Thursday, May 15, 2014


Directed by: Gareth Edwards
USA/Japan, 2014
Kaiju/Godzilla, 123 min

Blah, blah, blah, Gareth Edwards. Blah, blah, blah, Monsters, blah, blah, blah, amazing debut movie. Blah, Blah, blah what to do with the legacy of Godzilla. You know all that, so let’s not waste time, and chill. I won't spoil anything for you if you haven't seen it yet.

FINALLY, it hit the screens, the most anticipated monster movie this year, or the last three years if you have been waiting as long as I have. So there we where my blogging buddies Fred from Ex-Ninja and Jocke from Rubbermonsterfetischism (who also reviewed GODZILLA today), fidgeting, worrying, fretting, trying not to focus on the negatives we’d heard before hand, but remind each other of the positives we’d heard too. If you’re a listener to the Podcast that Fred and I run, The Human Centipod, then you know all our backstory with Godzilla, and just what our hopes where for this one and what we where expecting.
Well it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I wanted monster movie mayhem non-stop, instead I got semi interesting drama with monster movie mayhem in it. But, that’s all right, because even though I feel that there was to little Godzilla in the movie, the monster mayhem was absolutely foot stomping, building crushing fantastic and gorgeous in every possible way. It took its time getting there, but boy does it pay off. It’s a genuine goose bump moment when she finally shows herself and a damn mighty scene that will stay with you for a long time. I shit you not, if I'd have had my kids with me at the screening, I would have fucking teared up at sharing the moment with them. At the same time, this is probably on of the most serious Godzilla movies made, on par with stuff like Godzilla Vs Destroyah, because it’s a big bad, dark toned movie without place for goofy standoffs, corky dialogue, and as Joachim would say, "The cheapest, poorest western actors possibly available, to play the Americans".
But despite a cast of really good actors, Bryan Cranston, five minutes of Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson Elizabeth Olsen, the characters where still really paper thin. No real character development, no real character arcs, no attention grabbing multifaceted dimension… but wait… This is a GODZILLA movie, there has never really been any dimension, development, or arcs for that matter, in any Godzilla movies. But still, in the world of Godzilla, character dimension is huge, because it’s all found in the title character, GODZILLA! So where I could waste precious time yapping about the lack of all this I’d rather focus on the real character of the piece, Gojira! 

Straight  up, She’s a beauty in Gareth Edwards GODZILLA. Big, strong, forceful, and as both Jocke and Fred pointed out, her face looks like that of a bear. I don’t think this is by chance, as the plot somewhat focuses on Godzilla being a mystic force of nature, risen from the depths of the ocean, as to quote Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ichiro Serizawa character “Set the balance right!” A strange force attacks nature and mankind, that’s the MUTOs, and Mother Nature sorts things out… or should we say Mother Bear. Because just like a Mother Bear protecting her offspring, that is the exact thing Godzilla does here! She steps out from her hiding and beats the crap out of our antagonists in her genetic programmed “defend the kids” instincts. She’s also where all emotions lay, as Godzilla is the one I root for, Godzilla is the one I feel for, Godzilla is the one I cheer as that last scene closes the movie. Yeah, this one has some really iconic moments to be honest, and it’s a movie that will slot in amongst the top 29 Godzilla movies.

I’d heard it was a slow build and a somewhat tedious first act, but it never really felt neither slow nor tedious. Obviously it was thanks to the plot, not to be confused with characters, because the plot does keep stuff moving forth, and it adds and evolves the Godzilla universe, and it works. Again not the most spectacular plot, but as said, this is a Godzilla movie, no need to complicate it, and we’re only here for one thing, and one thing alone. The plot uses our history to shed light on events; it uses our history to explain the story of Godzilla. And one cannot help but think that certain scenes are taping into our horror of current events like the Fukashima disaster, the tsunamis and earthquakes of the last couple of years, and to some extent 9/11. Perhaps a rhetorical fantasy for something to come save us as we destroy our world

