Tag Archives: zombies

Resistance: Fall of Man

After long delays[1], I have finally gotten a PlayStation 3, what with the Blu-Ray playing capabilities and all. Resultingly, I also snagged one of the handful of PS3 exclusives that also looked in any way entertaining. And even more surprising than all of this combined, I finished the damn thing. It’s ever so slightly possible I may play through again, because there are lots of pieces of paper with more storyline that I missed and new weapons to kill the alien/zombie hybrid things with. In realism land, I won’t. But I might, and that’s a piece of shock in itself.

Resistance: Fall of Man chronicles a non-specific divergent history without an apparent World War II in which some kind of weird bio-experiment (that seems a lot more plausibly like alien technology to me) goes awry in Russia over the course of the 1930s and ’40s, and then suddenly breaks free and conquers all of Asia and Europe in a matter of months. The especial deadliness comes from the fact that the majority of humans caught up in the conflict are converted into new waves of killer alien/zombie hybrids themselves. So, never-ending supply of new soldiers. And now it’s late 1951, England has all but fallen, and it’s time for some random American dude to have a weird immunity to the alien takeover thing that makes him even more hybridized than the others, insofar as he gains powers and yellow eyes but retains his essential humanity, and then, y’know…. payback time.

I probably should be tired of games whose main point is to be mankind’s alien-killing service? But not yet!

[1] I mean, it launched, what, 2.5 years ago? I are slow!

Left 4 Dead

These past several Mondays, my regular game of Halo 3 has rapidly and with a feeling of potential permanency changed to a new game. Left 4 Dead is close to unique in my experience in that it has almost no single-player component, no particular plot beyond the thumbnail sketch of world destroyed by zombiepocalypse with which we are all so familiar, no character growth to speak of. It is a pure game experience, divorced entirely from any other considerations. I mention this primarily to explain why you’re getting this review instead of a variety of other games I have played for considerably more hours but not yet completed. Halo 3, for example!

The inevitable big question, therefore, is how does the gameplay work out? I haven’t played by myself, but I’ve played a few other ways: two-player split-screen, two-player online, four-player online, and up to four-versus-four player as well, in all four game maps. So I’ve pretty much hit the whole thing by now. In case you don’t know what a zombiepocalypse is… you know what, nevermind. I think you’re just not allowed to read this anymore. Because, come on! Anyhow, there are these four single-dimensional survivor characters about whom you can tell basically everything just by looking at them, and they are surrounded on all sides both by hordes of zombies and by specialized über-zombies that grow to incredible strength, have entangling frog-tongues, pouncing cat leaps, or blinding toxic sludge. And the goal is to either cross the dead, destroyed city (or whatever) to unexpected safety, or, on the other side of the aisle, to devour all flesh.

Hey, look! I haven’t really said how the gameplay works out! It is frenetic, fast-paced terror as the survivors. Everywhere you turn, there could be a zombie with nothing to lose, whose only goal is to hurt you a little bit more, in the knowledge that you’ll be dead eventually. You’ve got limited weapons and ammo, limited ability to heal yourself, and essentially unlimited enemies. And as the zombies, it’s a strategic game of cat and mouse, in which you have nigh unlimited ability to find the survivors, and if you’re doing it right, herd them into cooperative traps with your über-zombie cohorts. You always come back, the only penalty for death being a period when you can’t keep attacking. On the downside, you’re pretty easy to kill and it’s hard to attack people who can shoot you from across the parking lot, well outside your range.

I guess it’s like this. Remember when Roddenberry introduced the holodeck in Star Trek, and any time the writers got tired of aliens, they’d have the opportunity to do a historical simulation of some kind, inevitably from the ever-popular twentieth century? The way I see the game is like this: thanks in part to the brilliantly conceived XBox Live network’s capability for connecting you with friends and letting you easily communicate with them however you want to, but mostly due to the beauty of the game itself, I see Left 4 Dead as pretty much the last necessary link for zombiepocalypse experience other than the invention of the holodeck.[1] It might actually be the perfect video game experience.

[1] Which really won’t ever happen, since the event itself will hit long before our technology is ready for a holodeck version.

