Zombies Anonymous

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Angela is having a hard time being a zombie and believes an undead support group may be able to help her accept what she’s become, but not all zombies are looking for acceptance, some are just hungry.

I already know what you’re thinking because of course I do, are there zombie support groups? I would have wondered the same thing if I still had one of them fancy circulatory systems too. Well I guess I still have one, but it might as well be a string of broken Christmas lights for all the good it does me. I think the subject deserves a Zombie Zoo, but the short answer is yes, yes there are undead support groups for zombies having trouble with the change. Personally, I didn’t have any problems, but I was always at terrible at being alive anyways, so becoming a zombie made sense. I know that’s not the case with everyone though, some people enjoyed the life they had and find accepting what they’ve become difficult. That’s why we have the groups, so that every zombie knows they never have to be alone because being alone can be a horrible thing, and when you’re dead, alone feels a lot more threatening, especially with a world that doesn’t think very highly of Zombiekind. We just don’t call ours Zombies Anonymous, but then again, we don’t face the kind of discrimination the living dead in the film do.

No one knows how or why it happened, but one day people stopped dying, their hearts slowing down to one beat per minute should a person face an event that would normally result in death. It’s a day that will most assuredly go down in the history books, it’s also the same day Angela’s abusive scumbag of a boyfriend put a bullet in her head, but thanks to nature changing the rules, Angela wakes up a short time later, no longer alive but not quite dead either. Five months later, Angela is struggling with being among the living dead, and for good reason. As if adjusting to walking death wasn’t bad enough, the world fears the undead, looking down on them with hatred and disgust. Zombies face discrimination in all walks of life due to this fear, employers won’t hire them, landlords evict them, and some of the living have even taken to hunting them down for sport, but Zombiekind is fighting back. Groups of the undead protest what they see as lifeist film’s like Night of the Living Dead and make attempts to educate the public about what it means to be mortally challenged (the preferred term over zombie). Angela doesn’t care about any of that though, she just wants to come to terms with what she’s become, and to that end she’s joined a zombie support group for people like herself. There she soon discovers how fractured Zombiekind truly is. There are three main groups of thought, that a coming race war will force their hand, that they should continue to fight back through protest, and that they should just accept their lot in life. While Angela gets drawn into a debate about how the mortally challenged should fight for their rights, her old boyfriend has joined a zombie hating paramilitary group, one that believes zombies are dangerous to the living and should be stopped before they can grow too large. They might actually have a point as a fourth group of thought has begun drawing more zombies, one led by the enigmatic Good Mother Solstice who believes the undead are humanity’s next step. Worse yet, they’ve discovered that the great pain that comes with being dead can be alleviated through the consumption of human flesh, and the living should be no more than cattle for the living dead, thereby obliterating the civil rights metaphor Zombies Anonymous was going for.

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{I’m sure everyone involved in making Zombies Anonymous had this look at one time or another}

The problem with trying to use zombies as a metaphor is that you have to be very careful how you do it. There are definitely great examples of movies doing a wonderful job using zombies as a stand in for more serious issues, Dawn of the Dead with consumerism, Harold’s Going Stiff with old age/disease, or Return of the Living Dead with sexy graveyard dancing, but it’s all too easy for the message to fall apart if it’s not handled with care, and Zombies Anonymous, also known under the alternate title Last Rites of the Dead, shows how easy it can happen. It’s not that one group of zombies go rouge, that could have been used as a look at how one small group does not necessarily represent an entire people, but it’s stated that the undead are constantly in pain and the only way to end that pain is by consuming human flesh. With that one small bit of story they legitimized their stand in for hate groups, made humanity’s fear completely deserved, and destroyed any hope of real social commentary. Maybe some zombies are strong enough to deal with the pain, and, best case scenario, maybe somebody comes up with a way to help the undead that doesn’t involve murder, but for the time being having to deal with that level of pain and knowing that it will never get better, that every day of your waking life will be torment, a good number of the undead are going to crack once it becomes known that there exists a way to end the pain regardless of where that respite comes from. It won’t take long for it to become common knowledge around the world, and eventually Zombiekind will revolt and begin eating their neighbors because it’s in their physical makeup. This isn’t a group who just wants to live their lives, it’s a group whose health and wellbeing depends on them taking the lives of other people, so the civil rights analogy doesn’t apply here.

