I’ve been craving zombie stories lately, maybe because I’ve been working on some zombie fiction of my own. It seems like a genre where the products often are either spectacular or downright awful. Recently I partook of three different stories, a movie, a novel, and a TV show, with mixed results.
A movie called “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead”, I watched on Netflix, completely surprised me, even though it held a solid 4-star rating. The rating caught my attention, since it’s so rare to see a zombie movie that receives such unanimous praise (and I’ve looked). The quality of the movie’s writing, actors, and production value wasn’t the only surprise that made it especially enjoyable. There were a couple of notable twists to the typical zombie lore that invigorated the story and further endeared it to me. What’s more, I normally dislike the attempts to inject humor into zombie movies, the exceptions being Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Wyrmwood’s humor hit home without pushing the envelope and ruining the movie for me, though there were times when I felt there should be a bit more grief expressed at the passing of some characters. As testament to how enamored I was with the movie, I placed it on my viewing queue AFTER I finished it, so I could easily find it to watch again.
I attempted to read the novel “Dead City”, by Joe McKinney, for a second time, and though I read more of it than I had previously, I still couldn’t be tempted to finish it. I really wanted to like it, so I gave it a second chance, something I rarely do. I couldn’t remember what made me stop reading the first time. Sometimes I just find a book that really excites me after starting another, and I thought that might have been the case with Dead City, my first attempt only progressing to the third chapter or so. Unlike the humor in Wyrmwood, Dead City’s seemed strained, like an strategically employed device that consistently fell short. Even though there was an interesting twist to the zombie outbreak, the characters didn’t develop that way I thought they should to justify expending more effort on it. I think I pushed on past the point where some of the minor characters became annoyances, hoping a new plot twist or aspect of character growth would compel me to continue. Unfortunately, I felt only like I wasted too much of my time, hours I could have spent reading something better, or watching Wyrmwood again.
The first episode of Fear the Walking Dead premiered last night, and I intentionally avoided any of the previews and specials leading up to it, to maximize my anticipation and potential for surprises. Since The Walking Dead exceeded my expectations on so many levels, it might not be fair to compare the two. The bar was set exceptionally high. The Walking Dead hooked me from the very first episode, and Fear the Walking Dead failed to duplicate the feeling. The premier started very slowly, but I expect it to pick up in the future episodes. After all, the very premise is to present the descent from normal society into a zombie apocalypse, and the viewers need a benchmark to see how far and how quickly society falls into chaos. A short preview of upcoming events promised to plummet the characters into appropriately horrible circumstances, even as an attempt is made to maintain order that we know will crumble before the onslaught of the ravenous dead. I know it will bring me goosebumps, tears, and excitement in future episodes, but I expected a better opener in light of the excellence displayed by its predecessor.
Overall, my zombie-related distractions over the past few days have been well worth my time. Even Dead City held some enjoyment. Perhaps The Walking Dead has just elevated my standards too much. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.