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Random movie idea

An acquantance of mine mentioned in his blog: "just once, I'd like to see a zombie movie with competent soldiers".

He's right, you know. In zombie flicks, the soldiers always act like undisciplined idiots until their brains are eaten. (Except in Shaun of the Dead, which Doesn't Count.)

I suddenly had a vision of a zombie movie with competent, properly trained, well-disciplined soldiers. Say, a platoon of Territorial SAS. (Not a bunch of guys you'd want to mess with.) How would you sustain the dramatic tension when the soldiers in question are experts in taking apart anything that moves? Obviously, you'd need lots more zombies than usual. Lots more zombies. Like, more zombies than the soldiers have bullets. In fact, you'd need the same CGI battle simulation tech they developed for Lord of the Rings just to survey the seething army of undead. It doesn't hurt to make the zombies soldiers, too. And then, you need to steal a skeleton to hang it off (sorry) from another runaway success of days gone by. There's one obvious historical incident — and the big-budget war film based upon it — that's a must for a zombie flick: I think it's just incomprehensible that it's never been done before. And so, I proudly present to you (as a random idea I'm too damn lazy to write the script for):

An SAS unit on a covert mission in central Asia (probably hunting down a Taliban force somewhere in the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan) runs across an ancient battleground. One of the Taliban leaders utters a foul curse as he's dying. A long lost army, probably owned by Alexander the Great — who passed through Afghanistan in a bloody hurry 2300 years ago, he was too smart to stop and pick a fight there — begins clawing its way out of the dust. Meanwhile, a serious dust-storm has grounded their air support and is hampering communications. Cut off, they go to ground in a farmstead at the bottom of a valley, hastily dig in, and await the helicopters. Meanwhile, the skeletal remains of an ancient Macedonian general sends wave after wave of zombies shambling towards them, testing the mettle of their strange weapons, probing for a weak spot as the greek fire arcs towards the kraal farmstead ...

Yep, it's Zulu, with Zombies! Phalanxes of zombies carrying 20-foot-long spears! Zombies in war chariots! And a finale involving Harriers, helicopter gunships, and blowing shit up!

Sometimes, just once in a while, I wish I was in Hollywood.




I think Dog Soldiers successfully used this idea, but with werewolves, of course. As for zombies...I guess Shaun of the Dead doesn't count because of the humour? I loved it, but yes, it would be fun to see a dead (no pun intended) serious zombie movie that didn't have dumb soldiers. So far, the best I've seen is 28 Days Later, and those soldiers were, frankly, rabble.

However, the Zulu idea isn't entirely original. (Some of us have been (mis)quoting "Zulus..." in horror/fantasy contexts for years.) Just bloody awesome.

Perhaps a short story? (Hint, hint.)


I bought "Dog Soldiers" on DVD, and it turned out to be a faulty disk, so I haven't actually seen it.

No time for the short story this year, alas.


Apart from the fact that zombies break the energy laws (moving aboutwithout pause or rest, even when they go without food for days on end), one obvious detail is missing from all zombie movies:


If zombies are dead tissue, they should be crawling with egg-laying insects, and maggots, within a few hours, especially in warmer climates.
Sooner or later, all the zombies would have been eaten to the bone by very small animals. Has this ever been addressed? (The zombie curse wards off flies that might lay their eggs in the decaying flesh?)


You realize by the time it got to the big screen it would look just like any other incompetent soldier zombie movie.

That doesn't make me want to write it any less. :)



I second Martin's reccomendation of Dog Soldiers.

I've spoken to a number of White Wolf fans who basicly whined about the amount of trouble the squaddies gave the werewolves because the soldiers had never fought werewolves before and responded "Yes, but those out-in-the-boondocks werewolves had never fought trained soldiers before, eiher."

A. R. Yngve,

I've always wondered about that too. I've always felt that the Zombie Horde would never be able to overwhelm humanity, but that it would be a great way to soften us up for the *real* supernatural punch.


What's "White Wolf"?


I concur in the recommendation of Dog Soldiers. There's a sequel, which I've not seen, which I gather may have some slight plot resemblances to the Alien sequels.

There's a touch of the same zombie army idea in The Mummy Returns, which could be considered a proof-of-concept for the battle scenes.

