Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: La Horde (The Horde)

Dir. Yannik Dahan & Benjamin Rocher, 2009, Roadshow Entertainment (Australian DVD Release).
In an abandoned tower block in an isolated town north of Paris, a group of cops-turned-vigilante prepare to exact justice for a murdered colleague. But as the gangsters they were seeking to assassinate unexpectedly take the upper hand, the unimaginable occurs: strange lights flash in the sky, the distant city begins to burn...and from the darkness surrounding the tower pours a multitude of feral, cannibalistic dead.

The genius of this film is that it starts off looking like something completely other than an apocalyptic zombie movie - specifically, like a gritty, brutal crime drama of the sort that Europeans currently do so damn well. Thus, by the time the audience even gets a hint of the undead mayhem to come (a good twenty minutes into the film), the gritty realism of the setting has become so firmly cemented that the unexpected onset of the apocalypse requires virtually no suspension of disbelief. The reality of the setting is matched by that of the characters, with highly believable performances from the central cast. Unlike the characters in many other zombie flicks, the characters here are given scant opportunity for emotional outpouring, grieving for fallen comrades, or personal revelations; these are hard-arse cops and gangsters, determined to survive against unthinkable odds, and thus the majority of the film involves a cold and methodical search for a safe escape route, punctuated regularly by some of the most brutal, violent and - yes - exciting fight scenes I've ever witnessed (including one beaut where a thug goes bare-knuckle against two feral zombies of the 'fast' variety).

In short, The Horde is a dark, brutal, gory, vastly enjoyable, adrenaline-fuelled, haunted-house-ride of a movie, and possibly one of the best modern zombie flicks ever made. Sure, that's a big call, but grab a copy of this DVD today, watch it, and tell me I'm wrong.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: High School of the Dead

Dir. Tetsuro Araki, 2010, Madman (Australian DVD release).

A deadly new disease is ravaging the world, turning the populace into mindless zombies, and the number of infected is skyrocketing by the second. As their fellow classmates and teachers succumb to the infection around them, a small group of students at Fujimi High School are fighting for their lives after surviving the initial outbreak. It is up to Takashi Komuro to unite the group of weary survivors and try to escape the horrors that surround them. In this new world of the living dead…will they escape?

Adapted from the popular Manga series of the same title, High School of the Dead is a rather brilliant little excursion into animated zombie mayhem that should prove a hit with fans of both zombies and anime. All the usual trappings of Japanese animation are here; heavily stylised characters, moments of bizarre humour (plus, of course, plenty of focus on short skirts and busty schoolteachers), as well as some absolutely stunning visuals and sound work - all of which serve to underscore the bleak, apocalyptic horror of the piece. Throw in a good dose of extreme violence and on-screen gore, as well as some genuinely interesting and often emotional character development, and the result is one of the best televisual zombie outings I've had the pleasure to watch.

The DVD of the currently-screening TV series will soon be available in Australia through Madman, with episodes of the series (and others) now available for free viewing at the Madman Screening Room.

Pop Culture: New Course Explores Use of Zombies In Pop Culture

From August 31st this year, the University of Baltimore will roll out its new pop culture minor with a course on zombies. The course instructor, Arnold T. Blumberg, M.A. ’96, D.C.D. ’04, visiting professor in UB’s School of Communication Design and co-author of Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For, literally wrote the book on the subject. It’s one of only a handful of courses like it in the country.
Blumberg says: “The zombie functions as an allegory for all sorts of things that play out in our country, whether it’s the threat of communism during the Cold War or our fears about bioterrorism in 2010. It’s relatively easy to connect the zombie to what is happening in culture.”

UB’s School of Communications Design Director Jonathan Shorr sees zombies in a larger context: “We know from archaeologists and anthropologists that a society’s artifacts tell us a lot about what that culture valued and feared. Stories about King Arthur, for example, aren’t stories about 9th century England as much as about the culture of the time in which the work was produced. The same is true with zombies.

”Even major fans of zombies—and they’re out there, by the millions,” says Blumberg, “may not spend time contemplating the underlying meaning of this monster, despite its potency. It takes some close attention to really understand what a given film, book or graphic novel is saying about the zombie—and what zombies are saying about the culture. That’s what we’ll be getting into this fall.”

Blumberg, curator of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, has done extensive research into the genre, and the course will spend some time looking at the history and legacy of this particular “brand” of monster, in cinema, literature and folklore, as well as the (pseudo) science that is occasionally brought in to prove the existence of zombies.

