Video games are the storytelling media of the future. They allow for a depth and nuance that no other medium can provide. Watching a movie, you can only see what’s happening to the characters. You see their emotions, hear their conversations (sometimes, even their thoughts); but your immersion ends there. You never truly become the character.

With a video game, however, you become the character. You are inserted into a whole new world and your actions matter. You not only see what’s happening to the character, you are the character. You feel the emotions, take part in the conversations.

And based on what we talked, that’s what Lateef Martin and his gaming studio Miscellaneum have in mind with their extremely cool-sounding cyclepunk tactical-RPG (role-playing game) Z’Isle.

There are a lot of things to unpack just from that last sentence, but don’t worry, we’ll get there.

In the world of Z’Isle, Something Really Bad™ has happened. I don’t know what it is yet, because the game isn’t out yet. And I didn’t ask, because I don’t like spoilers. All we know is that these undead creatures known as Feeders have taken over the world and we have to survive.

How do we survive? Well, you have to salvage for resources. The game takes place in Montreal (!!!) and in Lateef’s words “We’re not a city with a lot of guns.” So when the Feeder apocalypse starts, they blow up the bridges (not that they needed to use explosives to destroy Montreal’s awful infrastructure), and eventually run out of bullets.


“But bikes are everywhere and they are the most readily available resource for weapons and tools,” Lateef revealed to me.

If you’re a Montrealer, this makes perfect sense. Bikes are LITERALLY everywhere in this city. If people are not riding them, then they are rotting on the sidewalks. Corpses of bikes litter every corner of the city, locked to fences and light posts.

And that’s what cyclepunk means. “We might be familiar with the term steampunk, where technology is based on steam, and cyberpunk, [which is more futuristic. […] Cyclepunk – technology is based on bikes. Everything is bike based.”

Survive the Feeder hordes and stay human

So Z’Isle is going to be a game where you try to “fight the Feeder hordes” using bike-based weapons. Survival is going to be a huge element in the game. In that sense, Lateef says that the game was inspired by This War of Mine, which is a survival game that takes place in war-torn Sarajevo.

“It’s not so much about running around being a soldier, it’s more about you being a civilian trying to survive this horrible, horrible world that you have to deal with,” Lateef says.

This also is going to allow the game to focus more on the human element. “The best zombie stories are about the human experience – are about the people. The zombies are white noise. They could easily be a virus, vampires, pancakes with batwings. It really doesn’t matter what the threat is.”

Creating yourself within the game

One thing that I’m particularly excited about is the character creation aspect of the game. Most of your big-time AAA RPGs have that element. In the Dragon Age series for instance (particularly Inquisition, the latest addition), you can spend hours creating a digital version of yourself.

From what Lateef says, Z’Isle is going to let you do that and some more. “You can choose your gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, body type,” Lateef says. This is already beyond the mostly cosmetic changes you can make to your appearance in other games. Who you are will determine how the game turns out, because these choices will determine your partner.

“You have just broken up with your partner and they’re the last person in the world you wanna be with during the zombie apocalypse. But it’s the only person you’ve got and you know each other better than anyone else, so you stick with each other and try to survive,” Lateef says.


In addition to that, you will be put into situations where you will be interacting with other humans roaming the Feeder-infested streets of Montreal. How you deal with them will affect your reputation. Will you steal from other groups to make sure your own group survives or will you build a larger community through cooperation?

“What makes you human? You know, everyone has a line they won’t cross. What happens when you cross that line? How many more lines will you draw? And who are you when the chalk runs out?”

I am already very excited for this game. It’s great to hear amazing indie games coming out of Montreal. After all, this city is sort of a mecca for indie game developers, with support from the Quebec government as well as from the AAA game developers such as Ubisoft.

But we won’t be able to play the game until much later. And in fact, Miscellaneum Studios are currently crowdsourcing some funding for their project in order to make it a reality. If you want to help them out, you can click on this link to their Kickstarter campaign.


When I’m playing fetch with my dog, there’s this trick I like to play on her where I only pretend to throw the ball, sending her racing off like a bat outta hell after absolutely nothing. And she always falls for it, every single time, always leaving me with a sense of self-satisfaction for outsmarting an animal only just intelligent enough to walk or run for political office.

But when it comes to zombie movies, I’m no better than her, always taking the bait even when I really should know better. Like Charlie Brown going for the football or my dog racing after a ball that isn’t there, I keep coming back to zombie movies, always thinking “hey, maybe this will be the one.”

And it never is. Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Open Grave, Cockneys vs Zombies…..I watched fucking Cockneys vs Zombies, that alone should tell you how desperate I am. Or how masochistic. It’s gotten to the point where I’m ready to slam my door in the entire zombie genre’s face, throwing its dirty laundry and CDs out of my bedroom window while it yells “Come on baby, don’t be like that, I can change!”

