Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Zombie Felties

Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate, 2010, Penguin Australia

As a bookseller by trade, I can confirm that instructional books on creating Felties - cute little dolls (generally finger-sized) made from felt - are the in thing at present with folks who enjoy handcrafts. That said, even as one of the True Believers in zombie pop-culture, I would not have predicted the publication of a book such as Zombie Felties. And yet, here it is. And, I have to say, it's lots of fun.

In addition to providing clear, idiot-proof instructions (fortunately for negatively-skilled folk like myself) for the creation of each of the sixteen zombie felties described herein, the authors of this book have been extremely creative in their approach to materials (looped red thread for spilling guts; pink sequins for exposed brains), as well as in the range of suggested figures, which include such gruesome delights as the Zombie Bunny, the Mexican-style Day of the Dead Zombie, the Classic Zombie, and the 'Thrilla' Zombie (guess who?).

At the risk of undermining my well-deserved reputation as a macho he-man (no laughing at the back, there!), I had a great deal of fun putting together my Zombie Pirate feltie, and the construction of the Zombie Surfer kept my zed-obsessed son occupied for several blissful hours during the current school-holiday period, which - in my book - makes Zombie Felties an absolute winner.

Review: Ex-Heroes

Peter Clines, 2010, Permuted Press

Folks had really only just come to terms with the existence of genuine superheroes when the dead began to rise. Now, Los Angeles is a wasteland. Thousands of survivors shelter in a converted film studio, under the protection of the remaining superpowered individuals, while millions of hungry ex-humans roam the streets. Now, however, there's something worse out there than the zombies. Across the city, another group of survivors has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes...

If ever there was a novel that I'd give just about anything to see turned into a movie, Ex-Heroes would be it. The plot - which, far from rehashing Marvel Zombies territory, offers a fresh and engrossing take on the superhero/zombie mash-up - storms along at white-knuckle speed, boasting a superb blend of action, intrigue and survival horror, while somehow finding breathing-room for some major character insights and development. The superheroes (and humans) of the tale are all wonderfully flawed, in ways that generally serve to drive the plot rather than simply complement it, and the reader is constantly reminded that human nature doesn't always vanish with the onset of superpowers, for better or worse. Add to the mix Clines' ability to create stunning visuals in the mind's eye of the reader through masterful use of prose and dialogue, and the resulting package is one of the very best zombie novels I've yet to read.

Ex-Heroes is a must-read for genre fans who demand so much more than just another zompocalypse. Hell, I'd read Clines' laundry list if that happened to be the only other thing he ever wrote, but I'll hold out hope for another novel, and soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Feature: Frank Darabont and The Walking Dead

In a nondescript office building on Cahuenga Boulevard, Frank Darabont is putting the finishing touches on the end of the world. The writer-director, famed for such Oscar-nominated feature films as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile," is now masterminding the zombie apocalypse with his new television series, "The Walking Dead."

Read on at The LA Times.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

News: Subscription Competition Closes!

The inaugural NecroScope subscription drive competition has now officially closed! Congratulations to our lucky winner, Angelique Davis (aka Vampires and Tofu), whose fantastic prize-pack will be shortly packed into an airtight biohazard receptacle and dispatched to the US on an overbooked commercial passenger ship. Nothing can possibly go worng...

Commiserations to all our subscribers who didn't win - but don't lose heart (or whatever). NecroScope will continue to dole out the goodies in the months ahead, so be sure to stick with us for ongoing zombie-related goodness, and be sure to tell your friends, family, lovers and enemies to sign up also, for more chances to win great prizes!

Upcoming competitions may* include:

- Win a copy of Kirkman's The Walking Dead #1, to coincide with the Halloween screening of AMC's upcoming TV adaptation.

- Choose a cool zombie tattoo design for NecroScope's own Keeper of the Dead!

- Retro Review Month: correctly guess the first 'retro' zombie title to be reviewed!

- Attack of the Zombie Shorts! Send us your zombie flash-fiction (500 words max.) for a chance to win a copy of Writers' Workshop of Horror.

And many more to come. Or not (see disclaimer below). Keep visiting for further updates!

* Disclaimer: Or may not. Many of these concepts seemed like good ideas after a few glasses of red and a tasty brain, but in the cold light of day...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art: Freaking Awesome Zombie Poster

This amazing artwork features 978 zombie movies, books and games.

(Via BoingBoing)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pop Culture: Know Your Zombie History!

