He’s got the brains

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Edgar Wright’s 2004 zombie-infested romantic-comedy Shaun of the Dead is a favorite of writer Max Brooks. “It defined a British generation in the way Clerks defined the American Gen X,” he said.
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One of America’s foremost zombie experts talks shop, survival at UNT

Science buffs had their evening with the men behind Mythbusters.

Now, the University of North Texas Fine Arts Series gives sci-fi nerds and graphic novel lovers their due.

Zombie specialist, former Saturday Night Live writer and unapologetic obsessive Max Brooks visits the campus on Tuesday night to tell students and locals how to keep their heads — literally and metaphorically — during a zombie apocalypse.

Brooks, who comes by his comedy chops from his father, Mel Brooks, got bitten by the zombie bug hard enough to write the book on how to avoid becoming one of the gammy-legged, grunting corpses. Because, really, he notes, it’s a club you don’t want to join.

Denton Time asked the writer and funnyman five questions about this popular monster. Here are his responses.


Q: The Zombie Survival Guide is marketed as a parody. How did you approach writing this book? Did you assume a real zombie apocalypse was imminent to achieve the tone and structure you wanted?

A: I never set out to write a parody. I set out to write a Zombie survival guide. The whole “humor” thing was the invention of Random House marketing. They had this guy coming off Saturday Night Live who also happened to be the son of Mel Brooks and, at least in their eyes, the book seemed so outrageous (I mean, c’mon, who really spends that much time thinking about zombies) that marketing as humor seemed the only logical course.

Q: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) often gets the credit for introducing the zombie we know and loathe or love. Does he deserve the credit or has the zombie been shuffling after our juicy brains in their familiar form since before 1968?

A: It’s George’s world and we’re all just living in it. He redefined the genre, he wrote the book of zombie. If you’re into zombies in any way, you have George A. Romero to thank for that.

Q: When you think about monsters, typically you think speed, sharp teeth, claws, fire-breathing. What makes zombies so disturbing? I mean, they grunt and shuffle! They have people teeth, no claws, no superpowers — just numbers. Why are they so scary? Why have zombies captured the 20th and 21st century imaginations so thoroughly?

A: For me, it’s their apocalyptic nature. They are an existential threat. They don’t just go after individual humans, they go after the entire human race. Put legs on Ebola and you have zombies.

Q: Zombies are ridiculously “hot” right now. (Think zombie crawls, zombie 5K runs, Shaun of the Dead and AMC’s The Walking Dead.) As a specialist in zombie lore, what current zombie properties have impressed you and why?

A: Shaun of the Dead is one of the best zombie films of all time, and one of the best all-around films of the last 20 years. It defined a British generation in the way Clerks defined the American Gen X. It’s one of those cultural markers, like Rebel Without a Cause or Easy Rider, that will be with us forever.

Q: What’s the significance of the subtle changes in certain zombie properties: Zombies got really fleet of foot in 28 Days Later and the reboot of Dawn of the Dead (2004)?

A: I think the fast zombies play to our societal ADD. Most people just want their entertainment to rocket by at ludicrous speed. I’ll always be a slow zombie guy, but I’m clearly in the minority.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is cbreeding@dentonrc.com .



•  What: “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse,” a talk by author Max Brooks, presented by the UNT Fine Arts Series

•  When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

•  Where: Silver Eagle Suite in the University Union, one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets

•  Details: Tickets are $20 for adults; $10 for UNT faculty, staff and Alumni Association members; and free for UNT students with valid ID. Buy tickets online at http://untuniontickets.universitytickets.com  or by calling 940-565-3805.


Zombie lore has its roots in African culture and religious magic. But to be literate about the popular zombie that shuffles and kills in American stories, we suggest the following films to supplement author Max Brooks’ books:


George A. Romero became the godfather of the American zombie in this 1968 movie made on a micro-budget. In this black and white film, a group of strangers flee a horde of people who appear to be hypnotized and hungry for human flesh. They board up in an abandoned farmhouse only to find new threats among them — suspicion, fear and maybe even the infection they are trying to avoid.


In director and co-writer Edgar Wright’s 2004 film, London slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg, also a co-writer) has just been kicked to the curb by his true love, Liz, for being less than lively about anything. Can he win her heart — and reconcile with his mom — just as the city is besieged by slack-jawed, dead-eyed Londoners who really crave sushi-grade people instead of bubble and squeak? Armed with a cricket bat and his atrophied wits, Shaun leads his loved ones to a local pub to ride out the apocalypse.


In AMC’s series based on the comic books of the same name, Officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) awakens in 2010 in a deserted hospital, on the mend from a gunshot wound. Zombies (who are called “walkers” and never referred to as zombies) surge up in hungry hordes, creating a monstrous, sticky wall between Rick and his family. With the third season beginning on Oct. 14, Rick has become the unofficial commander of a tribe of survivors. The season finale left the clan on the run from the biggest legion of walkers they’ve seen. Rick is now the not-so-cool-headed leader of his diminishing group. If only he can get them to the prison just beyond the woods …

Other titles to check out:

The Evil Dead (1981)

28 Days Later (2002)

Zombieland (2009)

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)


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