(Unfortunately, for Australian zombiphiles, Baltimore is obviously in a whole 'nother country. You can't just jump in the car and drive there).

For more information on the course (and other zombie-related goodness) visit Dr. Blumberg's website at:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pop Culture: Zombies Are No Laughing Matter!

...although the good folk over at - 'America's only humour & video site, since 1958' - might disagree. The site features a number of excellent zombie-related articles, ranging from the insightful to the downright hilarious. Check out the link below, and enjoy the irreverence!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

News: Zombies Invade Worldcon!

The program for the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (Aussiecon4, Sept 2-6) has now been posted at the official website, and attending zombiphiles will no doubt be extremely satisfied with the level of zombie mayhem scheduled, as well as the numerous events featuring well-known contributors to zombie pop-culture..
Zombie-related panels and activities will include:

* Monster mash-ups (Panel)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sense and Sensibility and Sea-Monsters. Little Vampire Women. Jane Slayre—it’s open season on the classics as well as the undead. Just what is going on here and where did it all start?
Scott Edelman, Darlene Marshall, Chuck McKenzie, Faye Ringel, Damien White

* Vampire vs Zombie Smackdown (Debate)

Two kinds of undead, no holds barred.
Participants on the one hand - Scott Edelman, Robert Hood, Chuck McKenzie
On the other - Narrelle M Harris, George R. R. Martin, Faye Ringel

* Zombie Make-Up Session for Kids
Chuck McKenzie, John Parker, Sarah Parker

* Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse (Kids' instructional session)
Chuck McKenzie, John Parker, Sarah Parker

* Media Stream
Screenings of Pontypool, and the new Anime TV series High School of the Dead.

* In Conversation
Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant) and Catherynne M. Valente (Disclaimer: may not necessarily involve zombies).
* Readings
Stephen Dedman, Seanan McGuire, Chuck McKenzie, Robert Hood, Trent Jamieson, and others.
* Signings
Trent Jamieson, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Stephen Dedman, Robert Hood, and others.
* Kaffeeklatsches
Seanan McGuire, Stephen Dedman, Trent Jamieson, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Robert Stephenson, and others.
For times and dates, or for full (non-zombie) details of the program, follow the link above.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead

Robert Kirkman (creator/writer) & Tony Moore (illus.), 2003 -, Image Comics

'An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled. The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility. No government. No grocery stores. No mail delivery. No cable TV.

'In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living...'

With US cable network AMC rolling out a much-anticipated TV adaptation of this iconic comic series this October, it seems the perfect time to take a quick look back at where it all began: with Issue #1 of The Walking Dead ('Days Gone Bye'), back in 2003.

Yep, that's a long time for a zombie comic series to run, especially keeping in mind that this series kicked off some time before the current zombie boom. But then, that's precisely the premise behind this groundbreaking publication: that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, there would never be any neat conclusion, with our heroes walking off into the sunset; things would just...keep going. Day after day after day...

In issue #1, small-town cop Rick Grimes is gunned down in the line of duty, awakening from his subsequent coma to discover that the world he knew - along with his wife and child - has gone. From there, the series focuses almost exclusively upon Rick, his journey, and the lives of those he encounters along the way. Kirkman's vision of life after the zombies is bleak and uncompromising, pulling no punches with regards to zombie mayhem and human brutality alike. The ongoing plot, meandering along in a disturbingly lifelike way, is always engrossing (though occasionally and deliberately mundane), and features a strong cast of evolving characters that the reader will quickly empathise with (though not necessarily like).

The Walking Dead stands as a wonderful and affecting piece of literature, complemented beautifully by Moore's strongly detailed black-and-white illustrations. Fans of zombie literature who may not necessarily be fans of graphic novels (and I count myself among them) are nonetheless strongly advised to pick up a copy of Issue #1; I defy you to be able to put it down again.

Review: The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten

Harrison Geillor, 2010, Night Shade Books

The town of Lake Woebegotten, Minnesota, is an ordinary little town, populated by ordinary little people. Or so it appears, until the zombie apocalypse arrives, after which it becomes apparent - given the local population includes an ex-military dominatrix, a gun-crazy conspiracy theorist, a car-humping Mayor, a born-again Norse fundamentalist, a housewife who dreams of becoming a serial killer, and an actual serial killer (and septuagenarian mayoral candidate), among others - that, even without the walking dead to contend with (zombie bears, even, you betcha!), Lake Woebegotten has never been a remotely ordinary little town. Still, the townsfolk are going to have to put all that aside if they hope to survive the coming zombie onslaught...assuming they can survive each other, of course...

