This stop is brought to you by Bewitching Book Tours and Thomas S Flowers. The author is hosting a giveaway during the tour!
News reports speak of mass panic and violence spreading across the globe. Negligent leaders hide behind misinformation. But in an age of paranoia and suspicion, who can say what is true anymore? Struggling to survive against a sweeping epidemic that has engulfed the planet, survivors will have to make hard choices in a world that no longer makes sense.
Publisher: Shadow Work Publishing
Date of Publication: Oct 13, 2017
Number of pages: 268 (Kindle), 266 (paperback)
Word Count: 60K
Cover Artist: Travis Eck
Tagline: Live. Die. Or become one of the Undead.
There it is again. Scratching in the walls. Harold sat up in the queen bed he shared with Silvio, his grey-haired miniature Schnauzer. He stared out into the darkness of his room, turning his head to the wall. What was that sound? Scratching…was it rats? Now it sounded like it was above him, that nails against wood kind of sound. But that didn’t make sense. He lived on the first floor of a two-story apartment building in one of the quieter neighborhoods in the Yongsan-gu area. Nothing ever happened here. While in the past, he’d had his share of crappy neighbors, Mrs. Kim was farthest from what one would consider to be a rowdy neighbor. Kim was a sweet little old lady with poorly dyed hair that gave her thinning white a touch of blue. She wore large red framed glasses and never made much of a sound, even during the day. The only complaint he would have would be the smell of kimchee that permeated through the walls whenever she cooked the awful stuff.
Still, the scratching persisted.
Silvio whimpered, turning his head upward at the sound, and then burying himself under the comforter.
Harold looked to his quivering dog and back to the ceiling. Now there was something else. Was that…moaning? Christ, what if Mrs. Kim fell and hurt herself. She could be dying up there. I should probably call someone, emergency services…anyone. But would they get here in time to help her? What if she’s really hurt? I need to do something.
He flung off his warm blanket and hopped out of bed. Harold slid on his slippers and went for the door. The hallway outside was empty, not very surprising considering most of the residents here at Yongsan-gu were nearing or past retirement. The very reason why he wanted to rent here was the quiet; nothing out of the ordinary ever happened here. A sudden cold breeze tickled his neck and arms. Pulling his robe closer to his chest, his skin breaking out in goosebumps, he quickly shuffled to the stairs.
Hoping Silvio would be okay on his own, Harold climbed the short steps to the second floor.
Silvio will be okay, he promised himself.
It’ll only be for a few minutes.
Mrs. Kim’s apartment was at the end, just above his own. Passing the door before hers he thought he’d heard the tenants arguing inside.
Odd, he thought, tempted to press his ear against their door. In all the years that Harold had lived here, he had never once heard or seen Fred and Marcy fight. Not once. They were the picture perfect boring couple, and the only other Americans living in the complex. Teachers, at some private school. Not that Harold would know much about that; he taught at the public institution, and had so for years now. As the saying goes, he was a professional bachelor and had little to nothing keeping him from wanting to return to the States. And besides, he liked it here. The culture, the food, the purposefulness, and the discipline of the students were far advanced from what he’d dealt with back in Kentucky.
Harold took a step and stopped, thought better of it, and continued to Mrs. Kim’s.
He knocked on the red door.
“Mrs. Kim, you in there?”
“Is everything okay? I thought I heard— “
The door to Fred and Marcy’s apartment flung open.
Harold jumped back, pulling tighter on his robes.
Someone ran out. A blur. Down the hallway to the stairs. Turning back, he stared at Harold.
“Fred? What’s going on?”
Fred, who was normally tan with tidily kept clothes, looked disheveled and ghostly. He’d obviously been sweating, his hair ruffled and sticking up in areas. And on his clothes, there were red stains, dark red, covering most of his untucked shirt and pant legs. On his neck, an aggravated wound, crimson and purplish, oozing down and soaking into his collar.
“Fred, are you okay? Are you hurt?” Harold took a step forward.
Wide eyed, Fred turned and darted down the steps.
Harold watched, silent and unmoving.
He eyed the open door to their apartment.
No sounds came from within.
He glanced at Mrs. Kim’s door and then back to Fred and Marcy’s.
Swallowing hard, he moved toward the open door. With his slipper foot, he slowly nudged it open. The door creaked and stopped. No lights inside, just a dim glow coming from a lamp in the living room. Chairs were turned over, dishes smashed and broken on the floor in the kitchen.
“Hello?” he called. “Marcy? It’s me, Harold, from downstairs.”
