Episode 290: Say My Name

Zombie Cliche Lookout: But First

When you tell a story – even an awesome zombie story – there are certain elements you need to establish at some point. Little things like characters names, where everyone is, and what sort of state they’re in need to be established to give the audience some grounding. And sometimes, you have to re-establish these things, like when new characters are added or after a major set piece. You can just dump all that information at the beginning to get through it as quickly as possible, or slowly sprinkle it in while you address other elements.

About this Episode:

Okay, that’s the last of the character introductions. Always boring stuff, which is why I tried to spread it out within some more interesting discussion.

As you can tell, I went with Brent on this one. I just thought it was really fitting with the character, and a normal enough name that it wouldn’t sound or look out of place.

Discussion Question: Hey! That’s Not Scary!

Recently in the comments, AC noted how he had recently watched a black and white zombie flick, but just couldn’t get into it due to the shoddy special effects. This got me thinking about how there are different fear triggers for different people, and there are also different things that can take us right out of the movie when we see them. Once we’ve lost that connection, it’s just not scary anymore.

So what does it for you? Bad effects? Terrible line delivery? Characters acting unbelievably stupidly?

For me, I’d probably say that it’s the over-dependence on tricky scare tactics in modern horror films. Instead of actually building up tension, we just get a bunch of sudden loud noises and jump cuts. Trick me into jumping at a cat one to many times, and I’m done trying to pretend this is a scary movie. I’m looking at you, The Grudge.

54 Comments

BrickVoid

If the cat sees Dave jumping at him, he must wonder what Dave is doing while not watching movies! 😀

BrickVoid

How about the cat next door, or the stray who wandered past your window? 😀

Greg

1 point for Dave! Is it politically correct to say that I don’t like cats?

Darg

There are several things that kill horror movie immersion for me; one is excessive, unnecessary gore. I know that dying and murder are often messy affairs, but there’s a limit to that, too.
Two is complete and blatant disregard for the laws of physics. Firing a .50-cal machine gun from a shopping cart would not happen in reality, but they totally did it in 2012: Zombie Apocalypse.
Three is characters or monsters doing things that make absolutely no sense. In Diary of the Dead; there’s one part where the group is going through a hospital, and the cameraman is behind everyone else when a zed shambles past him to attack the next guy in line. Why didn’t the zed for for the cameraman – it was literally two feet from him? It’s not like the zed was like, “Oh, hey, he’s recording, better leave him alone.” The cameraman was meat just as much as anyone else in the group, and since the cameraman was in the back, he should have been attacked first.
Four is the same as Dave’s; cheap scare tactics, “screamers” in particular. When done right, with the correct amount of buildup, having something jump at the camera screaming is incredible effective, like in Quarantine when the camera is panning around the attic area with the night vision on. They dragged that part out just enough to get the audience to relax and think, “Guess there’s nothing there,” then BAM! Zombie! The scare-cat, though, has been done to death. The only time that works anymore is if the cat is one of the monsters and they’re trying to either catch or avoid it. Pet Semetary did that pretty well, and the rats in Quarantine 2: Terminal were used pretty effectively that way too. Most of the time, though, the “screamer” jump scare is just a tired, trite and overused trope that usually has the exact opposite effect.

angelina

Darg – that is my list!! I hate when they use to gore to scare you. We know too much about special affects now for that to do it.

I’m good for suspending disbelief for most anything but, yeah, give me credit for having a brain. I hate when characters are able to perform obviously impossible feats of heroism – jump over the whole horde or running full on for the entire movie.

Also, I hate the character that disappears early and shows up just in time to save the day.

I think it’s safe to say that clichés are my pet peeve. lol

Calicade

To be honest, because of the over dependence on jump scares and loud noises, the only thing I’m scared by are video games. Movies are a lost cause when it comes to fear unless they start to go old school on it. For some reason black and white helps build a bit of a scare-tactic, as does looming danger. I’d rather have something lurk around for a while just knowing its out there. Then boom! It’s around the corner, suddenly infront of you in the open (and no not like in the car driving scenes, I hate those too!), or just creepily staring at you from a hard to perceive location.

I think fear has taken a turn for the worst, and people have lost their sense of curiosity when it comes to it. I’m always curious when playing a game ARE they around the corner? Or are they behind me? Just as I open this door? I never know, so I check.. For some god awful reason I always check.

Dave

Two things here:
1. I too think older movies are much more scary, and they’re scary in different ways. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for instance, is scary as hell just because of how unsettling it is.

