Friday, February 5, 2016

How not to make a zombie movie

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever

By Jeff Strand

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

Pub. Date: March 1, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


I would have liked to have made a movie when I was a teenager. The closest thing I ever came to making a movie was being the junior high projectionist. Today's kids have it easy. They have digital video cameras the weight of a Tea-Cup Chihuahua rather than those monstrous elephants of the 60s. You can distribute on the internet rather than bribe a small theater owner to show it in the morning to a handful of friends and family. And you don't have to lug the reels 10 miles in the snow to the not-so-local development lab.

Jeff Strand's very funny The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is about some teenagers who want to make the get the idea. Justin has made a couple 10 minutes horror videos and got a few likes on YouTube but he and this friends are ready to made their Citizen Kane of zombie films. Unfortunately for them, they have not yet ran into Edison's famous admonishment that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. What starts out as an epic idea turns into a disaster fueled by teenage reality and inertia. Justin and his friends run into all types of distraction and mistakes, like casting Justin's dream girl in the leading role and borrowing money from a grandma who must be related to Donald Trump. But through all the tribulations, they learn a valuable...who am I kidding? This is a Jeff Strand Novel!

Seriously though, this is quite different from most of the author's novels. Being Young Adult, it is closer to Strand's excellent YA novel, I Have a Bad Feeling about This than his many dark comedy thrillers and horror novels. There are no supernatural elements, no killings except for the imaginary ones on film, and no real zombies in it. The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever reads a bit more Y than A and it is actually about adversity . It is also about friendships, the kind that gets one through all the obstacle that teens encounter as they struggle with their identity and their aspirations. Strand may be a decade or two or ? removed from the adolescent years but he still has a fine ear for the subtleties. Justin and his friends are obsessed and ambitious but still kids. It is the challenges and the chaos that make this such a clever and funny novel. Strand is renowned for his sharp and witty dialog and the trade-off between Justin and his partners in crime Bobby and Gabe is some of the best dialog I have read by him. Finally there is the resolution but it is not the type that anyone may expect. I sort of got an idea where it was going when Spork arrived to the scene (A nickname derived not from the Spock character but from the plastic spoon-fork) but it was a twist that was delightful and fitting to the nature of the tale.

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is a great choice for young teens and maybe even a little younger. It is especially good for those who like zombie movies or have daydreams about making their own movies. I have seen a few criticisms about how Strand's movie obsessed teens are not realistic with "real" movie making teens, but I think that is bit of zombie bull. Besides, the author was not writing a how-to. Maybe a how-not-to. He was writing about ordinary kids who have dreams, have those dreams tested and still manage to come out of it not just as dreamers but doers. Comparing it to Strand's other works, I personally lean more for the gore and very dark humor of his horror novels. But keeping the audience in mind, this is a solidly funny effort perfectly suited for teens and pre-teens. So I give it an equally solid 4 stars.

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