“I don’t mean to intrude, but I saw Fred. He looks hurt. Is everything okay?” Harold stopped short of coming into the kitchen completely. He saw legs and feet sticking out around the corner, lifeless on the floor.
Harold gasped, covering his mouth with his cold trembling hand.
“Oh no,” he whispered.
He moved to the body. Marcy lay face down on the kitchen tile. Blood pooled underneath, staining her yellow polka dot dress, wet in a gamey orange.
“Marcy?” Harold called out. He bent down and reached to check for a pulse.
He jerked back.
“Oh, God, you startled me. Marcy, are you alright?” Harold shuddered, his breath coming too fast, heart pounding against his chest.
Strangely, in odd twitching movements, Marcy got to her knees and turned.
“Oh no, Marcy…what…what happened? How can— “Harold wanted to scream, his breath and his heart pumping too hard to allow him. She ground chunks of pink flesh between red stained teeth… Fred’s flesh, he was sure.
Marcy groaned and lunged for him.
Harold moved back just in time.! He watched as Marcy fell face first onto the kitchen tile, inching away as she began moving again, crawling, reaching out with reddened fingers, clawing at his slippered feet.
“Marcy, what’s happened? What’s going?” he begged, again taking another step back out into the living room, back towards the open apartment door.
Marcy groaned, annoyed and hungry, still in pursuit, still crawling.
Unable to watch anymore, wanting nothing more than to run back downstairs to his own apartment, to lock and deadbolt the door, to hug close Silvio, his miniature Schnauzer, wanting nothing more than to be somewhere else, somewhere not here with this bloodied crazed woman who was no longer the Marcy he thought he knew.
Or on drugs, has to be.
She’s not herself.
Harold turned and started for the open door.
Mrs. Kim stood in the entryway. Her bluish white hair ruffled and torn. Red swollen teeth-like wounds on her arms. And her eyes, a creamy yellow white, but not a sunny yellow, rather much more like decay that reminded him of rotting things eking some measure of existence at the bottom of dumpsters. She shuffled toward him, quickly grabbing on his robe and pulling herself to him.
Harold slapped at her. Hard.
But her hold was strong, manically strong.
“Stop, Mrs. Kim, please— “
She angled down and bit his exposed wrist. Blood pooled around her lips as she gnawed and suckled, grunting with a sort of pleasurable ecstasy.
Harold screamed and fought to dislodge her, but he could not remove her bite.
Nails scraped his shins.
He glared down.
Marcy was clawing at his legs, nipping at his flesh.
He kicked away, but she held fast. With a quick sneer, she bit into his calf.
Harold shrieked, toppling over the couch. He rolled and hit the floor on the other side hard, knocking his head against the coffee table. Dazed, he lay there, unsure if what was happening was even real. Maybe he was still in his own apartment, fast asleep with Silvio by his side.
Shuffling over, moaning deeply, Mrs. Kim reappeared, her lips wet and scarlet, dribbling down onto her white ruffle blouse.
He watched, frozen, his body refusing to move.
“Please…stop…don’t— “he begged.
Another moaning, gurgling above him.
Harold angled and watched as Marcy crawled towards him from the other side of the couch. As if driven by the smell of his wounds, she quickened her pace, scrapping along the floor. Reaching his face, she thrust her sneering teeth clamping down on his cheek, ripping, shredding loose flesh and tissue and fat, pulling back to enjoy the chunky red and purplish glob.
Harold squirmed and squealed.
He stared in horror as Mrs. Kim kneeled beside him, reaching with greedy claws for his now exposed belly. She tore into his flesh, bleeding him, reaching, wiggling her fingers deep inside.
Harold lost his voice, whimpering and gnashing his gums as he watched in disbelief, watched as Mrs. Kim ripped out a rubbery looking hose like noddle what he could only assume to be part of his intestines. Dripping wet, she suckled and chewed hastily and dug some more.
What about Silvio, he wondered, shuddering at the molten touch of Mrs. Kim digging farther into him, pulling out more of his stomach, licking, eating him alive.
My dog, what’ll happen to my Silvio…
Dawn of the Dead (1978): Remembering George A. Romero’s Greatest Film
Guest Blog by Thomas S. Flowers
Francine Parker: They’re still here.
Stephen: They’re after us. They know we’re still in here.
Peter: They’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.
Francine Parker: What the hell are they?
Peter: They’re us, that’s all, when there’s no more room in hell.