The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten is, quite simply, one of the funniest, most enjoyable books I've ever read. If George A. Romero and Stephen King had collaborated on the novelisation of Fargo, you'd probably get something pretty close to Geillor's novel: the prose and dialogue are a joy to read, and rich with gentle, observational humour; the plot twists and turns along at a satisfying pace; the wonderful characters - while undoubtedly comic - never quite stray into the realm of stereotyping or outright lampoon. And the zombies do what zombies do best: kill and feed, in as gory and entertaining a manner as possible.

If you only read one zombie novel a year...then you're not reading enough zombie novels. Regardless, put The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten up the top of your Want List: it's absolutely brilliant, and (dare I say it?) my pick for an instant classic of the zombie genre.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pop Culture: Have Zombies Jumped the Shark?

A sacrilegious suggestion on NecroScope, right?

Head on over to Jonathan Maberry's blog to hear a bunch of people, including erstwhile colleagues Chuck McKenzie and Robert Hood, explain why zeds are still (un)dead cool.

Review: Rec 2

Rec 2 follows straight on from where Rec ended, with the apartment building under heavily armed quarantine and no apparent survivors inside. I watched Rec in anticipation of this sequel and it was a seemles transition to Rec 2, making the 4 hours of viewing extremely enjoyable.

The movie starts with another armed team ready to escort a specialist "doctor" inside to obtain samples of the infected blood. The team are not long in the building before they encounter the infected and the body count starts again.

There are also other new victims in the apartment when a firefighter helps one of the occupants spouses in through an underground tunnel, closely followed by a trio of clueless teenagers.

Filmed in the same format as Rec, we see the action through the live camera's of the teenagers and swat team. This style is widely used now, but the original ones like Rec, really mastered the format.

If you enjoyed Rec then you will love this sequel, even though there is a completely new cast and twist to the plot not far along.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Survival of the Dead

Dir. George Romero; Starring Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Athena Karkanis, 2009

Review by Troy King

George Romero is back with the 6th of his ‘… of the Dead’ movies, or the 3rd of the modern day trilogy. But this latest effort falls flat with cheap CGI, obscure storyline and bland performances. The traditional humour is there but boarders on silly while the regular social commentary is practically transparent. Is this worse than ‘Land’? I would have to say so.

When the dead have taken over the world, where else would you go to but a small island off the coast of America. Here the local farmers are taking to the outbreak like they do their livestock- round ‘em up and shot the diseased. But on this Irish descent land there is another side that wants to do things a different way and instead of killing their once loved community members, they want to study them, teach them. Keep them safe until a cure is found. So when the former kill hungry group are driven off the island, they head back to the mainland to gather support. It is here there is a connection with ‘Diary’- the reinforcements they get are the group of army mercenaries that briefly appeared in ‘Diary’ when they robbed the main characters. They all go back to the island to take back the land. A modern day Irish western ensues and bloody mayhem reigns.

It is this dodgy CGI gore that really affects the film. With previous entries like ‘Dawn’ and ‘Day’ producing possible the best visual effects of its time, it is such a letdown to see the standard fall so low. In fact the themes are quite similar to ‘Day’. The social commentary may be a comparison to the US in Iraq, trying to teach democracy. Or maybe it’s the suggestion that as a society we are too quick to use killing as a way to solve the problem. Either way it’s boring. There is unevenness to the plot and the film just doesn’t flow. But having given us such classic masterpieces as the afore mentioned, we can forgive Zombie King Romero just this once. Just don’t let it happen again!

News: NecroScope Subscription Drive

NecroScope Wants You!

Become one of our 'Shamblers' (Followers) and go into the draw to win a prize-pack of zombie-related goodies!

This pack comprises:

* A copy of the novel State of Decay, by James Knapp (Roc, 2010).

* A copy of Feed, by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2010).

* A copy of Dead or Alive, by William Harms (Absolute Tyrant, 2010).

* One copy each of Black House Comics' After the World: Killable Hours (Clay Blakehills) and After the World: Gravesend (Jason Fischer).

* A copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, by Mark Twain and W. Bill Czolgosz (Coscom Entertainment, 2009).

* A copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies, by Nathan Robert Brown (Penguin Books, 2010).

* A copy of the comic George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead: The Beginning, Issue #1 (Avatar Press, 2006).