The Walking Dead: The Calm Before

After two volumes in a row with serious action and plot movement, it was almost inevitable that the newest Walking Dead graphic novel would be a rebuilding affair, and naming it The Calm Before both tightens up that promise and simultaneously swears that the next issue (delayed to April, but still probably within range of my not having to wait for it to be released to read it) will have the most plot action yet. Normally this would not do me much good, but for a change I was a bit relieved that Rick Grimes and companions have been given a respite. Not only that, but Kirkman’s writing in the series is improving both in terms of sustained character growth and of maintaining a good action balance even in the quieter stretches.

For a book that I’m painting as mostly quiet, a lot of things happened! Will our heroes grow so focussed on the external threat posed by the next town over that they start taking things for granted and lose track of the more prosaic, daily threat posed by the ravening zombie hordes that always wait just beyond the fences of their self-imposed prison? Will Lori Grimes’ pregnancy end in happiness or heartbreak for herself and Rick? Will the latest supply expedition return with the defensive measures that the survivors need now more than ever before? And one woman’s tenuous grip on sanity is poised at the breaking point…

Also, lots of sex.

Resident Evil: Extinction

MV5BMjA0NzIwMDI2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzE1NTg0MQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Resident Evil is one of those movies that has zombies in it. Resident Evil: Extinction, being a sequel, also has zombies in it. Therefore, I can be expected to like it. (In some things, I am pretty predictable. For what it’s worth, though, Redneck Zombies was not very good.) Despite that, I think that this movie was not only a decent action-horror piece, but that it furthermore surpassed that apparent goal. Not enough to say it’s great and everyone should see it, but how many movies surpass even modest quality goals that they set for themselves?

So, Milla Jovovich is once more wandering, sporadically nudely, through a zombie-infested nightmare unleashed by the multi-national Umbrella Corporation. Except it’s been a few years since this all started, and said nightmare is now a globe-spanning concern. Also, I guess it affected the weather or something, because the majority of the planet has dried up into desert. Although, let’s be honest, the real reason for this is what Mad Max taught us decades ago: deserts and apocalypses go together like Milla Jovovich and being naked. Faced with the twin horrors of zombification and global warming, the human race has pretty well called it quits, aside from roving bands of heavily armed warriors out on the roads, if you know what I mean. And there’s Milla, trying to work out how to proceed, discovering some new talents, and finding out that Umbrella isn’t quite done with her yet. As fans of the series are already aware, this is the kind of thing that (naked or not) she really doesn’t take lying down.

As a result, you have reasonably decent special effects, more action than you can shake a pointed stick at, everything you’ve come to expect out of a zombie movie[1], and the best girl-fighting scenes this side of Summer Glau. Like I said, when taken across the scope of all 2007 cinema, these are fairly modest aspirations to meet. So that’s cool that they do so, and you end up with what you wanted: a good action-horror flick. Now, stay with me, because you’ll find this next part hard to believe, but I maintain that’s it’s true.

This volume of the Resident Evil series also has a meaningful theme. See, Alice[2] is stuck in a holding pattern. She’s free of Umbrella, sure, but the world keeps getting worse and being free isn’t really all that great when you’ve got a dying planet as your only “on the outside” option. The majority of the movie is her quest to break out of that holding pattern and find a way to make things different than they are. Which sounds all fine, but I could just be reading it in, right? Except, I’m not, because every Umbrella scene has brought us full circle back to the original events of the outbreak. Same spooky mansion. Same giant underground complex. Same AI attempting to orchestrate events. Everything Umbrella stands for in this movie and every action Alice takes in response to the external stimulus of her doomed earth are the visual representations of the spiritual struggle happening in Alice’s psyche: until she faces the past in an almost literal fashion, she’s not going to be able to break the chains of the present and get a move on towards a future in which maybe humanity won’t be extinct after all.

See? Not only theme, but below-the-surface theme. Despite having moved well beyond the game franchise’s rails (or, more likely, because of this), these movies remain the best video game adaptations on the market, and by a fair margin. Also, and I may have forgotten to mention this, but sometimes Milla Jovovich takes her clothes off.