Peter: Something my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
Dawn of the Dead is among many things a very quotable movie. The scene above is probably everyone’s favorite, and for some there are more selective scenes to nibble on. Scientists arguing on what remains of the news broadcast. The SWAT incursion of the Philadelphia apartment building. The refueling scene, the dock scene, the shopping montage. The raiders and ensuing firefight. There are plenty. And if you were to ask me, I can’t really say if I personally have an all-time favorite scene, I mean let’s be honest here, there are so many to choose from. From the very beginning, Dawn of the Dead lures you in and keeps your attention rooted into the story. The pacing couldn’t be more perfect.
But before we delve any further, let’s get one of those sweet sweet IMDb synopses’:
“Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.”
Okay, well…not bad. Not bad except for one fundamental thing. This synopsis violates one of the Laws of Romeroism. Also, btw, Romeroism is basically as it sounds, the rules or laws set in pace by George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead) as the originator of the “zombie” sub-genre as we know it today, that is the undead consuming the flesh of the living. Please see the following link for a complete detailed list of all the Laws of Romeroism. So which “law” did the synopsis violate? In Romeroesque zombie movies, the zombies are never called zombies…except for that one time in Land of the Dead when Dennis Hopper’s character says, “Zombies…they freak me out, man.”
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The round-about point being that Dawn of the Dead was Romero’s second film, the one in which he began establishing the rules for his “zombies.” In Night of the Living Dead, he had (at the time) no idea that he was creating an entirely new sub-genre in horror, that his “ghouls” would eventually become more popular than that of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon (Gillman), and the Invisible Man, the pillars of horror themselves.
Dawn of the Dead was also the first “dead film” in which Romero wrote and directed without the help of his friend and partner from Night of the Living Dead, John Russo. I’m not entirely sure what caused the split, but in an interview with Lee Karr in 2009, this is what George had to say regarding Russo:
“I love John, I still love John. John is the most practical guy – you can have a conversation with John about anything, politics, movies, whatever. Anything he says you may not agree with it, but he’s got a practical approach to it…and therefore you can never defeat his arguments, even though you would like to! I just wish John would cut a couple of chords and loosen himself up a little bit. I think he is too strict on himself and he chooses a business approach. I think he could have been a superstar, but he took the safer route. He bet the red-black, instead of ever putting it on number 17.”
Looking back at Dawn of the Dead, one can see the amount of risk George A. Romero put in to make this film. Dawn remained independent yet upped the budget that Night of the Living Dead had from 114,000 to 650,000. And Dawn would go on to gross over 5 million at the box office. Not only was Dawn a “home run” in terms of investment, but over the years it has remained in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide, earning itself a place within the lexicon of cult classics. Even infamous critic Roger Ebert said Dawn was, “one of the best horror films ever made — and, as an inescapable result, one of the most horrifying. It is gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling.”
Watching Dawn of the Dead, one cannot escape the lure of the story. From the very get-go, we want to know what’s going on. The first scene opens with a shot of red carpet and leading lady Francine Parker (played by Gaylen Ross) waking from a nightmare into a more literal nightmare. She’s at a news-station, and the news ain’t good (is it ever?). People are frantic, running every which way, barely holding on to whatever discipline they have left. Most have fled, as Stephen (played by David Emge) quips, “someone must survive.” Francine seems determined to do her duty, and that is to broadcast as long as possible, but in the end let’s go on the career she undoubtedly worked hard to build.
From the news station, we cut to an apartment building in Philadelphia (really in Pittsburgh) as a SWAT team readies to raid and dispose of the collected “dead” the residents have refused to hand over to the “proper” authorities. Martial law has apparently been given and the order stands that all “dead” must be properly “disposed” of. But as it seems, some still honor the dead, as I think Peter (played by Ken Foree) says later on during the raid. The most startling moment here is not when the brown makeup faced “Puerto Ricoian” comes running out only to get gunned down, but the small cracks in the demeanor of some of the SWAT members, most notably when “Woolie’s gone ape shit, man.” There’s also a more foreboding scene with the one-legged priest, as he says:
“Many have died, last week, on these streets. In the basement of this building, you will find them. I have given them the last rites. Now, you do what you will. You are stronger than us. But soon, I think they be stronger than you. When the dead walk, señores, we must stop the killing… or lose the war…”
What is the priest talking about here? Just the undead in the apartment building, or something more? See, this is when horror really shines, when it forces audiences to ask the questions they typically avoid asking. This scene takes about less than a minute to play out, but the ramification of what was said are everlasting. And there are more questions that will be asked as Dawn of the Dead continues. From the apartment building, we’re taken near the docks where Stephen and Francine prepare the News Helicopter for their impromptu escape from the city. If your watching the Uncut edition, there are some added scenes here. As Stephen radios, the “post has been abandoned.” But not everyone had fled. The couple have a close shave with another party who have thoughts of running. A group of surviving police, as it would seem, with a notable actor who will make a return appearance in Day of the Dead, though not as the same character, are poised to take more than their share, giving Stephen a “hard time” for taking “company” fuel. Luckily, Roger and Peter arrive and chase the “bad men” away.
