Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: High School of the Dead

Dir. Tetsuro Araki, 2010, Madman (Australian DVD release).

A deadly new disease is ravaging the world, turning the populace into mindless zombies, and the number of infected is skyrocketing by the second. As their fellow classmates and teachers succumb to the infection around them, a small group of students at Fujimi High School are fighting for their lives after surviving the initial outbreak. It is up to Takashi Komuro to unite the group of weary survivors and try to escape the horrors that surround them. In this new world of the living dead…will they escape?

Adapted from the popular Manga series of the same title, High School of the Dead is a rather brilliant little excursion into animated zombie mayhem that should prove a hit with fans of both zombies and anime. All the usual trappings of Japanese animation are here; heavily stylised characters, moments of bizarre humour (plus, of course, plenty of focus on short skirts and busty schoolteachers), as well as some absolutely stunning visuals and sound work - all of which serve to underscore the bleak, apocalyptic horror of the piece. Throw in a good dose of extreme violence and on-screen gore, as well as some genuinely interesting and often emotional character development, and the result is one of the best televisual zombie outings I've had the pleasure to watch.

The DVD of the currently-screening TV series will soon be available in Australia through Madman, with episodes of the series (and others) now available for free viewing at the Madman Screening Room.

Pop Culture: New Course Explores Use of Zombies In Pop Culture

From August 31st this year, the University of Baltimore will roll out its new pop culture minor with a course on zombies. The course instructor, Arnold T. Blumberg, M.A. ’96, D.C.D. ’04, visiting professor in UB’s School of Communication Design and co-author of Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For, literally wrote the book on the subject. It’s one of only a handful of courses like it in the country.
Blumberg says: “The zombie functions as an allegory for all sorts of things that play out in our country, whether it’s the threat of communism during the Cold War or our fears about bioterrorism in 2010. It’s relatively easy to connect the zombie to what is happening in culture.”

UB’s School of Communications Design Director Jonathan Shorr sees zombies in a larger context: “We know from archaeologists and anthropologists that a society’s artifacts tell us a lot about what that culture valued and feared. Stories about King Arthur, for example, aren’t stories about 9th century England as much as about the culture of the time in which the work was produced. The same is true with zombies.

”Even major fans of zombies—and they’re out there, by the millions,” says Blumberg, “may not spend time contemplating the underlying meaning of this monster, despite its potency. It takes some close attention to really understand what a given film, book or graphic novel is saying about the zombie—and what zombies are saying about the culture. That’s what we’ll be getting into this fall.”

Blumberg, curator of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, has done extensive research into the genre, and the course will spend some time looking at the history and legacy of this particular “brand” of monster, in cinema, literature and folklore, as well as the (pseudo) science that is occasionally brought in to prove the existence of zombies.

(Unfortunately, for Australian zombiphiles, Baltimore is obviously in a whole 'nother country. You can't just jump in the car and drive there).

For more information on the course (and other zombie-related goodness) visit Dr. Blumberg's website at: