Welcome fiends to one of my soon-to-be-continuing articles I'm entitling Books of Blood after Clive Barker, this is where I'm going to review all the gorey, bloody text to grace the page. First up only fittingly is another reprint from the ZomBcon files a review of thebook and then and interview with the author of No Flesh Shall Be Spared author, close personal friend and all around badass Thom Carnell.
Humans are a brutal species by nature and always have been; from the dawn of time when two monkeys clubbed each other over the heads with rocks, to the Roman coliseums where gladiators fought to the death for the Caesars' pleasure, to boxing wrestling and mixed martial arts. Even after mankind is nearly erased by the undead plague, the people need entertainment. Bill Hicks sums the need quite nicely in Revelations pondering about American Gladiators," 'Is Gladiators too violent? And what are we doing watching it? Is it really good for us to watch? Is it too violent?' NO! Fuck it! Give these guys chainsaws! Let them fuck each other up good. It's not violent enough. Let these fuckin' morons kill each other in that God Damn pit! ManI want to see a fuckin railway spike go through their eyeballs.They want to kill each other, I'm filming it!Like many zombie enthusiasts I have a penchant for liking sharp toys, the cover to Thom Carnell's book NO FLESH SHALL BE SPAREDcaught my eye almost immediately at last years ZomBcon. There's nothing like a giant bloody blade to catch the eye. Carnell would later sum up the novel to me as:"Gladiator meets Dawn of the Dead as seen through the eyes of [Legendary Japanese film director] Akira Kurosawa."The story starts with a careless truck-stop mother accidentally smothering the son she never wanted in her sleep. Thus the Apocalypse begins, not with a bang like everyone expected, but only with the tiniest whimper. She wakes up only to find junior has awakened from hisdirt nap and is chewing her to death.From there we fast forward to a world just barely recovered from the brink. The people need entertainment and the latest bloodsport from the Undead Fight League is just the thing. The game is quite simple: kill the zombies that come out of the turnstiles, stay alive and make it look good for TV. Our man Cleese is just our man for the job, having earned a reputation for clearing out hordes of zombies nothing with a bottle of Jack and a bat during the Apocalypse.His entry into the UFL is mentored by the older, grizzled cage-veteran Monk; whose job is to take the tough-talking wiseass and turn him into an economically viable trained killing machine before he can retire in peace. Monk teaches him all he knows, how to fight and how to utilize the weapons provided. When the cameras aren't on Cleese finds himself drawn to the mysterious woman ninja Chikara [Japanese for strength]. Except that just because the television cameras aren't on doesn't mean no one is watching.As his ratings begin to rise, he begins to notice that something's just not quite right. Cleese decides it's time to opt for early retirement. If he's not careful about he plays the game it might wind up being someone he cares about trying to tear his throat out on the sandy arena floor, that is if he can live long enough not to end up one of the losers coming out of the turnstiles.Really what's not to like about this book? Zombies, Gladiators, Samurai philosophy, guns, knives, swords! Even from the beginning of the story Carnell doesn't bullshit you, this is not going to be a happy story with a happy ending, Thom Carnell takes the term bloodsport to a whole new level and assures thatNo Flesh Shall Be Spared.Last year at ZomBcon I met a lot of awesome people with a lot of similar interests aside from the zombie genre. The leather-jacketed local horror journalist, author and cinemaphile extraordinaire Thom Carnell was definitely one of these people.Now almost a year later he and I finally go mano-a-mano and head to head in this epic t te- -t te that goes all 13 rounds that follows:
THE SINGLE BULLET THEORY: NOT TO GO FOR THE PROVERBIAL THROAT RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE BUT JESUS FUCKING CHRIST DUDE, THAT FIRST CHAPTER COMPLETELY RIPPED MY HEART OUT (BEING AN ESPECIALLY NEW FATHER AT THE TIME I HAD A HARD TIME READING PAST THAT POINT FOR A WHILE, I HAD TO GO HUG MY DAUGHTER AFTER THAT) WAS THAT ANYWHERE AS HARD FOR YOU TO WRITE AS A PARENT YOURSELF AS IT WAS TO READ?