Our group escape the city unscathed and as they are flying around looking for refuge, they pass over another group of what we might imagine from the end of Night of the Living Dead, a hodgepodge collection of military, police, huntsmen, various first responders and country locals, all banded together. One might feel safe with them, as the saying goes, there is safety in numbers, right? Except for the odd sensation, the way they treat the dead or undead, playing around with them, wrestling with them, lynching them up in trees and using them as target practice. What does their actions say about the human condition? That we demonize our enemies and thus become demons ourselves, perhaps?
After another close shave fueling up, the group passes over an abandoned mall. They’ve been flying for hours now and are in need of rest. There’s an upstairs area that seems isolated from the rest of the mall and so they decided to make camp. But after spending some time there, thoughts of looting and pillaging consume them, all but Francine who wants nothing more than to continue north. The boys get a sort of consumerist fever, that everything in the mall could be theirs if only they had the gumption to take it. And they do, they plan how to cut off the flow of undead from coming into the complex and work at removing those already inside. Roger (played by Scott H. Reiniger) is bitten during an episode he has, cracking up just like Woolie had at the beginning. And it really forces the question, was it all worth it? Sure, they get the spoils, there’s even a fun little montage of them enjoying their hard fought gains. Eventually the fun wears thin and after Roger passes away, comes back, and is killed again, the sting is felt on the faces of the characters. As Francine says:
“Stephen, I’m afraid. You’re hypnotized by this place. All of you! You don’t see that it’s not a sanctuary, it’s a prison! Let’s just take what we need and get out of here!”
Eventually raiders stumble upon the mall and more deaths follow. In the end, the mall is abandoned and we’re left wondering was it worth it? Stephen could have listened to Peter and just let the raiders take what they wanted and go, but no. He became possessive, hypnotized by the lore of stuff, of ownership, even though they never really owned any of it. And what good did any of that stuff do? What could they do with it? Trade? Barter? What hole did the mall fill for those characters? Looking at the mall from a survivors perspective, it certainly had a feeling of security, four walls and all and plenty of space to run and escape. But as proved by the raiders, the mall is a high target. Protecting a bunch of stuff they can’t even really use seems pointless, why not just take what they need and continue north as Francine wanted? What was the attraction of staying?
Personally speaking, I think it was the normalcy the mall offered. Stephen and Peter both quipped that the reason why the undead were coming to the mall was because it was a place of importance to them, something they “remembered.” Yet, there they were too. For shelter, at first, yes. But they stayed for another reason, to “play house,” as Stephen said to Francine when he was trying to convince her why they should stay at the mall. The mall had “everything they needed…” but did it really?
Dawn of the Dead was selected as the last film to be reviewed for this year’s zombie themed Fright Fest because it is the fundamental “be-all” for a zombie movie. Fighting words for some, I’m sure. But few can deny the impact Dawn has had on the sub-genre and the continuingly growing culture surrounding the film. Dawn of the Dead is my personal favorite horror film, second only to John Carpenter’s The Thing. Why? Well… Romero didn’t rush the progression of the story, clocking in over two hours of gory storytelling, which I favor. The length and pace to me feel natural and wonderfully nihilistic. Not only giving us horror fans all the blood and guts we could have want for, but also giving us something else to chew on, all the various questions raised concerning humanity and concerning ourselves.
About the Author:
Who doesn’t love a good story? Thomas’s favorite books include All Quiet on the Western Front, Salem’s Lot, and Hell House.
In his own writings, he aspires to create fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore, classic monster tales, and even stories that hurt him the most to write about, haunted soldiers and PTSD. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas’s debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, FEAST, Beautiful Ugly, and Planet of the Dead.
His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, and the undead are published with Limitless Publishing.
In 2008, Thomas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He is the senior editor at Machine Mean, a site that reviews horribly awesome and vintage horror movies and books from guest contributors who obsess over a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.
Machine Mean https://machinemean.org/
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