Friday, October 30, 2009

What I Learned From "ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction"

Well, I thought I was going to have an interview for you today... I sent out a whole bunch of them a couple days ago and I thought I'd get at least one back to share. Nope. But that's cool... because I got an email from the After Dark Film Festival, announcing that they've picked up their fourth film for Horrorfest 4, "ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction". I guess the film would be best described as a political zomedy and it's probably the first entry into that very specific sub-genre. However, at the end of the day, it's a zombie movie. Probably the oldest and most tired horror genre out there, right? Before we judge, let's check out the plot... ZMD is about a conservative island community that's under attack by the living dead and the rag-tag band of rebels, led by Frida, an Iranian college student, suspected of being an Iraqi terrorist, and Tom, a gay businessman who has returned to town with his partner to come out to his mother, that try to turn the tide and push the invading hoards of the undead back. Hmmm... interesting characters. Could make for a good story. Now, I'm intrigued...

You see, when I read the title of the press release, "After Dark Films Eats Up The New Horror Comedy, "ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction", I thought... Man alive, when's the zombie genre going to slow down? Isn't this getting a little old? But, when you watch the trailer and read about the characters, you realize that the movie is fresh. From a political and social perspective, it's extremely fresh. So, really, here's a formula for you: tired genre + fresh story = something new and exciting. Now, I want to juxtapose that with a film that I watched yesterday, which will remain nameless... we'll call it "Film X". The logline and premise for "Film X" were both exciting. It seemed very new, it was a great idea and extremely intriguing. Long and short, I was pumped to check it out. However, a few minutes into the film, I realized that they just wrapped that idea around a very tired and old storyline. The characters were basic cardboard cutouts and I've seen them a million times. So, in this case: fresh genre + tired story = something old and boring.

I don't know why, but I think this is a concept that a lot of filmmakers forget. I don't care how new your core idea is... I don't even care if you've created a new genre. Your characters need to interact, they need to have a story and they can't just be a rehash of something that we've seen before. If it is, your audience is going to lose interest in a hurry. Think about it, why have there been new entries into the zombie genre, year after year, that continue to entertain? The backdrop never changes! The dead come back to life to eat the living... I got news for you, that's not fresh! However, the storylines are. The genre and/or concept will always be the backdrop and the characters and story needs to be equally, if not more intriguing. A lot of films have such great core ideas, but they flop like a dead carp when it comes to the actual plotline and characters. So, please, if you've got a good idea, put as much time and effort into creating interesting characters and plotlines as you put into that backdrop. At the end of the day, the concept is just that - the backdrop. The characters, and how they interact, need to drive the story.

Anyhow, here's the trailer for "ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction". Check it out and see what I mean.


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