Carnell: Martial artist, mortician, medic, movie maniac extraordinaire
Thom Carnell: Well, initially, the story had a different beginning. It was more of a moment that showed the main character in his element: covered in blood, buried in corpseshappy. My wife thought it lacked punch and it was her in fact that suggested we come out swingin'. She was right. She usually is. Was that chapter hard to write? Well, nonot really. I knew I wanted something visceral, something that would let the reader know I what they had in their hand was not your usual zombie story. I mean, so many of them are so utterly formulaic. 'The zombies are at the door. They're trying to get in! What will we do?' Usually, it's not the zombies that are the real threat anyway. It's always the old saw-horse of "Man's inability to cooperate with Man" that is his undoing. In a word"Boring." Well, not so much boring as over-done. I wanted to do something else, something different. So, I took a look around and looked at what was popular in Pop Culture (in this case, zombies and MMA) and what was in my body of knowledge (luckily, zombies and MMA) and went from there. I have kids as well and I knew the connection parents had with them. I then remembered a scene from Stephen King's SALEM LOT which had a child died and came back as a vampire. I recalled the way it affected me when I read it. I also remembered Andrea Bianchi's 1981 film, BURIAL GROUND: NIGHTS OF TERROR (aka LE NOTTI DEL TERRORE) and a scene in which a child also dies and comes back attack his mother. I remembered how effective those scenes were and let my imagination go from there. After that, it wasn't hard at all.
SO DURING THE APOCALYPSE CLEESE WENT ON THE WARPATH WITH A BAT, WHAT DO YOU THINK OL' CLEESE WOULD SAY TO SWINGING ONE OF ?
[laughs] I think he'd like that a lot. However, Cleese only used the bat because it was handy. It could have easily been an axe handle, a chair leg, or anything else. The bat was just something that made for an image that screamed American to me. Hell, if pressed, he might have grabbed a severed limb and used that.
WHAT'S THE WORD ON THE SEQUEL TO NO FLESH?
Sequel's being written as we speak. It's tentatively titled, DON'T LOOK BACK, and I'm thinking it's going to be even more action oriented. I've done about 20,000 words so far and I'm having to slow myself down. The pace has been blistering. I took some time after the first one and did a ton of research: shooting guns, learning about helicopters, learning about ammo, and spending a lot of time on "improvised munitions." It may not all get used, but the experiences I've had doing the research will definitely inform how things will feel. Once the sequel is done, I'll promote that and get started on the final book in what I'm seeing as a trilogy.
YOU'VE MENTIONED BEFORE BEING A BIG FAN OF THE CHANBARA GENRE, PARTICULARLY KUROSAWA (OF WHICH I'M PARTICULARLY FOND MYSELF), DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE OUT OF THE GENRE? I REMEMBER YOU MENTIONING HAVING SEEN EVERY ZATOICHI MOVIE.
Hmmmwell, that's a hard one. I mean I do have personal favorites, but - believe it or not - there are even sub-genres to that sub-genre. I mean, there's the action-oriented films like the Zatoichi films or the Lone Wolf & Cub films. Then, there are the more drama-oriented films like the Yoji Yamada trilogy (THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI, THE HIDDEN BLADE, and LOVE AND HONOR) which I just love. I'm actually doing a thirteen part primer on chanbara films on Season 2 of the pod cast I co-host, The Night Crew () and we just did a comparison between the Japanese chanbara film and American western. I love the genre because it's morality is so clearly defined. Thatand the swordplay is awesome. As far as favoritesThe Yamada Trilogy, The SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH series, DORA HEITA, HARAKIRI, KILL!, The Hanzo The Razor series, THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI, NINJA HUNTMan, the list just goes on and on.
YOU WRITE FOR DREADCENTRAL AS WELL AS FANGORIA AND I SEE YOU POSTING REVIEWS OF MOVIES EVERYDAY, HOW MANY MOVIES WOULD YOU SAY YOU'VE SEEN IN YOUR LINE OF WORK?
I do indeed post reviews of everything I watch on my Facebook page (). Honestly though, I do what I do not to be who I ambut because of who I am. Does that sound douchey? I mean, I watched the amount of films I watch even before I started writing for genre outlets and I watch an average of 2-3 movies a day and I've done so for the last forty-five years. Film was such a huge part of my growing up and I just naturally became interested in it. Then, I found books and that opened a whole other world for me. At my core, I just love the Art of Storytelling. It's the closest thing on earth I've found to Magic. But to answer your question, let's put it this wayOn Netflix, I've rated almost 7,000 movies and that's not counting ones I've seen, but either haven't seen listed or aren't in in their archives.
