I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever by Jeff Strand

This book opens with a warning. It is indeed about making The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. And there will be zombies. Just not real ones. And no one turns into anything. It is a book about a group of teenage boys making a movie. So don't throw the book (or electronic reading device) "across the room, hitting an innocent gerbil. Gerbils don't deserve this." I myself, have flung books across rooms (ahem, Faulkner). This book is sitting happily on my kindle. Yes. It was so good, I bought it. And it was on sale.

Justin, Gabe, and Bobby are three longtime friends living in Florida, who have dreams of being filmmakers. They have been making movie shorts for a while now on various horror topics, such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies. One day, a month before school lets out for the summer they get the idea to make THE GREATEST ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER! Their first movie and they are going to go for broke.  First, of course, is the discussion of whether to have fast zombies or slow zombies. Justin settles the dispute between Gabe and Bobby by deciding to have both. It will make their movie different and stand out. Justin will direct. Gabe will be the cameraman. And Bobby will handle sound and lots of abuse. All three will take a third of the script and they will put it together and see what happens. They only have a month to do this in, as Gabe will be going to Indiana for the summer right after school ends, so time is of the essence.

Bobby decides that Justin's crush, Alicia would make the perfect female lead to their movie. He has been moderately in love with her for years and has had three conversations with her that consisted of a total of eleven sentences. The last thing he wants is for Bobby to call Alicia. When he does and pushes the phone in Justin's hand, he comes up with the backbone of their movie on the spot. He tells her the movie is tentatively called "Zombies With Flesh Stuck in My Teeth" and that the name of her character was going to be "Veronica Chaos, and she's in a post-apocalyptic world... with mutant zombies everywhere and she has to find the lost" --Medallion? Skull? Child? "book that can save humanity. She carries a" --Sword? Chainsaw? Lightweight lawn mower?--"cat and wears a"-Cloak? Corset? Chain and bikini?--"tattered white wedding dress." Alicia is very interested in being in their movie.

They also need some money to make this movie. They have equipment (some borrowed from the school and elsewhere) but they will need zombie special effects and stuff. So, they go to Justin's very interesting grandmother who loans him the $5,000 if he guarantees her a 12% return on her investment. Most of this is used to buy zombie special effects from Bobby's Uncle Clyde, a man in the business, and just as unusual as Justin's grandmother. He also has a basement that he works out of, which, for those of you who don't live down in Florida, people who live in Florida generally don't have basements because of the flooding.  Uncle Clyde's whole house is weird, but not in the way you would expect.

Justin fails to get permission from the school principal to shoot footage on school property, but he tells no one, thinking that maybe he can change her mind later, as that will be the last thing they shoot. The first day of shooting in the park scenes and everyone arrives early. Alicia, who is going to be sporting a purple Mohawk and her friend Daisy and Christopher, who will be playing Runson Mudd, the male lead, along with his little brother, Spork, who has brought along a camera to document a behind-the-scenes video on the making of the movie. Everything is going great (With the exception of Alicia's crying and fact that Bobby is sick, and makes a near-fatal error of accidentally dropping the boom mic on Alicia, who insists on being called Veronica Chaos for the entire shooting. Actors!), until a kiddie party arrives. With a very annoying clown. But there are ways around this. And revenge can be sweet.

But an accident causes the camera to break. Which also causes a break between Justin and Gabe. Justin has been slowly going off the rails with this movie. He has been making changes and doing anything just to get the movie made. And he is ready to sacrifice his friendship too. Gabe walks off the set, and Justin decides to continue shooting the movie with the camera on his phone, making it a "lost video" type of movie instead. He's not making a lot of sense. But will he come to his senses in time? Will they complete the movie or will grandma have someone come over and break their legs, or arm, as the case may be? Just how important is friendship? If your best friend is not there with you making the movie of your dreams, is it worth it?

This book, if filled with many laugh out loud, laughs. I was very careful NOT to read it close to bedtime, as I needed my sleep and I knew it would keep me up all night. This book explores not just following your dreams, but also the importance of friendship and how they will stick by you, especially when the chips are down. Definitely, go out and check this book out or buy it! I'll probably be re-reading it, myself. I've already given it away as a birthday gift and bought the other two books he has written because they sound quite interesting as well. Strand is one to watch.

