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Appropriate reading for the Halloween season, and a ‘TEEM’ effort

by Mark Burger

Having already given horror fans a treat with JA Kerswell’s The Slasher Movie Book earlier this year (and duly covered in this column), Chicago Review Press has followed with something most appropriate for the Halloween season and lovers of the living dead: The second edition of Glenn Kay’s Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide (432 pages, $24.95 retail).

Needless to say, zombie fans will eat it up — and there are plenty of them out there.

Expanded and revised from its original 2008 edition, the self-explanatory Zombie Movies explores and examines one of the horror genre’s most successful offshoots, particularly in recent years. Zombies are bigger than ever in the 21st century — to say nothing of nastier, uglier and, worst of all, hungrier. They’re also big business.

Beginning with the 1932 Bela Lugosi chiller White Zombie, which essentially introduced audiences to the living dead, Kay’s breezily written book cruises through hundreds of subsequent films (good, bad, and some very ugly) that depict the zombie phenomenon.

Although filmmaker George A. Romero (hey, I’ve met him!) hit paydirt with Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and again with Dawn of the Dead (1979) and Day of the Dead (1985), it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the sub-genre exploded and expanded. I like zombie movies just fine — the good ones, the bad ones and, indeed, some ugly ones — but even I’m surprised by how popular they’ve become in mainstream media, culminating inthe AMC TV show “The Walking Dead.” Even Romero has returned to making them (Land of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, etc.). The undead live!

It’s gotten to the point where low-budget zombie movies have supplanted slasher movies in terms of home-video popularity and profligacy, hence the expansion of the book only four years after the first edition was published.

Augmented by poster art and photos (some quite grisly, which is only fitting), Kay offers his assessments with good humor and extensive knowledge. Some may quibble over which films he prefers over others, including his personal selection of the 25 greatest zombie movies ever, but that’s par for the course in a volume such as this. He’s not too kind to the Friday the 13th franchise — hockey-masked fiend Jason Voorhees surely qualifies as a zombie given how many times (and in how many ways) he’s been resurrected over the years — but his criticism is hardly unjustified.

The book features a foreward by independent filmmaker Alejandro Brugues, who made Juan of the Dead — the very first zombie movie to be filmed entirely in Cuba — and includes exclusive interviews with various filmmakers (Tom Savini, Colin Geddes, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, Bruce McDonald and others) who have lived among the dead, so to speak — and lived to talk about it!

Next year could be a banner year for zombies and zombie movies with the release of World War Z, based on the best-selling novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland), the film stars Brad Pitt as a globe-trotting United Nations official trying to desperately to solve — and survive — a worldwide outbreak of the living dead.

The film, budgeted well in excess of $100 million, has been the subject of considerable controversy since production began in 2011, amid ongoing reports of rewrites and reshoots. The film is currently scheduled for release next June… once they get more reshoots out of the way, that is.

Whether World War Z proves fair or foul is anybody’s guess, but Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide is a good read for devotees of the living dead.

The official Chicago Review Press website is: chicagoreviewpress.com.

With the Presidential election imminent, once again the environmental issue of has come to the fore, although perhaps not as much as in previous elections. Nevertheless, it remains a major concern. After all, this is the only planet we’ve got. There are no second chances.

In that spirit, the Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement (TEEM) will host a special presentation this Thursday at Temple Emanuel (201 Oakwood Drive, Winston-Salem). There will be a screening of the environmental documentary Energy — Now and in the Future followed by a seminar featuring guest speakers Allison Reeves Jolley, Wendell Hardin and Bill Rossomano, who will discuss ways in which people can improve energy efficiency and do their part for environmental conservation, even on an individual level.

The screening is scheduled to start at 7 pm. Admission is free (although donations are gratefully accepted), and refreshments will be served. For more information about this event, call 201.638.1640 or e-mail cynthia.silber@gmail.com.

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