As Chuck noted yesterday, Tor are going gaga for zombies this week.

Today, Julia Nevin pays tribute to some of the lesser known heroes of the sub-genre.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Zombies of Mass Destruction

Dir. Kevin Hamedani, 2009, Roadshow Entertainment

Life in the seaside community of Port Gamble reflects the ideals of small-town America; white picket fences, friendly neighbours, a more comfortable pace to life. Until, that is, a terrorist attack results in a zombie uprising. Then, an unlikely trio comprising an Iranian-American girl and a gay couple will have to battle not only the undead, but the simmering intolerance of their fellow survivors, in order to save their town and themselves...

Despite always trying to not judge a DVD by its cover, I should admit from the outset that my expectations of Zombies of Mass Destruction were significantly lowered by the label 'A Political Zomedy' gracing the cover of this release; generally, when producers of any political satire feel compelled to emphasise the fact that the movie is a political satire, this tends to indicate that the satire (and usually the movie in general) isn't up to much.

I bother to mention this only because I'm fairly certain that others may share my feelings on this. And it would be a pity if any of those folks were to avoid watching ZMD based upon that assumption, because ZMD is actually a pretty damn good film. The acting is excellent, the special effects and make-up convincing, and the script - which admittedly follows the standard zombie-uprising plot - is both entertaining and exciting.

Even better, the satirical content of this movie actually works. Much of the political commentary is admittedly pretty unsubtle stuff, with very obvious allusions made to dodgy post-9/11 politics, and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, among other things. Yet beneath all this in-your-face stuff is another, more subtle (and disturbing) layer of socio-political satire examining the casual bigotry of Good People, the evils performed in the name of humanitarianism, and the truism that even the worst events will serve someone's political agenda, big or small, and it's when addressing such issues that both the script and acting really shine.

Zombies of Mass Destruction is a terrific little flick, and a definite 'must-see' for any fan of zombie cinema, particularly those who enjoy Romero-esque social commentary. The DVD release is now available in Australia through the usual retailers.

News: Reminder! Subscription Drive Competition Closes Soon!

If you haven't yet signed up as a NecroScope 'Shambler' (Follower), here's a reminder that our first-ever official subscription drive competition closes on September 16th, 5pm EST (original post here), leaving only two more days for zombophiles to enter the draw to win a fabulous prize pack comprising:

* A SIGNED copy of Feed, by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2010).
* A copy of the novel State of Decay, by James Knapp (Roc, 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).

The draw is open to international Shamblers as well as Disinterred Australians. Simply press the 'Follow' button on the right-hand menu. One lucky subscriber will be picked at random after the cut-off, and contacted via the website.

News: Zombie Week at

Zombie fans would be well advised to shamble past this week. Why? Well, because the publisher's site is currently hosting a zombie theme week, featuring articles and blog entries by the likes of Joe McKinney, Bob Fingerman, John Joseph Adams, Roger Ma, and other members of zombie royalty, as well as short fiction and novel excerpts from Neil Gaiman, David Wellington, Amelia Beamer and more, plus comics, poetry, music, survival tips...

So: grab your shotgun and head on over to for more zombie-related goodness than can possibly be good for anyone.

Review: What Will Come After

Scott Edelman, 2010, PS Publishing

One of my greatest occasional pleasures as both a reader and a reviewer is in picking up a new collection by an author responsible for several stories I've previously enjoyed, and then realising that I've actually read (and greatly enjoyed) almost all of the tales therein without previously having attributed them to the author in question.

So it has been with What Will Come After: the Complete Zombie Stories of Scott Edelman. This wonderful hardback collection contains eight reprints (and one original) dating back as far as 1997, with each and every one a bona fide classic of the genre (this further evidenced in the publishing acknowledgements at the back of the book). Edelman's work takes full advantage of the extensive range of tropes and themes offered by zombie fiction, delving into classic literature mash-ups ('Live People Don't Understand' and 'Tell Me Like You Done Before') to dark examinations of the human condition ('The Man He Had Been Before' and 'The Human Race'), existential angst ('What Will Come After'), black humour ('Goobers'), and onward into realms previously unexplored, including a dose of Shakespearean-style theatre ('A Plague on Both Your Houses') and an exploration of the Big Question: what happens in a zombie-infested world once all the humans have been either consumed or converted? ('The Last Supper').

