Over the course of the previous 5 weeks, myself and Henry have been talking up all the decisions behind the creation of our upcoming short One of One. You can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 in the links provided if you haven’t done so but for today, I will be covering influences.
Now like most people, I live in the fragmented world of the 21st Century and that means I am glued to the internet for approximately 50% of my day and the rest I spend primarily soaking up various other pieces of media. This leads to a disjointed sense of influence and the complete inability to keep away from what I guess you would describe as “post modernist” thinking.
Wanky I know, but stay with me.
I guess what I’m saying is that in a world where media seeps into your pours every waking hour, it’s hard not to be influenced by everything. I don’t think I’ve yet written a piece that isn’t just influenced by the work of others but is also explicitly about the work of others from early shorts based on the lyrics of psychedelic musicians to a film where a Star Wars fanatic loves said franchise so much he pees electricity to this, a Zombie film about not liking what’s become of the poor old undead.
So having previously written (and written about here and here) a film about hating every Vampire film since The Lost Boys dropped in 1987 I figured that if I could singlehandedly save one sub genre of the movies, why couldn’t I do two? So I’m post-modern, egotistical, all smugly meta and on a path from God and I haven’t even discussed a single influence yet, I’m getting there.
So as I’ve mentioned before, the first seed sown for this picture was born out of a single line of dialogue from Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. A small child, playing with his toys repeats his grisly mantra; “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge”. Eat your brains to gain your knowledge, I though, that’s a great idea! The more I thought about it, the more scope I felt this had to be a generous rebooting of the Zombie lore, besides I had always thought that Zombies were brain-eaters and not just mindless flesh eating machines. (I was wrong, it all starts with a good old bit of Haitian Voodoo and voila; reanimated corpse. Not bodily consumption, just an agreeable undead companion to do your bidding, charming.)
A bad film can be as much of an influence as a good one so factor in the fact that the depictions of Zombies in the 28 X Later films, World War Z, I Am Legend et al are all, well, bloody stupid and I was starting to get a picture of what I wanted mine to be like. They would have a good semblance of their living counterpart, an instinctual level of intelligence without a hive mind, super speed or strength and all that other bullshit. It’s that lasting piece of their dead selves that is integral to the whole concept, memories. Acid flash visions of what it meant to be human, a desire to return to that state and a natural affiliation with the consumption of other peoples memories.
But how did it all start? Unfortunately the poetic but dually problematic Voodoo angle seemed like a dead one (pun not intended), and that brings us to positive influence number 1: 1985’s Re-Animator. Re-Animator is a brilliantly deranged, small scale zombie film full of camp and gore and all the good shit films had before computers endeadened everything. It’s all anchored by the lead turn, that all too rare Mad Scientist stereotype – endangered by the threat of a Zuckerberg world where keyboard code wizards are the new scientists.
Thus is born our main character, Dr. Hannes Broadus (named for Die Hard’s Hans Gruber and Calvin Broadus AKA Snoop Dogg) a neurosurgeon, businessman and misanthropist. He’s one parts me and one parts mad scientist. That means he has drive and determination, a wicked sharp toll set of a mind and deeply miserablist outlook. Blend this together with a pinch of hubris and you have the early makings of Brainless outbreak.
The brazen austere tone taken as opposed to Re-Animator’s more unhinged take is a direct influence from that socially conscious vein of Science Fiction typified by films like Silent Running, Blade Runner & Soylent Green and stands in direct opposition of the horrible soap opera direction The Walking Dead stakes as it’s neck of the woods. That strand of film making seems long dead, the strand in which heady, high concept ideas are matched to relevant, timely socio-political to create flights of fancy grounded in the problems of today. To me this type of film making is the only type worth pursuing, the exploration of why things are fucked today in the parlance of a truly savaged tomorrow. Elysium tried it’s hand at it last year but mired it’s message in the boggy CGI wankfests perpetrated by todays “elite” filmmakers.
The biggest filmic influence is what I’d consider the greatest of them all, Zombie OG George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. The final film in his original trilogy (like Star Wars, you’re better off not bothering with any of them new ones) see’s the Zombie menace driving humanity underground. A small community dwell in a military installation, their numbers divided between soldiers and scientists representing that age old quandary between reason and emotion. The scientists (one of whom decidedly mad, natch) take to rounding up and experimenting on their undead tormentors and training them in the use of various tools, Walkmans etc and most perplexingly guns.
This leads to Zombie lore’s ultimate skin crawling creation – Bub. He jams to his tunes, he listens to your instructions, he can even fire a gun and yet he is fundamentally dead. A Zombie blessed with an emotion range beyond one, regifted some of his human characteristics and tragically bound to his primal urges. His balance between those human and Zombie worlds is what drives the motor of One of One.
In our world however, this knowledge is easily taken and loss via that brain eating dynamic and it’s this constant shifting of mental polarities that stands as metaphor for the aforementioned constant consumption of information and how the ostensibly smart can still be deemed Zombies. It is 2014 and not 1985 after all, everything needs at least one coat of irony and one of metaphor.
Tying it off between bad films and good films to make a triumvirate of influences is music. I can’t write without it and I usually premeditate a playlist that is atmospherically relevant to that I’m trying to pen. While One of One was still the prototypical The Brainless feature length I was grooving to the crushing, toxic tones of Death Metal luminaries and the purple/green swampiness that is their seminal 1995 crusher, Domination.
As it has blossomed into a less doomy-gloomy vision and into a slightly more forgiving piece of writing, the music has stopped ringing for the collaborative process has taken over and Henry would never let me be happy. He just doesn’t get it, but I will always hear this album in my head when I think of macabre splendour of our brain-eating doomscape.
Well that just about does ‘er for now. As we inch ever closer (not that close, chill out) to production, Henry will have more production stills to show and more animation stuff to chat to you about. I.. I will just have to think of something to write about. Until next time!
– Oliver Drew