Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wild West Zombies


I love zombie movies. I think my love for the genre started with a Behind the Scenes look at the making of the music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller", but it only continued with the Romero Whatever of the Dead movies. Zombies are fun and gory and insatiable (and technically ghouls, as portrayed by Hollywood) and pretty much universally recognized. However, zombies in their modern form have been around since the 1960s, and they've been deconstructed, reconstructed, parodied, and even turned into romance heroes in the meantime. So what could I do with the silly things to set them apart, aside from dropping them in the American frontier?

I do what I did with Wolf Cowrie's background and draw from Native American mythology, of course! As I indicated in my first article for the Kickstarter campaign, Wolf being raised Sioux was a happy bit of fortune, considering the setting was in a territory that would eventually be South Dakota and all the racial drama that happened between the local people and white settlers. The Sioux were historically the mortal enemies of the Ojibwe, who hailed from the region of southern Canada... and the Ojibwe's folklore told of a charming little critter called a Wendigo.

Depending on who you asked (the stories vary), a wendigo is either a human who resorted to cannibalism and turned into a monster, or an evil spirit that drove men to acts of violence and cannibalism. I decided to split the difference here, while taking a page out of the account of the Donner Party story: The wendigo was there, but trapped in a vessel and unable to get up to monkeyshines until a bunch of gold miners uncovered it and subsequently had the Worst Winter Ever.

The result: intelligent, berserk undead, animated by a supernatural force that drove them to consume human flesh. To add another layer of horrifying to the whole thing, these screamers (so named because of a horrifying shriek they emit when they spot food) are completely aware that the hunger is not their own, but those geographically closest to the wendigo's influence can't do anything about it. They don't feel revulsion, or fear, or anger, or remorse, and they absolutely will not stop until they have eaten you.

The result combines elements of Return of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, and 28 days Later, and I think on the whole they work out well as a literary monster. Who says you can't do anything new with zombies?