Thursday, May 31, 2012

Short Story Spotlight: "Heaven of Animals"

From Joe R. Lansdale's Dead in the West and Steve Vernon's Long Horn, Big Shaggy to Roland gunslinging against "slow mutants" in "The Little Sisters of Eluria" and Sheriff Rick riding his horse into the hostile territory of Atlanta on The Walking Dead, zombies and the Western have proven to be an excellent mix (perhaps the seamlessness of the genre blend stems from the technological rollback that is a corollary to apocalypse, and the sense of a re-opened frontier created by the collapse of civilization).  John Horner Jacobs is the latest writer to join the Weird-Western wagon trail, with his story "Heaven of Animals" reading like a cross between Lonesome Dove and Night of the Living Dead

In the piece, Jacobs details a splattery version of a cattle drive, as cowboys in a post-pandemic Arkansas round up and lead a "herd" of shambling revenants from the wilds and into modified slaughtering pens.  The author does a fine job of building a new-world variant of the Old West, complete with ambushed caravans and seedy saloon scenes.  There's plenty of suspense and bloody gunplay, but the most entertaining aspect of the story might be the banter between grizzled herder Jake and his mystic-minded, "phony Indian" sidekick Red Wolf (whom Jake sardonically dubs "Tonto").  "Heaven of Animals" (collected in the Kindle ebook Fierce as the Grave: A Quartet of Horror Stories) is a quick, vivid read that dispels the romantic aura of the cowboy lifestyle with haunting horror.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reading Entrails

As Zombie Awareness Month draws to a close, the national news has grown disconcertingly gruesome.

In the (severed) vein of the recent cannibal attack down in Miami: this lurid report of self-evisceration and intestinal strewing (in Hackensack, New Jersey, mere minutes from where I live).  Amazingly, the macabre masochist has survived his own gutting.

Isolated incidents of psychotic behavior or presages of a horrific pandemic?  We'd better stay tuned to the news, while keeping a wary eye out for strangers and neighbors alike...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Zombie Autopsies (Book Review)

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Stephen C. Schlozman, M.D.  (Grand Central Publishing, 2011)

The Zombie Autopsies--an epistolary novel of the apocalypse penned by a learned doctor but a fledgling fiction writer--is a study in paradox.  Its strongest point is also its most glaring weakness.

The book is framed as an assemblage of classified documents meant to brief members attending a critical meeting at a U.N. Outpost bunker in the South Pacific.  Primary among these documents is the recovered notebook of the late Dr. Stanley Blum, who had been performing the eponymous autopsies at a research facility on Bassas da India (a coral atoll located between Madagascar and mainland Africa).  He was part of a desperate effort to analyze the virus that causes Ataxic Neuro-degenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome--or zombieism, in layman's terms.  His ongoing journal--accompanied by medical drawings that would be more at home in Tales from the Crypt than in Gray's Anatomy--is replete with gloriously gory detail (e.g., the volcanic eruption of deliquescent brain matter from a subject's sawed-open skull; the infestation of the abdominal cavity by long, parasitic worms).  The grayed pages filled with Blum's handwritten text, though, are anything but friendly on the reader's eye.

Schlozman aims to lend an air of verisimilitude to zombieism, positing an airborne contagion as the cause and providing neurological and physio-logical  explanations for familiar undead traits such as the staggering walk, decaying flesh, and insatiable appetite.  Still, the (presumably human-engineered) virus that Blum studies is so nefariously efficient as to defy plausibility and compromise the sense that This Could Really Happen.

The main problem with the book's format/approach is that it tends to read like a dry report more than a dramatic narrative.  Despite the fact that Blum's account grows steadily more unreliable (as he succumbs either to the stress of his job or the onset of the disease) and that the autopsy subjects are animate, conscious, and quite hostile, the novel is conspicuously short on character and incident.  Schlozman's zombie-autopsy premise is a captivating one, but regrettably, the author could have put a lot more meat--rotting or otherwise--on the bones of the idea.