No matter how serious they try to cloak Godzilla, there’s always going to be a Kaiju playfulness to it, and that shines through here too. Even though it is dark and somewhat “bleakish” at times, there are fun moments where Edwards staying true to the “less is more” form that he used on Monsters shows huge destruction scenes, but has them shown as parts of news broadcasts. Framing and visually they come off as the signature wide-angle distant shots that make rubber suit monster model chaos Kaiju. The MUTO monster is grand, and looks nothing like those plastic toys that surfaced online a few months back. These are slick organic ruthless Kaiju beasts that solidly earn their place in the Godzilla universe.
Gareth Edwards has done us good. He’s presented us with a cool Godzilla flick that actually does fit nicely into the universe as created by TOHO. Screw Emmerich and, that which shall not be named, because that’s not a Godzilla movie. It’s a farce, a mockery to all that we Kaiju fans love, a parody on what they though was a Godzilla movie, it’s the Crocs of Kaiju! There, got it out of my system. Edwards has made a movie that delivers on all fronts, it is everything that a Godzilla movie should be. This one is going to be a new starting point, and I can’t wait for the sequel (in my mind it will happen) and just like Fred says, that sequel will be filled with more monsters, more Godzilla, more mayhem! Until then we have Edwards to thank for bringing that darkness back and also bringing a new life to a monster that never dies! Godzilla is KING OF THE MONSTERS and we love her!

Go see GODZILLA at the cinemas now, because this movie needs to be a hit and spawn a multitude of sequels so that we can keep shooting up our Kaiju fixes for a long time to come.

(And please, please, please, despite my complaining that the movie was a tad to long, and took a bit to long to show the monsters, please release a longer bluray so that we get to see the deleted Akira Takarada scenes.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


In 2009 I spent three intense days in the company of H.R. Giger. It was a surreal, scary and fascinating time, and I received an amazing insight into his art. I'm profoundly saddened to hear of his passing and recall that he told me with sorrow that he didn't dream of flying through the worlds where he found his inspiration in the same way that he used to.

I can't really put into words what I feel right now. I had to take some time and process this news as it reached me earlier today. It's still kind of hard to take in.

Giger, a man who's biomechanoid art had scared me senseless as a child, spellbound me as young man, captivated and moved me as an adult, who had a reputation of not liking journalists, reluctant to do interviews and didn't green light my visit until the very last moment. Really, as in talking to his agent just a couple of hours before I was supposed to fly out. Terrified I waited outside the museum in Frankfurt where the exhibit of his work was to be shown, as I tried to calm down and be as professional as I could ahead of meeting him. Going over all worst case scenarios, how to react if he was as the reputation claimed. My phone rang, his assistant told me, "Giger is here, He wants to walk you through the exhibit, NOW!". Forcing my panic attack to crawl back into it's void, I grabbed my stuff and set off to what I expected to be a fear full meeting. Instead, I was greeted with open arms. H.R. Giger was the complete opposite of everything he was supposedly said to be. Instead I found a charming, shy, confident man, mourning the slow loss of the outlandish worlds he once used to dream of. A gentle, kind man, who put up with me and my array of questions for those days, and took me on a trip through these outlandish worlds guided by his own story. We shared stories of art, film, H.P. Lovecraft, ill health, our passion for cats and skulls, and I at one point, I helped him clean his fountain that stood in the back yard of his Zürich house from leaves that had clogged it up. It was a meeting that was unlike any before or since, and I will hold it as a high point of my life forever.

For me it was more a meeting with an artist, more than the creator of Alien. Alien is merely a blimp on a fascinating timeline, a detail in the worlds Giger used to soar through during his nocturnal flights.

I sincerely hope that he now flies in those worlds that he so longed for once again.

My thoughts obviously go out to his wife and close friends in this sad time.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger.

I'll add this LINK here if you want to read more about my time with H.R. Giger.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


One of the strangest, most annoying and perhaps most heated debates amongst genre fans, second only to re-boot-a-go-go, is the one concerning slow or fast zombies! Should they be a fast running death machines, or should they be as the rules originally stated, slow shuffling deadly predators.