Of course, if you go to Hollywood, it won't be the SAS, and it's unlikely to be Harriers.

Incidentally, there's some flexibility in the setting. Southern Arabia, perhaps, when the SAS were in Oman in the '60s, or even 1942 North Africa, when the SAS and the LRDG were roaming the desert behind German lines.

Something to come out of the files in the Laundry, perhaps, if you want to write in Anthony Price mode.


White Wolf is a game company, published Vampire the Masquerade,Werewolf the Apocalypse, Mage the Awakening. Very much in the Anne Rice angst and fang-fucking camp.


"White Wolf"? Probably a reference to the company that produced a series of roleplaying games in whioch the player-characters were vampires, werewolves, and the like. "Vampire: the Masquerade" is the game title that comes to mind, and leads me through Wikipedia to "Werewolf: the Apocalypse".

Sounds life a reference to people who've roleplayed a particular sort of werewolf.


A.R.Yngve posted
"zombies would have been eaten to the bone"

This reminded me of the deathsnakes in Demon by John Varley. Zombies are dead people animated by deathsnakes, which provide the power for moving the zombie by eating the dead flesh. Eventually (1 week or so?), the zombie falls apart when the snakes have eaten all the useful flesh. From memory (the books are in the attic), pretty much standard zombies other than the the time limit.

I think the books (Titan, Wizard, and Demon) would be movie material. This is not an accident since the author develops a central character as a movie addict, who really only understand humans in terms of thier movies. Prob need to take the sex references out (especially the centaurs) for the mass market. But there's still plenty of plot and scenes left.

There are lots of films, where the humans win when they shouldn't. They set the monster up in the middle of the movie and then back off in the end so the humans can win.

Given Hollywood's track record, I can only look forward and hope, with the advances in computers, CGI and scripting to.....

"Film-o-matic 2016"
Write the Script with dialogue, character visual descriptions, location notes and scene moves.
References to previous movies are helpful and encouraged.
Press the button and the application builds the film from a mix of generated CGI, modified previous footage from other films and animates the Characters etc,
Sit back and break out the beer and popcorn.

Look at

Just need someone to rewrite the story of Zulu in modern terms with Zombies...
Go on. you know you want to...
I'd do it but I need to read Glasshouse first


Charlie - "Sometimes, just once in a while, I wish I was in Hollywood."

No. You don't...Trust me.


Curse you, Charlie. We watched Zulu a couple of nights ago, and I now have the DVD equivalent of an earworm. With zombies.

"Front rank... fire!"


Hey, as far as making movie scripts go, I bet some of your books would make really good movies. Have you ever thought about trying to make movie scripts? I'd watch. Of course, then again it might end up not being so nice to have to deal with Hollywood, which I can imagine pretty annoying.
Maybe the stories are too complex to simplify for a movie. I really dont know much about screenwriting. And now I'm rambling. I really like the books, keep it up!


Before dealing with Hollyood, Charlie should probably have a good talk with Alan Dean Foster to find out what he is really getting into.


Say, has anyone done an honest-to-god historical Living Dead film? Old fashioned weapons might make up for an excess of professionalism.



Zombies don't break the energy laws.
That's also why they move so slow. Sloths don't eat much, either.

A modern army unit, once they knew the score, would make short work of an army of zombies until the ammo ran out. Every soldier we've got knows to go for the head shot when hunting zombies. Hooray for video games and movies!

On a side note, there's a new video game called "Dead Rising," which is all about some guy running around a mall killing zombies and rescuing folks.

A webcomic called "Ctrl+Alt+Del" is covering this:



Actual words spoken by a film executive I met with--

"What I like to do, is take the top 100 movies of all time, and make them black, either that, or do them with animals."
The executive scans through a list of films. "Mrs. Doubtfire with animals!...Would a duck, want to dress up like a zebra? Hmm...Would that work?"

I'm not making this up. Another chestnut--

"It's like Die Hard in a building!"


Anon: I believe you. There's a good reason I work in novels. And yes, I have the Four Vital Words committed to memory at the level of a knee jerk reflex. ("Talk to my agent.")


