Talk about crap timing. Or at least crap judgement.
It’s been a while, but when I last looked, the Discovery Channel hadn’t been subtitled The Bullshit Channel. That was clearly owned by the History Channel, which used to be serious but which now obsesses with ancient aliens with the same fervour as my cousin Todd does over Ryan Reynolds (just come out already Todd, we’ll support you fully).
Recently, the Discovery Channel decided to show a “documentary” on the imminent zombie apocalypse. I put quotations around the word “documentary” for the same reason that I refer to my girl-on-girl porn collection as “gender research” – to fool the gullible. I found myself disturbed on a number of levels by it, none of them in a good way. This was bad. Not in a so-bad-it’s-enjoyable Asylum Film way. The Asylum, for all its faults, never set out to produce a fear-mongering piece of faux-scientific nonsense that the Discovery Channel produced.
It opens with a warning. It really should start with an apology, but there you go. Then comes the declaration: “Zombies are real. They’re just not what you think they are.” Yeah, I was that way for a long time about uvulas, until I learned they were in the throat and not where I thought they were.
“May 26, 2012. For some, this date marks the beginning of the end.” At first I checked my calendar, because I didn’t think that was the release date of DARK SHADOWS (see Deggsy’s review here). But then the narrator goes on to point out the date is in reference to the infamous Miami Zombie attack (see the related article here from our dear colleague Sezin). And this attack is apparently the precursor to a global pandemic which will bring about the end of mankind. Of course, it’s what, seven months since then? Taking its sweet ass time, meanwhile I still have to pay my phone bill.
My head begins hurting. Not from a zombie disease but from the show, which is done in a familiar shaky-cam, rapid fire, Three Card Monte editing – keep things moving quickly so no one realises they’re being hoodwinked. Interspersed with the “real” segments are “recreations” of what a zombie outbreak might look like, which would be scary if you’ve never seen a shit zombie movie before on a budget smaller than Justin Bieber’s package. Then the thrust of the show becomes obvious: a zombie apocalypse is coming, and there are only a few armed idiots ready to face it head on.
Well, the second part of that statement is certainly true. The first part is about as shaky as Michael J Fox trying to work a Rubik’s Cube. The alleged logic behind it all is so twisted I fully expected it to start consuming its own tail. I could imagine their brain cells are even now being pursued around the inside of their skulls Benny Hill style by viruses with butterfly nets and straightjackets.
So-called “experts” are brought on to discuss where the zombie virus comes from, how it operates, how it turns people into ravenous flesh-eating threats – and they could just as well be discussing the plots of the movies they had obviously been watching, since there IS NO SUCH THING AS A ZOMBIE VIRUS. People have been drugged, people have contracted rabies and CJD, but no one has actually been infected by a zombie virus. One mathematics professor at the University of Ottawa states that if a zombie outbreak did occur, it could move very quickly thanks to our global infrastructure – cars, trains, subways and if such a virus were to become a pandemic, the results would be immediate and devastating. I will concede that. I will also concede that if the griffins ever escape Myth island the shit they’d drop from the skies would also be immediate and devastating. But it ain’t gonna happen either, bubulah.
One of the “experts” interviewed, Dan Drezner, a respected scholar in foreign policy at Tufts University, in fact uses zombies only as metaphors for chaos in world markets and how people adapt. He never wanted people to think that he believed it could really happen. You should have told the nimrods at Discovery that before you got interviewed. Not that it would have stopped them.
Dr Steven Scholzman of Harvard Medical School explains that it is indeed plausible for humans to contract a virus that changes them into something resembling a Zombie. How? Fuck you, that’s how. Look, I love zombies, and zombie movies – someday I will do that mega retrospective on the original DAWN OF THE DEAD. But I recognise the enormous disadvantages that zombies would have as a threat in real life: they wander in the open, they can’t think or strategise, they’re walking buffets for everything from maggots to wild dogs, their tissue is vulnerable to putrefaction, mummification or desiccation in the heat and freezer burn in the cold, the source of their reproduction is also their food supply…
Then it gets scary. Just not in the way the makers of this intended, as we meet some of the Zombie Apocalypse Preppers, people who have taken their usual Doomsday paranoia and focused it on the undead (though I’m certain they’re willing to adapt in the event of a comet strike or the kids from GLEE taking over America). Seemingly every single person on this is clinically retarded. It works for them, though, because their universe is one governed by stupidity.
Among these brain donors are:
Crossbow-wielding Shawn Beatty, a Wisconsin-based teacher, who says, “Some people sit around and think what they would do if they won ten million dollars. I sit around and think what I would do if the zombies come round.” Personally I’d sooner waste my time on the former, given how much more likely it’s gonna happen. He also recommends eating cat food over dog food when the regular supplies run out. There’s a joke in there somewhere about “pussies” and “eating”; go find it while I open another can of Whiskas. Mmm, Tuna in Jelly…
There’s Matthew Oakey, an ex-military firearms instructor who says, “Some people’s epiphany is when they realise that the guy living on their block with all the guns and ammo isn’t crazy.” NO, most people’s epiphany when they meet this guy is that he’s from the generation before pregnant women knew the dangers of eating lead paint chips.
Then there’s Alfredo Carbajel, founder of the Kansas Anti-Zombie militia, who has a secret location stockpiled with all the supplies necessary to keep him alive during the Apocalypse. He says, “A zombie apocalypse happening is not a question of If, it’s a question of When.” He bases this on the tried and true logic framework of Because I Say So. We also see him arguing with another member of his militia over shooting infected kids in the head.
Which leads to female Zombie Prepper and part time Linda Hamilton wannabe Patti Heffernan, a mother of two who admits she is obsessed with zombies, and how she’s basically transmitting this fear onto her two children. “I’ve taught my daughter we have to shoot zombies in the head.” And she confesses that if a loved one was infected, she was prepared to put them out of their misery.”
Did the Discovery Channel not watch any of the news for the last seven or more days and think that the sight of Doomsday Preppers wielding assault rifles and talking about shooting children might not be very apropos? Or were they too busy getting worked up over their next big show, AMISH MAFIA? (unfortunately, this show is actually real and is happening. See the article here).
This is where ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE dipped out of the Merely Stupid and into the Venn Diagram taking it into the Unintentionally Offensive. This is not the venue to discuss the merits of gun ownership, nor will I berate anyone simply for owning a gun. But to genuinely take your time, money and effort and to spending it on preparing for something like this is about as sensible as paying people money to take care of your pets who’ll be left behind with the fornicators, heretics and infidels when the rapture kicks in. Which can be done (see here). Had this been some mockumentary about a Zombie Apocalypse, it would have been generic but basically harmless. That it’s being touted as serious, and that it un-ironically displays people not a million miles away from those we’ve seen involved in a terrible tragedy, takes away its harmless tag. Shame on you, Discovery Channel.
Director: Someone who really loves crap zombie movies
Plot: 0 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains (including the filmmakers)
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien