Monday, February 27, 2012

Heavyweights: Bait or First Class Zombie Killers?

Looks like you got some breakfast on your shirt, Nick.
Oh, wait. You mean that's not from a jelly doughnut?

Okay, let me set the scene for you. It has become an every week event where I invite friends over to my place to hang out, have a few drinks, and watch some movies (usually horror, but not always). Recently I had one such a night. Drinks were passed out and we had broken off into a couple of smaller groups discussing different things. I was discussing our recent discovery, the anime “High School of the Dead”.  Between the three of us we were talking about our favorite parts and characters of the story. I was particularly drawn to Kohta Hirano, the chubby “Otaku” with a passion for firearms and survivalist training.  I explained that it was awesome to finally have a character that seemed real. He’s a bigger guy, pretty nerdy, and has a crush on the school genius finding it hard to express himself around her. Despite all of this he finds it in himself to protect his friends and other characters that need his help. Upon expressing this to my friends (let’s call them Dale and Glenn), I said, “It’s just nice seeing a character that is a bigger guy that…” 

“Doesn’t get tripped and used as bait?” Dale interrupts.  

I stopped, a little confused at his tone, and continued, “Sure.  Anyway, this big guy,” I point to myself, “is going to survive the zombie apocalypse.”

There is a pause and Dale says, “Riiiiiiight…we’ll see about that.” 

I look over at Glenn sitting next to me (he’s about my size); we exchange irritated glances, and change the subject. Mind you I’m not morbidly obese or anything, but I’m a big guy. This kind of writing off of anyone who has more than 2% body fat irritates the hell out of me. However, it got me thinking; how would I fare in the Zombie Apocalypse? It’s become a hot question as of late thanks to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) putting together a “Zombie Apocalypse Readiness Plan” and our good friend Harold Camping (he predicted the rapture last year…of course we had a Zombie Apocalypse Party to prepare). I decided to look at a few Zombie films and decide how big guys like Glenn and I will fare in the end of times. 

I discussed this premise with a few people throughout the week and the first thing almost everyone said was, “Rule #1 Cardio”. Okay, I get it.  Traditionally big guys don’t move very fast. I know I’m not the fastest bloke out there – but I can run if I need to (I needed to in High School…Damned football players). This Rule comes from "Zombieland." It is an awesome film with a lot of humor, great characters, and Bill Murray. It is actually one of my favorite zombie flicks just from the sheer action and comedy in it. However – this film really doesn’t make my point. Actually it undercuts everything that I wanted to prove about myself and others out there like me. However it is pretty funny to watch that fat guy run and topple to the ground…trust me, I’m not that fat…or that stupid either. However I got to thinking, most zombies (at least traditionally) aren’t super fast running monsters that put Olympic runners to shame. Most are the dead…well, the undead. They are slow moving corpses that by some weird magic, or virus, or bacteria, or fairy have decided to wake up and eat the living. So…let’s look at them.

Kohta Hirano from High School of the Dead
Let’s go where the whole conversation began, “High School of the Dead." As I mentioned above, Kohta Hirano is a chubby geek with a passion for guns.  His Dad passed this passion on to him, and even sent him to America to learn how to shoot. He’s still socially awkward, but he is a true friend with a hawk eye that can kill anything he sets his sniper rifle’s sight on. He is usually removed from the action, however, perched on a building or car sniping zombies, clearing the way for other people to make it to safety. Despite this, he does have the knowledge to survive. He shows this in the beginning by taking a nail gun, seeing its flaws as a weapon, and using scotch tape and scraps of wood from the wood shop to produce a make-shift nail gun-assault rifle. He shows some of his other personal weaknesses as the series continues, but they are slight compared to his overall desire to survive and help his friends as well. He’s a big guy that is smart enough and capable enough to survive for sure!

Frank (Brendan Gleeson) from 28 Days Later
Alright…back to the running zombies… "28 Days Later."  Easily one of the best modern zombie flicks out there. I initially discarded this film as one that couldn’t work in my favor due to the swift “Infected”. We have Cilian Murphy (OMG is he skinny) and a cast of soldiers, with a badass black woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and a young girl…and the young girl’s father. It is the father, Frank (portrayed by Brendan Gleeson) that made the light go on. He is by no means a small guy. This dude probably has rugby or wrestling in his past with a love of food.  He dons the SWAT gear and knocks the holy snot out of the “Infected” when the heroes of the film reach his apartment. He’s obviously got the knowledge and wisdom to survive and protect his daughter, having been able to keep them alive in their apartment building for as long as he did. It is very unfortunate that this awesome example meets his end by looking up at a crow and getting infected blood in his eye. Despite this though, he is a big guy and a survivor with the determination to keep his daughter alive.

