3. Unoriginal attempts at Zombie movies (and sort of Horror movies in general).
This is getting pretty bad these days. So long as there's something to kill
off topless girls, most people are satisfied and they never think more beyond
it than that. Joss Whedon's "Cabin in the Woods" was a pretty
brilliant take on that aspect of the genre, although the ending I can't get
into without spoiling I thought fell down a touch (which makes me think of #4).
Zombie movies are pretty much the worst. A group of people, some zombies,
they try to survive and get picked off one by one. They hole up in some
location that seems safe with the idea of getting to some more ideal safe area
only to not make or find it's not as safe as they thought. Zombies shuffle
along, or they leap around like fucking Howler Monkeys, whatever. I'd say
nearly 90% of zombie movies do nothing more than this.
I like zombie movies, too many though don't even try anymore. Some might
follow that outline perfectly but have a decent script with well written
characters and at least they have that going for them. Some, if not most, really
indie attempts usually have nothing but plodding nothingness with a dash of
T&A to distract from the blandness (but this is usually more confined to Italian zombie movies or slasher flicks for the most part).
My thinking is, if you're not making it fun or bringing something new and
creative to the table, don't make a zombie movie. Just admit you're not up to
it and don't waste the fake blood. "Shaun of the Dead" was a typical
zombie movie in every sense, but they had great comedic writing and added a
twist on the genre by having it focus more on the characters and a silly love
story (although all that makes it sound terrible actually now that I look at
it) and it worked. Others have tried since and stumbled, sort of did okay while
others just fell flat on their undead asses.
Even George Romero seems to have succumbed to the shitty zombie movie illness. "Land of the Dead" was alright but lacked even a single "oh, they're all so screwed" moment. It all felt too safe. And then came along "Diary of the Dead" which I really wished I'd never watched. I utterly fucking hated this movie, it was miserable and god-awful on every single level. Romero should be embarrassed to have made it. And I didn't even bother with "Survival of the Dead", I just couldn't bring myself to even care it existed, let alone watch it.
So if the guy who pretty much created the genre sucks at it now, is there any hope left? Hell yes there is. I'm not a remake fan, but Zak Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead" is probably my favourite zombie movie, if not one of my favourite movies in general. I credit James Gunn for a really great script that follows the tired old plot outline I first mentioned, but filled it will decent characters and some awesome moments. The cast was pretty good, I mean Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley? Seemed like an odd couple to star in a movie together, but both were brilliant.
"The Walking Dead" while not a movie, it's still in the zombie genre, is really good. I credit Frank Darabont for setting the bar and while I've never read the source material, I'm pretty sure it's awesome. I've taken a number of FX cues from this series an hope to incorporate them into my zombie web series next summer.
"Cemetary Man", awesome movie. On the whole it doesn't seem like a zombie movie, but it's a sort of David Lynch, surreal comedy, love story, zombie movie. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. And for any faults it might have, you have to admit, it's not a typical zombie movie by any means.
I'm on the fence about "Dead Snow" I liked it and didn't at the same time, however I would at least recommend it and would praise it for stealing an idea I've had for a very long time (okay I know they didn't steal it, it's just an expression) about having zombies in a snow environment.
"Zombie Land" awesome. "Planet Terror" sort of a zombie movie, was awesome. "Fido" was enjoyable overall and very unique at the time, although it seems to have spawned a sub-genre of zombie movies where the zombies can either be harnessed, tamed or are aware somehow.
"Dead Alive" or "Brain Dead" was a great Peter Jackson entry. And while it's not a zombie movie, I don't care how much of an ignorant twunt you are "28 Days Later" isn't a zombie movie, it's a sort of new side genre, "Infected movies" that follow all the cues of a zombie movies, with some new twists, but are in some ways scarier since they're more realistic in the sense they could actually happen. So you could call this a new twist on the genre as well as I suppose. But it's not a god damned zombie movie you idiots.
I don't think I could possible count the number of zombie movies I've ever seen, I could guess it's probably well into the hundreds though - and really, only a handful I think really deserve any attention because they didn't just make a movie with some zombies that ate people, the end. They created either a unique scenario, or had unique characters, found ways to break out of the genre, had a decent cast or script - just something that showed they actually cared about the project.
Now here's where I'm going to perhaps sound like I'm bragging, or even make a boast I might fall on my ass for making, in the case of Bimbo Zombie Killers! (the first two being homage type movies I was experimenting with so I don't really think too much about them plot-wise) the web series. I'm making a list of all my issues with zombie movies, "dos" and "don'ts" so the speak.
Here's a few of them:
1 - If you can't be original, don't be boring. Move things along, don't waste time thinking you're a better writer than you are and that people want to hear your "witty" dialog. "Witty" dialog isn't character development and they shouldn't sound like shitty comedians, skip this and get straight to the red stuff.
2 - Don't make shitty zombies. This is a makeup/FX thing and falls very squarely on my shoulders alone with this project and one of the reasons I shut things down this summer. I'm since taking major steps to ensure the zombies will be not only awesome, but FUCKING AWESOME - at least in as so much as I can make them.
One way to test that you've made good zombies is this, stick them next
to someone who is incredibly hungover - if the hungover person is scarier or makes a
more realistic zombie, you need to redo it.
3 - Don't let smart characters do stupid things just to progress the plot. I've already ranted about this one and I guess it's a matter of context and opinion - which is why I've re-written some parts that maybe felt in direct violation to this and rule 1. And I will be attempting to get more than my own perspective on critical choices characters make in the story.
4 - Be original in the overall story. This one can be tricky for some folks who really aren't as good a writer as they believe they are and while I won't say I'm a great writer (not even for a second) I know for a fact I have a better imagination than about 90% of the people I know, no insult to anyone intended. It might not be a brilliant story in the end and there might be parts you could say seem like something you've seen somewhere else, but honestly you can say that about literally everything that exists so really you're not be insightful in saying it, you're just being obvious.
With all the random crap I've planned, I'm sure some of it somewhere might've been done in some fashion before - but that doesn't mean I've seen it or know what you're talking about. Hell, I've heard people say a show about a super hero family was original, long after "The Incredibles" and "No Ordinary Family" - just a matter of how well you know what you're talking about. So when I say be original, that also means you should know your genre extremely well before trying to impress people with what ultimately might be just your latest contrived ripoff.
5 - Make sure it's fun to watch. Subjective to be sure, but so long as things move along, you've got awesome zombies, your characters aren't complete idiots doing things no human would ever do and you're not rehashing the same tired zombie plot for the millionth time, you have a really great shot at making a fun movie.
The way I'm attempting to gauge this is like this, in the context of a single page of script, there has to be two things. You're either delivering some critical information or something amusing must be happening. If you can find a way to combine both, you're deep fried gold. And in the context of a zombie movie, if something horrifically bloody is happening as well, even better.
I'm going to cap this off, this was a long one that sort of went offtrack, if you're trying to write an original zombie movie, each time you make a choice in either character, their choices, settings or cause of the outbreak, don't rely on the limits of your own knowledge of the genre - ask around, especially to someone who knows the genre. If you've only seen half a dozen theatrically released zombie movies in the last 5 years, you're not an expert, you're the problem.
Ironically, there's a lot of life left in the zombie genre. Don't make the mistake in believing it's strictly a horror genre, that kind of thinking is exactly what's wrong with the state of zombie movies right now already. Although, I will say (and yes, apparently this has already been done) zombie porn is going too far.