If it's ever within my power I'd love to adapt one of your books to film...Of course, I'll talk to your agent first. Just for discussion, which of Charlie's stories do you think would make the best film. I'd like to see someone like Darren Aronofsky (watch the trailer for the Fountain) take on Accelerando. The Atrocity Archives seems like the most film friendly concept, though.


Gives the non-quote "stop chucking those bloody spears at me" a whole new lease of life, for a start ...


There's the near-to-last episode of the "Helsing" anime series which has shambling hordes of zombie SAS soldiers controlled by synthetic vampires being fought off by another couple of vamps plus a monocled butler armed with some string.


I want these [extremely bad word]ing zombies off this [extremely bad word]ing heretofore undiscovered archaeological site!


Yeah there are a lot of films where the humans really should not win. I don't like them either, as a rule. I don't know if it has made it across the pond, but there was a USA television show last season called
"Threshold" that had me wondering how in hell humanity was going to win. Got canceled, so we will never know.

I'd like to see "A Colder war" on screen. Never get green-lit for the theaters, though. Maybe Showtime or HBO?


"Threshold" was one of those "paint them into a corner and start looking for a hidden door" shows. They also tossed in some extra subplots on whether or not the "normal" humans were doing the right thing (the aliens claimed they were altering our biosphere because of some big cosmic explosion in the vicinity, with the radiation getting here in a few years).

I always wanted to make a movie where the good guys find out, right before the flick ends, that they were the bad guys. The ugly pustulous monsters were trying to save the world, and failed...


"The Atrocity Archives seems like the most film friendly concept, though."

The trick would be to take the cinematographer and make him watch a whole lot of 1960s and 1970s spy flicks, starting with "The Ipcress File." Gotta get the style right.


Hmm, unfortunately Atrocity archives is the only of charlie's series that i have not read yet. I just finished the merchant princes series (or at least what has been written so far) and they would probably work pretty well. the plot of family trade could probably be fit all in one movie. Accelerando is really my favorite of all of his books, and although it would probably be harder to get across to an audience, if it was done well, it would just be so cool. The only problem is it's nature of being a series of short stories originally. maybe it could be a made for TV movie or something, each short story could be like, 2 hours. I really dont know much about screenwriting , or writing for that matter, but accelerando seems like the type of thing that would be hard to fit into the space that an average movie is in.


An agent pitches GLASSHOUSE to studio executives:
"It's Desperate Housewives meets Total Recall!"

And why not? I'd watch it... :)


The soldiers in Land of the Dead are pretty well-trained and don't make any idiotic mistakes.


Film Four, now also on the Freeview system, is running a season of Miyazaki films. And I've just been watching Read or Die from one of a couple of boxed sets I have of anime samplers: a few episodes of some series on each DVD.

Charlie, why Hollywood? Even with the same level of abuse of creative intellect, the Japanese anime and manga industries seem much more friendly to the sorts of story you write. I can imagine Halting State as an anime series, already. I've seen so much which blends such things as the spy thriller and the supernatural fantasy; real world and virtual; they're talking the same sorts of concept.

And, besides, can you see Hollywood doing your planned swordswoman scene?

And, Charlie, I'm sure you'll avoid the temptation to rip off Zulu! quite as blatantly as S.M. Stirling does. One of the giveaways is how much the film Private Henry Hook differs from the real soldier.


Dave: apropos Hollywood, as the felon said when asked why he robbed banks: "because that's where the money is". No other reason whatsoever need apply.

(I have some feelers in the machinima field, but it's still too early -- give it another few years before the kind of production values and budget are there to make it worthwhile.)

Anon: the sequel to "The Atrocity Archives", "The Jennifer Morgue" (due out this November) is more or less explicitly an Ian Fleming hommage with a lot of Bond movie plotting thrown in. It even has a couple of zombies (not to mention the obvious megalomaniacal villain with not one, but two floating HQs that Blow Up Good).


I'm with you on the money, but somebody has to want to buy it. And look at how Hollywood keeps trying to take stuff from Far Eastern cinema.

A Hugo nomination at the Japanese Worldcon might lead to something.

I just checked on the "machinima" stuff. I think I shall stick with CGI film posters. I just turned up a "Zulu Dawn" poster that could be re-worked. That's Isandlwana, rather than Rorke's Drift, and we lost that one (but not because of the ammunition boxes).


