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“I just point my camera and wait for the train wreck,” Spork. —The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever
The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever
by Jeff Strand
Fifteen-year-old Justin and his friends Bobby and Gabe are amateur filmmakers . . . very amateur filmmakers. Their previous horror movies have gone unnoticed on YouTube (aside from a few derisive online comments) and no one seems particularly interested in their filmmaking endeavors. But after a minor setback during the trio’s recent vampire movie, Justin decides it’s time to pursue something new. Something ambitious. Something like making the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever.
Although Bobby and Gabe are immediately along for the ride, Justin’s plan to write, produce, and shoot the best feature length zombie movie of all time quickly hits a few roadblocks. For one thing, the trio has only a month to finish the project before Gabe leaves for the summer. Plus, they have no budget—just a highly dubious script that they cobbled together over two sleepless nights. But the boys’ luck turns around when they are able to get Alicia Howtz—the most popular girl in school and Justin’s longtime crush—to play the movie’s lead zombie-hunter Veronica Chaos, as well as secure a $5000 investment from Justin’s surprisingly cutthroat (and possibly mafia-affiliated) grandmother.
Despite a number of problems on set, the crew pushes forward with making the movie. With the help of a colorful cast of characters—including Bobby, Gabe, Alicia, Bobby’s Uncle Clyde, some extras in zombie makeup, and a twelve-year-old documentarian named Spork—Justin gives the film everything he has. It’s a noble effort, but in the end, Justin doesn’t complete this task the way he originally intended. When he is caught trespassing on school property, his principal threatens to suspend him unless he can get A’s on all his final exams. This puts his film on hold as Justin desperately scrambles to avoid repeating a grade. Five months later, when he does eventually complete the movie, it’s seventeen minutes long and mostly voiceover.
The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is told from Justin’s perspective and, as a result, it’s a film nerd novel through and through. The text is punctuated by references to famous zombie movies and tropes, that Justin takes inspiration from. George A. Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead, comes to Justin in a vision to assure him that his scheme to film the final half hour of his movie in one shot will work. Additionally, Justin and his friends argue about whether they should include “fast zombies” or “slow zombies” in the movie; then they list good and bad zombie movies that have included each type. While non-zombie-appreciators might not understand these references, their placement does not detract from the story.
The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever deals primarily with the themes of sticking to your goals and persevering in the face of adversity, but this novel also explores when it’s time to call it quits. Throughout the book, Justin emphasizes the importance of finishing his zombie movie, but he also makes it clear that he has other priorities. After a problem with production, Justin worries that the only way to complete the movie is if “everybody was willing to skip school for two weeks. . .They weren’t . . .Nor was he.” Justin ends up sidelining the movie when he’s forced to choose between it and his education. However, he does eventually finish his film, even if the final product is much different from what he originally planned.
While the plot of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is not especially heavy on depth, this teen horror-comedy is a wildly entertaining exploration of zombie filmmaking, with a unique cast of characters and a heavy helping of relatively harmless comical mayhem. It’s the perfect book for teens who want a light read, especially if they are interested in zombie movies.
- During auditions, a student asks if her shirt will stay on in the movie.
- The script includes a romantic relationship between Alicia’s character and a male lead. Justin is somewhat jealous of the two actors’ chemistry due to his own crush on Alicia, but a friend reminds Justin “it’s not like they’re slobbering all over each other through the whole movie. There’s one kiss at the very end, and they’re both covered in guts, so Alicia probably won’t be that into it.”
- While on set, Gabe asks out Alicia’s friend, Daisy, but she turns him down because she “only dates directors.” Gabe dejectedly alerts Justin of Daisy’s availability, but Justin scoffs at this idea and reaffirms his crush on Alicia. When Gabe still insists, Justin says, “It doesn’t matter right now because unlike one of us, I’m here to make a movie, not a baby.”
- Two actors share “a gentle kiss” at the end of the movie. Due to technical difficulties and much to Justin’s chagrin, this scene has to be refilmed several times, and the crew notes that Alicia and the male lead’s shots are especially “passionate.”
- After he promises to complete the movie, Alicia gives Justin a kiss on the cheek.
- Justin threatens to grab a friend “by the ears” and “bash [his] head into the floor” if he doesn’t take Alicia off speakerphone.
- In the opening scene of his prospective script, Justin describes a helicopter crash “crushing dozens of zombies” and “leaving a thick smear of squished zombies in its path.”
- In another scene, Justin writes that the protagonist punches a zombie in the face and then headbutts another zombie whose head “shatters like glass.”
- During a sleepless night, Justin hallucinates his bed threatening to “bite” him “right in half” with “sharp, glistening fangs.”
- During auditions for the movie, a student mimes swinging a shovel into a zombie’s face while repeatedly shouting “Die!”
- While filming a scene in a park, Bobby accidentally drops the boom mic on Alicia, hitting her infected eyebrow piercing. In response, she “charge[s]” at him “knocking him to the ground.” Then, Alicia “pick[s] up the boom mic” before repeatedly smacking him in the face with it.
- When he accidentally runs in front of a driveway, Justin is hit by a car. He wakes up in a hospital bed with both a concussion and a “mangled” arm.
- During a heated exchange, Bobby throws a carton of chocolate milk at a school bully named Zack. It “douse[s] him like a water balloon.” In response, Zack “raise[s] his fist and step[s] forward.” The situation is diffused before anything more can happen.
- Due to a misunderstanding, one of the cast members is tased by an elderly woman.
- Justin’s principal, Ms. Weager, stumbles upon the crew trespassing in the school at night and is so startled by the zombified cast that she falls to the ground screaming. But she quickly stands up again and begins “knocking zombie heads together.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Uncle Clyde uses an e-cigarette.
- At one point, the crew visits Uncle Clyde’s house to pick up the zombie effects. When he doesn’t immediately answer the door, Justin speculates that he is “probably drunk and unconscious.”
- Bobby says that he won’t let Justin “wuss out” on offering Alicia a part in their movie.
- Justin’s boss frequently yells at his employees, and his tirades are often punctuated by the word “dang.”
- At one point, Justin calls Gabe a “jerk.”
- Many of Justin’s films center around supernatural creatures such as zombies, vampires, and werewolves.
- A woman in the park tells Justin he should “spend a little less time thinking about zombies” and “a little more time thinking about the Lord.” She later refers to his cast and crew as “cultists.”
by Naomi Brenden