Thursday, 13 January 2011

Life amongst the undead

Zombies. Everybody loves zombies.

A quick check on Wikipedia shows that 2010 alone brought us 68 zombie films, including the big-budget Crazies and Resident Evil: Afterlife, Uncle George’s Survival Of The Dead and Uwe Boll’s most recent contamination of world cinema. And my personal fave of the year – The Dead, the only zombie movie that made it onto the main FrightFest screen last year.

It’s not by accident that the subject matter of the first Phelps / Hawkins foray into feature production was chosen because it’s going to be easy to market, and because the genre has an enormous pre-existing fan-base. I like to think of this less as a deliberately cynical ploy, more a sensible foundation to our risk management.

But really it’s because we adore zombie films.

Before I tell you about Zombie Resurrection, my inner nerd needs to come clean; better I get this out of the way now so that there can be no confusion later. I prefer Day of the Dead to Dawn of the Dead; I don’t think Shaun of the Dead is the extraordinary masterpiece that many people claim (and I loved Spaced, so it’s not like I don’t get the Wright / Pegg thing); I’m relaxed about both fast and slow zombies; and I’m also OK with the notion that zombies are infected rather than corpses raised from the dead.

Our main problem is that most zombie films are extraordinarily shit. Flat, humour-less, theme-less, unimaginative bollocks, populated with bland characters that wouldn’t make you care one way or the other if you saw them hanging out of a zombie’s maw. Maybe this is what makes it so special when the really good ones come along; Dead Set, Pontypool or [·REC]. But most of the time the genre is a gleaming litter tray, an invitation for low-budget film-makers to come and squat; the result is a crowded and messy smorgasbord of poorly formed cinematic stools, mostly indicating an imperfect diet and an inability to aim properly.

I’m pretty certain that every one of those feculent piles must have started out with good intentions, to make the best movie ever and rock the zombie world to its core. Basically, exactly where Jake and I are now.

Ah. OK.

The difference is in the diet, and you can’t polish a turd (and that’s quite enough with the faecal metaphors). The screenplay is everything; garbage in, garbage out.

When you write a genre film it’s often very difficult to innovate, to find a new and meaningful spin on the subject matter. When other people are making 68 similar movies a year that becomes doubly difficult. And this is where we have an edge. We’ve got something new – something that hasn’t been seen before in a zombie movie. Sure, there are all the genre tropes of infection through biting, death by head-shots and a group of people that are far more dangerous to each other than the horde is. But without the special sauce it’s really just a burger in a bun.

15 months after the zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors are forced to take refuge in an abandoned psychiatric hospital, where they encounter a mysterious zombie with the power to bring the undead back to life.

Oh, and for the record, we’ve got both fast and slow zombies. Righteous.

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