Battery posterBut then The Battery shows up at my door, a bouquet of flowers in one hand, a heartfelt speech on its lips, and my resolve weakens. Maybe it can change. Maybe things can be good again. Because The Battery is proof that zombie movies can still be good, that they can even be great. And that as hard as I try, I won’t be able to stop myself from going for that football for a while yet.

While other recent zombie movies have tried to stress the global catastrophe element, The Battery focuses on the small scale even more than Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, focusing on just two human survivors: Ben and Mickey. From the start, the dichotomy between the two is apparent: Ben has fully embraced post-apocalyptic life in the backwoods they’ve retreated to, while Mickey is desperately clinging to the past. While Ben dispatches zombies with ease, insists on constantly moving from place to place, and is about two-thirds beard, Mickey can’t even bring himself to kill one zombie, yearns for a real home and constantly listens to whatever mix CDs he can find like a post-apocalyptic Star Lord. The film plants its focus on the two and keeps it there, really placing the zombies in the background in favor of human drama and relationships.

Indeed, the majority of the movie is less concerned with establishing a narrative as it is with establishing mood and character, which in all honesty may turn some people off. Not a hell of a lot happens for the first hour or so, just a whole lotta montages set to indie jams, to the point that it isn’t so much a movie with musical interludes as a music video with plot interludes.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the two stars, director/writer Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim aren’t the strongest actors. They aren’t -bad- but their lines often feel recited rather than read. So while I was enjoying The Battery, it wasn’t quite the glorious resurrection of the zombie genre some may have promised.

But then the third act came, and I saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance of the tomb, and the linens they had used to wrap its body piled neatly to the side, and I ran back to the town shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna! The zombie movie is risen!”

The Battery insert

The finale of the film sees the duo trapped inside their station wagon, separated from the keys and surrounded by zombies, arguing over how they could possibly escape and getting piss drunk when they realize it ain’t gonna happen. I’ve often lamented that what brings most modern horror movies down is the impulse to go for the big finish, the spectacular finale that usually sucks all the tension out of the thing because most of the time the big finish involves a whole lotta special effects being thrown at the audience, which is usually about as scary as a tuna sandwhich that’s gone a bit stale.

The Battery avoids this entirely not just by not showing us too much, but by not really showing us anything. The most tense scenes in this entire movie, and I’m not kidding, have precisely zero zombies actually on screen, just the ever-present moans of the just-out-of-sight living dead and the kind of nail-biting tension that’s been missing from horror movies for too long to keep the audience completely captivated.

It all culminates in one glorious long take (one that neatly mirrors the long take that opened the film), but not the kind attention-seeking, masturbatory long take that I myself have written about and gushed over. This is a long take with a purpose, a long take that takes an already tense scene and makes it unbearable, using a lack of editing to make us feel every second tick by, elongating time and keeping the suspense high. It’s a glorious ending, and I really think it may be one of the best horror movie finales I’ve seen in years.

Zombie-related media is everywhere these days. Zombie games clog gaming services like Steam, bombard genre film festivals and overflow from discount DVD bins. But the genre isn’t dead yet, and The Battery proves that.

Like Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Romero’s original Dead trilogy, it knows that the important part of a zombie movie isn’t the zombies themselves but the people in it, and actually succeeds in making us give a damn about said people while being a genuinely suspenseful and interesting horror film at the same time.

The zombie apocalypse is upon us. People said it wouldn’t happen. Sane, rational, reasonable people. But they were wrong. It just didn’t come in the way we were told it would come in the movies. It came, not in the form of ragged reanimated corpses shuffling up and down the city streets crying out for brains, but in the inane dinner party discussion, in the impassioned jabbering of the late-night cocktail hour, in the insipid silence-filler of the office break room at lunchtime. Yes, the zombie apocalypse is here, and it’s far more horrifying than anything George Romero could have ever imagined.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the zombie invasion went from threat to full-on takeover, but we’re in the thick of it now. Where once zombies roamed only in the niche realm of gruesome horror shlock and the warped minds that brought it to the screen, now they’ve chewed through the fleshy bounds of genre film and burst into the mainstream with a bloody spray. With the course we’re on, we’re about eight months away from the first zombie Disney sidekick, and word has it that the cast of How I Met Your Dad will consist mainly of undead characters.