"The soldiers in Land of the Dead are pretty well-trained and don't make any idiotic mistakes."

I'd call doing nothing after the vehicle depot gets overrun was pretty stupid. That's what let the zombies get to the river.

There are also a number of scenes where soldiers leave secure locations (like a watch-tower) apparently just to put them where they can be eaten and others where they manage to get surprised by stinking, shambling corpses slowly stumbling up to them, because everyone is looking in the wrong direction.


What's "White Wolf"?

Some table-top gaming franchise.

As for your writing that would do well as movies, I'd watch an "Antibodies" movie that covers the events of the short story and continues from where it ends: opposing interdimensional AIs fighting for the brainpower of the multiverse, human agents caught in the crossfire - hell, are the crossfire.


Also, why doesn't Shaun of the Dead count?


That's almost a given of the genre. Somebody always has to do something dumb, and die. And you don't need to do it for a story like Zulu (though take note of how that film establishes that Isandlwana has happened).

So do you do this primarily as a war movie or as a horror movie. There have been ones which are mostly horror movies which happen to involve soldiers. Deathwatch (2002) is one. I've seen one or two others, such as a German bunker at the tail end of WW2. Ah, that was The Bunker (2001). The protagonists mever gel as a military unit in that sort of movie. The cooperation would spoil the dynamics of a horror movie. Dog Soldiers at least tries to depict soldiers rather than labelled horror victims.

Do zombies show up on thermal imaging, or is their body temperature too similar to their surroundings. Dust storm might completely remove the tech advantages of night-vision gear. Hole up in a farm, and they're still mobile while all those guns lose their range advantage

This isn't so plausible as Zulu!; feels more like Bravo Two Zero.


Of course that's pretty much the plot of the first couple of issues of the wonderful comic "The Red Star", in which techno-magicians from a USSR equivalent get their asses whupped but good by revenant spirits in Al-Alistan...

You should reaad it, Charlie.


Re the zombies: Quite an amusing scenario!

I'm no traditional role-player, though I know the White Wolf franchise is a respectable one. FYI, A couple PC games made popular distractions in the past few years. Vampire: the Masquerade, 'Redemption' and 'Bloodlines'. Good fun if that's your thing.


Just a little nit: Alexander didn't "pass through" Afghanistan; he spent years conquering the place, and it became part of the Hellenistic Greek kingdom of Bactria -- whose capital was just north of the Hindu Kush.

Sounds like a great movie, though.


Dave Bell,

Back when I had the time for such things, I played in a RPG campaign based on the original "Dawn of the Dead". We players very quickly discovered an important tactical hint: Speed Is Life, Use It. Keep moving, defend choke points as long as practicable, but for the love of God, watch your flanks. We did well enough that the gamemaster changed his mind about the Zombie Horde overwhelming the humans and decided that the breathers would win after all.


I can see ways of starting out like Zulu! and then going into the Bravo Two Zero mode. Possibly there is a fixed post, and the SAS head there after completing their mission. Then you get the set-piece attack, combined with a mix of defenders; still soldiers but two groups that are strangers to each other, with differing styles.

Then you have the survivors on the run: the SAS, the ordinary squaddies, maybe a couple of women from the Military Police who were there to do searches of local women at roadblocks.

With helicopters, that sort of small outpost isn't really needed. It's stretching things. It's a way of getting a couple of women into the situation for a movie, and they would be competent, not screamers.

There's touches of a John Ford cavalry western in it to.

I can see this being written up as a scenario in a wargames magazine such as Miniature Wargames. And I know people who could do that better than I can.


28 days later sort of has professional soldiers versus zombies, with an appropriately military soilution to the zombie/plague creature threat...


Sometimes, just once in a while, I wish I was in Hollywood.

Gregory Benford had an article in the first issue of Baen's Universe mag about his experiences with Hollywood. It wasn't pretty.

We had gone over the whole plot structure, the breakdown into three acts (a Hollywood commandment, Act I ending at 30 minutes and II at 90 minutes in a two hour film)—plus character, logic, setting, the works.