To enter, just click on the 'Follow' button (lower right). Both new and existing Shamblers will be eligible to win, as will Shamblers living overseas! A winner will be drawn at random on September 16th, 2010, and contacted via this site.

So: tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell that weird-looking guy stumbling around the cemetery over there. You've got to be in it to win it!

* Image copyright Billy Tackett

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Review: Realms of the Dead (a Forgotten Realms: The Haunted Lands anthology)

Ed. Susan J. Morris, Wizards of the Coast, 2010

Not even the mightiest mage, working spells that remain utterly reliable, can hope to prevail against dozens of tireless, ruthless undead, who suffer no pain and can be distracted by nothing...

With zombies currently infecting almost every imaginable subgenre of fiction, from romance to Young Adult to action-thriller, it's unsurprising to now see them shambling into Media Tie-Ins. Recently the walking dead have featured in novels set in the universes of Torchwood (Bay of the Dead) and Star Wars (Death Troopers), and now provide the focus for Realms of the Dead, an anthology of tales set in the world of the popular Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.

It should go without saying that the tales herein fall squarely into a swords-and-sorcery fantasy setting, with the undead of this world represented by such supernatural beings as lichs, wraiths, corporeal ghosts, and corpses reanimated by magic, and - as such - may not be to the taste of all zombie aficionados. Nonetheless, zombies (in all but name) are well-represented in these tales, and the stories themselves are well-written and engaging, featuring interesting characters and plots (this, I should add, being the opinion of a reviewer who is in no way a particular fan of traditional fantasy or of RPG).

In short, if you enjoy a little variety in your zombies, and don't mind the Tolkienesque tropes of elves, dwarves and dragons, then Realms of the Dead should appeal. On the other hand, if your love for zombies begins and ends with Dawn of the Dead, this may not be the anthology for you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Abominations

Rebecca Brock, RLB, 2007

I should begin with a word of explanation as to why I'm reviewing a self-published collection here, which - according to NecroScope's official guidelines - is something to be avoided. So here it is:

Rebecca Brock gives good zombie.

Having recently read two cracking zombie tales by Brock - 'Night Shift' (The Best of All Flesh) and 'Junebug' (History is Dead) - I felt that even a self-published collection of this author's work was likely to be a reasonably safe investment. And I'm pleased to report that my hunch proved correct.

Abominations collects eleven short fiction reprints - most, though not all of them, zombie-related - plus one novel excerpt. All are engaging and entertaining, and Brock displays a keen understanding of the human condition (including aspects that we might prefer not to address). Also, in a genre where we've come to expect 'sharp shock' endings, Brock is refreshingly skilled at the 'deceptively soft' ending; we see the inevitable approaching from a fair distance, but Brock's understated concluding lines impart a sense of disquiet that remains long after the book is laid aside.

To sum up, I really enjoyed Abominations. True, the publication could have done with some more attention to formatting and editing (which is something even professional presses overlook occasionally); but, overall, this is an extremely enjoyable collection, and one that left me looking forward to reading more from Rebecca Brock.

Abominations is available through Amazon, in print or e-format. Go buy it. That is all.

Review: Dead or Alive

William Harms, Absolute Tyrant Publishers, 2010

Arizona 1889: two desperate brothers have pulled off a bloody stagecoach robbery, and think their troubled past is behind them. But a horror from the region's tribal past has been unearthed, and - as a terrifying sickness sweeps through the local township - the Smith brothers find themselves fighting for their lives against against a horde of the hungry dead...

Dead or Alive is the debut novel of William Harms, whose previous publishing credits include the acclaimed vampire-themed graphic novel, Impaler. There's quite a bit to like about Dead or Alive: the characters are all well-realised (if generally unlikeable), and the plot trots along at a good pace. Oh, and there's plenty of brutal zombie action for the gorehounds. My only gripe is that Harm's obvious talent for dialogue doesn't extend to the prose (which is pretty turgid in places). If you can get past this, however, then Dead or Alive offers a fun, by-the-numbers, zombie/western romp that should appeal to zombie obsessives. And possibly cowboys.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Feed

Mira Grant, 2010, Orbit Books

2014: We had cured cancer and the common cold, but in doing so created something far worse. The infection spread, taking over minds and bodies with one, unstoppable command: Feed.

2040: Bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason have hit the big time, reporting from the campaign trail of a Presidential hopeful. But in a world where the dead walk and kill, nothing is ever safe or certain. As the Masons begin to uncover more and more evidence of a dark conspiracy behind the Infected, it seems less and less likely that either of them will survive to get the truth out.