If we look at it from a historical point of view, the debate really exploded with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later 2002, where the undead, filled with what in that specific case was referred to as “The Rage” ran like hell making escape almost impossible for the unfortunate bastards trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. They also shrieked terribly loud, but nobody that I've met so far ever wants to talk about moaning versus shrieking zombies. Then Zack Snyder’s remakish Dawn of the Dead, 2004 – fast zombies. 28 Weeks Later  and REC both 2007, sported faster, harder, shrieking zombies. Both movies adding fuel to the debate on fast versus slow. TV show The Walking Dead, mixes them both all depending if they want to kill someone off or not. All through this Romero hit back with Land of the Dead 2005 with zombies walking under water, but still, slowly…  Diary of the Dead 2007 on camera in found footage style, but slowly. Survival of the Dead 2009, that saw the undead feeding of horses… but again, slowly moving around the world.
It looks to be a close shut case, right? The living dead in the way Romero created them take it easy and shuffle along at slow pace. But with the revival of the zombie genre in early 2000, the undead could move with great speeds. But that’s not entirely true. This is merely when genre fans started reacting to fast versus slow, and bickering about it in the way that only genre fans can. It actually started much earlier than that. In the 1985 film Return of the Living Dead, with a screenplay by Dan O’Bannon (who also directed the epic horror comedy), and a story by Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo and Russel StreinerRusso being one of the original writers of the groundbreaking masterpiece of horror cinema, Night of the Living Dead and Streiner and Ricci both starring in it too, it is fair to say that they quite possibly might be the creators of the “fast” zombie. John Russo in more ways than one. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I’ve heard grown men argue loudly their reasons to why the undead shall not, will not and can't run on their dead limbs, and vice versa, why it is possible. I’ve been to seminars where physicians have discussed the possibility if the dead would shuffle or run, I’ve seen pseudo-documentaries that discuss stagger or speed.  I’ve even sat less than an arms length apart from the originator of the modern zombie, Mr. George A. Romero as he sternly told me, "No, Dead Men Don’t Run!" (and no, I didn’t ask him, it was amongst his artillery of answers, because he get’t that question all the time.)

BUT… and there’s always a but, even though the granddaddy of the genre, Romero himself says that the dead are dead and cant’ run, he’s busted his own theory on more than one occasion…
Let’s start at the beginning, with the Romero / Russo connection. Romero and Russo wrote the screenplay to Night of the Living Dead, the original 1968 black and white independent horror flick that stands as the genesis point of the modern zombie.

You only have to get to pages 9-10 of the script to see how the slow zombie already is evolving.

The old man freezes and looks up. The girl raises her club and rushes toward him. He jumps into a half-standing position, like an animal hunched to spring... Barbara stops in her tracks. The man is breathing heavily. She starts to back away. The man holds very still. She backs further... Faster... total fear. The man starts to move slowly... cat-like. He steps over the body.

Barbara drops the club and breaks into a dead run down the path. She screams. The man moves after her, but he is considerably slower that she, with seeming difficulty in moving. He appears almost crippled.

In a flailing run, Barbara reaches the car, sobbing. She yanks open the door. She can hear the man drawing nearer. She scrambles into the front seat and slams the door shut ... No key. The man draws nearer, seeming to move faster, more desperate to reach the girl. Barbara sobs ... she clenches the steering wheel.

At first the “Old Man” moves slowly, cat-like.  He moves slower than she, seeming to have difficulty moving. Then he draws nearer, seeming to move faster! “Seeming to move faster, more desperate to reach the girl.” We can guess that the hunger is what makes the undead man move faster, and we all know what happens next, he smashes the car window forcing Barbara to let the handbrake off and smash into the tree forcing her to leave the possible safety of he confined space.

Page 11 of the script:

She struggles with the door handle; the button pops up ... the man draws nearer ... she breaks from the car. The man keeps coming, desperately trying to move faster ... Barbara runs, off the roadway and onto the turf of the cemetery. She falls ... kicks her shoes off ... gets up and keeps running. The man is still after her.

“Desperately trying to move faster… “ So already here in the earliest source material there’s a hint of fast animation amongst the dead.

Six years later, 1974, John Russo published the novelization of Night of the Living Dead and the same passage reads as follows.

(Page 26) 
  "The attacker looked at her. And she was startled by the sound of his breath – an unearthly rasping sound. He stepped over Johnny’s body and moved towards her in a half-standing position, like an animal hunched to spring."

Same page a few lines later:

  "The attacker was moving closer, faster, more desperate to reach the girl."

(Page 28)
  "She struggled with the door handle – but it wouldn’t budge until she remembered to pull the button up - and as the attacker drew nearer she yanked the door open and bolted from the car.
  She ran.
  The man behind her kept coming, desperately trying to move faster in his shuffling, staggering gait – as Barbara ran as fast as she her legs could carry her up the steep grade of the gravel road."

Now, Russo does indeed point out that this is dead flesh and that it has difficulty moving too. But there are still several suggestions that the undead move faster when approaching food, just like “an animal hunched to spring”, “desperately trying to move faster”. It’s apparent that there is a conscious attempt to move faster with more speed. If they have the strength to smash car windows, tear entrails out of a stomach – where the flesh, fat and muscle are pretty thick, then why shouldn’t they be able to run?

