Sunday, 10 April 2011

Zombies! by Jovanka Vuckovic

I was recently in Forbidden Planet browsing through their book section when I spotted this new book - ZOMBIES! An Illustrated History of the Undead by Jovanka Vuckovic. I had a quick flick through it and immediately knew this was right up my street and I had to have it. So I bought it, took it back home and read it in a few days.
To quote the blurb on the back of the book "ZOMBIES! An Illustrated History of the Undead is the first book to take a long, putrefying look at the entire zombie phenomenon. From origins in Haitian voodoo zombie folklore and the literature of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, the undead begin to seep through the pulp magazines and silent cinema of the early twentieth century and on to classic 1970s and eighties undead flicks like Lucio Fulci's Zombie and George A. Romero's legendary Dawn of the Dead."
"Written by famed horror expert Jovanka Vuckovic, and featuring an exclusive foreword by Romero himself, ZOMBIES! brings you all this and more, coming right up to date with movies like Zombieland and [Rec], the new wave of zombie novels, The Walking Dead comic book and TV show, and even zombie walks. Despite numerous attempts to assign the rotting corpses permanently to their graves, there is no end in sight to our thirst for the horror and drama the undead provide. ZOMBIES! is a fascinating and visually arresting roam through a still-vital sub-genre"
What attracted me to this hardbacked tome (apart from the fact that it was about zombies!) was the depth of its coverage. The majority of the book's 176 pages is taken up with a comprehensive look at zombies on film. Then follows chapters on zombie novels, computer games, comics, TV shows and even zombie walks, which are growing in popularity. I had a lot of fun mentally ticking off which flims I'd seen and which books and comics I'd read. Jovanka has an easy to read writing style and she clearly knows her subject. Also, she's not afraid to call a bad film a turkey. She appeared as a zombie extra in Zach Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead but does not have a high opinion of the film, much prefering the original. I totally agreed with her. It was also nice to see how up to date her film reviews were. Not only that, but she also mentions numerous zombie films to look out for later this year and in 2012. It is well illustrated, mainly in colour, although obviously not for those films shot in black and white.
So, is this an essential purchase? I guess that all depends on your budget and how big a fan of the whole zombie genre you are. To be honest, I guess most zombie fans who follow my blog will decide this is not worth buying and I can understand why they'd think that. Just think of how many figures you could buy for the price of this book. For me, this was a must-have buy. I learnt an awful lot from this book, even though I already know a great deal about the subject. If the study of zombies ever crops up on a school curriculum this would be an essential text book for Zombies 101. It is a hard-backed book published by Ilex and costs £17.99. I can highly recommend it.

14 comments:

  1. Looks like something I need to read, thanks for that.

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  2. If you do get hold of a copy, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

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  3. Thanks Bryan. Have put this on my 'must have' list!

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  4. Adam, I now officially dub you "a true zombie fan." Welcome to my world, my friend!

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  5. This looks like a good read i think i know someone that has it.

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  6. Biff, it might be worth asking if you can borrow it. Then you can make up your own mind as to how good it is.

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  7. she didn't like Jack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead ??? even after she was a zombie extra....WTF? typical woman... good review Vampifan, well written and some good one liners thrown in hahah.

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  8. Sorry but there is no way the original Dawn of the Dead, while a classic, was better than Snyder's remake. In fact he has done the only decent Zombie material treatment in years other than AMC's Walking Dead.

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  9. I'm sorry The Extraordinarii and Blunt Force, but on this subject I totally agree with Jovanka's review. Here is what she said in full - "In this unnecessary remake, a group of survivors including a nurse, an ex-marine cop, an electronics salesman, a street thug, his pregnant wife, a couple of redneck security guards and a bunch of other underdeveloped characters - hole up in an abandoned Milwaukee shopping mall after a mysterious virus (transmitted via bite) has turned humans into sprinting, psychotic, flesh-eating cannibals. Besides the money-bearing title, that's about all this movie has in common with its namesake. Not surprising that Snyder had never even seen any of the "Dead" films prior to taking on the gig, In the end, the survivors attempt to flee the mainland in search of safety by boat. A note to the producers who tacked on the painfully forced ending, there are no "uninhabitated islands to live on" in Lake Michigan."
    You tell 'em, Jovanka!
    "The film was a surprise hit and still manages to be the subject of ongoing debate among horror fans because of its "running zombies" surely inspired by "28 Days Later." The film also suffers from an overabundance of pointless characters, (including a ridiculous zombie baby); disorienting fast editing, tension-spoiling cameos (from Tom Savini, Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger), a lack of genuinely frightening scenarios, meaningful subtext, or character development, and general disrespect for the source material. While the first ten minutes of the film will surely not disappoint action fans (it captures instant social collapse quite effectively) the remainder of the film has been the target of heavy criticism from genre purists. I myself was a zombie in the film and can't in good conscience recommend it over the original. No self-respecting horror critic would. But casual horror fans and johnny-come-latelies are guaranteed to love it."
    I agree with every word she wrote. Snyder's remake has better special effects, I'll grant you that, but the rest of the film fails in every respect. The original film is what sparked my interest in zombies. The remake would not have had the same effect if I saw it first.

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  10. Hmm ... interesting critique of the remake there ...

    Although I don't love the remake I do quite lilke it and it has a drive that is missing from the original IMO. The original is too long and suffers from the lack of drive and speed that the remake has and I didn't really rate it tbh. Classic of the genre it may well be, but I've watched it once and never quite been able to make myself watch it again. I think that is a key point, actually. I would have to make myself watch the original again, whereas the remake I can easily watch again - well I say 'watch' what I mean is put on in the background while painting figs ...

    Wouldn't it be a boring world if we all thought the same though?

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  11. Meant to add to my last comment - on the subject of remakes, I find that Tom Savini's remake of 'Night of the Living Dead' is unquantifiably superior to Romero's original.

    I'll get my coat ...

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  12. Colin, for me it could be an age thing. I saw the original when it was first released in the cinema way back in 1978 and it had the most profound effect on me. I have watched it countless times since and will happily watch it anytime. I'll watch the remake but not with the same affection as I have for the original. For me, it is the best zombie film ever made, with Romero's "Day of the Dead" running it a very close second.

    I think Jovanka hit the nail on the head with her final sentence. Mind you, I totally agree with you, what a sad and boring world it would be if we all thought the same!

    Oddly enough, I agree with you about Tom Savini's remake of "Night of the Living Dead". I'm still trying to get hold of the original and the remake on DVD.

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  13. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Living-Dead-1990-Make/dp/B0007WQE6U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1302623818&sr=8-1

    Hope that helps!

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  14. Colin, you're my hero! Order placed!

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