Fast or Slow?

August 14, 2009

It’s time to address a topic that is tearing us apart. Two separate and opposed camps have emerged from this, each convinced that their side is right. No, I’m not talking about health care, Iraq, or even Supreme Court justices. No, I’m talking about the national debate on our movie zombies*: fast or slow?

For many of us, the zed word conjures up images of slow, moaning, shambling grease-painted ghouls that are, as Johnny aptly pointed out, “Coming to get you, Barbara.

But nowadays, we’re subjected to a slew of films with the new “track star” zed-word (TSZ for short). You know the ones. 28 Days Later (Which, technically isn’t a zed-word film, since the monsters are not actually dead, just infected humans, but it’s a cool film and I happily group it in with the other Zed-word films), 28 Weeks Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake (don’t get me started on Zack Snyder!), and a whole bunch of really bad straight-to-DVD flicks all have the fast zed-word. Each has a scene where the Protagonist comes around the corner, the TSZ’s spot him, stretch their quads, and then take off like Olympic sprinters goosed up on ‘roids. These stampede sequences can best be described as Dante’s view of the Boston marathon. Really? Is this supposed to be scary? Dying ‘cause you’re not fast? If you want to make a movie where your characters get killed in a stampede, make a monster-bull movie, not a zed-word movie. (Coming soon from Toxic Bag Productions – Stampede: “Here’s the beef”)

What in the name of George A. Romero is going on?

I fail to see where the fast zed-word is scarier than the slow variety. In fact, I’ll argue the other way: the slow zed-word is infinitely scarier than the fast. In the 1990 remake of Night the un-catatonic Barbara begs Ben to leave the house with her, stating “They’re so slow. We could just walk right past ’em and we wouldn’t even have to run. We could just walk right past ’em.” Yes, they’re slow. Yes, they’re uncoordinated. Yes, they’re the supernatural version of the Keystone cops. But isn’t that the whole point? They are all of those things…and they’re still going to eat you. From a distance, they are unthreatening and comical. But once they get close, and grab hold, most of the humor goes away as you become the lunch special.

Oh, and don’t try and bring up 1985’s Return of the Living Dead. Yes, I’m familiar. Yes, I’m aware that it had fast zed-words. In fact, not only did that film have fast zed-words, it had fast, talking, funny zed-words. See, director Dan O’Bannon took all of the Zed-word standards and turned them on their ear. First, it was a comedy. Second, the zed-words aren’t destroyed if you hit the brain, third, they can talk, and fourth, they’re not slow, but slippery fast. All of those elements combined with a tight script and a game cast made a truly underappreciated zed-word film, and one of my faves of the genre. And the kick-ass soundtrack? Bonus.

Then again, what do I know?

* Saying the Zed word is prohibited because it’s ridiculous.

No, I’m not talking about Hollywood casting. Interestingly though, the studio originally wanted the Schwartz to play the Reese character in the 1984 James Cameron film. One can only shudder at the thought of him droning “I came ahcrozz time fohr uuuu, Saraah.” during the love scene with Linda Hamilton. But no, I’m talking about the look of the Cyberdyne Systems model 101 Termination machine.

Did you ever wonder about stuff like this? Well, I do. Now you know what I think about when I’m stuck in my apartment and the cable is out.

Anyway, about the Terminator. Somehow the SKYNET computer system had to find a blueprint for the fleshy exterior for that particular machine. A body image, or style or whatever. And since we know from the T2 commentary that all of the 101’s look like Arnie, the machines have to have his body type on file somewhere. But where did they get it?

The answer? Straight from the Predator film. Go with me on this one. Remember Predator? In that one Arnie played a character named Dutch who was a Major in the U.S. Special Forces. He and his team go into the jungles of Central America and get sliced and diced by the stealth tech armed title character. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen that has two U.S. Governors in the cast. The film also included such memorable lines as “If it bleeds, we can kill it” and my personal fave – “GET TO THE CHOPPER!”

So this Major Dutch is a government employee, right? That means that the Pentagon has his records on file. So, when SKYNET was ‘hooked into everything,’ as Reese put it, it instantly had access to all Pentagon files. SKYNET found Dutch’s medical records, and determined that his body style would be able to support the 800 model endoskeleton and Bingo! An automated factory begins a production run of the 101 model.

When you add in the facts that the late Stan Winston did the effects for both films and Jim Cameron helped in the concept of the Predator, there is plenty of connective tissue between the two films.

Course that’s just what I think…what do I know?

Blood Clots:

• Ridley Scott has signed on to do an Alien prequel. – Really? I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, given the state of the last few Alien sequels…

• Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is set to come out on August 28th. – (Sigh) The plot of this film is “try to find the plot of the first film”…All I can say is “GET TO THE CHOPPER!”

Blood