More interesting as a quasi-scientific investigation than it is entertaining as a story, The Zombie Autopsies perhaps will appeal more to horror writers conducting research than it will to seasoned fans of zombie fiction. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zombie Autobiography

Brains brains brains, brains brains brains.  Brains brains brains brains brains brains; brains brains brains brains, brains brains brains.  Brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains!  Brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains; brains brains, brains brains (brains brains brains brains brains brains brains).  Brains brains brains brains brains brains--brains brains brains--brains brains brains brains brains?  "Brains brains brains brains," brains brains, brains brains brains brains brains brains brains brains. [...]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anatomy of a Weird Tale: "Ghost Trap"

Not all zombie narratives are splattery efforts rife with images of decomposition and evisceration.  Some works veer more toward the genre of weird fiction, putting the emphasis on the haunting more than the horrific.  Rick Hautala's "Ghost Trap," as its title immediately suggests, is one such tale.  This is not the familiar story of putrescent masses bringing apocalypse to a metropolitan scene, but rather that of a single--and singularly disquieting--postmortem lingerer.

Readers learn the literal significance of Hautala's title in the opening paragraph: it's lobsterman lingo for a trap that has been broken off its mooring rope by too-stormy seas.  The lost trap sinks down to the ocean floor, where an unfortunately investigative lobster might still crawl inside.  "If more than one lobster ended up in a trap," the third-person narrative voice informs us, "the bigger, stronger one would kill and eat the others, but that only prolonged its captivity until, eventually, it died of starvation" (263).  Such description of desperate yet ultimately hopeless cannibalism also sounds like an apt gloss on zombie existence.

Perhaps what it most noteworthy about the opening of "Ghost Trap" is the sense of suspense it creates.  Skillful as any Maine fisherman, Hautala hooks his audience with the very first line: "Although it was often part of his job, Jeff Stewart hadn't been expecting to find a body today."  From here, though, further discussion of the discovery is held in abeyance for two full pages.  Exposition is sketched in, much of it focusing on Jeff's experiences working as a rescue diver for the U.S. Coast Guard.  The narrative remarks on the strangely animate appearance of recent drowning victims: "Their arms invariably would be raised and extended, like they were reaching for something to cling to, something solid so they could hoist themselves back up to the surface" (164).  If the corpse had yet to be ravaged by carnivorous scavengers, its eyes "would be wide open and staring with an expression of stunned surprise.  It was as if the victim still couldn't believe he or she had actually drowned."  The figuration of the life-like quality of the average drowning victim leads at last to a consideration of the odd state of the dead man Jeff accidentally discovers while searching for ghost traps on his off-day.  Here Hautala's prose presents an uncanny underwater tableau:
The man was sitting with his legs out in front of him, his toes pointing upward.  Jagged black shreds of rubber boots still clung to his feet and lower legs.  His arms were extended and swaying from side to side like thick fronds of kelp moved by the deep-sea currents.  The man's hands were extended, his fingers hooked.  Long yellowed fingernails looking like chipped old porcelain stuck out from the ends of the withered bone-white hands.

Jeff couldn't help but think the man looked like he had been waiting patiently for him...or come along and find him in the darkness seven fathoms below the surface. (264-265)
The corpse proves all the more disquieting as Jeff continues to scrutinize it.  Along with the tattered clothing, the corroded, barnacle-encrusted cement block chained to the man's waist suggests that this victim has been down here for some time.  Yet the dead man himself seems unnervingly preserved; his head even still possesses the pair of eyes that should have long since been gobbled by fish or crabs.  Though frightened by his find, Jeff briefly surfaces to retrieve a rope so he can mark of the location of the body for later retrieval.  "As he dropped back down into the depths," Hautala writes at scene's end, "his heart felt like a cold, tight fist in his chest" (266)--another fitting image, apropos of a zombie's penetrating clutch.

A still-shaken Jeff is overheard later that evening sharing his story with his drinking buddies at the local watering hole.  Pappy Sullivan--a knowing weirdo who might have wandered out of the pages of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction--approaches Jeff and opines that the mysterious drowned man must be Old Man Crowther (Hautala's choice of surname here perhaps a nod to fellow horror writer Peter Crowther).  Alluding to a "plague" that gripped the seafront community back in the early 70's when Jeff was but a young child (Jeff vaguely recalls hearing talk at the time of "something weird going on in town" [270]), Pappy claims that Crowther represented the last of the infected.  Crowther's subsequent suicide (presumably by drowning, since his empty boat later washed ashore) was actually a noble gesture, an act of self-sacrifice aimed to save the town from further horror.  Pappy's spook story does little to comfort Jeff, who goes to bed that night stuck with the unpleasant mental image of "the dead man--whoever the hell he was--sitting on the ocean floor down there in the pitch darkness" (271).

