Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Not To Die

If you are currently running up stairs, you are probably fucked.

I watched Zombieland last night, and I really quite enjoyed it. Funny, good characters, a few pretty good kills, Bill Murray, you can't really ask for much more. But the thing I liked best about the film was how Columbus, played by Michael Cera's Jewish cousin Jesse Eisenberg, seemed to survive simply because his OCD prevented him from putting himself at risk. A lot of his rules are common sense things that would help anyone survive a horror movie if the vast majority of characters in these films didn't just ignore them pretty much constantly. I am one of these people who will often find themselves screaming at the characters on the screen for being so stupid, and I can spot a potential kill situation from a mile off. So for the benefit of anyone who might find themselves facing down slavering zombie hordes, or trapped in an isolated farmhouse with werewolves on the prowl, or on a distant outer space colony where something absolutely frightful has devoured everybody, here are my cast-iron, never-to-be-ignored rules for surviving a horror movie. I have incorporated the most important of the principles that Professor Eisenberg has set out in Zombieland, but for the most part these will take the form of my own list, built up from years of horror movie buffery. Enjoy.

Rule 1) Cardio
Some idiots will waste their time building up muscles and trying to get strong. This is a waste of time. 100 per cent of the time, any fool that tries to go toe to toe with a monster will get slain. Look at Billy in Predator and that lunatic Geordie guy in Dog Soldiers. This ceases to matter at all if you are just really good at running away. This is why my top half looks like a burlap sack filled with jelly, but my legs are made of wrought iron - I am a genetic coward, built by God to very effectively flee any dangerous situation. As Prof. Eisenberg quite rightly points out, the first people to die in any zombie apocalypse will be the fatties. This goes for nearly any horror film. Would a fatty have been able to flee Leatherface, or Jason Voorhees? There is a reason there are no fatties in the Colonial Marines. In fact, it might even be useful to keep a fatty around just so you will have extra fleeing time while the fiends of hell are devouring him.

Rule 2) The Double Tap
More essential knowledge from Prof. Eisenberg. If you do kill a monster, make sure it is dead. And by that I don't mean poke it with your toe. I mean shoot it again. In the head. Either that or chop off its head. Fire is good also. While these methods don't necessarily work for every monster, you'd be surprised how close beheading and fire are to a monster cure-all. Note: Dracula always comes back twice. Be ready.

Rule 3) Don't Be A Hero
Being a hero never helped anybody. Make sure you always let some other foolhardy and/or brave person be the first to enter a haunted house, dark forest or derelict spacecraft. Just tell them you have their back and get ready to run away if something comes down from the roof and scoops them screaming up into a hole in the ceiling. A sub rule to this one is never go back for anybody. This includes all forms of rescue. If someone is lost, seperated and/or captured, you must NEVER go back for them. I'm talking to you, Ripley.

Rule 4) When in Doubt, Know Your Way Out
This one is self explanatory. Know your exits. Any building will have a back door, or at very least a window. If you find yourself in a bind, leave your colleagues to fight it out and flee. Note that this doesn't always work, for example, when Paul Reiser gets it in Aliens.

Rule 5) Check the Back Seats
One horror movie rule, of course, is that if something can jump up from the back seat and attack you, then it will. Always check to make sure this doesn't happen. The likelihood of the back seat attacker depends on whether or not you lock your doors. Keeping them unlocked is better for fleeing, negating that awkward moment when you have to scrabble to get the keys out of your pocket while the Hellbeast closes in on you, but will maximise the chances of you driving off thinking that you're safe, only to look in the mirror and see slavering jaws. It's a trade-off, really. There are, however, two things you can do to avoid a horrid death in this manner, the first is get a remote car key, so you can unlock the car while you are running towards it without breaking too much pace, and be safe in the knowledge that there probably isn't a vaguely humiliating death waiting for you inside your vehicle, the second is simply to get a two seater car.

Rule 6) Middle is Safest
Or to put it another way, never take point or bring up the rear. Being in front or behind is most likely to get you killed. Being in the middle gives you time to assess your situation while your friends or squadmates are being massacred, and in addition you will be surrounded by people who know how to do the fighting, or at very least present an alternative target to yourself. Also, if you're part of a military unit, it's likely the command element of the group will be somewhere in the middle enabling you to hear the order to bug out better when it inevitably comes.

Being an expert in something useful will help you survive, even if you're an obnoxious dick that nobody likes.

Rule 7) Categorise
When you're in a horror movie situation, you have to be very careful about who you hang around with. Divide your companions into two categories: 'assets' and 'liabilities'. The assets are the people with useful skills, such as combat abilities, medical expertise, monster lore, mechanical skills, telekinesis etc, whereas the liabilities will be people such as children, fatties, klutzes, the wounded and people who have lost their bottle and been reduced to quivering wrecks. Any 'carrier', that is, person who has been infected by the monsters, bitten by a zombie or a vampire or impregnated by an alien immediately becomes a liability regardless of any skills they have. When the shit goes down, you will want to stick close to the assets, and if possible ditch the liabilities. The only use a liability has is to take the heat off you by getting murdered in a lengthy and graphic fashion while you are running away. Note: while it is extremely common for an asset to turn into a liability, it is rare but not unheard of that a liability turns into an asset. Two examples I can think of offhand are Private Hudson in Aliens, who starts off as a quivering wuss but gradually gets more and more apeshit as the aliens begin to piss him off more and more, and Francine in Dawn of the Dead, who successfully made the leap from liability to asset by learning to pilot a helicopter. Which leads us to...