It’s a wasteland out there. Where simply having zombies in something lets it pass as entertainment. Did the love story in the last romantic comedy you saw fail to capture that certain spark you’re looking for? Try this one instead, one of the characters is a zombie. Now the lack of that spark can be chalked up to irony. Did you try to get through a Jane Austen novel, but found it too dry and uneventful? Well lucky for you and your pea-brain, someone “wrote” a rehash of it with a bunch of zombie stuff tossed in, and for only 21 of your dollars this glorified sheaf of toilet paper can fill the void left in you from trying to understand subtle meaningful prose.

The plague is spreading. Rapidly. Just walking down the street earlier this week I encountered several clusters of people—or what may have at some point been people—talking vacantly about how great the latest episode of The Walking Dead was. It’s getting frightening out there. No one who hasn’t been reduced to a barely functional husk with only enough brain power for the most basic motor skills would see an episode of that show and react that way.

It’s getting to the point that I’ve had to start defending myself. At a party this weekend I was cornered by two such creatures. One kept grunting about how much of a badass Carl has become. “You should see him in the graphic novels,” the other kept shouting. I had to break the leg off of a nearby coffee table and cave in both of their skulls to get away. I was chased for blocks by other ghoulish party-goers who wouldn’t stop moaning about how “the show really hits its stride midway through season three, though!” After taking out several more of them they became too overwhelming and I had to hide until dawn in a stairwell.

I made it home, and now I’m holed up here, the doors and windows boarded up, anything that could be used as a weapon within arms’ reach. It’s only a matter of time, though. Before too long I’ll run out of food and have to venture out again. But even more pressing is that the threat looms over me within these very walls. Each time I turn on the television or sit at my computer, looking for brief diversion from the horrors around me, I’m assaulted by more TV shows, movie trailers, articles discussing TV shows and movie trailers, and TV shows discussing other TV shows. And I’m beginning to fear it’s already happening. That I, too, through sheer amount of exposure, am becoming one of them.

Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe it’ll be a relief, not to have to fight so hard anymore, to just accept it. To shut down my higher thought processes, and live out the rest of my life and beyond as a mindless drooling zombie fan. It could be worse, I suppose. I could’ve been gotten by the vampire fans.


Photo by Victor Savio via Flickr

Just when you thought you had heard it all at the Quebec Charter of Values hearings, they start talking zombies. Zombie marches, that is. Playful, fun zombie marches in Montreal.

I’m not sure how this relates at all to banning government employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job, but the hearings that have produced such gems as a woman freaked out by having to remove her shoes at a mosque in Morocco and where no one is allowed to call anyone racist have now truly lost whatever plot they may have had.

See for yourself:

* Top image by Bianca Lecompte

Literature is an endless permutation of themes. But, what happens when you mix zombies with Biblical stories? Stant Litore created the Zombie Bible, an ongoing re-imagination of our cultural heritage with an important twist–more zombies, more horror and managing to be relevant to our day-to-day life. I’ve been reading The Zombie Bible ever since its first volume was released in 2011. Despite being irreligious, its religious tones and themes didn’t put me off. The book doesn’t seek to preach and convert. Rather, it relates to the struggles of humanity against the swarms of the hungry dead.

The latest book, Strangers in the Land, follows the story of the prophetess Devora the Old. She sees what God wants her to see, and she finds herself called north. The zombies have returned, and the People are in danger. What was interesting about Devora was how well her inner strength was displayed. As a woman in 1190 BC, prophetic visions or not, she had to fight to be heard and recognized in a society where only men could hold power. There’s a constant aura of personal danger that permeates the story. Not only from the zombies, but from the men who are supposed to protect and travel with her. Every gesture and comment can be read with the subtext of imminent violence. Devora’s calm determination and sense of duty set her apart from the other characters, but her response to things that test her faith and perceptions are what really serve to humanize her. While you might find yourself rolling your eyes at her anti-heathen outbursts and almost unfeeling adherence to the covenant, Devora seems like a woman you could meet at the story, or on the job.

Strangers in the land'_The setting of ancient Israel was so well done that it was like I stepped through a time machine. The worldbuilding was painstakingly done–the landscape, down to the tents and the trees was authentic and beautifully described. The city of Walls, the camps, the zombies and the shared history merges together to create descriptive quality seldom seen outside of literary fiction. Nothing is held back or censored. The beauty of the land is coupled with the terrible destruction brought by the undead to form a chilling representation of what the past would have looked like with zombies.

In the end, The Zombie Bible is about people–our ancestors’ struggle with the undead. Strangers in the Land is no exception, but Litore does an excellent job of writing a heroine fighting for life and justice in a terrifying and unjust world. Even if you’ll never read The Bible, give The Zombie Bible a try.