Everything seemed set. Everybody agreed. They thought that the female lead character seemed particularly right, a match of motivation and plot.

Then the producer, a woman in her thirties, leaned across the lunch table and said, "She's just about right, now. Only . . . how about, halfway through, she turns out to be a robot?"

I looked around the dining room, at the murals depicting famous scenes from old movies, at stars in shades dining on their slimming salads in all their Armani finery, at the sweeping view of little purple dots that danced before my eyes because I had neglected breathing after she spoke. "Robot . . . ?"

"Just to keep them guessing," the producer added helpfully. "I want to really suck the juice out of this moment."

"But that makes no sense in this movie."

"It's science fiction, though—"

"So it doesn't have to make sense," I finished for her.

The title is "Gods and Monsters in Hollywood".


Also, why doesn't Shaun of the Dead count?

As a guess: Because the soldiers are competent and when they turn up at the end it takes them about 10 seconds to deal with the horde of zombies besieging the pub.



The zombies in Shaun of the Dead aren't very scary: they move slooowly, they aren't particularly contagious, they don't even minimally coordinate their actions, and they are easy to kill.

The pencil-necked geeks of the zombie world, they are.


Nice - ALIENS for Zombies!


I think I am going to have to watch Shaun of the Dead


Why not have the zombies be the soldiers, be outnumbered, and then take on the vast hordes of human attackers? Just think of Mary Gentle's "Grunts" and the Special Undead Services...


"The zombies in Shaun of the Dead aren't very scary: they move slooowly, they aren't particularly contagious, they don't even minimally coordinate their actions, and they are easy to kill."

Just like the Living Dead in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, in other words.

As I recall, in NoTD, the humans had to work at getting themselves killed.


Before dealing with Hollyood, Charlie should probably have a good talk with Alan Dean Foster to find out what he is really getting into.

Or Warren Ellis, IIRC.

As I understand it, short and mediocre print stories make the best Hollywood movies - not enough depth or length can be translated to the screen. _The Jennifer Morgue_ would suffer from having to squeeze together a Bond movie with the backstory necessary to explain the Laundry and its world. _The Atrocity Archive_ might work, but you might have to lose a little of the story, probably the mathematico-geek bits.

PIMPF might do it.

Why not have the zombies be the soldiers, be outnumbered, and then take on the vast hordes of human attackers?

"The good news is that we're going to make you nearly invulnerable and send you in to kick Taliban ass up, down and sideways. The bad news is you gotta die first..."

Then again, consider how badly "Universal Soldier" did the concept.


Is it just me who has dreams of zombie invasions that end after a day or so, when the remaining humans get tanks, cover the front and back with an array of chainsaws and drive through zombie hordes at 30 mph, their biggest worry being that its rather hard to navigate when the front end of your vehicle is doing a good impression of a snow-blower?

Seriously, any half-way kitted up army has sufficient steel and diesel that zombie hordes are a trivial annoyance. For civvies like me, quarter of a mile from here, there's a castle with a moat, drawbridge, steel walls and hot showers. Its the bloody great ferry that runs between the islands in NZ. In event of invasion, that's where I'm heading.

Honestly, zombie nightmares just aren't scary any more. I'll stick to Elder Gods, thanks.


Ah yes, Mary Gentle...

It's [mumble] years since I saw her demonstrating the use of a sword, Renaissance style, not quite so many since I last saw her.

Charlie, I don't think she works for an insurance company, but you might want to be careful about describing a certain character.

Grunts, like so much of the stuff we're tossing around here, depends on clashing with, and subverting, Hollywood. Post Peter Jackson, you can have such a strong image of Orcs that you can see a film version in your mind, no trouble, but a Grunts movie would be breaking the action-movie cliches. And not in the permitted twist-ending way.


I think youve got this idea all wrong. Whats needed is competent, properly trained, well-disciplined zombies. say a unit of SAS soldiers who return from central asia infected with a slowly incubating zombie virus.


We do have soldiers in the Balkans...

Fortunately, no robots to ensure that the infected soldiers return to Porton Down.


They say every movie idea has to have a poster...

A movie poster (JPG)

If it doesn't work as a link, try http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/zhochaka/Pictures/Zombies1.jpg


Zombies on a Plane!