[1] That one guy who gets bitten but doesn’t tell anyone so that he can end up turning at the least opportune moment, the annoying people who are more dangerous to their fellow humans than the zombie plague, etc.
[2] This is the name the movie uses to refer to naked Milla Jovovich. Well, also clothed Milla Jovovich.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become gradually aware of a thriving internet fandom community for these Harry Potter books, complete with wars over which person should date which and extensive fan fiction. To my very great delight, I’ve completely avoided all that smeg, and this review will be completely uninformed by that section of the internet. It’s all about me, baby! Also, I’m not sure how to discuss it in any real detail without a spoiler cut. So, if you haven’t read the book, or if you haven’t read the series but might someday, stay out from this point on. (Includes spoilers for previous books as well.)
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Land of the Dead

The good thing about a George Romero zombie movie is that you’ve got awesome social commentary if you go for that kind of thing, you’ve got zombie mayhem if you go for that kind of thing, both if you’re like me, and if you like zombies but hate social commentary, it’s not like you’ll notice.

The bad thing about them is that for people who like social commentary but not so much with the zombies, you can never really convince them that a zombie movie can have intrinsic value. I (of course) mean here intrinsic value of the type that everyone recognizes in movies like Sophie’s Choice or Snow Falling on Cedars or bullstuff like that. The intrinsic zombie movie value of Land of the Dead, with its extensive gore, random zombie strippers (CORRECTION: random regular strippers), gratuitous undead attacks on lesbians, and senseless violence against midgets, well, it has all of that, too. But I’m talking about the Romero-style commentary you get in his zombie movies, the part that lets you see past the zombies and realize he could have made the exact same movie without ghoulish hordes, but was cool enough not to.

Is it my place to say what the themes were this time? Clearly, it is. The movie is set years or possibly decades after the original zombie outbreak; a few walled cities contain the vestiges of humanity, and the zombies cover the rest of the earth. The divide (social, intellectual, perhaps even moral) between zombie and human is rapidly narrowing from both directions. It reminded me a lot of I Am Legend, for whatever that’s worth. On top of the dark mirror motif, there’s some (perhaps meant to be relevant to the world of now?) extensive Circus Maximus keeps the citizens happy while the Huns rampage just outside the walls of Rome imagery going on. I think there’s something to be said for the idea that the two themes are intertwined, but then, I’m just a guy who types with two or three fingers, so what do I know?

Also, there were boobies.

Zero Hour (Resident Evil)

So far, there are seven books in the Resident Evil series; of those, five of them are based on entries in the videogame series of the same name. The most recent, Zero Hour, is a prequel in much the same way that the game Resident Evil Zero was. Well, ha ha, that’s an understatement, since it’s not only a novelization of that game, but also the most by-the-numbers novelization of the whole series.

Credit where it’s due, the author has taken on a somewhat herculean task here. It’s hard to write the book of a game whose main focuses (after shooting zombies, I mean) are holding onto ammunition and solving crazy spy puzzles, without devolving into ridiculous parody. Somehow, she manages to take it all seriously, in part by paradoxically keeping the characters aware of the farce of it all. There are things you accept in a game that nobody would in real life, and the ability to roll their eyes at having to light the lamps in the right order to release the gate is exactly the same kind of ability that keeps them sane in the face of bio-engineered hordes thirsty for their blood. And, y’know, their juicy, delicious brains.

On the downside, like I said, this is the least good adaptation. Sure, the characters are allowed to get out of some fights in a way that the game characters are not, and sure, they laugh at the craziness, but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember ever reading a quite so faithful account of what weapons and ammo are picked up when, and how close they are to running out. But, other than how badly that grates, it’s a perfectly serviceable book of its type, and as in other entries in the series, she adds touches here and there that make the book hers outside the confines of the games. Still, if you don’t just absolutely adore the whole Umbrella-verse, there’s no point to picking it (or any of the others) up.

Shaun of the Dead

mv5bmtu2nja0ndk0nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwota0otqzmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006211000_al_Back some time ago, one of my first ex- girlfriends returned to Dallas after a few years’ stint in the Air Force and being married and then divorced. Because of how badly her current life sucked, she was looking to reconnect with elements of her previous life, and I was one of the addressees on that particular email. Then, because of how lazy I am with email, about a year went by. But I found myself unexpectedly in Dallas yesterday, so we got together for a movie and a catching up.

The thing about her is, she really wanted to get married, back in the day. I say this not out of a sense of disgruntlement or even armchair psychology, but by simple math. She was married, at age 18 and mere moments after high school graduation, about 10 months after she broke up with me (who wanted to get through college first). I know all of this seems dreadfully pointless, but I like to set a good background.