Her body was like a goddess mixed with an angel mixed with a female superhero.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 13)
But when Justin put his mind to something, whether it was getting one hundred percent on a chemistry test or watching forty-eight hours’ worth of horror movies in a row, he always succeeded. Okay, that wasn’t completely true. When he was eleven, he’d set his mind to being the ultimate Hollywood stuntman, and four years after the cast came off, he still couldn’t lift his right arm all the way. Last year he had set his mind to stop being afraid of the neighbor’s pit bull and to befriend the animal instead. That hadn’t worked out in the best possible manner either.  In fact, now that he was thinking about it, there had been many, many, many instances in which he’d put his mind to something and the end result had been pain, humiliation, or a combination of the two. But Justin was fine with that. Pain was temporary.  On his third movie he’d been conked on the forehead by a baseball bat that had slipped out of his lead actor’s hand during an intense “bash the mummy with a baseball bat” sequence, and the pain had gone away after only two days. Perhaps brain damage was forever, but pain was temporary.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 15)
  “Fast zombies or slow zombies?” Justin had asked. “Slow zombies,” said Gabe. “Fast zombies,” said Bobby. “Slow zombies are scarier.” “No, they’re not. Fast zombies are scarier because they’re fast.” “Fast zombies aren’t realistic.” “Zombies aren’t realistic.” “If you were a corpse that came back to life, you wouldn’t be moving fast,” Gabe insisted. “It doesn’t make sense. Decomposed muscles are slow.” “You can just walk away from slow zombies,” said Bobby. “Just la-di-da, strolling along. Ooops, that one is kind of close. I’d  better veer slightly to the left. Uh-oh, there’s another one. I suppose I’ll have to shove it over.” “Until you’re overwhelmed by their sheer numbers,” said Gabe. “That’s the whole point of zombies. They don’t seem like a huge threat until suddenly you’re surrounded and there’s no way to escape. You’re doomed.” “You’re more doomed if you’re surrounded by fast zombies.” “Shaun of the Dead has slow zombies.” “Zombieland has fast zombies.” “Lucio Fulci’s Zombie has slow zombies.” “28 Days Later has fast.” “Those aren’t zombies. Those are infected.” “Stop being such a zombie snob.” “I’m not a snob. I’m being accurate.” “Dawn of the Dead has fast zombies.” “No, Dawn of the Dead has slow zombies.” “It has fast zombies,” said Bobby. “I watched it last week. We’ll put in the Blu-ray.” “Which one are you talking about?” “Dawn of the Dead.” “No, which version?” “I’m talking about the remake.” “Well, I’m talking about the original.” “The remake was better.” “Get out of my house,” said Gabe. “I mean Justin’s house.” “I’m allowed to express my opinion.” “Okay,” said Gabe. “If we’re going to try to make the greatest zombie movie ever, then we need to pay homage to the original classic, Night of the Living Dead. Therefore, we need to go with slow zombies. Case closed.” “The first zombie in Night of the Living Dead chased after Barbara in her car, so technically it had both fast and slow zombies. Ha! Logic fail!” “That’s it!” said Justin. “We’ll have the best of both worlds. Our movie will have both fast and slow zombies. Guaranteed mass appeal!” “What about talking zombies?” asked Bobby. “No talking zombies,” said Justin and Gabe, almost simultaneously. “Return of the Living Dead had talking zombies.” “Shut up,” Justin and Gabe said.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever  p33-35)
Justin’s mom was an overprotective parent in a lot of ways, but she didn’t restrict his movie watching as long as he continued to demonstrate that he could tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Though she was not a fan of his enthusiasm for horror movies, she knew there were much worse things he could be doing with his friends, like vandalism or treason.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 38)
That zombie stuff gives me nightmares. As far as I’m concerned, when you die, you should stay dead. All of that rising from the grave and walking around and biting nice people on the arm…it’s rude is what it is. Flat-out inconsiderate.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 43-4)
