My husband, John, came up behind me as I was at the computer the other day.
"How's work coming?" he asked.
I stared at the screen. Instead of work, hundreds of tiny pixels were scampering about, turning from pink to white in a spreading pattern. "Uh, good," I told him.
"That doesn't look like writing. What is it?"
It seems that some blessed soul with about the same amount of work ethic I possess spent the time to create a "Zombie Infection Simulation". (Surf it at http://kevan.org/proce55ing/zombies/) Pink dots represent the human population of a city. White dots represent zombies. At the start of the simulation, one white dot is placed at a random point in a randomly created city. Before your very eyes, a tale of terror unfolds as the zombie goes about infecting humans. They become zombies who, in turn, infect other humans, until the whole screen is a mass of tiny, mindless white dots. It's like watching the world's most gruesome flea circus.
"That reminds me," said John. "That horror movie directed by Rob Zombie is out on video. Let's rent it."
Grateful that he chose not to point out what a slacker I was, I opened my mouth and uttered the words I would soon come to regret.
"What a good idea, dear! What's the movie called?"
"Um, House of the Dead or something."
Thus sparked The Marathon of the Dead, a series of video and DVD disasters so name not because of the endless parades of zombies across our TV screen, nor for the absence of life's spark in the performances by the actors. The name was not because of what the movies did to the careers of the directors and screenwriters who made them. No, it was the Marathon of the Dead because that was what we wished we were, watching bad horror flick after bad horror flick.
"Hmm. I thought it was this one," John said as we watched the opening credits for Rob Zombie's name. House of the Dead was not the film we thought it was. This was a film whose R rating was well deserved, but not for the gore. Not for the extremely pointless nudity, which seemed to be tossed in as a last ditch effort to try to get 14 year old boys to watch. No, the R rating had to be for the directing.
You don't expect good writing or acting from a horror flick, though every once in a while you're surprised with it. But there are bad horror films and then there are movies so dreadful that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the most mindless undead zombie in the film was the one sitting in the director's chair. You also realize why the zombies are always wandering about with a craving for brains. In the case of the House of the Dead, they were just trying to take up a collection of gray matter for the director and screenwriter.
We spent the entire evening trying to place blame on each other for watching it. "You rented it," I accused. "You didn't make me turn it off," John countered.
So of course John came back the next day with "Day of the Dead" and "House of 1000 Corpses".
"This is the movie Rob Zombie directed," he said proudly, holding up House of 1000 Corpses.
"Then what's the other one?"
"Remember the one I liked? Dawn of the Dead? This is the sequel."
"So it's good?"
"No. Dawn of the Dead was good, but that one wasn't in."
I peered at him closely to make sure zombies hadn't eaten his brains.
Speaking of operating without brain matter, did I mention why we wanted to watch a movie directed by Rob Zombie? Rob Zombie is a musician. He has a heavy metal band that made one of my favorite songs. The lyrics of the song are, as near as I can tell, "mrgffbml garvgarv frglbmmer YEAH."
I do not know what the English translation of that is. Neither does John, who also likes the song. We don't want to know, mostly because we are afraid that if we find out, we won't like the song anymore. We don't buy his albums. We don't read his comic book. (He has one, apparently.) But for some reason, we decided that we would like to see a horror movie written and directed by Rob Zombie. "Maybe it will be good," was the entire logic behind our decision. Do I even need to say that it wasn't?
Unlike House of the Dead, House of 1000 Corpses was at least an acceptable horror flick. Instead of being a crime against the natural resources consumed to make the DVD and the case it was housed in, Rob Zombie's movie was simply pointless, mildly creepy gore. Instead of staring in shock at how brutally bad the movie was, we were merely left feeling that we had wasted an hour and a half of our life telling each other, "Okay, there's still an hour left for there to be a point to this movie. Okay, there's still 30 minutes left for there to be a point. Okay, they have about five minutes. Maybe it all comes together in the last five, no four, still waiting... that was it?"
I suppose there was also a sense of pity. After all, we lost one hour. But Rob wrote it and directed it. He may very well have lost years of his life on that dog. Ouch.
All told, by the time John got around to popping in the Day of the Dead, I looked at him like he had just burst out of a fresh grave.
"What?" he said. "I'm not actually going to watch it. I'm just going to have it on in the background."
"Garbage in, garbage out," I pointed out to him. "But if you want to waste your time polluting your brain with more of that trash, you go right ahead."
Then I went back to staring at my computer screen and hit the reset button so I could watch those tiny gray dots take over the little city again. It's not my fault. Too many horror movies have made me into a mindless zombie.
Comments and fresh brains to email@example.com
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.