Edelman writes beautifully literary zombie fiction with broad appeal; simultaneously insightful, engrossing, and darkly entertaining. What Will Come After is available for purchase directly from the publisher's website, and any afficiando of zombie fiction will be richer for immediately adding a copy to their personal collection.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview: Dr Arnold T. Blumberg

A few weeks back, NecroScope reported on an upcoming Pop Culture minor course on zombies (original post here) being offered by the University of Baltimore. Well, despite the fact that class in now in session, and international media interest in the course is at fever pitch, course tutor Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg (co-author of Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For) was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to tell us a little about how it's all rolling...

NecroScope: Dr. Blumberg, tell us briefly about your interest in zombies, and from where this interest originated.

Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg: My entire life personally and professionally has been about taking a critical look at pop culture and genre entertainment, and I love everything from comics and science fiction (especially Doctor Who!) to horror. Part of that, obviously, has been a fascination with zombies, a lot of which really crystalized when I worked on my book with Andy Hershberger, Zombiemania. From 2003-2005, when we worked on that book, I got a chance to see many of the movies I'd always wanted to see as a child but never got around to seeing, so it was as much about discovery for me as it was a chance to rewatch and write about movies I already enjoyed.

NS: Zombies have a really strong fan base at present, but what made you believe that an educational course on the undead would be viable? Is there actually a 'need' to educate people about zombies?

ATB: The course is not the first in the country, but certainly the justification is there now more than ever. We are inundated with media 24/7 and we need to be able to provide students with the tools they need to be intelligent and informed consumers of that media. The zombie is such an all-pervasive icon in our culture right now, so mainstream, that we simply must ask the questions: Why? What does the zombie say about us and to us? Why does it attract us and what does it say about us as a people, a nation, and a culture?

NS: What sort of reaction did you get from the University of Baltimore when you pitched the idea of a course on zombies?

ATB: Perhaps a bit surprisingly, rather intrigued and enthusiastic! They were starting a Pop Culture minor as part of their College of Arts & Sciences, with courses deliberately designed to offer incisive, critical looks at different genres in our media, so it was just a matter of explaining why the zombie as a genre and an icon was ripe for academic analysis. It wasn't that difficult to establish.

NS: The general public tends to have a preconceived idea of what fans of zombies (and of horror tropes in general) are like, in the same way that many have a stereotypical view of SF fans. Tell us a little about the sort of people who have signed up for your course.

ATB: The class so far seems to run a very predictable range of students of various ages and both genders, some of whom are clearly already fans, some of whom have never seen or read about zombies in their lives, and then folks in the middle that aren't enthusiasts but have probably caught Night of the Living Dead or heard the word 'zombie' in the news at some point. It's a very balanced range from the casual to the dedicated zombie viewer, just right for sparking a lot of dynamic discussion in class, and I feel it's in those discussions where learning really takes place.

NS: Your course involves the viewing of a number of zombie movies. Tell us a little about some of the specific movies being viewed, and why they've been included in the course.

ATB: We start with White Zombie and explore the ways in which that film reflects western culture's first exposure to the Voudoun traditions of the West Indies. From there we proceed chronologically through the '40s (I Walked With a Zombie), '50s (Invisible Invaders, Plan 9 From Outer Space), '60s (NOTLD, of course) and so on, taking time to analyze how the zombie evolves and offers a mirror of the culture at that point. By the time we reach the end of the semester and films like Zombieland and [REC], we'll be looking at how our current world situation - fears of terrorism, collapse of financial institutions, ongoing military conflict - both inform and transform the zombie in popular media.

NS: Your passion for zombie cinema is obvious, but are there any examples of zombie literature that you'd cite as being particularly important to the genre?
ATB: I was never as much into zombie-themed literature as cinema and television, but obviously there are some standouts, and I've assigned a few in class, everything from Max Brooks' World War Z to [Jonathan Maberry's] Patient Zero and [David Wellington's] Monster Island. I'll also be touching on The Walking Dead comic (and TV show), [Mira Grant's] Feed, the phenomenon of classic literature mash-ups like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and even zombie haiku!

NS: Finally, what are your all-time favourite three zombie movies, and why?

ATB: I'd have to go with White Zombie (1932) for its delightful Lugosi performance and perfectly pitched mood, NOTLD as just one of the most reliable Halloween-night films you can watch for that relentless siege atmosphere, and Burial Ground (1981) for how over-the-top it is, just as I always imagined an Italian zombie movie would be when I was a kid.

