Maggie (Henry Hobson, 2015)

Post-apocalpyptic zombie horror film Maggie was screened as the opening film of the UK Festival of Zombie Horror Culture at Phoenix Cinema in Leicester in November 2015. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, a man whose daughter Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin (best known for her performance in Little Miss Sunshine), has been infected by a zombie virus. Having been bit, she has fled home to protect the rest of her family. The film opens with Wade finding his daughter, who has been missing for two weeks, and taking her home to his wife. It then follows her slow transformation towards “the turn”, and the affect that has on her and her mother and father.

Drop Undead

Drop Undead

One thing we’ve come to expect when watching an Arnie film is an over-the-top performance with lots of one-liners and a handful of big set pieces. These are not present here. Instead, we get Arnie in an extremely restrained mood, and the result is perhaps the most convincing performance of his career. As one of the first films announced after his return to film from his political career, this was a perfect choice and is a great advert for more roles in a similar vain as he moves into the next phase of his career.

Breslin also shines in a complicated role where a girl is facing certain death. Having attempted to go through this on her own, she is desperately in need of her father. This complexity isn’t easy to pull off but she does it well, showing an increasing amount of fear as she gets further infected.

Where the film falls down is its slow pacing. It draws us in at first, but a slow pace clearly designed to explore the emotional side of the key characters paves the way for a few too many “switch off” moments. Admittedly, there is no room for a big stand-off and that kind of thing would have been out of place, but montages of time passing are easy to put together and allow the viewer to disingage for a couple of minutes.

Overall, well worth watching for the chance to see Arnie’s acting credentials and as an interesting angle on the genre.

Maggie is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.

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UK Festival of Zombie Culture (Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 14/11/2015)

I’m off to the UK Festival of Zombie Culture, an annual event held at Phoenix CInema and Cafebar in Leicester.

There are six films on offer today:

Maggie
Nightmare City
Darkest Day
Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse
Cooties
A Mystery Sixth Film

There’s also a ton of special guests, book signings, talks and The Arcade of the Dead to check out. It’s going to be a great day. I’ll report back later with how it went.

The Walking Dead: Weird and Wonderful Merchandise

As with any hugely popular TV series, there’s always a big attempt to get its fans to part with their hard earned money by any means necessary. The Walking Dead is no exception. Check out these weird and wonderful items that could be yours if you have more money than sense.

Bland Officially Licensed Socks

Why wouldn’t you want to put some cool images from The Walking Dead on your feet? Imagine the heads of zombies exploding as a bullet impacted on their undead skulls. What about the mixture of fear and anger Michonne has when seeking revenge on The Governor? Or, maybe you’d prefer a picture of Andrew Lincoln portraying Rick Grimes pensively looking out into the distance whilst crouching in the middle of nowhere? No? Oh… Pick them up here.

Shit socks? Yes please.

Shit socks? Yes please.

The Walking Dead Comic-Con Exclusive Zombie Burst Guitar

Yours for just £329 plus shipping, this guitar will make you the envy of all your friends who will sit back and think “I wish I was so rich that I could blow so much money on a terrible-looking guitar and think it was a good idea.”

“This would look great alongside my CSI: Miami saxophone”

Michonne Sword Letter Opener

If you’re asking yourself “Why?”, I say to you “Why not?”. Then I laugh and say “No seriously, why?”

Available for just $89.99.

His success had gone to his head.

His success had gone to his head.

Rick Grimes Resin Deluxe Boxed Statue

Clearly the $350 asking price on the official website didn’t put many people off. It has to be said, this looks spectacular. It’s a lot of money to spend on something like this, but of all of the comic book range of toys and collectibles, this is up there with the best.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

The Walking Dead Plain Logo T-Shirt

Another stylish piece of merchandise is this, a nice, plain and simple logo t-shirt that really works in the charcoal grey colour. There are plenty of other options with catchphrases and other gimmicks, but if you want something more subtle then this is what you need. It will set you back $19.99.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Stern Pinball Machine

Not much to say here, but if you’re sitting in the middle of a Venn Diagram that consists of the categories “Loves The Walking Dead”, “Loves Pinball”, “Has too much money” and “Had no sense” then this is the product for you.

