Half way through a seven-hour drive to yet another rock climbing competition, trapped in a car with three adults, two tween girls, and a metric ton of smelly climbing shoes, I came up with the brilliant idea of making some lists to post on this blog.
How better, I thought (rousing briefly from a groggy haze brought on by Gravol and way too much time on the 401…and trust me, anyone who has driven on the 401 can vouch for how absolutely, mindbogglingly boring and UGLY it is), for my readers to get to know me!
I pulled out a pen and the little pad of paper I carry everywhere with me in a vain attempt to stop jotting plot notes and bits of dialogue on napkins, bookmarks, parking stubs, and anything else to which I can apply a pen, and very quickly realized that I hate numbered lists.
Things started out well. I wrote down some titles, each on its own separate page with a neat row of numbers below, because yes, I’m that kind of person. I had loads of ideas and was ready to create a set of fun, fanciful lists that would tell my readers more about me, my tastes, and the things that have shaped my writing. I promptly spent the next hour descending into a wallow of anxiety and self-doubt. Now, maybe the Gravol, the cramped quarters, and the chaos of being in a closed space with two twelve-year-olds who managed, in the space of that one trip, to lose a water bottle, a pair of ear-buds, an MP3 player, AND a pair of winter boots, played a part, but I suspect they were only ancillary. My real issue was with the lists themselves.
What happened, you ask? Let’s take my attempt at a “Top Ten Zombie Movies” list as an example.
I decided to start completing the list from the top, with number one. It would be easy, I thought, to name my favourite zombie movie — after all, it’s one of my favourite genres. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I ran in to trouble right away. Should I give top rank to the original Night of the Living Dead, as foundational to the modern zombie genre? What about the 1990 remake which, while keeping some of the social commentary on race relations, also upped the feminist game by giving Barbara some backbone? Should top place go to Zombieland for its humour and unexpected emotional punches, or to Train to Busan, for its absolutely brilliant brush-stroke character building? And what about The Dead, which took the classic Romero approach but removed the genre from the traditional western setting? 28 Days Later is one of the few movies to give me night terrors, although the sequel left a lot to be desired, and the original Resident Evil was stylish and streamlined; something missing from the later installments in the series.
The problem, I realized, was that I liked all these movies for different reasons. With no criteria to define my scale (was I picking the top ten scary zombie movies, or international, or classic, or interesting takes on the genre, or, or ,or ,or…?) I found myself with a ten-way tie for first place and an existential crisis about the rest. And that didn’t even cover the movies I own but haven’t had the chance to watch yet: Maggie, Extinction, The Returned, Contracted, and Jeruzelam to name just a few. How could I possibly make a Top Ten Zombie Movie List when I hadn’t seen ALL THE MOVIES!?!?! Add to that the fear that by putting out a Top Ten List I was inviting attack from everyone who disagreed with my choices, and by the end of the road trip I ended up with a note pad filled with movie titles, scribbles, and notes on what I had to watch before I could continue. It was not the fun exercise I’d imagined.
Long story (and car ride) short, I realized that I don’t like numbered lists for the following reasons:
- They are totally subjective (but present the illusion of objective authority) (i.e., any given top ten list is valid only for its creator)
- They force you to compare and contrast things that are better appreciated for their own merits
- They are always incomplete and out of date (New movie released? Damn, obsolete already…)
- They just stress me out
So on that note, I present my “Random, unordered, incomplete, and absolutely subjective list of zombie movies I like”
- Night of the Living Dead (original and 1990s remake)
- Dawn of the Dead (original, although the opening sequences of the 2004 remake were great)
- Resident Evil
- Shaun of the Dead
- Train to Busan
- The Dead (I and II)
- Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies
- 28 Days Later (Which I will NEVER, EVER watch again. Once was enough)
- Dead and Breakfast (the songs are a riot)
- Dead Set (Arguably a TV mini-series, but it’s my list, so there)
- The Girl with all Gifts
- The Zombie Diaries
- The Crazies
- Warm Bodies (Read the book!)
- Cargo (The original 5min short is better)