Tag Archive: zombies


Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What makes a good movie? What makes a bad movie?

How is it that some movies hit all the right notes with a thinner than fresh ice plot line while others with an interesting plot line fail to connect?

Personally, I think it is all about knowing who your audience is and who they could be.

Recently I picked up a movie that looked interesting. It was about how tainted chicken nuggets turned a summer school group of kids into zombies.

Cooties_poster (1)In my head this should be a slam dunk in the horror/comedy genre. There is so much you should be able to mine in this territory to be funny.

But from the start, Cooties hit wrong notes. We start with new substitute Elijah Wood asking his mom how she liked his book when she comes to get him up for his first day at a real job. After her positive affirmations, she pulls out every criticism. This was uncomfortable.

Then he gets to school, makes enemies of various teachers by talking abut this is only a way to make money while he works on his book. One of the teachers turns out to be a former classmate. Potential romance, right? NO! Her boyfriend is the very masculine gym teacher.

We also get very unpleasant sequences with Nasim Pedrad, who used to be great on Saturday Night Live. Here she is a tightly wound teacher constantly talking about what the State of Illinois will not let her do.

After that is when the zombie behavior in the kids starts popping out. Let me just say after a slow start, it goes right into gruesome as a sanctimonious character gets torn apart on the blacktop play ground. And that’s where I stopped watching. If you are going to have gruesome in a comedy/horror movie you need it make it funny. And there has to be at least one likable character that you root for to make it to the end.

I didn’t have that with this movie. But I will tell you one zombie movie that made me laugh and be disgusted at the same time. That was Shaun of the Dead. This movie starred Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as two guys somewhere in England fighting off a zombie horde while trying to save Pegg’s former girlfriend and her friends.

Shaun of the DeadWhy does this movie work? First, we actually like Shaun. He might be a bit of a loser but he actually wants to protect his loved ones. Two, the jokes feel realistic and not taken too far. They are not stiff or uncomfortable. Lastly, the gruesome parts are not that gruesome and they wait until far enough into the movie to be an expected thing.

I actually watched this movie all the way through and not just because I had to. I really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead. Cooties, on the other hand, can go back where it came from. My son later watched the movie all the way through and he stated it started to get good around the two third’s way mark into the movie. It’s doesn’t matter how good Rainn Wilson’s performance is by that point, that is when you hang it up.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


Zombie Love and Hate

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Zombie movies have been the bane of my existence. They terrify me and come back to haunt me in my dreams.

And I love them. There is something about them that exhilarates me. I think about how close you are too death and how close you are to life as a zombie.

Yes, I realize this is horrible and strange and fun all at once.

The problem is I can never watch a zombie movie ever again once I have seen it.

The reason has nothing to do with them being bad but being so good I will find myself in a zombie apocalypse for the rest of the night.

Shaun of the Dead

But if I could watch them, the first movie I would go to is Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This British comedy duo put together a good zombie movie that happens to parody the genre while scaring one to bits. I can’t say what I started to write because this is a family-read paper.



The story is about a man who is a bit of a sad sack who wakes up one morning to discover that the Zombie apocalypse is happening in his town, in all of his favorite places. His first thought is to save his ex-girlfriend because this turmoil has made him realize that he loves her and wants forever with her.

There are bits that will make you laugh, make you cry, and in the end, make you shake your head just a bit while being terrified because these zombies eat brains and whatever parts of the body they can get their hands on. This movie, despite being a comedy, is not for kids. It has an R rating which means there is lots of blood and gore as well as swearing. The Brits love the f-bomb.

28 Days laterA more realistic zombie movie is 28 Days Later. This movie is about a zombie apocalypse in England. It is 28 days since the outbreak of a virus that makes people incredibly angry. Angry enough to tear family members apart. There is no reasoning with these zombies, only a bullet can stop them. Cillian Murphy wakes from a coma to discover this new world. He eventually meets up with other survivors to find a safe place,

But there may be no safe place. That’s the killing part of this movie by Danny Boyle. It is not easy to watch, not easy to think about but this movie filled with great performances by some of the lions of British film stars. Again, it is rated “R.”

Warm bodies


But if you want a zombie movie that is a little easier to handle, the first is Warm Bodies starring Nicholas Hoult as a dead young man willing to kill other humans to be his dinner every night. That is until he sees Teresa Palmer being a hot-shot zombie killer. Something inside of him changes and he slowly becomes more human. Played like a romantic comedy with the what-if scenario of zombies being re-born, it is interesting to say the least.


scooby doo zombie IslandThe other is my go-to for kids and that is Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. Here Scooby-Doo and the gang are investigating a haunted island in the middle of the Bayou for a TV segment for Daphne’s Haunted America TV show. But our meddling kids get more than they bargained for as they realized that they are dealing with real monsters, instead of a guy in a suit. It is fun lite scare that will put only the smallest of viewers down nightmare hallway.

That is my favorite place to avoid at all costs.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Scare Tactics

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What was one of the first movies of the modern era that scared you to death.

