The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (TGZME) is a story about three friends who decide that they want to make… can you guess… the greatest zombie movie ever.
I bet you could never have called that one.
We ended up getting a digital ARC for this book from Netgalley, and I specifically chose this one for the nostalgia.We didn’t actually try to make a zombie movie, but in high school we did do a couple of short films. We’re totes pros now. Anyway. The point is that we should be able to relate to it but sadly TGZME did not measure up.
Justin, Gabe, and Bobby are three friends sick of making sub-par horror movies. And rather than taking it slow, and say, just making a movie with an actual script, they decide to make the greatest zombie movie ever. ‘Cause zombies are cool and how hard could it be?
To complicate things further they decide on a three weekend timeline for filming their 3 hour epic, because once summer vacation hits Gabe is leaving town. That means they have 3 weekends to film and a day to put a script together.
Why they decided that they must do this epic zombie movie right this minute and it can’t wait until the summer is over and they have more time, I can’t even tell you. It doesn’t even occur to the characters that it is an option.
The boys hold auditions at school and cast Justin’s crush as the lead actress. They also cast the school’s most handsome, charismatic guy as the leading male.
That just leaves the problem of sets, budgets, and props. They go to Justin’s scheming grandmother and she gives them $5000 for 12% interest. Then they go to Bobby’s ex-con Uncle Clyde for help making the zombie prosthetic. Lastly, they look for a choice location to film and are denied the chance to film at their school. Winner winner chicken dinner if you guessed that they eventually break into the school anyway.
Obviously, and this is really not a spoiler… Everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and they don’t end up making the greatest zombie movie ever.
So Quirky Adorable Shenanigans, Right?
Wrong. The lead actress gets a piercing and it gets infected. Bobby, the sound guy, gets sick. Someone drops the camera. Their actors quit. Justin breaks an arm. And a whole lot more…
But it all comes off as fairly predictable, in that you know that things are going to go wrong. But the things that go wrong aren’t exactly weird enough to make the story engaging. These are not Tommy Wiseau level problems.
Or maybe it’s the writing style that doesn’t exactly sell plot. Having just finished reading Jesse Andrew’s The Haters it almost seems as if Jeff Strand was going for that kind of quirky, off beat sense of humour but only went half way because he was afraid of not getting a non-existent book PG rating.
For example, the boys decide to cast Alicia as the star because Justin has a major crush on her. But despite the fact that he is an 8.5 on the sexually frustrated scale, he thinks about her as if she is a pure and delicate flower. He doesn’t imagine what it would be like to makeout with her, or go on a date with her, or any of those things that would suggest that he is a 15 year old boy with 15 year old boy hormones.
Nope, kids don’t do drugs or have sex or drink alcohol. You’re going to hell for even suggesting it.
TGZME Lacks Realism and the Jokes Suffer for it.
I am resisting the urge to put another eye-roll gif here.
The failed jokes come in all sorts of varieties. There are the jokes that are setup wrong.
[quote]Though she [Justin’s mom] 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.[/quote]
Treason? That’s trying too hard. That’s shooting way past the bar. His white middle-class mother is never going to consider her son is capable of treason. A joke like this works much better if you throw in something mundane rather than just going to an extreme.
[quote]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 listening to disco.[/quote]
And then there are running gags that are funny for the wrong reason. Ex: all the adults think that liking zombie movies means that you’re a devout worshiper of the Satan, the Dark Lord himself.
“We’re not trying to ruin anybody’s birthday,” Justin insisted. “All we need to do is get a few more scenes done, and we’ll be out of your way.”…
“I will not be moving Hugo’s birthday party so you cultists can play zombie games.”
Then there are the jokes are the so dumb, you laugh, but only in disbelief. Case and point Stinky the Clown. The clown is set on the wannabe film-makers by dickish parents hosting a children’s birthday party in the park. He interrupts their filming with lines of epic poetry such as:
- I’m Stinky the Clown. Gabagabagabagaba! I have a pet turtle named Barf! Woowoowoowoowoo. I can eat three hundred pistachios in a weekend. Durdurdurdurdurdur!
- I smell like dead fish! Wawawawawa!
- I’m Stinky the Clown!… I smell like tapioca pudding you forgot to eat! Zuhzuhzuhzuhzuh! Thubthubthubthub! Gurkle gurkle gonkle gonkle blerp.
- I’m Stinky the Clown. Soap is for the weak! Fa fa durken wa!
The only way these lines are funny is when you try to look at yourself in the mirror and read them with a straight face. Seriously.
The Actors… er, I Mean Characters
Characterization in TGZME needs work. The female characters are so bland that they’re practically objectified. Like Alicia, Justin’s hot crush that was cast in the movie because she’s hot and Justin has a crush on her. It’s not that Alicia is sexualised or a prize to be won, it’s just that she is a plot placeholder. Hot-crush goes here for zany antics to ensue.
But to be fair it’s very hard to say that any of the characters have a unique voice or are at all memorable. A lot of times they have really short, back and forth conversations that don’t comes with “said Bobby” or “replied Gabe” so I honestly had no idea who was talking at the time.
They’re very one-dimensional. Gabe is the practical one, Bobby is the dumb one. and Justin is the director. So picture the book starring Sam, Goyle and Nicolas Cage.
With the flat characters and the PG sense of humour this book reads like it’s should be directed at the 9-12 crowd and not a YA audience.
I like that this is a book about young film makers, trying to follow their dream. I like how it springs from the Youtube/DIY culture, but my God is it patronizing. The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever would be great for a passionate kid reading at a 10 year old reading level. For a YA audience, I don’t think there is a lot there, humourously or otherwise.
But just an FYI. You cannot make a feature film in three weekends on a budget of $5000. It will not happen.