Yours for just $7495. I would if I could.

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

The Walking Dead Battle Scene Wallet

This may be more within your price range. A mere $20 will get you this stylish wallet inspired by the All Out War story arc of the comic book series. It will be cool to get hold of it now and then when the story kicks in early next year in the television show you can say “It was much better in the comics” as you whip out your cool wallet and pay for a mug of smug.

Both cool and practical.

Both cool and practical.

Check back tomorrow for a review of the first episode of Fear The Walking Dead, the new series that premieres on the BT-exclusive AMC channel.

The Music of the Walking Dead

One of the standout elements of The Walking Dead throughout the every series has been the music. Whether it is incidental orchestral music or one of the eclectic choices of alternative rock, there is ample scope to discover new music by keeping your ears out whilst watching.

Jamie N Commons – “Take Me Home”

Perhaps the most memorable track is the Jamie N Commons song “Lead Me Home”. It played over the end of episode 12 of season 3 – “Clear” – as Michone and Rick drive back to the prison after a failed attempt at taking Morgan back there with them. This is quality blues music and the raspy vocals perfectly fit the scene.

Nine Inch Nails – “Somewhat Damaged”

The perfect song for an angry family mourning the death of a beloved relative whilst deciding whether or not to seek revenge for the death, Nine Inch Nails track “Somewhat Damaged” was a genius choice. It featured at the start of the penultimate episode of season 5 – “Try” – and completely altered the mood of the episode. If you aren’t having a great day, why not try to listen to this on full blast?

Emily Kinney – “Hold On”

Wait, is The Walking Dead actually a musical? For this brief moment, it sort of was. Emily Kinney is a singer in her own right and this brief scene allowed her to showcase her talent. Admittedly, it does feel a little wedged in, a platform to promote her album, but when it sounds this good do we care? It’s a beautiful rendition of an excellent Tom Waits song, which fades out to let the main man perform the end of the song over the end credits.

How to Buy

There are a few official The Walking Dead CDs out there, the best of which is titled The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 1. Before you rush off to buy it, however, it’s worth noting there are only eight songs on it. You may consider the second release The Walking Dead Original Soundtrack Vol. 2, but that is even worse with just five songs on it. Or you could try the Global Stage Orchestra doing covers of The Walking Dead songs, though they don’t seem overly accurate. My recommendation is that you seek out the individual artists’ respective releases and see if you like other tracks by them before buying.

Top Moments of The Walking Dead TV Show

Before you start reading, this is obviously going to be full of spoilers. So if you aren’t right up to date with the end of Season 5 then you’re probably better off just going elsewhere. You’ve been warned.

The Walking Dead TV series has been on our screens for five years now and there have been some great moments. The show has generally been exceptional throughout bar a couple of dull moments – including the entire second season – but the length of the show has allowed the writers to really explore the zombie horror genre in a way never before attempted.

This article highlights a handful of the high points so far.

Rick Finds Out (S03E04 – “Killer Within”)

The main goal for Rick throughout the entire series is to protect his family. This is the moment Rick finds out Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), his wife, has died in childbirth. The group had finally got to the point where they had some level of stability and it was obvious that his hope was that they could remain in the prison and he could start to raise his child in some kind of normality.

Andrew Lincoln’s acting in this scene is absolutely top drawer. The finishing touch comes at the end as he finally breaks down and falls to the floor, amongst the other zombies, representing that his reason for living has died. It was a poignant moment that reminded the viewers they weren’t just watching a zombie action series.

Zombie Merle (S03E15 – “This Sorrowful Life”)

Because it made Daryl cry, which sort of made us cry.

The Death of Hershel (S04E08 – “Too Far Gone”)

The shocking death of a beloved character in any series is always hard to take, but the nature of Hershel’s death was up there with the worst. He had been on a journey from the first time we met him and was the father figure to many of the central characters, not just his actual daughters. The upside of it was that the hatred for The Governor grew even more, making Michonne’s revenge even sweeter.

