Ever since I was a kid I wanted to make movies. I always figured it was just my natural love of story telling mixed with a flare to try and do everything as over the top as possible.
But after blundering my way through tiny high school productions and spending the last four years of my life producing weekly book reviews I’ve come to respect that even if you put your mind to it and bleed your soul dry, it’s not easy. If this is what it’s like working on a zero grade project than I have no idea what the stress levels would be like working on the next Avengers.
The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever follows three friends Justin, Gabe and Bobby as they attempt to make the greatest zombie movie ever. They go about this by writing an unfilmable script, hiring Justin’s crush as their lead and giving themselves a three week deadline to make an hour and a half long film. The entire time I was reading the novel I just sat there shaking my head and muttering about these awful decisions that were clearly just there to create conflict.
The three leads, Justin, Bobby and Gabe are all boiled down to a single characteristic each. Bobby is the dumb one, he tends to be the butt of the other two’s jokes and doesn’t think through everything. He reminded me of the hyena Ed from the Lion King. He’s just going along and doing whatever the other two want. He’s perfectly happy being there and is invested but not as strongly as his two friends. Gabe is the voice of reason. He tries to keep everything together and running smoothly. Then there is Justin, he’s the director and he’s a bit crazy in a screwball comedy kind of way. I think Jeff Strand was riffing on directors like Stanley Kubrick who are obsessed with their work till it drives them (and those around them) mad. Justin is plagued by his need to create the greatest zombie movie ever but at the same time he can’t help but cut corners. As his project falls apart, so does he which leads him to making some ridiculous decisions.
The main conflict of the novel relies on murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. There is a mixture of believable problems that made me feel for the characters (like their camera breaking) and wacky problems which made me question the world of the novel, like Justin’s grandmother hiring a hit man to scare our main characters into making good on their loan payment. The constant flip flop between realistic and screwball comedy did not help the tone of the novel.
TGZME is billed as a young adult novel, but reads closer to a middle grade book. There are no serious problems for the characters to overcome, and the characters don’t really grow by the end of the story. But for a younger reader who has dreams about making movies this book has solid appeal. Though the problems are silly and the characters are overblown I can see how the DIY nature of the story could inspire a kid to go out and make their own films.
In the end, I’m not the intended audience for The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, but I can see it’s merits. Did I hate the book? No. Will I ever re-read it? Probably not.