Justin snapped awake. He needed another Red Bull. He needed wings. He went to the kitchen, got another Red Bull out of the refrigerator, and gulped it down. Oh yeah. He could feel the creativity flowing through his veins already. Every blood cell, both white and red, was electrified with pure energy…His right pinkie was twitching. Good. It could tap the keys faster. Ah, so that’s what a rapid heartbeat felt like! He’d always kind of wondered. This project was giving him the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of new experiences…Space bar. He had to remember to use the space bar. Despite all of this awesome energy, Justin still felt exhausted like he’d been running for several miles but couldn’t stop because some guy with a machete was still chasing him. He couldn’t figure out if his body was awake and his brain was tired or vice versa. Now his pinkie was twitching. That would help balance things out…The zone was crucial if they were going to finish this screenplay before school tomorrow. Before school today, technically. Those blankets on his bed sure looked enticing…Warmer. Fluffier. Comfier. Has his blanket just moved? Justin swore the blanket had turned down a bit at the corner, inviting him underneath the covers. No! He had to resist! He’d been in this situation many times. “Oh, why didn’t I start studying for that test a week ago?” he’d often wail. “I could’ve studied for a mere fifteen minutes a day and my life would be wonderful! But now…oh, the misery of my existence!” But he always got the studying done. And this was for something that he liked a lot more than math…You don’t need to write that script tonight, his bed said in a low purr. We haven’t been spending enough time together. Don’t you love me anymore? Just slip between the sheets and close your eyes, and the script will be magically finished when you wake up. His bed was lying to him. Justin would not be fooled. I would never lie to you, his bed assured him. We’re the best of friends forever. You know you’re sleepy, and I’m as cozy as snuggling with a hundred kittens. Come on, Justin. I have your best interests at heart. Trust me. You can totally trust him, said the pillow. Just one hour of sleep. That’s all you need. Think how much more productive you’ll be if you get in that on short hour. I’m the softest, most wonderful pillow in the world. Why would you want to break my fluffy little heart? Justin was not going to let them win this battle of wills. You’ve just made a powerful enemy, his bed said with a snarl. You’ll regret your disloyalty! The next time you get in me, I’m going to bite you in half! Right in half with my sharp, glistening fangs! Ha-ha-ha-ha! By the way, there’s a scary clown in your closet. At least his pinkies weren’t twitching anymore. No, wait. Maybe his eyeballs were twitching, and that just made his pinkies look normal.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 54-7)
“Test?” “The history test. Today. First period.” Justin suddenly wished there was a nearby bunker where he could hide away for a few minutes and scream. “I completely forgot to study for that! Why didn’t you remind me?” “I studied last week.” “Studying last week doesn’t count! People only remember stuff if they look at it the night before!” Justin wanted to weep, but again there was no bunker. “I guess I just assumed that you wouldn’t spend all day yesterday working on the script if you didn’t feel prepared for the test.” “Oh, really? You didn’t think I’d make a poor decision? You know me better that that! We’ve been friends for a hundred and fifty years!”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p58-9)
Hollywood and the FBI work in similar ways.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 83)
“All right, Duane, read the lines off the sheet.” “Look out behind you! There’s a—“ “This isn’t a musical.” “I know that.” “You were singing the line.” “Oh, I didn’t realize that.” “It’s okay. Try again.” “Look out behind you! There’s a—“  “Still singing.” “Could the character sing maybe?” “No.” “Look out behind you! There’s a zombie!” “That’s better, but you’re still doing it in a singsongy tone. What we’re specifically looking for in our male lead is dialogue that’s not in a singsongy tone.” Duane cleared his throat and nodded. “I can fix that. Just give me a second.” “Take your time.” “La la la la la la.” “The La la la’s probably aren’t going to help.” “I’m sorry. I’m used to audioning for musicals.” “It’s okay.” “Look out behind—“ “Still singsongy.” “Look—“ “Singsongy.” “What if I just play a zombie instead?” “That’s fine.” “Maybe we could have singing zombies,” suggested Bobby. “Don’t talk during the auditions, “ Justin told him.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 88-90)
Every single tooth was glistening white, perfectly straight, and it the exact quadrant of his mouth where it belonged. His eyes—oh, his eyes—had such a glorious shade of blue. It was like he had twin miniature earths wedged into his eye sockets…His hair was always perfect too. It looked as if he’d cut it three times a day. Top physicists would be baffled by it’s ability to remain perfect in all weather conditions…His arms were muscular, perfect for removing zombie limbs. He was an excellent speller. He’d never won a spelling bee, but when he lost, it was on words like ukulele, which was impossible to spell anyway.  And he was a nice guy. His aura of charisma was so intense that he could probably be a complete jerk and you’d still want to be by his side as he fled from a herd of rampaging bulls. Though he was bad a geography, he was bad at it an endearing way, and that one flaw made all of his other strengths shine that much brighter.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p95)