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{Exhibit A}

The thing is, there was a lot of room for what Zombies Anonymous was trying to do. The elements of bigotry are all there, up until they figure out that eating people will stop their pain, the undead have done nothing to warrant the living’s hatred, and yet the world looks at zombies with disgust if not outright hatred. Zombies are discriminated against for nothing more than being zombies in the same way scumbag bigots discriminate over skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. All these people want to do is go on with their “lives” as they would have before death, to live without fear of persecution or harassment, and to be accepted as people rather than looked at as things. They even have termination camps where the living dead can turn themselves in for incineration, and though these camps should be places of deep respect and sympathy, places where the sorrow of the living dead is understood and acknowledged, the people running the camps are sadistic bastards who delight in suffering. It could have been a great look at how terrifying it can to be for a minority living in a land looking for any excuse to demonize you without reason, except for the fact that they gave everyone a reason, a very good reason in fact. To make matters worse, the zombies that start eating human flesh aren’t doing it with a sense of regret, they revel in being as cruel if not crueler than the ones hunting them. These zombies aren’t even eating people because of the pain, they’re doing it because they want to, and it seems so disrespectful to equate these murderous psychopaths to those in the real world that had to fight to be treated equal. It was bad enough to give them a physical need to kill, but having them not even care was so much worse. If someone involved in the making of this film just had to have zombies that needed human flesh to stave off their pain, the civil rights comparisons should have been cut because doing it the way they did comes across as insulting, as if the filmmakers are basically saying that bigotry has its place. It’s not just that zombies are ostracized from society, it’s that they specifically draw parallels to the fight for civil rights throughout the film. To be fair, I don’t at all feel anyone was trying to malign an entire movement as much as I think writer Marc Fratto didn’t understand his limitations when it came to writing social commentary.

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{Exhibit B}

There’s two other examples that further my belief that the filmmakers did not understand their limitations, Angela’s ex-boyfriend Josh and the FX work. The clumsy look at bigotry is bad enough, but the attempts to garner sympathy for Josh cemented my thoughts on how misguided Fratto was in his writing and how little he comprehended the subjects he was tackling. It’s implied that Josh’s act of violence in the beginning isn’t the first time the man has terrorized Angela, only that his abusive nature came to a climax that night, a sad reality for far too many women. Josh terrorized and then murdered this woman, but we’re supposed to feel sorry for him somehow. The film spends far too much time trying to make him into a sympathetic character when any chance he had at sympathy ran out within the movie’s opening montage. Now I get extremely heated when it comes to abuse for reasons that are irrelevant to this review, and I understand my reaction might be more emotionally extreme, but you don’t get to terrorize a woman, and if art imitates life this isn’t the first woman he’s terrorized, and then take her life and have my fucking sympathy no matter how many teary gazes you give me, and fuck you for even trying. If you don’t know how to write social commentary, don’t fucking write social commentary and just be more direct with your story.  I don’t even have a working circulatory system and I feel my blood pressure rising, so I’m just going to move on to the next example with the makeup and effects. When they don’t overreach, the effects aren’t bad. The way they make Angela subtly decay as the movie goes on was very well done, so is the look of the average zombie, but every time they go extreme in the makeup department, it looks terrible, like something you’d get from the Halloween aisle during October at your local grocery store. I can appreciate the attempt to add some heavy gore to their movie, but you have to know your limits, and if they had stuck to their limits, there’s every chance you’d be reading an entirely different review right now.

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{Exhibit C}

There’s a lot of missed opportunities here, and had someone either taken the time to fix the glaring problems with their attempt at social commentary or dropped it entirely, Zombies Anonymous could have been a great movie, but as it stands, this is nothing I’d feel right in recommending.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Marc Fratto (Strange Things Happen at Sundown, Hell Fire)

Starring: Gina Ramsden (Strange Things Happen at Sundown), Joshua Nelson (Strange Things Happen at Sundown, Aunt Rose), Kevin T. Collins (Aunt Rose, The Sickness), and Christa McNamee (The Sickness, Goyband)

Written By: Marc Fratto (Strange Things Happen at Sundown, Hell Fire)

Released By: Brain Damage Films and Insane-O-Rama Productions

Release Year: 2006

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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