ANY COMMENT ON 'MARTIAL ARTIST' FRANK DUX BAILING ON YOUR PANEL AT CRYPTICON? PERHAPS HE WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE BLOODSPORTCONTROVERSY OR HIS CREDIBILITY AS A SUPPOSED MARTIAL ARTIST BEING QUESTIONED?
I can't even address that. I mean, I am not in the business of attacking people or making them look like an asshole. Dux would have gotten "kid gloves" treatment from me. The subject of his past and what's real and what's myth may have come up, but I would have done so only to give him a chance to dispel any misconceptions people may have. Why he didn't show for the interview is anybody's guess. In the end, he didn't show and I held my own panel on MMA, martial arts, and how important I think it all is to being an "enlightened" person. Honestly, we didn't miss him all that much.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO HORROR?
One of my first movie-going experiences was going to a drive-in with my mom back in the early '60s. We were a family who were getting by on a single parent's income. There wasn't a lot of money, you know? So, my mom had heard about this new comedy and she loaded me and my two sisters into the '56 Buick and we went to the El Rancho Drive-In in San Jose, CA. It was an old school place and I saw some great flicks there. Anyway, it wasn't until we paid to get in and got settled that the movie began. The comedy she'd taken us toHUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE.. which is by no means a comedy. She told us kids to lay down and go to sleep, but I sat and watched the film through the seats and was entranced. From there, I saw what I could. It wasn't until 1971 when Bob Wilkins came on KTVU 2 in Oakland with a show called CREATURE FEATURES that I was fully hooked. That show became like my religion. Years later, I interviewed Bob and told him how important he was to me growing up. I think he thought I was just being nice, butI wasn't. From there, I leapt in with both feet. I used to wait with baited breath for the TV GUIDE to come in the mail and I'd grab it and a highlighter and sit and mark off all the movies I wanted to see. And every day, I'd set my alarm for fifteen minutes before the movie started just so I could get up and watch it. I used to go to school with little sleep, but it didn't matter because I would tell my friends all about the film I'd seen the night before. Luckily, my mom kind of understood and allowed me to get away with it.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF REMAKES? DO YOU FEEL ANY HAVE MADE ANY MARKED IMPROVEMENT OVER THEIR ORIGINAL?
Well, not all remakes are bad. There are just as many out there that rock. I think people give remakes too hard a time. If you want to get infuriated about something movie related, get pissed of at people who won't watch a film in black & white. Get irritated at the person who won't watch a film with subtitlesor that is letterboxed. If you want to see some truly great films, you need watch films from all over the world. On The Night Crew pod cast, we are always going on about "context." The gist of it isto fully understand why a film like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a good film, you need to have seen OUT OF THE PAST or KEY LARGO orwho Jacques Tourneur is. Hell, you need to know a thing or two about fuckin' musicals or who Vincente Minelli is. Y'know? So a lot of the blame on the lame output of Hollywood I lay right at the feet of the average moviegoer who doesn't take the time to know what it is he or she is looking at. Because, let's face it, going to a cinema now is a nightmare. People texting during the filmtalkingbringing children to wholly inappropriate films. It's hard to imagine that some of these people know how to behave. Then, to top it all off, theater owners don't do a thing about it. Thankfully, there are people in the world like Tim League at The Alamo Drafthouse who will have someone who does that shit escorted from the building in no uncertain terms. But remakesshit, they're the least of my worries.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE WHOLE FAST OR SLOW DEBATE?
I kind of adhere to the idea that Zack Snyder talked about in the Special Features of the DAWN OF THE DEAD DVD. In that, he describes 3 stages of zombism. #1) "The Emergency Room Zombie" That ispeople who have just died. They bear the injuries that killed them and they possess all of the attributes that they had in life. Now, I'll factor in the inevitable adrenaline dump to explain the whole "fast" zombie thing. What I won't buy is a zombie doing something that it could not have done when it was alive. #2) This is the dead after say three to five days or so. Rigor Mortis has already come and gone (it usually appears eight to twenty hours after death and lasts for ten to seventy hours but can remain for several days) and decomposition has started. Shit's goin' south. The can move, just not very well. #3) This is a body that is less mobile and a lot more decomposed, a whole lot less coordinated. ThinkThe Bicycle Zombie in THE WALKING DEAD. Ok, so, that saidI also adhere to the Romeroian idea that "Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!" I think it has more of a sense of randomnesswhich, to me, is scarier than just a suped-up case of flu. The idea that zombification is an infection is an interesting one, but one that is more about our fear of infection and of contamination. While that scenario is a lot more likelysomeone getting sick and dying and coming back is far more possible than something affecting the bodies of the dead and bringing them backthere just a part of me that thinks the Romero Model is more frightening. Either waywe still end up with hordes of the undead roaming the streets. People bickering about how it all started is, at that point, kind of beside the point.