Justin Hollow was ready for anything. “What history test?” “I texted you a reminder last night,” said Gabe. “Didn’t we just have one?” Justin asked. “How much history is there for Mr. Dzeda to test us on?” “Did you study at all?” “I can’t do everything. Oh well. I guess I don’t get to be a famous historian now.” “Don’t be sarcastic. If we called Steven Spielberg, he’d tell you that you should’ve studied for the test.” He was right. Spielberg would be polite but firm. Justin needed to maintain his focus on academics, or the only movie he’d be making would be a documentary about living in a cardboard box in an alley, scavenging half-eaten lizards for his dinner, and burning his hair to stay warm.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 106)
Dead’s Cool isn’t a bad title actually, though I don’t like it as much as Dead Skull.” “What about Dead is Cool without the contraction?” asked Gabe. “I’m not sure our movie has any evidence that being dead is cool,” said Justin. “Killing zombies is cool, yeah, but being dead is kind of a miserable existence. You’re all rotted and stuff, and people are always  trying to shoot you in the head.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p109)
“Green bedsheet?” “Check.” “Clothespins?” “Check.” “Laptop computer?” “Check.” “Browsing history deleted?” “Check.” “Waffle iron?” “Check.” “Tape measure?” “Uh-oh.” “It’s okay,” said Gabe. “I’ve got three.” “Why do you have three?” “People like to walk off with tape measures.” “Oh.” “Squirrel food?” “Why do we need that?” “In case squirrels swarm us. We discussed this, Justin.” “If squirrels swarm us, we’ll just break up one of the sandwiches and throw it.” “If squirrels swarm us, it’ll be because we have sandwiches lying out. We spent like twenty minutes working out this contingency plan.”  “Okay, we’ll just have to go into filming unprepared. If squirrels force us to cancel you can punch me in the face. But not hard. Maybe not in the face. You can punch me in the stomach. Also not hard. Actually, having to cancel the shoot will be punishment enough. Don’t punch me.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 114-15)
“You know what?” Alicia said. “I think I just freaked out because I’m nervous about being on my first movie set. I want the Mohawk. I really do.” Justin gaped at her. “But you…but you just…but just said…but you just said that—“ “She does this kind of thing all the time,” said Daisy. “Let’s finish this,” said Alicia. “I’m ready.” “Wait. No, wait,” said Justin. “I mean, we have a lot to shoot today. We don’t have time for you to get emotional again.” “Are you calling me emotional because I’m a woman?” “What? No. You were crying fifteen seconds ago! Your cheeks are still glistening!” Justin couldn’t figure out what was happening. Maybe the reason he’d never had a girlfriend was to protect his sanity.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 124)
Justin was not actually concerned about the time that they might lose by pronouncing two extra syllables, but it was a bit early in the process to allow the cast to start dictating the approach to characters that he’d created. It would start with Alicia insisting that she always be called Veronica Chaos, and it might end with the demand that the character communicate entirely by mooing. “Can we have a brief conference” Justin asked. “Sure,” said Gabe. The two of them stepped out of earshot, and then Justin shared his theory about the mooing. “I agree that we need to keep control,” said Gabe. “But in this case I think it’s more important to choose our battles. Give her the Veronica Chaos thing, and then when there’s a disagreement that actually matters, you can say, ‘Do it may way because I bent to your will that other time.’” “That makes sense.” “Most things I say do.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p127)
“I guess it’s safe to make your move.” “I’m not making any move.” “You might as well.” “I have no interest in Daisy.” “Yeah, I’m sure.” “I don’t!” “I saw the way you were looking at her.” “How? With my retinas? How else am I supposed to look at her? Did you forget about how I feel about you-know-who?” Gabe glanced over at Alicia. “Still?” “Yes!” “Seriously?” “Yes!” “She’s kind of a nutcase.” “I know. I don’t care.” “You should probably care a little. It’s useful information.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 148)