NecroScope thanks Dr. Blumberg for making the time to 'sit and chat'. Those seeking further information on Dr. Blumberg's course - entitled Media Genres: Zombies - will soon be able to access an FAQ page on Blumberg's website (link here).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Doghouse

Dog House
Directed by Jake West

The Plot

Vince (Stephen Graham) is going through the final stages of his divorce and to help him through this period his friends Mikey (Noel Clarke) and Neil (Danny Dyer) decide to take him and a few of the other boys to a remote village outside the humdrum of their London lives to get, in Dyer's own words; 's**tfaced'. However, when they turn up to the incredibly eerie village of Moodley to find flesh-eating, man-hating, cannibalistic women who want to do nothing more than rip out their internal organs and eat them for breakfast, the boys realise they have bitten more than they can chew and must fight their way through a barrage of blood-thirsty women in the most misogynistic way imaginable.

The premise of the film completely reflects the manner in which Jake West approaches this project, with a gleeful nod towards plenty of harmless sexist humour and cheap gory death sequences that are all nice, light-hearted and fun. Neil, Vince and Mikey are all your typical working-class likely lads out to simply flirt with the opposite sex and drink as much as their body-weight, with Danny Dyer in particular needing to place little effort in recreating his Cockney 'laddish' persona (yet again) on the big-screen. While Dave Schaffer's script contains many easy-going humorous gags to keep your attention ticking over while the next axe, gnome or sword heads to try and end the boy's misogynistic ways and eliminate the male chromosome all in one.

'Doghouse' is nowhere near the heights of Pegg/Frost's rom-zom-com-supremo 'Shaun of the Dead', but it is a fun 85 minutes of black humour. There are plenty of great scenes to laugh at throughout the entire movie, such as when Mikey tries to break into an army jeep and the brick rebounds and hits him in the head. And while we're on the subject of heads, the scene where a severed head is place on a remote control truck and used to distract the zombie chicks is classic.

While not as good as Shuan of the Dead, it is a good flick and not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: Chasers (Bk #1: Alone)

James Phelan, 2010, Hachette Australia

Australian teen Jesse is on a UN Young Ambassadors camp in New York when his subway carriage is rocked by a massive explosion. Jesse and his three friends, Dave, Mini and Anna, crawl out to discover a city in chaos. Buildings are in ruins. Bodies litter the streets. And the only other survivors seem to be infected with something that turns them into horrifying predators...

It's tempting to suggest that some of the darkness in this novel - and there is plenty of darkness - will be lost on its intended Young Adult audience, as Phelan successfully drags the reader back to 9/11 (which younger readers may not visually recall) with his description of a city in ruins. However, so vivid is the setting that even pre-teens should have no difficulty in grasping the horror of the situation described herein. The plot is straightforward (with at least one massive twist!), though totally engrossing due to the uncertainties faced by the protagonists, and the characters are believably flawed. The infected 'zombies' of the piece are treated with far more sympathy than I've previously experienced, with constant reminders that these are people unable to control their behaviour; this does not, however, make them any less terrifying, and their motivation to attack the uninfected (or even one another) -  a terrible, all-consuming thirst - only intensifies their creepiness.

Chasers is an excellent novel (and the first in a series) that should please most fans of apocalyptic zombie fare, regardless of age. It's worth noting also that the book has been selected for the current GET READING! nationwide Australian Government initiative, and thus should be available in all good bookstores.

News: The Zombie Diaries 2 Film Shoot

Our UK-based zombie lovers (or others planning on heading over there soonish) might like to take part in this event announced on Facebook.
"On Sunday November 14th 2010 you'll have the chance to experience something that we believe has never been done before in the UK. You can be in the cast for the greatest number of zombie extras ever gathered on a film set. AND take part in the filming of The Zombie Diaries 2 on Tan-Y-Bwlch (south) beach as part of The Abertoir Horror Festival."
To take part, you need to register.

Read more about The Zombie Diaries and director Michael Bartlett.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for August 2010

1. The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
2. Alone (Chasers #1) - James Phelan
3. The Enemy - Charlie Higson
4. Feed - Mira Grant
5. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith
6. Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead - ed. Christopher Golden
7. 'Monster' series - David Wellington
8. Patient Zero - Jonathan Maberry
9. The Dead That Walk - ed. Stephen Jones
10. Zombies: Encounters With the Hungry Dead - ed. John Skipp