2. What video games do you consider scary?

Calicade

Day Z, Project Zomboid, STALKER, Arma 2 (not meant to be scary, but there’s something about being shot at from a point where you can’t tell that is scary.), and the infamous game Slenderman.

I’m sure there are more games that I find scary but haven’t been able to play yet. One to note is Amnesia where you’re completely defenseless, insanity slowly sets in when you’re in the dark, as well it’s Cthulhu based. Although I typically act like I worship Cthulhu as a joke.. It’s still scary as hell to be attacked by those faceless human corpses. Mind you I only watched a play through of it, and I still got scared.

l3m0nm4n

Have to agree with you on DayZ, haven’t played zomboid or stalker yet, and I find ArmA 2 more exilerating than frightening, but hey, I have been playing shooters most of my life so I am used to being shot at (in video games).

Dave

I was looking at DayZ and it looked pretty awesome.

Those sort of games are never scary to me though. Something about it just doesn’t work for me.

Calicade

That’s the word for it! Exilerating.. I couldn’t think of anything but either adrenaline or fear.. And getting a kick of adrenaline from a game is rather odd sounding.

I find Day Z scary because of the constant threat of death. You look for hours or even days for good gear, and then suddenly some one shoot you one better between the eyes. Or a stray zombie comes out of no where and forces you to fire a shot THEN BOOM! Whole town is coming down on you harder than a tornado, and avoiding it is all a matter of how good you are; or possibly luck.

Though there is something about it when you play with a group of friends.. When you’re all rolling up a hill, or when your doing kumbaya around a fire with all your friends. Even if it means some sniper is laughing his ass off just before he blows you and your buddies brains out.

Dexscotland

I had the chance to play ZombiU on the new WiiU at the weekend and have to say it is a very cool game….creepy as hell. Running around London during a ZA with a cricket bat for company is a lot of fun 🙂
Lots of moments of ‘groans in the distance’ and ‘shuffling shapes in the rain and fog’ and to the whole atmosphere.
I don’t generally find games or films ‘scary’ but I did jump a couple of times playing this!
Oh and ‘The Shining’ creeps the hell outta me!!

Steven

Rapid cuts. Editing is my single biggest beef with modern cinema. “Chaos cam” does not make me feel like I’m there in the midst of the action; I’ve been in a few actual dangerous situations, in which things happened very fast, and they never felt like that. It’s just a cheap trick to compensate for not bothering with good action choreography. Shaky-cam doesn’t increase tension for me, it just annoys me.

Damage

Building on Dargs first point Ive about had it with filmmakers substituting tech for talent. In a lot of the older flicks the directors had very limited resources for special effects and had to work though writing and cinematography to get the results they wanted. Seems like that has fallen by the wayside and more and more they just go for the shock or the gross out. For what its worth I have the same complaints about a lot of art and music today. It easier to shock and offend people then it is to truly engage them on an emotional level. My favorite example of this is the original JAWS movie. The unreliability of the animitronic shark forced Spielberg to use it a lot less then originally planned and the result was probably a better movie because he compensated with better filmaking. If he made that same movie today with all the available CG it probably would have not been anywhere near as good a film.

Dave

You know another thing about those older, practically effects-driven, lower budget movies that really makes them work? You don’t see the monster as much. It’s in the shadows, and your imagination fills in the blanks. It’s much creepier.

Silver Fox

I don’t watch enough horror movies…. too much of an active imagination and fact that I’d like to sleep at night.

Let’s see… slasher movies, that rely on too much gore. Especially the ones where they’re doing the “body count” formula. How many characters can we cram into this movie and then have die grisly deaths?

I do have a large collection of werewolf movies… so I hate it when the show I’m watching turns out to be a thinly veiled and disguised skin flick.

Werewolf movies are famous imho for not being able to shake the Lon Chaney Jr. Legacy of “The Wolf Man” and seem to be forever stuck in over using the trope and plot devices of Full Moon, Raging Beast, Silver. There’s been a large lack of variation like with Vampire movies.

Cheap special effects, where werewolf movies are concerned, sadly, they almost always fall flat on having a good looking werewolf. CGI seems to be helping on this, but to a point.

Dave

Hah, this came from my mis-reading your comment. Because reading is hard, apparently.

Calicade

I’ve actually been scaring myself every night because of my active imagination.