Pillsbury (Pedro Miguel Arce) in Land of the Dead
It would be sacrilege not to bring up a Romero movie in my defense. However while I was compiling the ideas for this rant, I had so few memories of any characters in his films that were plus size. Of course I had forgotten about “Land of the Dead”. If you remember, there was a Zombie Death squad of sorts. They showed up more toward the end of the film, and one of the members was Pillsbury (portrayed by Pedro Miguel Arce). He isn’t one of the “big” characters (yes, yes, very punny) in the film, but he is definitely one of the best. He has few lines, but his presence is so obvious (partially because of his size) that you would think him a sitting duck to the starving undead. Yet he has a very strong stature, very durable military grade armor, and a very big gun to help him. His primary directive was to help the main character, Riley (Simon Baker), bring the tank named “Dead Reckoning” back before it could be used to attack the city and its dictator of a leader Kaufman (Dennis Hopper).  However the plan was to kill Riley upon getting the tank back, but the unit sided with Riley in the end, including Pillsbury who knocked out and left behind the one hold out loyal to Kaufman. Pillsbury is larger than life, probably pushing Sumo status in his size. He’s smart enough to side with the group that is going to keep him alive and ditch those who are going to be a danger to him and the people he is protecting. Even though his character wasn’t essential to the story like Frank or Kohta were, he still survived the Zombie Apocalypse utilizing his weaponry, size, and comrades he made along the way. Seriously, if this guy can survive, I can too!

Marion (Ross "Mungo" McKay) in The Undead
Now, there is a little known Zombie film that is near and dear to my heart entitled, “The Undead”.  It is a product of those crazy folks from down under, the Australians. It is a quirky horror/comedy that mixes so many genres it really shouldn’t work; oh but it does! One of the main characters is Marion (portrayed by Ross “Mungo” McKay), the local gun fanatic and former alien abductee. Although he may not be the best example for a survivor, he does have his good points. In his house he has a huge cache of guns, many illegal, including pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and so on. When the gore hits the fan, the survivors find themselves in his home waiting for the event to ride itself out, however when they discover that he has plenty of ammo and weaponry but forgot to stock the cabinets and fallout shelter with food, they have to immediately change plans. Sure, the guy is weird, crazy, and not all that bright, but really, he had half of what was needed to keep everyone alive…weapons. Granted, not having food in the shelter was stupid. I do give the guy credit for wanting to blow the undead into the stone-age. Despite his down falls, Marion was prepared for battle where most of the thinner more athletic characters were being eaten by the undead. Unfortunately his ignorance of what is needed to sustain life makes me shake my head, but he survives the outbreak…well, the first outbreak.  Note to self…don’t forget food and water.

Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) in The Walking Dead
This brings me to my most controversial heavyweight survivor. Anyone who has been watching “The Walking Dead” is familiar with the character driven story that has Zombies in it. This season we were introduced to Hershel’s farm, and Otis (portrayed by Pruitt Taylor Vince). Otis is the good ol’ country boy who was sharing Hershel’s farm, helping provide food and security to the people living there.  During a  chance hunt he accidentally shoots Carl (Chandler Riggs) while hunting a deer. He brings the boy back to the farm where he is cared for. However more supplies are needed for Carl’s survival and Otis volunteers to go to the local High School with Shane (Jon Bernthal). Unfortunately both he and Shane are injured, and Shane shoots Otis as they are trying to flee. Otis is eaten alive so Shane can escape. Otis was quickly a favorite character of mine. He provided for those around him, helped out where he could, and volunteered to help save a boy he could have easily just let die. He knew it was more than likely going to get him killed if he went, but if it meant saving a young boy it was worth it to him. He was a good man, but he was also lethal. Anyone who can shoot a gun like he could, and wrangle “walkers” (it was mentioned recently that he helped rustle the “Walkers” into the barn before his death) was a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately he didn’t see the insanity and selfishness that had started to overtake Shane; however most of the people in the main group hadn’t seen it yet either. Had Otis not come into contact with Shane, he most likely would have lived for quite some time. Notice though, that despite his big stature and lack of cardio (Rule #1) he was able to keep out of reach of the “Walkers”.  It was a bullet that incapacitated and killed him, not a bite.  After the episode that depicted Otis’ death, I watched “The Talking Dead” the show that airs and discusses the events of “The Walking Dead” after it is over. The guests at that time argued that “Fat people should die in a Zombie Apocalypse”. Personally I would rather have someone like Otis, a man who provides for the group’s members and protects them, than a man like Shane, a lunatic who has a distorted view of ownership and a twisted hold on reality who could become my enemy at any point if I pissed him off.

While I believe that if a Zombie Apocalypse does occur, we will all likely meet some sort of gruesome end, I think it would be completely ill advised to write off survivors around you who wear pants a few sizes bigger than yourself. Above I’ve mentioned five characters in Zombie film history that have been indispensible in the survival of some or all of the people in their groups of survivors. Just like other characters in these stories they have qualities that make them valuable to their group’s survival. In the end it isn’t how fast you can run (although it does help sometimes) that decides if you live or die.  Honestly, doing nothing but running can get you killed if you run down the wrong alley. Qualities that will keep you alive in the Zombie Apocalypse are ingenuity (Kohta), determination (Frank), power (Pillsbury), stock of weaponry (Marion), teamwork (Otis), skill (all of the above), and the ability to see what kind of horrors the person next to you is capable of committing.  Should the time come, I believe that Glenn and I can fare pretty well in the Zombie Apocalypse.  Loners won’t survive long, and should you start sacrificing people for your own survival, you will be alone.  This is proof positive that a heavyweight in the Zombie Apocalypse can be more than bait.  I know I’ve got the chops to make it against the Undead, what can you bring to the group? 

A rant, by Justin Hopper.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to get Robert Kirkman's opinion on this!