(Note: Rip and Read would like to suggest that you play the accompanying You-Tube video while reading this post.)
My relationship with the Zombie Film is changing. I have to admit, I've never been a big fan...until recently. First, there was Shaun of the Dead, which is just a really funny, clever film. Then, the Johnathan Coulton song: RE: YOUR BRAINS- which I hope you are listening too right now as you read this...and last year, I watched the Vincent Price film Last Man on Earth for the first time.
I watched Last Man because I was bored, and it was free on-line, and I was very surprised when I found that images and voices from this film kept coming back to me, haunting me (if you'll pardon the pun). This was not because the plot, which has become pretty damn standard these days- deadly disease creates flesh eating (or blood drinking) monsters- people trapped inside fighting for their lives, etc. Nor was it due to the special effects- which are 1950s low budget awful.
Rather, it had to do with the way the story was told, and, in particular, the melancholy performance of the great Vincent Price in the title role. Price made his lonely, besieged character live, and, through his acting, drew me deep inside of the story.
Now, I've found another new wrinkle on this old story...Nation Undead. The difference this time, however, is that the story is being told by many different artists around the country. And anyone is free to submit a short film to the project. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you are invited to tell a specific chapter of the tale...all submissions are posted on the Nation Undead website, and, at the end of the project, the best submissions will be wrapped together in to the final nine part film...
It's a neat concept...but what's even more fun is watching how different filmmakers handle the story assignments. In each of the two short films I watched ("Sticks" and "Warren, Ohio") I was wrapped up, not in the horror of zombies...but more in the horror of watching people face a reality that is unfaceable... in one episode, a couple of twenty-something drifters deal with reality of a world in which everything stable has become unstuck...in the other, a man desperately tries to get medicine to cure his wife...these are Zombie stories, and yet, they could just as easily be stories about kids dealing with a world of economic upheaval or health care which is beyond reach. The situation is highly fictional, but the characters are very real, and thus fascinating.
I first heard about this project earlier this week from a friend of a friend who was involved. When I wrote back to him about how much I enjoyed viewing these films, and explained that is was the reality of the characters that had me glued to the screen.
He wrote back: "[that's] I am most interested in with the genre...the psychology of the event. The true horror is in survival."
Social Media as film-making....it's really, really neat concept, and I hope you'll Run, not Walk, to Nation Undead - pop some popcorn and enjoy watching a great movie unfold before your very eyes!
If readers are interested in learning more, I suggest a visit to New Hampshire Public Radio, which did a story on this. The link is here.