In Feed (Book #1 of the Newsflesh Trilogy), Mira Grant has created not only one of the very best zombie novels I've ever had the pleasure to read, but also one of the very best Social SF novels I've ever read, taking the global zombie uprising as a starting point and extrapolating a fascinating and effortlessly believable post-apocalyptic society, with much invaluable back story and cultural info provided through the eyes of the central character. The plot itself is deceptively simple and linear (yet thoroughly enjoyable), which allows the reader still more opportunity to take a look around the strange new world of 2040, secure in the knowledge that nothing truly shocking or dreadful is likely to occur...

I use the word 'deceptively' advisedly, folks.

Feed is a page-turner of the highest order, which hits the reader (emotionally speaking) like a tonne of bricks when their defences are down. A must-read for all fans of horror, SF, and anything in-between.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

News: Zombie Article Garners Award Nomination

The fandom-based Australian Science Fiction Awards, commonly referred to as the Ditmar Awards, recognise excellence in SF, Fantasy and Horror by Australians. Each year, the Australian National SF Convention presents the Ditmar Awards for the previous calendar year.

This year's Ditmars will be presented at Aussiecon4 (the 68th World Science Fiction Convention). Included among the shortlisted nominees is NecroScope's own Keeper of the Dead, Chuck McKenzie, with one nomination for Best Fan Writer for his reviews on our parent site HorrorScope, and one for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism for his article 'The Dead Walk!...Into A Bookshop Near You', published in Brimstone Press' Eye of Fire ezine.

As this article examines in depth the recent and ongoing boom in zombie literature, we present a link to the ezine for our readers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Interview: Jonathan Maberry

Roving zombophile Scott Wilson is at it again, this time talking mutants, comics, and horror in general with Jonathan Maberry, perhaps (deservedly) the biggest name in zombie fiction today. Check out the interview on the official AHWA site via the link below.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interview: David Moody

David Moody is a name that should be familiar to most zombophiles, David being the author of the acclaimed Autumn series, as well as Hater, and other zombie-related work. Scott Wilson, Executive Editor of Midnight Echo (the offical Magazine of the Australian Horror Writers' Association), recently posted an interview with Moody over at the AHWA site, wherein all manner of disturbing stuff was discussed.

To read the interview, follow this link:

Review: The Zombie Combat Manual

Roger Ma, 2010, Penguin Australia

When the bombs stop falling, when your ammunition runs out, when the dead are still attacking the living...will you be ready?

The Zombie Combat Manual, as the title suggests, is yet another entry into the increasingly-popular 'zombie guide' subgenre (along with such titles as Max Brooks' uber-serious The Zombie Survival Guide, and David P. Murphy's satirical Zombies for Zombies). It's also one of the best such guides I've ever read, striking exactly the right balance between providing serious information on how to protect oneself against the walking dead, and entertaining the reader (an aspect often lacking in other 'serious' guides). This is not to suggest that TZCM is a humorous, or even particularly light read; highly detailed chapters on combat techniques, choice of weapons, exercise regimens, and identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of zombies are intercut with informative and occasionally quite moving 'survivor interviews' that serve to illustrate the points being made in the instructional text, as well as to break up large sections of dry (though still fascinating) information.

To say that author Ma has put a great deal of thought and effort into this manual is to severely undersell the publication: the book covers not only the obvious aspects of defending oneself in a post-Rising world (such as exactly where to hit 'em with that baseball bat), but also such things as survivor diets (being fatter has unexpected advantages), psychological issues (expose your kids early for maximum toughness), and the dangers of relying upon standard combat techniques (martial arts have little effect upon a foe who feels no pain).

The Zombie Combat Manual is a tome that every zombie fan should own (particularly if you're into the whole 'zombie survivalist' movement), and is bound to become regarded as a classic of the subgenre. Grab a copy now, before things get ugly out there.

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for July 2010

Dymocks Southland is a general bookshop, located in Victoria, Australia, that boasts a great range of international zombie fiction due to the predilections of several of the staff. Below are listed the Top 10 biggest-selling zombie titles for July 2010.

1. The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
2. Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1) - Jonathan Maberry
3. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith
4. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks - Max Brooks
5. Xombies - Walter Greatshell
6. Valley of the Dead - Kim Paffenroth
7. Ex-Heroes - Peter Clines
8. World War Z - Max Brooks
9. I Am Scrooge - Adam Roberts
10. Cell - Stephen King