Anyway, after making me promise to give her veto power if I picked a chick flick, we settled on Shaun of the Dead. This is the story of me. Well, okay, it’s not, and I’m very bitter about it, because it should be the story of me. It is pretty much dead on with how I imagine that my life is going, and how it ought to go.

Shaun is 29, has a go nowhere job, and spends the rest of his life commuting back and forth with other dead-eyed Brits, playing video games with his roommates, and taking his girlfriend to the same pub every night. As girls in movies are wont to do, she gets fed up and asks for a change, which he flubs as hopeless 20-something slackers in movies are wont to do, and then she dumps him. This is well-trodden cinema fare.

But then, the lucky bastard wakes up the next morning to find that zombies have taken over the landscape, and it’s up to him to fight them off and gather his loved ones together for safety until everything is back to normal. Herein lies my existential angst. I now have cinematic proof of what I’ve always believed, that every problem in my life would be solved by a handy mass dying off of the population due to zombification and subsequent assault on the living.

So, right, the review. It was really funny. A bit gory. A couple of jump in your seat scares. Plus the whole theme they had going where it was impossible to tell that anything happened at first because the dead-eyed zombies were an exact match for the dead-eyed Brits. Good stuff. Most people don’t get ‘zombies as social commentary’ right, but this one does the job. Better movie than the Resident Evils, even without any shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

Although the movie was great, it’s not really the best part of the story. No, that came early in the zombie onslaught, when Shaun picks up the phone to call his girlfiend and gets a busy signal. “She’s engaged,” he reports to his roommate, who replies “That seems a bit fast, doesn’t it?” Even as Shaun glared at him for making a joke at a time like that, I was awash in schadenfreude sitting there next to Kim, sharing a popcorn. I don’t think she noticed, though.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

mv5bmtc1ntuxmzk0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwndq1mdizmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006721000_al_Mmmm. Zombies.

I’ve been waiting for this movie since the end of opening day for Resident Evil, when they left a big blatant hook for a sequel. And I waited. And I waited. Then there was a teaser preview that literally jerked my head toward the screen when I realized what they were advertising, but that was over a year ago. So naturally, when the time came, I ended up having to wait three days before I could finally go see it. Then again, this is a movie about dead people getting up and walking around, so maybe three days is appropriate.

I’m obviously a fanboy for both this kind of movie and for the Resident Evil console game series, so I’ll try to temper that. One thing I’m not a fanboy of is videogame-to-movie adaptations. I mean, I invariably go and see them, but then I almost as invariably bitch about how awful they were. (See Mortal Kombat or Super Mario Bros., say. Or more to the point, don’t. Really.) So I went into the original movie with lowered expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by it being both an excellent zombie film in its own right as well as a pretty good adaptation; they avoided the trap of basing things too heavily on the game.

This time, as above, yeah, I had high expectations. And this time, they didn’t avoid the based on a game trap. Particularly, Jill Valentine and the Nemesis creature looked like they had been lifted straight out of the game. (The saving grace is that both looked perfect, not just like an attempt gone awry.) On the bright side, this is almost my only complaint with the movie. There was too much hand-to-hand combat for a scenario where being wounded by a zombie turns you into a zombie, and the combat they had was choppily edited.

Everything else about the movie was gravy, though. Good (if unoriginal) plot: Everybody is trapped in the city by the evil multinational pharmaceuticals corporation that fucked up and released an unstoppable viral zombie outbreak. The few survivors make alliances inside and outside the city in an attempt to find a way out. Meanwhile, an unstoppable mega-zombie (excuse me, biological weapons project) armed with a rocket launcher is stalking the people skilled enough to survive all the zombies and zombie Dobermans. Good acting, which is to say it was never quite overwrought with farcical camp drama, but also not overwrought with laughable attempts at real drama. And let’s not forget the randomly zombified topless dancers.

Basically, it comes down to the genre. If you like zombie movies, you should see this one. It’s a nice break from the remake mania that has plagued the last couple of years, even if it isn’t quite as scary as the first Resident Evil. If you don’t go for the particular zombie subgenre of horror, this is nowhere near enough horror movie to pull you in on its own. See Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead instead, as those are both brilliant character study pieces, with zombies merely as the backdrop. (Only original Romero will do.)

And if you don’t like horror movies at all, well, that’s just crazy talk. Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with information like that.

Added note for fetishists: No zombies were frozen in the filming of this picture.