WEAPON OF CHOICE: BLADE, BAT OR FIREARM?
Well, as I said when I was asked about my weapon of choice at the first ZomBConMy initial weapon of choice would bea good pair of running shoes. The best way to win a swordfight is to never draw your sword, right? That saidI think it all depends on your battleground. Urban? Suburban? Rural? Forest? What's your playing field like? But as far as weaponryand assuming I had anything at my disposal. Long rangeI'm saying the .50 caliber M82A1 SASR (Special Applications Scoped Rifle or Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle) sniper rifle. It packs a helluva punch and the round can be delivered from a long way off. Medium rangethe Colt AR-15 or the Heckler & Koch HK416 both use the standard 5.56 NATO round. Short rangethe AA12 Fully Automatic Shotgun (it can deliver an astounding 300 rounds a minute - full auto, 12 gauge) wins the blue ribbon. HandgunI'll take a suppressed Heckler & Koch HK45 or a Berretta 92F.Closer than thatGive me either a 31" tachi, a 29" katana, orif we're being exotica Turkish Kilij.
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR Z-DAY?
Let's just say thisI'm probably better prepared than your average citizen. I mean, I've spent my life around the dead (I attended mortuary college and worked as an embalmer for years). I know a thing or two about weapons and fighting. AndI've spent a LOT of time thinking the whole scenario over. But to be honest - and while it may sound silly - one thing I learned from played LEFT 4 DEAD isthat even a meticulously laid plan can go to shit real fast from the slightest deviation or bit of bad timing. So, you never know
I UNDERSTAND DOING IT FOR THE LOVE OF FILM. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 10 MOVIES THAT YOU WOULD LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE ONE OF THESE AVERAGE MOVIE-GOERS IN AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE THEM APPRECIATE FILM A BIT MORE?
Wellthis gets dicey. I mean, there are the films I think everyone should see. Then, there are the films I myself enjoy (which sometimes are necessarily classically "great"). And then, there are the films that people need to see to be able to hold their own in a discussion of Film. I'll give you a list of the films I gave when I filled out my staff questionnaire for The Night Crew. Favorite films: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, WHITE CHRISTMAS, THE FALL, Hirokazu Koreeda's AFTERLIFE, ENTER THE DRAGON, FIGHT CLUB, BLADE RUNNER, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, the entire ZATOICHI series, the LONE WOLF AND CUB series, KWAIDAN, the SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH series, SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTERAND SPRING, THE RED VIOLIN, OUT OF THE PAST, INSIDE, MARTYRS, GALLIPOLI, WHEN THE LAST SWORD IS DRAWN, Yoji Yamada's SAMURAI Trilogy, WATER, THE LAST SAMURAI, 800 BULLETS , THRONE OF BLOOD, DEPARTURES, TOKYO GODFATHERS, SCHULTZE GETS THE BLUES, RED CLIFF (International version), DORM, PLAYTIME, Yang Zhang's SHOWER, OSS117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES, the anime MUSHI-SHI, THE FOUNTAIN, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, THE OTHERS, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, MURDER BY DEATH, AMELIE, HARAKIRI, THE DESCENTI'm sure I've left a ton out, but that's as good a place as any to get started.
OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE WELL VERSED IN HORROR, BUT WHAT SCARES THOM CARNELL? OR RATHER, WHAT SORT OF THING MAKES A HORROR ENTHUSIAST SUCH AS YOURSELF'S SKIN CRAWL? (I.E. THE DIRECTOR OF SAW II CAME UP WITH THE SYRINGE PIT BECAUSE NEEDLES TERRIFY HIM, BAD EXAMPLE MAYBE BUT IT'S THE FIRST ONE I CAN THINK OF THIS LATE)
Well, first off, one wishes the thing that scared Darren Lynn Bousman would have been the fear of making a crappy moviemaybe SAW II would have been better. But, I digressOther than the big things (something happening to my family, being infirmed and unable to care for myself, etc), there's not a lot. I mean, I worked in funeral service for ten years off and on and I saw as many ways as there is to die. I'm not too concerned by the thought of walking in a graveyard at night (it's really rather pleasant). I've encountered violence. Spiders don't bug me. SnakesSome might saw that I have an issue with zombies since I've spent more than a few years studying them. Honestly, if I had to pick one thing that frightens meit'd be people. I love people one-on-oneit's just I get a little uncomfortable when I encounter them in large numbers. I start getting mental images of being run up a windmill by villagers with pitchforks and torches. In my opinion, four or five people is a dinner partyany more than that and that's a moband THAT'S scary.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE INTERVIEW WITH YOU'VE CONDUCTED WITH SOMEONE OR A MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT? WHO WOULD YOU LIKE MOST TO INTERVIEW AND WHY?
