned everyone during this mad rush to rid the world of Negan. Rick allocated most of his town’s resources for the fighters, sparing precious few capable people to guard their children and pacifists while he fails to negotiate with the Scavengers. The Kingdom will need generations to recover from their massive losses on the battlefield. Hilltop is a powder keg with a couple dozen torches crammed in a cage just inside their fence. Daryl’s leading an off-mission strike force straight into the heart of Savior territory. So far the only one to speak a word of sense is Rosita. It took watching Sasha lurch out of a coffin and her own near-fatal injury for Alexandria’s wild woman to learn a little caution. For Rick, there will never be enough cautionary moments like that. He’s wired to take control no matter what life throws his way. At some point, dumb luck will run out. With the Saviors one step closer to freedom, that point could be now.
But first he’s gotta get out of that shipping container.
Jadis has a simple plan to rid herself of this roach who insists her people must join the fight: kill him with a walker and celebrate the death with a sculpture. I guess it makes sense in her head. As per usual, when Rick’s pitted against the undead, he comes out on top. The armored walker becomes his primary weapon against Jadis and her guards. They fight over Jadis’ gun, but Rick gets the upper hand, pinning the leader’s face in the dirt perilously close to the snapping walker head. Truce time. The pair talk terms, with Rick coming out on top because of course he is, he’s the white savior who just takes what he wants at every single turn. Honestly, Rick’s story lost its appeal because he never grows beyond this desire to be at the top. What we’re seeing now? It’s the same behavior which cost them the prison and three-quarters of Alexandria’s population since his arrival. But good ol Officer Friendly has his new fighters. They head to an outpost, ready to trigger the end to his plan . . . only to discover Daryl’s beat him back to Sanctuary.
We all knew this was a stupid idea when Daryl said it the first time. Now it’s just ridiculous that despite the two ballsiest fighters in their ranks pulling out for moral reasons, he still feels compelled to go off-book to subvert the mission everyone worked and bled for to make a success. Oh, Tara’s still right there, ready to kill ’em all with a grin on her face. What’s pushing her other than the dead girlfriend thing? Regret that she didn’t get the women in Oceanside killed sooner so Alexandria could have the guns. For character motivation, it sucks. Everything about Tara’s behavior screams she’s going to get herself killed soon. Rosita got a second chance, not sure that’ll be the case here. The writers are making sure we’re not going to mourn too hard when Tara’s bloodlust goes awry. Pushed by her eagerness, Daryl rams a truck into Sanctuary, letting the undead inside. They don’t realize the quickest mind in the east is already at work scheming his way out of this mess in the name of his master.
Eugene is a worm. But a worm with convictions which put his safety as important as, oh, a Christian’s belief that Jesus died for their sins. He’s serious when he says numero uno is his sole concern. The only reason Negan is even considered in Eugene’s plan is because the guy’s got means, motive, and a mean streak a mile wide which will come in handy. Everything Eugene needs to do puts him head to head against Dwight and Gabriel. The latter man finds himself in the infirmary in Dr. Carson’s care, a condition Eugene says he brought upon himself. For Dwight’s part, he’s doing his damndest to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. His goal is to save everyone. Only Negan dies in the original plan. That will not happen should the bat-wielding guy get an earful about his good pal helping the enemy. They call a timid truce. Inspired by a request to fix a boom box, Eugene builds a speaker drone to draw the undead away. Dwight halts the maiden flight moments before the truck sends everyone into emergency mode. This is where Eugene’s bluster slips. He freezes once, flies into a rage, and winds up making a deal with the devil before drinking himself stupid. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to an immediate threat. The walkers have to go. The only way is if they unload the armory into the growling mass trapped on the first floor. He’s got what he needs to make more bullets, all he needs is the time. Time he gets. Negan okays the action and they unleash lead hell in the warehouse. Eugene is so focused on the undead, he doesn’t bother trying to find another time to tell Negan about Dwight after they’re interrupted. And as far as getting the doctor out? No way! The doctor stays put should Eugene need his services. At least the guy knows what he needs. Doesn’t mean I gotta like him.
We’re at the mid-season already, yet it feels like we haven’t gotten very far. A lot of people died, but the odds are more or less still the same, given the Scavengers flipping sides. Everyone is down on ammunition, the Saviors more so after clearing house. Negan is still alive. Rick’s free to cause more chaos. Culling the supporting cast doesn’t exactly mean they’ve progressed the plot a lot in seven episodes. Siege warfare told long-form isn’t always compelling for network television and we’ve seen this kind of thing before on the show so the reactions and deaths are predictable. Even this reformed Rosita’s desire to let fate roll without her interference was foreshadowed. We wanted something new, but this war they promised is more of the same Rick-driven drama they’ve given us for eight season—which has never, ever made sense from a survival-focused standpoint. Pretty much everything this guy does is on our Don’t Even Consider It list. Where can they go from here? We’re right back where we started, only now the bad guy’s really pissed off.