I want to give you a heads-up before I really get into this: my tale is going to end where most things will this October. I’m tired of it, you’re tired of it. Zombies.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere. To some people, that means a few miles from town. I grew up FIFTEEN miles away from a town that had a population of about 1,200 in North Dakota. (Remember Fargo? Think that, only less wood-chippery, and way shittier.) This was in the mid-80’s and no company was running cable that damn far out of town. That meant in order to watch anything, you had to rely on old school TV reception. And when you loathe PBS, NBC is always 50% static, and you’re just plain sick of CBS, you head to the video store!
Shelves upon shelves of empty VHS cassette cases waiting to be taken to the clerk and exchanged for a hard clear plastic case with about 90 minutes of entertainment inside!! What motherfucking magic. Seriously, I miss it.
When I was about seven years-old, my dear sweet mother was either totally not paying attention to me or had lost her goddamn mind and allowed me to rent Child’s Play. It’s not like this movie had a misleading cover with the Good Guy Chucky doll, all happy and smiling. Negative. The cover of Child’s Play was that plastic nightmare, wielding a bloody knife and ready to attack the next person to rent it. And mom said it was cool. And you know what? It was.
I don’t know how many times over the next year or two I rented that film and its sequels. Not a problem. No pissing the bed. No “mom, can I sleep in here?” No psychotic impersonations at school. (I could have done it. I was a pretty short kid.) Up until that point in my life, my experience with horror extended to vague memories of Ghoulies, Tremors, and running-for-my-fucking-life the second Large Marge showed up in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
The years following my friendship with Chucky were sort of a black period for horror movies and I. Mom and dad got way religious, and I was pretty much forbidden from watching them. Unless it was a horror-themed kids movie I ended up watching in school, I didn’t see any horror movies until I was about 15. I think Carrie and I would have gotten along well, overbearing religious parents and all. Well, I wasn’t abused. And I didn’t have super powers. Plus I’ve never had a period. And I don’t freak when someone douses me in pigs blood. That’s usually followed by a resounding “FUCK YEAH” and high fives all around. Jesus… What?
When I was 15 I got a job and a friend, my folks let off the reins a little. What a great time — like, HOLY SHIT what a great time. It was 1998, and Halloween H20 was a great introduction to the franchise for me. I STILL love The Faculty. I got to see how my old buddy Chucky was doing in Bride of Chucky. The list goes on. And every movie I watched led to another great movie.
Still, the thing that seemed to affect my life the most was a movie I hadn’t even seen yet. Before I continue, I need to explain something that very much played into why this movie affected me. At 15 years old, you feel alone enough as it is. I was 15 in NORTH DA-FUCKING-KOTA, living outside of town, with few friends as it was. On the weekends, I worked at the local radio station as a DJ. Let me tell you, it’s lonely there. The isolation, the small quarters, the long dark winters, and a teenager’s wandering mind with a love of horror had me running over the concept of Night of the Living Dead over and over and over again.
The dead walking. Eating other people. All the possibilities — in large cities, breaking into your home, in schools, government buildings, wandering through the desert or snow. Crazy cool images flashing through my mind, the stories one could write. The movies one could make! It was scary, but not if you kept a cool head. It was dangerous, but not if you were smart. Zombies!
When I finally was able to find and purchase the quintessential zombie films, they did not disappoint. It was easy to see why the original Night of the Living Dead birthed a whole genre within horror. It went right to the point, it was scary, and when the credits roll, you get to thinking one hundred questions about the movie and the whole situation. People love to point out consumerism and all that deep shit in Dawn of the Dead, sure. But how fun would that be? Clearing out a mall with your automatic weapons with your best new bud? Day of the Dead started asking and answering more of the zombie function and behavior questions with Bub and kept the sense of isolation, claustrophobia and impending doom as its predecessors.
The Return of the Living Dead franchise was never meant to be taken seriously, so I don’t take it seriously. I just stare, wide-eyed, at how fast those fuckers are and think about how doomed I would be if one, or worse, twenty set their sights on me. Then there were the shitty Italian rip-offs that are so bad you can’t help but love them.
I had made a few friends and was introduced to a great number of horror movies by those sick bastards who had the benefit of watching them from the ages of 8 to 15. “Watch Hellraiser. It’s bad ass.” “You haven’t seen Sometimes They Come Back? Borrow mine.” And though we loved everything from Pet Semetary to Re-Animator all the way to Jacob’s Ladder, zombies always came first.
Over the course of hanging out with these guys, there was that inevitable question: Dude, what would you do if there was a zombie attack?
I want to be clear on a couple of points here:
1. I don’t want to be grouped in with all the guys who take it a little too seriously. You know the type. I’m leaving it at that.
2. My plan is better that your plan will ever be and I’m not telling. Neener neener neener.
And though I don’t take it seriously, that thought remains. Almost all the time. What would I do? If a zombie walked in the building RIGHT NOW? Is there anything I need here? Is there anything that would be of great use? Do you kill the zombie right away and then run or stay? OR do you secure the building before killing the zombie so you don’t let 3 more in while killing the first one? Regardless of the first zombie, would it matter if you’re going to even stay there? Where will you go? Who will you take? What about food, water, weapons? How long will this last?
Some people have told me that even if it’s not zombies, it’s good to be prepared for things. I have a few tools at my disposal, such as a totally badass hammer and one of those emergency light/radio combos with the hand crank for power, that I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t think this over too much. I’m good and stocked up on medicine. My car is always parked so that I can always make a quick getaway. Yes, being prepared for not-zombies is great. I just wish I could turn it off.