Favorite interviewWell, I always enjoy speaking to Clive Barker. He always leaves me with something to think about and is super inspiring. Both him and Neil Gaiman make you want to be a better writer. Diamanda Galas was amazing. I was so scared to talk to her, but she was great. I recently chatted with Kate Beckinsale for the new Underworld movie and she was nicesmelled amazing. There's been so many over the years. I've been doing interviews since 1994. There have been literally hundreds of people I've sat with and each one is kind of special in their own right, y'know? Frank Miller. Salma Hayek. Robert Rodriquez. Alex Ross. Luckily, Zed Presentsis putting the best of those out in eBook form in association with Crossroad Press (http://www.macabreink.com/cpmain) called THE CARPE NOCTEM INTERVIEWSOnce we click through the ones I did for CARPE NOCTEM Magazine, we'll start doing THE FREELANCE YEARSwhich covers everything after that. Ok, soThe memorable ones? I had an interview with Andrew Vachss go bad once. It was just after the Columbine incident and I think he thought I was asking questions that were designed to get some clich d soundbite from him. I wasn't, butThe talk started to go sideways and it became impossible to put it back on track. My wife arranged for me to talk to Gino Vannelli for my birthday one year. That was pretty terrific because I've been a fan since I was younger. I really enjoyed talking with Spanish director Nacho Cerda about his film, AFTERMATH because we got into a lot of deep shit about death and dying. These says, I really dig interviews where I myself learn something and it's not just that same ol' same ol'. It's the main thing I love about doing The Night Crew podcast. My co-host, Sean Smithson, and I do interviews with people that are WAY out of the box. It makes it fun for Sean and Iand it makes it fun for the guests because they get to actually have a conversation rather than just answer the same questions they've been answering for years. But like I saidthere's been so many people over the years and I usually have a great time talking with them. As far as who I'd most like to talk toI've managed to click off most of the names I've had on my Interview Bucket Listwith one exception: Stephen King. I was supposed to interview him years ago, but just before we were scheduled to talk, he was hit by that car and that ended that. Maybe some day
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON THE LATEST CRAZE OF 'TORTURE PORN' MOVIES LIKE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: FULL SEQUENCE, A SERBIAN FILM OR THE HOSTEL MOVIES? ARE THESE DIRECTORS JUST TRYING TO GET A REACTION FROM A 'BEEN-THERE-DONE-THAT-SEEN-THAT" SORT OF CROWD BY PUSHING THE ENVELOPE OFF THE CLIFF?
Man, how much space to you have for this answer? [laughs] What's my opinion? I have no problem with violence (even extreme violence) IF it serves to move the story forward. Sadly, most "torture porn" films fail to do that. The violence tends to be moremasturbatory than anything else. I think the violence in A SERBIAN FILM was a necessary part of that particular film. If you wee to take it out of that flick, the structure would definitely fall apart. It would make no sense. The HOSTEL seriesthere I think the violence was necessary, but it also lingered unnecessarily. There came a point where the audience "got it," they knew what was happening and the director let the camera run. After a while, it's no longer furthering anything (not story, not theme, etc). It's just sort of "wallowing" in its own excess. I'm not a particular fan of the HOSTEL films, but Eli Roth at least tried to do something that was new (even if he did get caught up in his own mythos). Plusany series that casts both Takashi Miike and Edwige Fenechain't half bad. Now, HUMAN CENTIPEDELook, I HATED HUMAN CENTIPEDE, but not because of the violence or whatnot. I think it had a solid story idea. The problem there was in its execution. The film was simply poorly made. Now, this all said, I grew up in an era (the 70s and 80s) when "splatter" was in its heyday. Back then, Special Makeup FX guys like Savini and Bottin were like rock star