“You’re going to be one of our slow zombies,” Justin explained. “Do a practice walk for me.” Duane walked across the basement. “Okay, that’s more like a dance.” “I don’t feel like I’m dancing.” “Maybe you’re not dancing, but you’re walking with musical rhythm. Are you thinking of a song?” “I’m always thinking of a song.” “Well, try walking without a song in your head.” Duane walked across the basement again. “See, the problem is that you’re bouncing a little. You’re bobbing your head, and you’re snapping your fingers.” “I was snapping my fingers?” “Yes.” “That’s interesting. I didn’t realize that about myself.” “So what I’d like you to do is sort of shuffle and not dance like a theater student.” “Will do.” Duane walked across the basement once more. “Better,” said Justin. “Still snapping your fingers though. “I swear I’m not aware that that’s happening.” “It’s no big deal. How about when you walk, you look down at your hands, and if you see your fingers starting to snap, you can make them stop?” Duane walked across the basement for what Justin suspected would not be the last time. “Okay,” said Justin, “the fingers have stopped, but the head-bobbing is still very much a thing.” “It’s just so strange. I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned this to me before.” “Well, unless they were directing you how to walk like the living dead, it probably wouldn’t have come up.” “That makes sense.” “What I want you to do is think of your absolute least favorite song, something you can’t dance to, and I want you to sing it your head while you’re walking.” Duane nodded. Then he walked across the basement slowly and sadly with no rhythm. “Yes!” Another directing challenge overcome!
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 180-1)
 “I still want to make this movie, but I can’t have you acting all Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick the whole time. Ahab was not a well-adjusted man. This movie can’t be your white whale.” “I understand.” “And yet at the same time, I need you to be more like Ahab because what you were doing is like if he said, ‘I must kill the white whale! I must kill the white whale! Actually no, I’ll just kill a halibut instead.’…. I want you to be like Ahab if his goal wasn’t something ridiculous like to catch that specific white whale out of all the whales in the oceans, but he still wanted to catch something awesome. Like maybe a great white shark.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 191-2)
Doofy, the stuffed bear he had gotten for his second birthday, was not going anywhere. Forget that. Production of Doofy’s has been discontinued when their noses were found to be a safety hazard to young children, and they fetched a lot of money in online auctions, but…no way. Doofy stayed. Justin hated to sell all of his stuff, but he was too young for a credit card. He had three more years before he could get into crippling debt on his own…The doorbell rang. When he went downstairs and answered it, Gabe and Bobby were standing there on his front porch. Each of them was holding a cardboard box. “What’s that?” Justin asked. “Star Wars figures,” said Bobby. “Unopened.” “Aren’t those your dad’s?” “Yes. Someday I will suffer for this. Let’s make it worth it.” “I’ve got Simpsons figures,” said Gabe, “and a bunch of comic books.” “You guys don’t have to do this,” said Justin. “Yes, we do,” said Gabe. “We’re in this together. Maybe we’re spiraling into disaster, but is so, we’re spiraling into disaster as a team.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 206-7)
Look, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but there is no realistic world in which slow zombies and fast zombies would coexist. You have to choose your side. When you watch the Super Bowl, you don’t get to root for both teams. You pick one, and you hope that the other one gets destroyed.
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p215)
This scene would work. It had to work. “It’ll work,” said George A. Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead. Justin could see right through him like Obi-wan Kenobi. “You just have to believe in yourself.” “Are you sure?” asked Justin. “A lot of my problems seem to be because I believed in myself too much.” “You can do this,” said Sam Raimi, wearing a transparent Army of Darkness T-Shirt. “I don’t say that about everyone. Some people can’t do it. And I tell them that to their face, and then I laugh at their tears. But not you, Justin. Not you.” “There’s no way you’ll mess this up,” said a conjured Peter Jackson. “When I made Dead/Alive all those years ago, nobody thought I’d go on to make a multibillion-dollar hobbit franchise. Now I could have all my enemies killed if I wanted. And I do want. And I have. But you shouldn’t because it’s wrong.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 246-7)
“When will you find out how you did?” Alicia asked. “I already know how I did,” said Justin. “It’s weird. When you study and know the answers, it’s a lot easier to gauge how well you did on a test.”
-Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever p 260)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Zombie-Movie-Ever-ebook/dp/B017HX13L2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508243567&sr=8-1&keywords=greatest+zombie+movie+ever

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