For me it was Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romano who died in his sleep sometime early last Sunday morning surrounded by his second wife and daughter.

I remember watching it on TV as the brother tells his sister that ‘they’ are coming to get her while they are in a cemetery to visit the grave of their father. Soon we learn that the strange people are not living and they like to eat human flesh. Barbara makes it to a farm house where other living people, including a black man named Ben, have taken shelter.

night of the_Living Dead_Each tries to come up with a plan to escape and find a safe place although that may not be possible according to news reports.

As the film goes on, we discover what is happening although not why it is happening. And no one in that house is going to make it out alive.

This was George Romero’s first feature-length film and it remade all of the rules known at that time for the horror genre.

There would be no survivors, the monsters were zombies who ate human flesh. There was no reasoning as to how the dead became re-animated. The lead actor was a black man at a time in our country when there was tremendous upheaval for blacks to have equal civil rights. There was no battle for good and evil, these creature just were.

It was terrifying because a scratch or a bite could mean that you were about to become a zombie. The only way to kill them was a shot in the head and cremation. And our friends in the house did not always act in a valiant manner.

Romero shot this movie on a tight budget in a house that was about to be demolished near the city of Pittsburgh. Back then the cemetery was quite deserted but since has become a popular tourist stop for fans of the movie.

Secondly, in casting Duane Jones for the leading role, Romero changed how the movie might be perceived in context to the discrimination of the time. It didn’t matter because audiences loved this and his other movies in the dead series.

George Romero-Romero didn’t make money off of this movie because of his poor business acumen but he kept making movies, kept getting better, and inspired future film-makers. He eventually did make money off of his movies. The producers of the Walking Dead set their rules of Zombies after his movies.

Romero created that without digging deep into the sociological explanations of the movies. Some claim that the first movie released in 1968 was about the civil unrest facing America in those days. Some could claim it was about the toxins we poisoned our soil and water as they were carelessly dumped.

But George Romero made no such claims. What he did was put out good horror films that scared and scarred some of us for life. He created a body of work that dared people to think differently. That is an accomplishment.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night


by Karyn Bowman


Recently at a job interview, I learned an interesting tidbit of information.


At stores that sell DVDs and BluRAY, it is horror movies that are flying off the shelves. And then the interviewer told me that horror movies sell in greater volume in rural areas than in urban areas.


Image from Fishmuffinsofdoom.blogspot.com

Image from Fishmuffinsofdoom.blogspot.com

I thought about that when I was picking out a movie the other week for our movie night at home. The racks were filled with horror movies. Even a lot of the family movies had a horror element to them. ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie. Each one of these movies involve ghosts, zombies, vampires or some other element that we might expect from some old campy horror movie from the 30s or 40s.


It makes me wonder what are we so afraid that we have to explore it in our entertainment. I understand why zombie movies might be so popular. With the sluggish economy, people with jobs are being asked to do the work of three people and are so tired they might wish they were dead. Or people are afraid that they will become shells of the people they once were.


While that might be a mid-life crisis issue, I can see how people would think that. They wonder what happened to their passion for life, their joy in the everyday when it has been beaten down by the routine of daily life of going to work and coming home to deal with the family only to do it again the next day.


How can one find a passion for life when they are eating the same fried eggs (over easy) with the same raisin toast and the same green tea that they have had for breakfast for the last 20 years. Where is the joy when you are yelling at the kids or the husband for the clothes that hit the bathroom floor but not the hamper less than a foot away for umpteen years?


We need to see how to fight against it, how to rage against the dying of the light. No matter what our age, people want to see how a person fights against demons and other evil entities in order to survive. We want that secret.


Or maybe people just like watching gory movies and getting scared silly. I like my explanation better but I am sure some one out there reading this is saying “that chick thinks too much.”


Now this weekend, we did watch ParaNorman.


Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

The story is about an 11-year-old boy who sees ghosts everywhere. Even his grandmother visits with him because she promised to always watch over him. He is seen as weird and different, including by his own family although his mother tries to make life easier for her son.


Unfortunately, the anniversary of the witch approaches. The undead bodies of the seven men who tried and sentenced the witch will roam the town until the sun rises. To make things more tense, it has been left to Norman to settle the witch and help her find peace for one more year.


It is a family movie with some PG swearing that is dark and brooding. Norman is relentlessly bullied and tries to keep a low profile in order to be a part of the scene and not the center. When another bullied kid tries to befriend him, he brushes off the other kid, choosing to remain alone to protect himself.


I find it is a movie about regrets, of a past that needs to be fixed to solve the present.


The kids like it and I found it interesting to watch. I might watch it again just to see the little bits of good stop-action animation that I missed. Are there greater lessons to be taken away from this movie for the kids? Well, yes there are. But I will leave that to you to ponder.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Should the Kids Watch That?

Image by Mark Miller

It’s Halloween, It’s Halloween.

The Shaggs singing \”It\’s Halloween.\”

Or close enough.

Slowly, it is getting darker earlier than a month or two before. The winds are blowing more and it is getting chilly at night and during the day.