Despite Pappy's warning that the body should be left right where it is, Jeff and his Coast Guard companions move to retrieve it the following day.  Jeff descends with fellow diver Wes Evans, and for the former, the scene is bathed in ominous atmosphere: "The daylight shimmering above them quickly collapsed, plunging them into a preternatural gloom, which gradually blended into an inky darkness below" (273).  Jeff is filled with a "nameless apprehension" of what he knows is lurking on the ocean floor, and when he encounters the corpse once again, the sight of it strikes him like a portrait in a Gothic mansion: "Jeff was convinced that as he moved, so too the dead man's eyes moved, tracking him with a dull, blank stare" (274).  Ever wary, Jeff also frames the recovery operation in terms reminiscent of a Universal horror movie: "Like a mummy's curse, Jeff thought, some things are best left undisturbed" (275).  Like a belatedly enlightened seeker in a Lovecraft narrative, Jeff frets that he "should have left well enough alone," but now that the authorities have been alerted and the dive undertaken, there's no turning back.

Hautala continues to tantalize readers with suggestions of the corpse's sentience (e.g. Is it just the currents that make the body look like it's straining against its chain?).  The extended scene grows almost unbearably tense before the figurative trap is finally sprung: eyes now clearly moving, the deep-sea zombie suddenly lashes out against an unsuspecting Wes.  Using its talon-like fingernails, it fatally rakes the diver.  As Jeff attempts to intervene, he feels a sting in his left calf, but it's not until he surfaces with Wes's body that he realizes that he, too, has been wounded by the undead Crowther: "Within seconds, the coldness radiated up his leg and into his groin and chest, where it started to squeeze his heart" (278).  This last bit of description brackets perfectly with the story's earlier, foreshadowing line about "a cold, tight fist" in Jeff's chest.

To the others aboard the Coast Guard boat, Jeff's calf laceration appears to be a minor injury, but Jeff is convinced that he has been infected and is now a modern carrier of the old-time plague.  That's why the despondent protagonist plots his own demise in the story's last sentence: "As soon as the boat got back to the dock, he would have to find a cement block and a length of chain and head right back out to sea" (279).  To avoid the temptations of flesh-savaging, Jeff--like Old Man Crowther before him--opts for a conscientious (quasi-)suicide.

"Ghost Trap" perhaps suffers slightly from its inclusion in a zombie-themed anthology (The New Dead).  In such context, readers naturally expect Crowther to come to life in a climax of overt violence.  Whatever Hautala's narrative might lose in ambiguity, however, it makes up for in mordant irony.  Jeff, who has made a career out of recovering drowned bodies, is now set to commit himself to a watery grave.  A man who has hitherto "relished the freedom, the sense of weightlessness and total isolation" (263) that diving provides, will join Crowther in self-imprisoning submersion.  Such turnabout makes for a haunting conclusion to this nautical weird tale, a story that proves there are still fresh waters to be explored in zombie fiction, and reminds us that an eldritch entity from the deep need not be named Cthulhu or Dagon. 

Work Cited

Hautala, Rick.  "Ghost Trap."  The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology.   Ed. Christopher Golden.  New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2010.  263-279.

Friday, May 18, 2012


[For the previous game of Hangmany, click here.]

Can you solve the following puzzle within twenty seconds, or are you going to choke?


"__   __   V   __   N   __          __   __   A   __          __   __   __   __"

B   __

__   __   B          __   __   __   B   __   __

MISSES: C, F, P, S, T, U

HINT: Blood on her skin / Dripping with sin / Do it again

Answer appears in the Comments section of this post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beelzebub Tweets

BLZ, Bub

[For previous tweets, click here.]

"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."  Great tag line, but honestly, there's always room at the Inferno.
--7:51 A.M., May 16th

The world is a zombie's Chinese buffet: all you can eat, yet you still end up hungry.
--2:35 P.M., May 11th

Blame Jesus for the coming zombie pandemic: Lazarus was Patient Zero.
--6:49 P.M., May 5th

If a bulimic got turned into a zombie, would she spit out everything she chewed? Just wondering.
--4:20 A.M., April 30th

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Core Gore

(Macabre Republic took a vampiric turn over the weekend, but now it's time to get back to Zombie Awareness Month.)

