Monday, 1 June 2009

ZOMBIEMANIA: 80 Movies To Die For

By Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg & Andrew Hershberger
Afterword by Mark Donovan
Telos Publishing Ltd.
497 pages, B&W
Dimensions H=21cm W=14.9cm D=2.5cm
SRP £14.99 (UK) $29.95 (US) $29.95 (CAN)

Another day, another book about flesh eating ghouls. I knew I should have gone with the porno review blog idea...but anyway, the latest entry into my library of the living dead is this tidy little package care of Telos.

After the brilliant-but-Bataan-Death-March-esque tome that was 'Book Of The Dead', this comes as a welcome (and thankfully light) relief. The book is split up into 80 small sections dealing with all the zombie flicks you would expect, plus a few more besides. Each section follows the same format, neatly divided up into subsections such as 'Synopsis', 'Necrology' (i.e., what 'rules' do these zombies follow?), 'Behind The Scenes' '6 Degrees Of Necrophagia' and so on. This means you can get right at the information that interests you without any unnecessary reading, and it also facilitates quick comparisons between one or more of the films featured, should you so choose.

The tone of the book is a pleasing combination of both the serious (embodied by the meticulous attention to detail when it comes down to technical matters such as the relative merits of the various DVD incarnations) and the sublime (though always recognising that the authors' razor-sharp tongue planted firmly in the cheek is not as important as the razor-sharp shard of wood planted equally firmly in Olga Karlatos' eye).

The anecdotal information presented herein is damned good...if you're a fan of certain films, you more than likely know all the ins and outs of that particular movie's genesis and journey to the screen, such as 'the refrigerator incident' from 'Day Of The Dead'. Such incidents are part of horror fandom lore. However, the authors have reall dug up a wealth of interesting tidbits and gossip which you can shock and amaze (or alternatively irritate and bore) your friends and family with. Indeed, having read both this and 'Book Of The Dead' in such close proximity to one another, I now feel as though I am in a position of such zombie movie knowledge ('zomniscient', anyone? I'm claiming it), that George Romero should start calling me for advice (and I haven't even seen 'Diary Of The Dead' yet either, which is apparently when most people seem to think George Romero should start calling them for advice, or so I've heard).

The films are not listed chronologically but rather in alphabetical order, and I find that the format of the book itself encourages me to forget about that and just crack it open at random and see what I get. One of the inherent advantages of Zombiemania's layout is that you're never more than 4 or so pages away from the start of one movie and the end of another. As such, it's very easy to just pick up and read a chapter of it without having to devote too much time to it. If you, like me, have the awful habit of taking books into the bathroom with you, then I can guarantee you that you won't expose yourself to the risk of haemorrhoids by sitting on the throne too long because you just want to finish the chapter you're reading. Zombiemania is like the guilty indulgence food you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite.

(Wow...from anal to oral in the same's like that Ass-To-Mouth discussion in 'Clerks II'...what would Freud have said? We already know what Rosario Dawson would say. Maybe it's my subconscious telling me I really should have gone with the porno blog?)

Indeed, even the size of the book suggests it was intended to be something readers could just 'grab and go' with...let's be honest here. Nightmare USA is an awesome book, but there's just no way you could justify taking something of that size and weight (and price!) on a camping trip or on holiday with you. Zombiemania, on the other hand, I could see fitting into a rucksack or suitcase quite nicely.

After the main body (or reanimated corpse, if you prefer) of featurettes is done, there is a film index of over 550 titles, perhaps to be explored in more depth in a future volume, plus a useful cast and crew index. However, in the grandest of grand traditions, they have well and truly saved the best until last with a superb afterword by Mark Donovan of 'Shaun of the Dead' fame. Maybe it will not resonate as much with readers of a different generation, but for me, as an 80's child, it certainly hits all the right notes and brings back many happy memories of the VHS era. It's also a rather inspiring piece as he relates his journey from humble horror fan to the cover of Fangoria, no less (Dr. Hook be damned...the cover of Rolling Stone is for pussies)!

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that what landed Mr. Donovan the Afterword gig is the fact that he has played Tor Johnson in a stage production of 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' (...the authors seem to have a somewhat unhealthy obsession/running joke going with the iconic B-Movie legend, as you will no doubt see for yourself when you read it), but that is neither here nor there at the end of the day.

Suffice to say, the Afterword really sends the book off on the proverbial high note, and puts one in the mood for an 80's-nostalgia-fuelled viewing of Zombie Flesh Eaters at the soonest possible convenience, especially given the amount of extremely colourful anecdotes the authors venture about the guy who plays the fat zombie on the boat. I wonder if Robert Englund or Doug Bradshaw have ever tried to solicit a hooker whilst in full costume and makeup?

My only quibbles/complaints about the book would be lack of colour (but that would unquestionably make it a lot more expensive) and the fact that a few of the images show very slight signs of pixelation. That's all I've got, and that's being really nitpicky.

Price-wise, I'd have to say it's about right at £14.99, but who honestly pays retail when Amazon have usually got some sort of deal on? If you can get it for less than the SRP then my advice would be to go for it. It's an easily-accessible book both in terms of layout and approach to the subject at hand, and as such I think it's a great entry-level book for those zombie afficionados who aren't really that bothered about the socio-cultural subtext that they might be missing, but do care about seeing some guy getting his entrails ripped out.

***UPDATE: I have been heeding my own advice on this one. It has subsequently become my go-to 'Bathroom Book'.***

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