Rick’s One-Liner (S04E16 – “A”)

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has been the focal point of the entire the series, as he has grown from small-town policeman to the authoritative sheriff-figure he has become. Along the way, he’s also provided us with some great one-liners. None were finer than the final line of Season 4 when the survivors had found themselves tricked into a corner at Terminus. As the cliffhanger approached and viewers wondered how they were going to wind it up, Rick chirped up with the line “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out… they’re fucking with the wrong people.”

The only shame was that some airings of it changed the profanity to “screwing”, which doesn’t bode well for Negan. Also, this same episode featured an attempted rape of a 12-year-old boy and Rick chewing a man’s throat out. That was fine for TV, by the way.

Season Five Opener (S05E01 – “No Sanctuary”)

We thought the group would be fine after a determined rallying cry from our main man, but twenty minutes into the following season opener we were again watching from behind the cushions as four main character (Rich, Daryl, Glenn and Bob, the latter of which suddenly seemed a bit of a red coat) stared death in the face. That would be death by beheading, by the way. As the executioner made his way along the line, some brilliant acting from our four heroes galvanised the scene to breaking point, only for Carol (Melissa McBride) to save the day. What a way to welcome us back to the world for another 16 episodes.

A cheap way to get into The Walking Dead at your own pace is the Season 1-4 boxset, available on Blu-Ray for a reasonable price now. Of course, this is already out-of-date and will become even more out-of-date as more episodes are released. Another alternative is to get Amazon Prime Video, which is home to the series.

The Walking Dead: The Board Game (Z-Man Games)

The first installment of The Walking Dead week looks at the most original of the Walking Dead board games out there, simply titled The Walking Dead: The Board Game.

The aim of the game is relatively straightforward. You take control of one of the main characters from the early parts of the series: Rick, Glenn, Shane, Tyreese, Andrea or Dale. You have to take your character, along with any number of followers (you start with one) and scout out three locations on the playing board from a possible four: three public locations and one private location. Each location has a list of criteria you need to meet and each character has a special ability to help your team along the way. Achieve this before anyone else on the board and you’re crowned the overall winner.

The game does its best to throw you off. Each time you try to collect resources (petrol, food or ammo) you have to pick up an encounter card. Using the abilities indicated on your party’s individual cards, you may have to try to fend off a zombie attack, trick your rival players into giving you a boost or roll the dice and see if you meet a specific criteria. The results of winning can be hugely varied. Sometimes it simply means you survive, other times you pick up a new follower (probably the most effective way to win).

Each time you move your character you leave behind a zombie token with a mystery number underneath. This is the number of zombies you must kill if you are to pass through that space in future. This doesn’t sound too bad, but if you have a key public location that is being surrounded by players, these tokens rapidly build up. Furthermore, if you are in desperate times you may choose to use one of your ammo resources and fire a machine gun into the zombie battle you are facing. This allows you to roll an extra dice but means there’s a 50% chance you will be fully surrounded by zombies. As you can guess, the more people playing the game, the faster the board fills up with zombie tokens. It makes for an interesting game.

The design of the game is beautiful and ties in perfectly with the style of the comic book. The character design might not appear familiar to those who only watch the TV series, but those who prefer the comic book will be delighted at the great job they’ve done here.

One drawback is the lack of storage inside the box. You’re going to need to buy these small plastic resealable bags. If you don’t you can add five minutes of setting-up time each time you play to overcome the fact all your counters and tokens are now jumbled up.

Another flaw is that the game rules aren’t explicitly clear, meaning the FAQ section of their website is full of answers to questions you’ve probably been asking after as little as one game. This could have been avoided by having a little more clarity in the user guide, a simple task for a relatively simple game.

Overall, this is a fantastic purchase for fans of the series, especially if you have a large group of friends who all love board games.

The Walking Dead: The Board Game is available to purchase now.