But what I am thinking about are scary movies that are appropriate for various age groups. I have many age groups in my house along with some people who want full-bore scares and others who would rather watch mild scares (me).

I am a ‘fraidy cat which makes me more understanding towards others who might be afflicted in the same manner. If you get nightmares easily, well, I understand completely.

Poster image from IMDb.com

There are some movies that I love but can never watch again because they give me nightmares. Hands down, the best scary movie ever is Psycho. Hitchcock directed a masterpiece I can never watch again. Another movie I can no longer watch is 28 Days Later by director Danny Boyle along with the wonderful zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead, because I will get nightmares. Had them already, do not want a repeat performance.

Of the zombie movies, these two might be the best only after the great Night of the Living Dead from the sixties. Each one has a different back story for the zombies coming into being and each has its own horrors and funny points. All lie somewhere on the edge of reality and that is what makes them scary.

I would not allow my younger children to watch these movies because that would lead us to nightmare alley.

Next on my list are many horror movie series. Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Scream, Saw, The Hostel. (By the way, for the most part the first movie in these series is the best one.) Those are not on my list for viewing with the kids, even the older ones. I realize my teens can – and will – watch these movies. They will do so without me or my ten-year-old or my six-year-old.

At some point, you have to understand that younger kids cannot handle these scary situations, bloody gory scenes or the abduct-and-torture storylines. They cannot distinguish between fact and fiction quite yet which is why the younger members of the family are not allowed to watch the above mentioned films in my home.

Image from IMDb.com

What I allow the kids to watch are movies that might show up on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel or Nickelodean. For them, something scary might be a show that has fantastical elements – such as Halloweentown – which are so out there that the scary parts are not so scary.

That is the reason why I love the animated Scooby Doo movies for kids as well. Even the ones with a ‘real’ ghost resolves itself easily enough that the scares are not so scary. This is true for the first three Harry Potter movies as well although these fit more into the action/adventure genre.

I know that some people will disagree with me and say I am baby-ing my kids. I know that some of you have different rules and would never allow their kids to watch some of what I would.

You are certainly welcomed to drop a note below to let me know how we differ. What are your movies of choice for Halloween?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Zombie Love

Family Movie Night

Oh, it is the season for scares. I am noticing more and more Halloween decorations up on houses around the area. Ghosts and pumpkins are hanging from trees. Purple lights are going around windows and doors.

My favorite decoration is a witch who had crashed into the ground and was buried. Haven’t seen that one at night yet but I plan to do so soon.

Last week, I talked about classic scary movies. This week I want to talk about one of the more popular subsets – zombie movies.

I believe that unlike other monsters, zombies seem closest to being like us. Usually the cause of zombiehood is poison, pollution or a virus. One wrong move and you or I could be a zombie. While zombie movies have been made


Picture from IMDb.com


since movies have started, the one that sticks out the most is Night of the Living Dead (1968) directed by George Romero. Set in a graveyard, corpses start rising from graves and they are hungry. We are with a small group of strangers for the entire night as they try various methods of escape.

It is a classic flick that sets up every zombie movie to come. The zombies are created by toxic pollution and they enjoy eating human flesh. Romero would make two more movies in the series, taking until 1985 to complete the last one. The movie would then be remade in 1990 and again in 2006 as a 3D version.


Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil, picture from IMDb.com.


Meanwhile, video games would be developed in which the player is constantly battling against zombies. Resident Evil appears to be the most popular of these games because it became a four-movie series. Mila Jovovich stars as Alice, an amnesia victim who becomes a stunning fighter in a red dress. Fans love the series but as I have not seen it, I cannot really comment.

What I can comment on is 28 Days Later (2002) directed by Danny Boyle. Set in England, the movie focuses on a virus that turns people into anger machines who cannot


Brenden Gleeson, Cillian Murphy and Noamie Harris in 28 Days Later, picture from IMDb.com.


do anything but kill. It stars Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris as survivors who are trying to find others and a safe haven.

The story is well told and the action is constant. There are several stories going here that are terrifying and exhilarating. I believe I had nightmares for a week after this movie but Danny Boyle really knows how to make a movie that makes you think about more than zombies chasing you.


Simon Pegg in Sahun of the Dead, picture from IMDb.com


The last two I want to mention are Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). The former stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as best friends who are trying to save their friends and family from the zombies that have suddenly infiltrated their British town. The movie is serious and humerous in parts. Bill Nighy gives an honest performance as Pegg’s step-father. And yes, this movie gave me nightmares despite the fact I love it. Can’t ever watch it again.


Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, picture from IMDb.com


The same goes for Zombieland starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. People travel around the U.S. trying to find survivors after zombies take over. The opening scene in which Cera details his rules for living in a zombie world is hilarious. The rest of the movie can be poignant and frightening. But it is also filled details that are wonderful to watch. I barely got through it with my oldest son and his girlfriend. This is a great movie.

Next week, I’ll talk about monster movies. Let me know your favorite one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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