Sure, what is in text in a script can come off in a number of ways on set and in the final movie. Now think back to that scene in the landmark movie. You recall it as a slow swaggering “old man” [Bill Hinzman] that shuffles off after Barbara [Judith O’Dea] after smashing in Johnny’s [Russell Streiner] head in the cemetery don’t you? But take a look at the scene in the clip below.

Now ask yourself if that’s a slow staggering, slow zombie, or a fast, rapid zombie?

Fast forward eight years. After trying his hand at genres outside the horror realm, George A. Romero returns to expand on his world of the undead and bleak future for mankind epos with the sequel to Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead. This is undoubtedly one of the definitive shuffler flicks of all time. There is no running or case of speedy undead here at all… or is there?
Again, let’s start by looking at the script for Dawn of the Dead.

Silence for a moment. Peter still holds his gun high.

Then, with a great crash, the closet door flies open into the room. Two small children burst out. One has no left arm; the other has been bleeding from a great wound in his side. They are dead. They move directly toward Peter. Their heads are at least a foot shorter than the bullet holes in the closet door.

Peter stares down at the creatures, revulsed.  He is so startled that he cannot react quickly enough, and they are on him. The moment he feels their clammy grasp, he regains his survival instincts. He cannot effectively aim his rifle. He kicks and thrashes around. One creature flies against a wall. The other is about to bite the man's arm. The big Black grabs the small Zombie and flings it physically back. The other creature pounces on his back. He throws it over his shoulders and it crashes against its brother.

Now Peter raises his gun. As the children try to scramble to their feet the man fires several shots in rapid succession. First one creature falls; then the other.

“Flies open”, “Burst out”, “Scramble to their feet”, all of these are characteristics of something moving with force, speed and determination. Not really slow, sluggish and shuffling in any way at all.

Take a look in Romero and Susanna Sparrow’s 1978 novelization of the screenplay and the same passage reads:

(Page 82)
   "All of a sudden, a great crash sounded, and even the calm, collected Peter flinched at the noise. The closet door flew open and two small children, a girl and a boy, burst out into the room."

A few lines later …

   "As if by instinct, they ambled towards him.  He was so startled by their actions that he did not react quickly. Before he knew it their clammy grasp was upon him."

Just like in the Night of the Living Dead script and novelization, there’s a suggestion that these specific undead moved faster than the common zombie. Again, it’s the force of which their actions are described, “great crash, “flew open”, “burst out” that all hint at fast force. And if you shuffle at such a pace that you startle a special task force police officer of the scale that the Peter character is, they you must be shuffling at quite a speed.

Let’s take a look at the scene as it takes place in the movie.

What do you say… slow or fast zombies?

Now before you get your pants in a knot, this is in no way an attempt to trash George A. Romero, the universe of his undead, or the rules he indeed did establish there. I hold nothing but outmost love and respect for that man and what he's done for genre cinema. Instead I suggest you look at this as an interesting entry into the ongoing debate if the undead will shuffle or run. As you see, not everything we take a granted and as being stern rules of the genre necessarily apply, even if it is claimed to be so even in source material.

It’s also important to point out that even though Romero still to this day solidly stands by his statement that dead men don’t run, he has pointed out that he may not have had a natural evolvement of the undead in mind whilst writing Night of the Living Dead or even Dawn of the Dead. There is a scene where one of the undead tries to grab Stephen’s [David Emge] rifle away from him, which could be seen as coincidental or as a deliberate act - a call to arms. In Day of the Dead, Bub [Sherman Howard] fires a handgun and salutes a fellow soldier. Land of the Dead has its lead zombie character Big Daddy [Eugene Clark] take to arms and make a deliberate decision to invade the tower of antagonist Kaufman [Dennis Hopper]. Even building a small army of undead along the way. You can find examples of this evolution of the undead in the entire series from Night up to Survival of the Dead. Anything is possible in a universe where the undead are evolving, and who can tell where it will end, because if you can get zombies to feed of horsemeat, then they will need speed to catch their prey. 
Only the future will tell if Romero zombies will stay slow, or if they need to up the pace. But in the meantime let’s just stop debating details and falling out over stuff like fast or slow zombies, and instead just enjoy the movies as they are, in their own universes; because sometimes a zombie movie is just a zombie movie and nothing else.

Stay alive, stay cool, stay one step ahead of the undead!

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Pocket Fiction Edition, 1981
DAWN OF THE DEAD, Dawn Associates, 1978, SPHERE ed. 2012
Script excerpts from

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