Rule 8) Every Day is a School Day
Of course, it is also vitally important that you are seen as an asset by your peers. If you aren't strong, you'd better be smart. Hang around with some of the assets and get them to teach you their skills. That way if the helicopter pilot gets killed, you're the next best thing. Any quiet moment you get you should be practising shooting at shit with the beefy guy in the cowboy hat or learning how to make thermite.

Rule 9) Use the Back Door, Not the Stairs
Again, this should be obvious. If you are assailed by monsters or a giant, silent serial killer and you happen to be in a house, you need to get out the back door and run like fuck. What you don't want to do is run up the stairs. There is no escape up there, and if you are lucky enough to get out the window, the chances are you will just fall and busticate an ankle anyway, rendering you basically useless.

Rule 10) Basements are Deathtraps
Don't listen to anyone who says that a basement is a safe place. A basement is a place to wait to die. You are somewhere enclosed, with usually only one exit. And there is probably the slavering reanimated corpse of a foul-mouthed old lady buried down there anyway. Fair enough, the chances are there are a lot of weapons in the basement, but if anything it's just a place for a heroic last stand. If it has got to the stage where the basement is the only safe part of the building you should have already obeyed rule 9 and pissed off out the back door anyway. Basements are not good places. See Night of the Living Dead, I Am Legend and any other horror film with a basement in it.

Rule 11) Tool Up
This should probably be higher on the list. Never ever miss an opportunity to get a weapon. How many times have you watched somebody, usually a promiscuous but not very bright teenage girl (liability), walk past a perfectly good garden strimmer and not pick it up for use on the killer that is inevitably lurking elsewhere in the shed with a pair of shears? Tool up and stay tooled up. Chainsaws, shotguns, machetes, axes, anything you can get your hands on. Don't be afraid to build your own weapons if you have time - sometimes the most effective weapon is a homemade flame-thrower.

Rule 12) Country Life
If there's been an invasion of zombies, vampires, cyborgs or alien parasites, the chances are that they are busy eating people in the large population centres. So it makes sense to get out of the city, right? On the other hand, if you're facing werewolves or Jason Voorhees, maybe it's better to stay in town. Depends really.

Rule 13) Keep Moving
Staying in the same place for too long is a death sentence in a horror film. Keeping on the move will probably stop the creeps from getting you. Probably. If you have to hole up somewhere for a while, it had better be somewhere secure, with several exits, a good field of vision, food and weapons. And no basements. God dammit.

Don't. Go. In. The. Water.

Rule 14) Avoid Water
This one is just common sense, really. If you can't see under the water, don't step in it. Sharks, crocodiles, anacondas, aliens and zombies can all swim. Vampires probably can as well, if they weren't bothered about getting their capes wet. In addition, water makes you slower, it makes noises and ripples that all allow you to be detected. Anyone who stands waist deep in water and then disappears gurgling under the surface probably deserved everything they got for going in there in the first place. See Aliens, Alien Resurrection, nearly every Friday the 13th movie, Crocodile, Jaws, Piranha and Piranha 2: The Spawning. Note: water is actually a pretty good shout when facing Terminators, as they tend to sink. Otherwise just avoid like the plague.

Rule 15) Science is Bad
Don't do science. That's probably how this mess started in the first place. And if you think science is going to make it better again, the chances are you're wrong. Also, don't waste your time looking for a cure to vampirism or a zombie virus. Science is bad. Naughty, science, naughty!

Rule 16) Have a Plan and Stick to it
Never change the plan. If you're on your way somewhere, don't stop off to get some erroneous item of supplies, like insulin for instance. Too dangerous. That diabetic is just going to have to tough renal failure out. If you meet up with someone else who needs your help, the answer is no. If the plan is to stay put until dawn in a spooky old house, you don't need to go back and get anything that you left in the car. If someone tells you there is a cure for zombies, tell them to go get it themselves. You've got a plan and you're sticking to it. And if that evil American bitch who shagged your man and then did a runner when he got impaled on flying metal spike suggests going potholing, I suggest you kill her immediately. Trust me, you'd be saving yourself a lot of trouble.

Rule 17) Don't Get Sentimental
Friends, family, lovers. If the body snatchers get them, you'd be best to gun them down just like anyone else. Likewise, dragging a buddy round who has been bitten by a zombie is foolish. You'd be best to give them one in the back of the head when they're not looking. You'd be doing them a favour. Since the chances are nine times out of ten when you're stranded in a life or death situation its with a disparate group of strangers that you don't give two shits about anyway. But if it is your buddies or your family, you might have to make some difficult decisions to survive. It really is up to you.

That concludes my rules of how to survive any horror situation. If you have read these, you are probably safer already.