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Book of the Dead: The Complete History of…

Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema

by Jamie Russell

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I bought this book when I was researching the history of the zombie movie before a recent short film I wrote and filmed. It was everything it was advertised as being, easy to read and comprehensive in its detail. It goes from classic zombie films of the island variety to the Romero styled zombies we see today. It is very current, hitting movies as recent as Shaun of the Dead. A great, easy and entertaining read with everything you could ever need to know about zombie cinema. ( )
  slealos | Apr 16, 2009 |
Last year I requested that my local library buy a few books on zombie cinema. Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture was okay - it read a bit too much like a dissertation (which it was). Very "cultural studies" - I had a hard time discerning the chicken or the egg - did the filmakers intentionally make horror films that critiqued capitalism or do we read them that way because we want to critique capitalism?

Anyway, next up was Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema. I made it my bedtime reading (yes, I am so much of a zombie cinema fan this did not give me nightmares - in fact, dreams I have with zombies in them tend not to be nightmares) and savored every word. From the looks of it, Book of the Dead is a reference book with lots of color pictures. In fact, the first half of the book is chronological and insightful criticism, while the second half is a movie-by-movie reference guide to every zombie film.

Russell doesn't paint zombie films with a broad stroke - rather, he starts with the White Zombie (1932), explaining the origins of zombie cinema in the American occupation of Haiti and covers every decades, every nation, and every variation up until the present (he ends with Romero's Land of the Dead). Throughout the book zombie cinema is contextualized; you cannot understand Spanish zombie cinema without taking Franco into account and you can't understand Japanese zombie cinema without taking the Resident Evil video game into consideration.

Russell is just as willing to discuss terrible zombie movies as the excellent ones, from homemade fan films to Romero's classics. He covers the established interpretations and challenges them (are all Italian zombie films really about Catholicism? Probably not). Sometimes he can't help himself and cracks jokes or expresses shock. He includes fun details (I didn't know Simon Pegg had a cameo in Land of the Dead or that Tom Savini was also the special effects artist in Dawn of the Dead) and gave me a long list of films to see. ( )
2 vote Brdgt | Feb 7, 2008 |
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