B-movies are the best movies. Tired of being disappointed by Hollywood’s cliched offerings, I’ve been seeking refuge in the depths of cheesy goodness for a while. Watching a b-movie is like falling down the tunnel to Wonderland. Here are my picks for the most enjoyable form of masochism that exists today:


Troll 2 (1990)

Spoiler: there are no trolls in Troll 2. Yes, I feel cheated. Instead, there are the most poorly done goblins imaginable.

Troll 2 is what happens when you let a contestant from Death Race 2000 run over your story idea and careen into your production staff. There has been a documentary made about how objectively horrible this movie is.

I couldn’t look away. I do not know of a descriptor that is worse than atrocious, and it applies in equal measure to: the special effects, the acting, the script, the storytelling, the hair (1990 bad perm power!). If you decide to watch this movie, make sure you hit pause every time you roll your eyes or laugh out loud. What is idiotic now fuels something even stupider a bit down the line.


Feast (2005)

Feast is a relatively new monster horror film. IMDB thinks it’s also a comedy, and I do agree that there’s a comedic element to the film. However, I doubt it was intentional.

A group of people are trapped in a bar as monsters attack. These monsters are big, weird furry nymphomaniacs who eat people. The special effects are passable, but the technology available in 2005 by far eclipses anything available in previous decades. It’s still a guy with a scary glove punching through windows and exaggerated forced screaming from the cast, but it’s prettier.

Gyo Tokyo Fish Attack

Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (2012)

While technically an anime, I am of the opinion that no one medium has a monopoly of amazing crap. I won tickets to see this at Fantasia last year. I brought a friend. He has yet to forgive me.

It’s an apocalypse movie with fart-powered fish on legs taking over Tokyo. Eventually, the contagion spreads to humans, which is just as obscene as it sounds. This movie made absolutely no sense.

Deathrace 2000

Honorable Mention: Death Race 2000 (1975)

I was first introduced to Death Race 2000 by my brother. I have yet to thank him for the joy this movie has brought me. Featuring the best of cheap 1970s special effects, a young Sylvester Stallone, and a whole lot of 70s hair, this movie blends car racing with a dystopian science fiction universe.

If you’re a gamer, it’s like Carmageddon, but with a plot. The movie makes no sense, but in the charming b-movie way that makes perfect sense. It’s not objectively horrible, in the way that the above are, but it is very special. Let’s just say that.


Because I’m a zombie horror writer, other up and coming zombie horror writers always want to give me their books. As a consequence, I’m well-versed in many of the undiscovered literary gems pertaining to our cannibalistic, undead friends. World War Z catapulted the zombie novel into the literary stage, but many more have followed in its wake. In addition to shock and gore, zombie stories can tell us about the primal struggles and hunger endemic to human existence. Zombie stories tell us about our hopes and dreams, our need to come together and our need to self-destruct.

#1. The Zombie Bible (Stant Litore)

zombie bibleAn ongoing series, The Zombie Bible seeks to retell Bible stories with a twist: that our saints and prophets also fought the undead. Litore’s elegant prose shows both the horrors of an undead apocalypse in Biblical times, and the beauty of the enduring human spirit. The religious element is kept tasteful and does not seek to judge its reader, but rather to fuel the spirits of his characters.

The writing style is very literary and flowery and the stories themselves are painstakingly researched. Some may find the language used tedious or object to the lack of chainsaws, but these books are worth a look if you want something other than the usual urban nightmare.

#2. The I Zombie I Series (Jack Wallen)

i zombie iI’ve been following this series for over a year, and I Zombie I is one of the most inventive zombie series I’ve ever read. The pages keep flipping and the plot twists and turns. By the end of the third book, I had no idea what to think. That’s a good thing.

What’s especially noteworthy about Wallen’s work is that he doesn’t shy away from strong female protagonists. No longer having to suffer the tired cliche of ditz-who-gets-everyone-killed, his character Bethany is a nerd girl who uses Linux, some common sense, and her mechanical aptitude to save the world. It’s not all high-tech geekery, though. All of the hallmarks of a great zombie story are in this one. Weapons, stealth, mystery, evolving zombies and intrigue are included with admission.

#3. The Zombie West Series (Angela Scott)

wanted dead or undeadZombies in the Wild West. I’m not usually a fan of the Westerns, but when done properly they do make an excellent venue to explore the mass slaughter of the walking dead.

It’s bounty hunter meets the-girl-in-the-wanted-poster. While there is a romantic sub-element to the story, it’s done in a way that isn’t absolutely annoying. The rest is standard Western fare. Saloons, shoot-outs, caravans filled with zombies and utter lawlessness are the name of the game. It’s all about a struggle to survive in a world gone horribly wrong, while trying to solve the mystery of a girl who is immune to the bite of the infected.