BrickThrone

Favorite Wolf movie: the Howling. I was around when it came out and it looked better then but still one of my top 5. CGI can help but unfortunatly most places don’t do it right. Nowadays it not even the full budget. Its software. Just look at Avatar. Personally I wished I could get those 3 hours back. Things that turn me off of a movie: Bad Story. Repetitive Stories. Another Vampire love story please …
Now I’m just ranting.

Damage

With age comes wisdom ‘Throne
BTW I finally saw Avatar and could not get over how lame a movie it was

Dave

I couldn’t agree more. Terrible story and characters. Dances with Wolves in Space sums it up.

Mad..

Generally speaking I find well written book scarier than movies/games due to the fact that my imagination can conjure up far scarier imagery and ideas than some pictures on a screen can.

Which supports a lot of what is being said above… if you get a well written movie or game for that matter where you don’t see the “monster” a lot then that can be hugely scary. I remember watching Predator for the first time… that was great because you didn’t see the monster for ages and they built up the tension with that music and people getting taken out.

My gripe with a lot of modern day “horrors” is that even ones that manage to build good tension in the beggining and middle and you start to think this is a good horror and you start freaking out…. they go and stuff up the ending and ruin the whole movie. Sam Raimis bogeyman srings to mind as an example here.

And overkill on gore… just because you have the bloodiest movie on a screen doesn’t mean it is scary… being scared is different to being made sick/squeamish by the images you see on screen.

zed lover

I have found, that when I read a really good book, my mind just rolls the entire thing into a movie behind my eyes, using what is on the page as the setting and the chars.

Calicade

Yep! He said he was going to make a cake for everyone, and have those little party hats. Plus there’s going to be gambling and then at the end there’s a special surprise for everyone..

Ooh I can’t handle it any more! I guttah spill the baked beans.. He’s going to release a revolutionary parasite that will turn us all into kanablistic klowns from outer space.

Phantom

Well about that party.. I guess if they are handing out that parasite I think I will pass.

Dave

It will be in mid-February. As far as what I have planned? Well, I’m kicking around a couple ideas.

Tom Walsh

Haven’t been around the comment boards at all lately (too much work/kids/school…you know life for much free time), still reading religiously though, and still enjoying your comic greatly Dave. But as for the topic, I hate movies where the characters over-act more than anything else. I can’t recall the movie, but pretty much everyone gets turned into Zeds by some nuclear explosion, then the over-used characters get thrown in, and one goes from nice to raging bitch in no time. Unfortunately the acting by said actress is over done, to much stress on the lines, too much anger everywhere by her. Then at the end she gets eaten by zeds and somehow becomes their queen or something…with no visible wounds besides some bruising….
The other thing that kills a movie for me is when it’s too predictable in a bad way. I don’t mind following formulae for movies, but at least make it enjoyable. If I know what is coming around the next bend make it so I want to sit and watch till that next major plot point.

Dave

Thanks Tom.

Is the movie you’re referencing called “Night of the Comet” by any chance?

Tom Walsh

No, it’s on my recently viewed netflix I’ll have to check it.

Dave

Sassy!

I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s kitchy fun. However, I know a lot of people don’t like it at all.

Tom Walsh

You know another kitchy/campy fun zombie movie for me was Prom of the dead, a very horrible B movie…but those are fun if that’s what you expect.

Dave

There’s a campy “Prom of the Dead”? I saw a campy “Dance of the Dead”. Amazingly similar.

Tom Walsh

You know, maybe that’s what it was called, had to do with highschool dance and had all the common highschool characters, nerd, cheerleader, jock, and the ex-military gym coach?

Dave

Oh yeah, that’s exactly it. I liked it more than I thought I would.

Tom Walsh

Same here, I started watching it, mostly because I was bored, and actually got into the thing a lot more than I had felt I would.
There were a few points I would of changed, but that can be said for most things we see or read…I would have dones happen.
Have you ever read a book series from the…80s I think called The Necroscope by Brian Lumley?

Damage

Army of Darkness takes the cake for me as far as kitchy “horror” films go.

Greg

I love it when you do that! Let’s just say you have a double personality disorder…

WJS

Question:
For me, one thing that really reduces the scare factor in films is when the characters are exceptionally stupid. Sure, people can make bad decisions when under stress, but some films take this to such extremes that you can’t help but think that these guys would be killing themselves off just as quickly if it was just them on an empty set, no monster at all.
Then there’s obviously when they try to scare you by making things jump out at you; sorry guys, but making me jump and making me scared are completely different things.

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