As a personal trainer, I'm always advising my clients and gym members about the importance of a strong core (the musculature girdles the inner organs and helps stabilize the body during exercise motions).  Perhaps, though, I should save my breath and just use the following clip as a gruesome p.s.a.:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood (Book Review)

Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson  (Pomegranate Press, 2012)

Published in anticipation of this weekend's release of the Tim-Burton-directed film, Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood is a glossy, oversized paperback collecting topical essays, anecdote-rich reminiscences by former cast members, a chronology of the 45-year history of the beloved Gothic romance, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the latest cinematic Shadows, and even a postscript poem by David Selby.

The book brims with insider information (which is to be expected, considering that Kathryn Leigh Scott played Maggie Evans/Josette DuPres on the series).  Some of the intriguing insight offered: the genesis of the idea for Dark Shadows in series creator Dan Curtis's mind; how those involved managed to shoot a feature film and a daily soap simultaneously; the reason Jonathan Frid refused to reprise his role as Barnabas Collins in the second film, Night of Dark Shadows; the impact of the Gulf War on the 90's primtime version of the series; what it was like when Johnny Depp met Jonathan Frid on the Burton set.

The actors' enduring love for Dark Shadows shines through the pages.  Despite the grueling five-episodes-per-week production schedule, players such as Scott, Frid, and Lara Parker (Angelique) admittedly found it a joy to go to work each day.  This remarkably positive attitude in turn makes Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood a pleasure to read.

Long-time fans will treasure the insider's perspective here, while newcomers will appreciate the opportunity to learn all about Dark Shadows before seeing the film.  Lovely as it is timely, the volume is lavishly illustrated with color and black-and-white photos.  It makes for the perfect coffee table book for Gothic-aficionados throughout our Macabre Republic.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows (Movie Review)

Dark Shadows  (2012; Warner Bros.   Directed by Tim Burton.  Screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith)

This is a film that I have been eagerly anticipating for years, ever since I first learned of Tim Burton's and Johnny Depp's respective involvement.  But as today's long-awaited release date drew nearer, I began to fear that I was setting myself up for a terrible disappointment.  That's largely because the official trailer made this Dark Shadows seem like a pale reflection of the beloved 60's serial.  Emphasizing the humor of a situation in which Depp's protagonist finds himself a centuries-old stranger in a strange land of 1972, the trailer suggested that Burton was shooting for a campy vamp variation on Austin Powers.

After today's viewing, I am happy to report that that trailer significantly misrepresented the tone and approach of the film.

To be sure, there are comedic moments, but they are interspersed with a deft touch and do not stand in the way of Gothic melodrama.  Depp is no mere caricature of the original Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid), bringing dignity and gravitas to the role of a cursed, reluctant, yet sometimes-savage vampire.  His Barnabas, who is not above opening throats (starting with those of the work crew who accidentally uncover his buried and enchained coffin) when the opportunity to slake his unholy thirst presents itself, is more Sweeney Todd than Mad Hatter.  Nor does the film yield its titular tenebrousness to the colorful post-hippy/pre-disco era in which it is set; the scenery is replete with impressive gloom, from the rocky shore at the foot of Widow's Hill to the sprawling, labyrinthine Collinwood manor (where much of the action takes place).  The latter is perhaps the most interestingly-detailed manse (e.g. a fireplace mantel adorned with audibly-baying wolf figurines) to appear on the silver screen since Hill House in 1963's The Haunting.

To be fair, this is not a perfect film.  Bella Heathcote's character--Collinwood governess/Barnabas love interest Victoria Winters--is under-developed (she seems to disappear from the story at times), and thus greatly overshadowed by Eva Green's vengeful witch, Angelique.  Green is a wonderful villainess here, but her supernatural powers are almost ridiculously extensive.  At times, she operates more like an X-Men mutant than a traditional hex-slinger.

Angelique's devious abilities are put on full display in a spectacular and catastrophic climax in which the witch battles Barnabas and the other defenders of Collinwood.  In the course of this extended showdown, some dark secrets about the Collins clan come to light, including the revelation of an inner monstrousness that might seem to the uninitiated to come out of left field but is actually a clever riff on a plotline from the original daytime soap.

Burton's Dark Shadows can stand alone for modern audiences, but will be best appreciated by those already familiar with the trappings of the TV show.  No doubt there will be some stubborn loyalists who denounce the new film for not being exactly like the serial they recall so fondly, but when taken for what it really is--both a loving homage and an inventive reimagining--Dark Shadows proves a wonderful success.

