Check out this excerpt from an upcoming short story about…zombies. Read on, if that’s your thing. Best of days to all, and thanks for dropping by.
No, this was real. And it was scary. And it was happening right before our eyes whether we were ready for it or not. All our lives, we live and breathe and feel invulnerable, like no disaster will ever reach our shores…like nothing bad will ever happen to tear our own little personal worlds apart. And when it does happen, everything we’ve ever known, understood, prepared for…gets thrown out the fucking window. “Yeah, zombies”, I said again into the silence, and it broke that silence like a rock through a pane of old glass. “What the fuck was that?“, Sam whispered into the dim light, and I heard him say “Oh shit, that back door”, and he took off and made his way to the back. I told Sally to wait here while me and another guy followed Sam to the back of the place. I heard it then too…a bumping or knocking sound coming from outside the door. Maybe they were trying to get in. We all looked at each other, and slowly and silently moved our way to toward the door.
In my humble opinion, it’s no secret that American movies are becoming as stale as a bag of corn chips left open for 6 months straight. American cinema has unfortunately become swollen with remakes, sequels, reboots, re-imaginings, re-tellings, and re-whatever else you can think of that are as exciting as a tall glass of flat coke. It’s disturbingly sad that we are being thoroughly and soundly outflanked by the increasingly entertaining ranks of foreign films; the shocking number of American flicks that originated overseas is staggering (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, pretty much every Asian horror film ever made, etc). Hollywood is apparently more concerned with quantity as opposed to quality; they pump out more PG-13 schlock than nickelodeon in an attempt to put butts into seats and fill their Hollywood coffers. So to make a long story short (too late), I’ve primarily concerned myself with foreign fare of late. I’ve always had a preference for old films and foreign films anyway, because in my opinion, they were more focused on storytelling, plot, and serious acting chops. Modern American films are slowly bulldozing me over the cinematic edge. Case in point; I recently watched a film called Mesrine: Killer Instinct, a 2008 film about notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Mesrine was one mean mother, and Vincent Cassel played the part of vicious lunatic with delicious style and machismo. Mesrine was legendarily bold, as he made short work of banks (robbing one bank, and then crossing the street to rob another immediately after), eluded the authorities for years, escaped from prison multiple times, and claimed around 40 murders. Part two, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 was made the same year, and chronicled his later exploits. The films were visually vivid and gritty, with a fearless flair that made the onscreen action that much more grimy and realistic. Mesrine only grew more bloodthirsty and criminally ambitious as the years passed, and director and actor alike were masterfully on point. Veer away from the blandness and predictability of current cinema and immerse yourself head first in some fresh foreign fare.
You couldn’t have cut the tension with a fucking chainsaw if you tried, it was so damned thick. My mouth was as dry as a pile of dead leaves, and yet my palms were as soggy as an old dish rag as we padded our way slowly and quietly to the back of the place. The thunder raged like a thousand explosions outside, and the whole thing reminded me of the Fourth of July. If only it were. Maybe all the thunder would mask our footsteps and chatter and movement from the things outside…or worse, maybe it would hide their movement from us. Those fuckers had to know we were in here. Or did they? How safe were we, locked away in here? Was it a sanctuary or a mouse trap? We shuffled our way through Sam’s tiny kitchen, a place where I’d dined on many a random night, and I could feel my feet slide a bit on the grease drenched floor. “Hey guys, grab something outta here”, Sam uttered quietly, and motioned to a counter full of old kitchen implements. Knives, spoons, big forks, and other assorted cutlery glinted slightly in the darkness of the kitchen, and I grabbed a steel tenderizer so massive that looked like it could have pounded a t-bone into a veal cutlet. It looked like Thor’s hammer. I smiled at the thought of that, the first quick smile I’d had since we left Harvey’s.
The thing just seemed huge, but shit, if all I was gonna have to work with was some damned kitchenware, then by God that’s the thing I’d want to use to smash a few skulls. It was more than enough. I watched the other guy grab a butcher knife, and Sam had been holding the same baseball bat that he’d had in his hands since we busted all frantic like into his bar. “Listen”, I whispered into the wet, drippy darkness, and all I could hear for a brief moment was the quickened breathing of my two companions. Then we heard it again, the only reason that we were back here in the first place. It hit the door like a mack truck, it seemed, a banging so loud that it split the quiet of the kitchen of the room in half, making our ears ring. Whatever it was, we were adamant that the fucker was NOT going to get inside. “Whatever it was”, I repeated in my head, as if I didn’t already know what God cursed horror was lurking beyond the door handle. “Whatever it was”…I wish to God that I didn’t know. BOOM, it went again, and all three of us froze. BOOM. “Sam, you got any chain? Rope?”, I blurted out as quietly as I could, and I could see, even in the dimness of the room, that Sam’s nerves were getting shaken loose with each slam of dead flesh on that damned door. Those fuckers knew we were in here, but how many were out there? We were fucking blind in this building. Sitting ducks. “SAM!”, I made a point to shake him hard, back into the sting of reality. “We gotta seal this fucking door, Sam, and right now”; my words slipped out in little silent slivers. “T-t-there’s a cabinet over there”, Sam managed to mutter, “T-the cabinet right there…you guys help me move it.” We all three rushed over to the corner where it was. A big assed old steel monstrosity…maybe it would do the trick…for a while. It was all happening in a blur, and I couldn’t tell the banging on the door from the booming thunder outside anymore.
I’ve always said that some of the best movies can be seen on a quiet Saturday morning; there’s some good fertilizer in that crisp Saturday morning air that gives blossom to great movie viewing. It’s fun to catch a great picture from start to finish in the gray of the morning before the world wakes up, and before you owe the day any of your time, or anything to anyone. Some of the best films I’ve ever seen have been scoped on mornings just like that, free of burden, free of care, and with a surplus of time. When we were kids, my sister and I made it a goal to watch as many of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 films of all time in one summer; I can’t recall just how many we saw, but we gained some good ground while she was in town. One of my favorites from that summer was 1944’s Double Indemnity, starring Fred MacMurray and Barbary Stanwyck, so I decided to give that old classic a go this morning with my coffee.
Director Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity is film noir at its finest; the dialogue was as thick and sultry as the lingering cigarette smoke, the script was as complex and detailed as the bourbon they drank, and the characters were as cool and slick and breezy as a mid May afternoon. The cinematography was a dimly lit tapestry of finely weaved shots that suffused the story with an air of gritty believability, and added a hefty and necessary dose of grim weight to the subject matter. The sturdy Fred MacMurray played Walter Neff, a hot shot top insurance salesman who fell instantly for the brazen and deceptively conniving Phyllis Dietrichson, played icily by Stanwyck. Neff falls hard for the allure of Mrs. Dietrichson, who convincingly lures the haplessly love struck Neff into a plot to knock off her husband after taking out a life insurance policy on him. The venerable Edward G. Robinson, star of a horde of gangster films and early Hollywood gems, played the feisty and meticulously detailed Barton Keyes; a remarkably intelligent Sherlock Holmes-esqe claims adjuster with a knack for sniffing out mischief.
The dark and brooding undertones of the film set a castle solid foundation of deceit, mystery, and intrigue that was so effectively present in the classics of the 40’s and 50’s, and earned the film seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.