Tuesday, June 14, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Strikes Back Day 14: Favorite zombie.

I love zombies. The living dead are my favorite movie monsters. The majority of the time, however, the zombie is a completely one note character. The character, simply by its nature, has no real complexity. Sure, there are good and bad performances as a zombie, but the fact that by definition you are supposed to play the part as emotionless limits where you can go with the character. That’s why it’s such a special thing when a zombie actually has a personality. There have been a few of these over the years, like Bub from Day of the Dead and Fido from, um, Fido, but the most emotionally complex zombie character ever created is my favorite zombie of all time, Julie Walker in Return of the Living Dead 3.
Julie is the girlfriend of Curt, an army brat who wants to move to Seattle to be a rock star. Hmmm, do you think someone on the writing staff was a Nirvana fan? Anyway, the lovebirds sneak into Curt’s father’s lab and see an experiment involving reanimating the dead. Later, after Julie dies in a motorcycle accident, Curt decides to use a little Trioxin to revive his dead love. As she slowly transforms into a brain muncher, she struggles to hang on to her humanity because of her love for Curt. She progressively mutilates herself, because the pain eases her craving for flesh. She makes those Suicide Girls look like reserved homemaker types. She pierces herself with glass, metal, and anything she can get her hands on. As she eventually succumbs to the hunger, she ends up...well, go watch the movie. I’m not giving the whole thing away.
This Romeo and Juliet romance plays out perfectly in the context of a horror movie. The character of Julie has as much emotional gravitas in a B horror flick as any Oscar bait drama character. She’s becoming a monster, she’s freaked out by what’s happening to her, but she does all she can to maintain her sanity all because of love. All she wants is to die, for the pain to be over, but she endures it for Curt. If you can’t feel that, you just don’t have a pulse. The progressive mutilation of her body is a truly effective visual metaphor for the deterioration of her humanity and mental state. That was an ingenious plot device. Kudos to writer John Penney and director Brian Yuzna for bringing it to life so brilliantly. She begins as a teenage girl. She’s wild but good hearted. She basically ends up as a cenobite; if you replace “demon” with “zombie.” She’s a living creature of pure pain. In her final form she is the perfect melding of grotesque and beautiful. That slow transformation is as fascinating as it is dramatic.
There is one scene in the flick that shows her struggle best. As she freaks out, screaming that she “can’t do this anymore” she steps on a piece of glass. After a moment of realization, she turns her back to Curt, shaking like a dopesick junkie, and presses the huge glass shard into her hand. The pain calms her down. Her face instantly softens, her eyes turn caring again for a moment, and she turns to Curt. She apologizes with the air of someone who is struggling with all that is within them to manipulate someone with the best of intentions by saying things they truly mean but can’t feel, if that makes any sense. This one scene has so much unspoken subtext and complex emotional interplay that I could analyze it into oblivion, but I’ll spare you. As she takes him in her arms, kisses him, and he lowers her to the bed; she pushes the piece of glass further through her hand behind his back. She wants to be what Curt needs her to be, and she’s willing to do what she needs to do to be that, but she can’t let him know. The look on her face says all of that and more. It’s a very moving, emotional scene. It is acted brilliantly, which brings me to Melinda ( aka Mindy) Clarke.
Melinda Clarke, who plays Julie, puts in an amazing performance. Let this be a lesson to all of the young actors out there in the Twilight acting school, THIS is how you play an “emotionally tortured” character. She expresses every shifting emotion so clearly that you know what’s going on in her head even when she isn’t speaking. That’s the mark of a gifted actress. If you’re the type that cries at tearjerker flicks, I dare say she’s the only zombie in cinema history that will get the waterworks flowing. Her performance is far and away better than what is often found in horror films, and elevates the film from just a great flick to a true classic.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other factor that makes her my favorite. She’s drop dead gorgeous, pun completely intended. Remember on day 6 (character you most want to “get it on” with) when I said that it was a tie between Tiffany, Elvira, and a character who would come up later? This is who I was talking about. If I hadn’t wanted her for this day so much she definitely would have fit that description. Melinda Clarke as Julie is quite possibly the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on. She’s a redhead with breathtaking green eyes. I love that combination. She’s almost unbearably hot. When she becomes mutilated cenobite Julie, she’s still hot. Maybe it’s the torn fishnet thing. Plus, she’s an extreme masochist. We could have fun with that. The less I write about that line of thinking the better. Basically, she’s the hottest woman ever in a horror movie, and she’s a zombie to boot. If you want to see her in something a little less kinky, I recommend Return to Two Moon Junction or her appearances as Lady Heather on CSI. I even once watched an episode of The OC because she was on it. THE FREAKIN" OC! That's how hot she is.

The fact that she’s ridiculously sexy added to her being an amazing character played by a great actress makes her my all time favorite zombie. Hey, look at that! I managed to get through that whole article without making any sarcastic cracks about redheads named Julie. Wait…dammit. Nevermind.


Cash Wampum said...

Bub is undoubtedly the coolest zombie ever in the genre. He showed much more charisma then the Land of the Dead lead zombie there.

Your red headed minx zombie was very cool. Trash zombie from ROTLD was a good one too.

Some cooler ones that come to mind that I really liked, most were from ROTLD. The female torso that they interrogate was cool. The stumpy zombie that surprises Ernie and hobbles after him was an excellent touch. The Tar-man!!? BRAINS!! I thought the way he lumbered around like he was made of jelly was freaky. Not to mention it being smart enough to use the wench to take the door down was also creepy.

Shit, even the "Freddy" zombie was cool. He had great dialog, trying to convince Tina to let him in the crawlspace so he can eat her brains. "Now you made me hurt myself again. Now I broke my hand completely off this time, Tina. But I forgive you darling....."

How about hare krishna zombie from the original Dawn? With tambourine and everything!!

Shit, I could go on and on!! Great topic Nate!!!

Dr. Jimmy Terror said...

Dude! I saw your blog just as I was about to post mine. I couldn't agree more and excellent entry. I through a plug into my blog... ya know... for Mindy! :)


Anonymous said...

love Mindy Clark!! She can bite me anytime! And, if you didn't know, she plays Kelly, the mother of Matt Donovan, on the CWs 'The Vampire Diaries':)

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