And based on a surprising twist of one of the old story elements (involving Dr. Julia Hoffman's treatment of Barnabas's vampirism), the door is left wide open for a sequel.  I look forward to such a follow-up just as much as I did this latest example of Burton-Depp Gothic movie magic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dark Passages: "Eye Gouge"

Extreme Championship Wrestling meets E.C. Comics in Del James's "Eye Gouge," a short story that stages a zombie battle royal for its audience.  The piece is a biting satire of the American appetite for blood sport, and while the writing won't be mistaken for Shakespeare (just as wrestling will never be confused with ballet), it is wickedly vivid.  Here's a highlight from the story's macabre main event:

The back door opened and with much strain the zombie wranglers [the undead as livestock] let another contestant into the ring.  But this was no ordinary zombie.  He barely fit through the door.  The massive Bulldozer was in all likelihood someone who had eaten his way to an early heart attack.  No Richard Simmons Deal-A-Meal cards [pop culture invoked parodically throughout the narrative] could've stopped this man from doing what he loved most.
The Bulldozer saw his next meal.
There was a loud groan [zombie-like behavior] in the crowd as the massive, hairy bulk [emphasis on grotesquerie] who wore nothing but gray sweatpants and engineer boots waddled across the ring.  He moved like a rubber-suited monster set upon wreaking havoc and destruction on Tokyo in a low-budget monster movie [a foreshadowing of the climactic carnage when the action spills outside the caged ring?].  With each step the ring shook a little.  The Bulldozer had pasty breasts the size and texture of hams [flesh as food] and his gut was a barrel of stretched girth.  He shoved the Masked Enforcer halfway across the ring and stalked the Convict.  A large hand shot out and grabbed the hanging eyeball.  With one yank, the Bulldozer ripped it free, shoving the eye in his mouth like an olive [garish variation on a martini garnish], but when he bit down the eye shot out of his mouth like a superball [a grim but whimsical image that perfectly captures the story's playfulness].  (358-59)

Work Cited

James, Del.  "Eye Gouge."  Mondo Zombie.  Ed. John Skipp.  Baltimore: Cemetery Dance, 2006.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Me, Zombied

I'm not quite myself today, thanks to some grotesque photoshopping over at the ZombieMe website.

Looking to bring out your inner ghoul?  Then click on over to the site, upload a head shot, and get creative.  It's free, it's fun, and it's guaranteed to make you seem so much better looking in person.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On Zombies and American Gothic

Walk into any Spirit Halloween store in October, and you are bound to meet a pair of arresting figures.  I'm talking about that life-sized, hayfork-wielding zombie farmer and his equally-undead wife, who are usually stationed facing the front door in macabre tableau.  Looking like gangrenous versions of the famous couple in Grant Wood's painting, the eldritch duo broach an interesting subject: the connection between zombies and American Gothic.

Historically, the Gothic, with its emphasis on darkness and disorder, has been understood as a genre that arose in reaction to the Age of Reason.  The prevailing Enlightenment ideals of balance, symmetry and (above all else) rationalism were dismissed, and the reality of grotesquerie and madness openly/ominously acknowledged.  In this sense, the ghouls currently permeating American pop culture can be seen to have erupted from traditional Gothic soil.  The zombie--a mindless wretch driven by its base cravings--is the ultimate un-Reasonable creature.

In American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction, Allan Lloyd-Smith writes that the Gothic focuses on "the return of the past, of the repressed and denied, the buried secret that subverts and corrodes the present, whatever the culture does not want to know or admit, will not or dare not tell itself" (1).  The Gothic unabashedly dramatizes the transgression of barriers and the violation of taboos.  Again, one senses how readily the figure of the zombie aligns with such notions of disinterment, grim return, and unruliness.  Zombies enact the unwelcome homecoming of the departed, the obviously-moldering yet mobile dead who've traded the supposed bliss of eternal rest for a cannibalistic rampage.

No doubt, the Gothic "explores frontiers: between races, genders, and classes; people and machines; health and disease; the living and dead; and the boundary of the closed door" (Crow, "Introduction" 2).  Zombies, though, also invoke the literal frontier--the dangerous borderland between civilization and wilderness that was pushed ever westward by American settlers.  The societal collapse precipitated by an uprising of the undead (as seen in countless movies) belatedly reopens our national frontier and brings it to everyone's front door.  In such dire circum-stances, lawlessness rules and everyday existence devolves into a brute struggle for survival.  Early American Gothic literature highlighted the fear of the hostile, heathen native (e.g. recall Young Goodman Brown's concern, as he makes his way through the forest, that "There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree" [Hawthorne 133]), but the zombie now stands in as the modern-day bogeyman, a red-skinned (i.e. festering and blood-soaked) savage h(a)unting ostensibly innocent people.

When discussing the Gothic, scholars typically draw upon not just the idea of the frontier but also the Freudian notion of the uncanny, the "sense of weirdness, created when something that seemed safe and familiar suddenly becomes strange, or something that should have remained hidden is revealed" (Crow, History 7).  Perhaps no term better captures what zombies embody.  The uncanny undead represent the shocking transformation of friends, family, and neighbors into an impersonal, relentless nemesis ("meat-seeking missiles" [69], to borrow David Wellington's punning epithet).  Freud's positing of the troubling double as a source of the uncanny is likewise applicable to zombie behavior.  Here the doppelganger takes the form of a rotting, ravenous corpse: what looks like your beloved Aunt Rita is actually a soulless thing that wants to eat you.

As critic Allan Lloyd-Smith reminds us, the "German word for the uncanny, das Unheimliche, carries the meaning of the unhomely: it can be understood as equivalent to the 'domestic terror' which so aptly describes much of the work of American Gothicists" (75).  With this in mind, consider the recurrent rural homefront in cinematic and televised battles against zombies, such as the Pennsylvanian-farmhouse setting in Night of the Living Dead and Hershel's farm in AMC's The Walking Dead (in American-Zombie Gothic, a man's home is his castle under siege by gory hordes).  The ruin to which these properties are reduced forms an architectural correlative to the state of the perpetrating zombies, those empty and decrepit shells of their former selves.  Earthly resurrection of the dead truly hits home, turning bucolic scenes into apocalyptic nightmares.  Causing personal devastation on a widespread scale--no place is safe from disaster--the zombie outbreak represents the latest of the series of horrific pandemics that have scourged through the pages of American Gothic narratives (a line tracing back through Stephen King's The Stand all the way to Charles Brockden Brown's Arthur Mervyn).

All this paints a gloomy picture, but I would be remiss not to note that zombies also elucidate the American spirit of impishness and fondness for black humor.  The will-to-parody manifest in the countless alterations of Grant Wood's American Gothic (including the one at the head of this blog post) is reflected by the undead-makeover of iconic album covers and monster-mashing of canonical novels.  A similarly revisionist impulse fuels the modern phenomenon of the zombie walk, in which participants make playtime out of Plague Time by parading round as zombified versions of nurses, firemen, Michael Jackson, etc.  These celebratory rituals are reminiscent of what transpires on Halloween, when we embrace our fears and dance merrily with Death (in its manifold guises), knowing that mortality will eventually waltz each one of us out of this world.  May might be designated as Zombie Awareness Month, but the feelings and attitudes the undead elicit are certainly apropos of October.

Which brings me full circle back to the zombie farmer and his wife in the Spirit Halloween stores: perhaps it is no coincidence that the pair have been set up by the entrance like a couple of gruesome greeters.  Gothic Americans nationwide have no problem recognizing, and welcoming,
what the figures stand for.

Works Cited

Crow, Charles, L.  History of the Gothic: American Gothic.  Wales: University Press, 2009.

---. "Introduction." American Gothic: An Anthology 1787-1916.  Ed. Crow.  Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1999.  1-2.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  "Young Goodman Brown." The Dark Descent.  Ed. David Hartwell.  New York: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1987.  132-141.

Lloyd-Smith, Allan. American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction.  New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2004.

Wellington, David. Monster Island: A Zombie Novel.  Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2006.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Hunger Striking" (poem)

"Hunger Striking"

She'd gone the way of Gandhi,
Refusing sustenance as a form of protest.
Her corrupt jailors could keep their meager meals;
The bread of tyranny was anathema to her.
They sneered at her, said innate need would break her spirit.
Still she ignored her pangs, stayed true to her masochistic cause,
Even after her oppressors abruptly stopped appearing,
Stopped bringing her curious journalists or dinner trays.
An isolate, she lay prostrate in her cell, weak but willful,
Until finally she succumbed to martyrdom.
She came crawling back but a few hours later,
The personification of irony, with no notion of nonviolence.
Nothing more now than a ravenous cadaver, encaged,
And all her political statements turned to guttural moans.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Survival (Mis)Guide

No doubt George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is a seminal (think of how many horror films have employed the "___ under siege" plot since) zombie movie, but viewers should be wary about turning to the 1968 classic as a model for what to do when the dead walk the earth.  Generally speaking, the film's main characters have the right idea--barricading themselves inside a secluded farmhouse--but they court disaster with some of their specific actions.  A QuickList of examples:

Ben sets a zombie corpse (and later a sofa chair) on fire on the lawn right in front of the farmhouse's doorstep--a great way to accidentally set your sanctuary ablaze.

"Let's get some more lights on in this place," Ben prompts Barbra.   Apparently he is not concerned about advertising their presence to their predators.

For all his quick thinking, Ben fails to search the farmhouse for signs of occupancy.  Good thing Harry Cooper was the only foul figure lurking in the cellar.

(Speaking of Harry: his daughter Karen is lying prostrate with a mysterious illness, and yet he looms over her face blowing a cloud of cigarette smoke.  Yeah, that ought to make the poor girl more comfortable.)

Ben boards up the farmhouse's portals, but leaves gaps between the boards across an inexplicably open window large enough for the undead to reach through (and then walks carelessly past that insecure point).

To divert the fire-fearing ghouls, Harry tosses Molotov cocktails out a second-story window--onto the lawn right next to the truck Ben and Tom hope to speed off in.

Pressed for time, Ben decides to shoot the lock off the gas pump.  Not your brightest idea there, sparky.

A fumbling Tom spills gasoline next to a torch, then drives off with Judy inside the burning truck.  Keep playing with fire, and eventually you get barbecued and eaten.

The film concludes with perhaps the most important "don't" of all: when gun-toting good ol' boys out on a ghoul-shooting spree pass by your house, don't frame your black face in the window for them!

For more practical information on how to stay alive during an epidemic of animate, cannibalistic corpses, check out Max Brook's The Zombie Survival Guide and Matt Mogk's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Very Gory Month of May

As designated by those devoted folks over at the Zombie Research Society, May is Zombie Awareness Month.  (Why May? you might be wondering.  Because that is the month in which the classic Romero film Night of the Living Dead is set.)  Accordingly, these thirty-one days throughout the world are filled with undead-centric endeavors, from theme parties and zombie walks/runs to zombie food drives (which, for me, conjures the image of innocent humans being herded into ghouls' clutches) and other charity events.  Fun and games carried out in the interest, as the ZRS would have it, of raising consciousness of the potentially imminent epidemic ("Because what you don't know can eat you," the Society's slogan forewarns).

Throughout the month here at Macabre Republic, I will be publishing zombie-themed posts; keep your eye out for undeadened versions of many of the blog's familiar Features.  The grave festivities will start tomorrow, but in the meantime here's a compendium of the zombie outbreaks in the M.R. over the past nineteen months:

Interview: Alden Bell

"Bed and Breakfast"

Zombie Potpourri

Make vs. Remake: The Crazies

The Walking Dead (Series Premiere)

Zombie Potpourri

The Walking Dead (episode review)

The Walking Dead (episode review)

The Walking Dead (episode review)

The Walking Dead (episode review)

The Walking Dead (season finale)

QuickList: 14 Great Tales of Erotic/Sexual Horror

Book Review: The Loving Dead

Macabre in the Blogosphere: The Zombie Feed

Macabre in the Blogosphere: The Zombie Feed

Countdown: The Top 20 American Horror Movie Posters--#4

It Tolls For Humanity

DVD Review: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

Zombie Week Begins: Ranking the Romeros

Short Story Spotlight: "Twenty-Three Second Anomaly"

Zombie Haiku


QuickList: The Six Best Zombie Novels I've Ever Read


Valley Ghouls

Zombie Appetizer

The Walking Dead--Midseason Report

QuickList: The 8 Best Zombies to Date on The Walking Dead

Dead Lines

Dead Lines

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies (Book Review)

Dead Lines

Dead Lines

Zombie Nominee

Dead Lines

Farm Fatale

If You Want to Make a Macabre Omelette...