Zombie movies have the same drawback that big-fierce-animal movies (like Jurassic Park) do.

That is, they require the heroes to be afflicted with something like kryptonite, or a really big Idiot Block plot device.

Big Fierce Animals are a solved problem.

There are lots of BFA's in Africa -- though not as many as there once were -- and it isn't the humans who are endangered.

Likewise, slow stupid shambling morons aren't a really difficult problem unless you really load the dice.


Oh dear, that is a silly thing to say.

The problems may be solved, and all you have to do is survive until the solution is implemented. I don't have a gun in the house, and I'm civilised enough to want to protect my elderly parents. rathjer than just jump into the Land Rover a run away.

That would be enough to make a movie. Is it really a big Idiot Block plot device?

Sure, there's a lot of stupid things done in movies. There's people I know who would point at stuff in your books; some of your bad guys have the this-guy-is-evil marker put on so thickly it's like buttering your bread with a bricklayer's trowel.



You basicly just described the plot for Shaun of the Dead. See it. You will not be sorry.


Big Fierce Animals are a solved problem.



Charlie, you really seem to have it in for the poor old Artists' Rifles. If it's not crossing dimensions to face Nazi zombies and possession by ice giants on a frozen, airless world, it's fighting off the Hellenic zombie armies of Alexander the Great in the middle of the Hindu Kush. Did some 21 trooper spill your drink once or something?

LRDG and SAS used to use Siwa Oasis in North Africa as a base during the war. Interestingly, there actually is a lost army somewhere near Siwa - sent in the sixth century BC by Cambyses of Persia, son of Cyrus the Great, to seek sanction for his rule from the Oracle of Amun at Siwa, and destroyed by a great sandstorm. Of course, that doesn't mean that, should danger ever threaten Persia, they won't Rise Again...


I didn't know the lost army bit about Siwa.

One of the obscure little campaigns of WW2 involved RAF Habbaniyah, in Iraq, which might count as part of the relevant Persian empire, There was also some dodgy manouvering over maintaining control of modern Persia.Iran as a source of oil, not just the infamous coup that put the Shah in control.

If the costume department has more Roman stuff in stock, you can go for the Roman legions which were overwhelmed by the Parthians in 53 BCE. According to Pliny, 10000 Roman prisoners were sent as soldiers to the Parthian Eastern Frontier.



I'm not sure your analogy applies. Those sharks wouldn't have lasted very long on land against armed humans.


I'm not sure your analogy applies.

Just pointing out that the BFA isn't a solved problem in at least one plausible movie.

And let me point out to one and all that it *is* plausible - just how much suspending of disbelief do you have to engage in to imagine a tour company fucking up...?)


Habbaniyah be damned, Dave Bell. We invaded Persia itself (a neutral but pro-German country) in multi-corps strength in August 1941, British troops advancing from Iraq and Soviets from the border. The idea was to stop the Nazis getting Persian oil and open up the Transpersian Railway as a supply route for the USSR. Operation COUNTENANCE, if you're interested.


No SAS until their first November '41 operation, so it would be the LRDG swanning around the desert, With a strong New Zealand element, but pretty multinational by then. And there was a US TV series called "The Rat Patrol" (with tye usual history-straining presence of the US Army.


Charlie "Sometimes, just once in a while, I wish I was in Hollywood."

Why not write the novel version - much cheaper & *you* have the creative control. Then when approached, be ready to respond with the Four Vital Words.


Small, elite military unit fights off zombies? Or better, small, elite military unit of zombies fights off everybody else?

If you don't mind an SAS trooper with an Austrian accent, I think the governor of California will be available for the part pretty soon;


Just a little nit: Alexander didn't "pass through" Afghanistan;

He also didn't have access to Greek fire, which was invented by the Byzantines. But you don't see me nitpicking. Oh, wait...

Now, what if the zombies were regenerating zombies? Wouldn't that make a bit of trouble for even a capable soldiers? Or if not regenerating, at least not nearly so squishy? Yeah, I know, a little while in the sun takes a toll on dead tissue, etc.; I am unconvinced by such appeals to realism when discussing animated corpses.


"If you don't mind an SAS trooper with an Austrian accent"

Well, that may explain the plot of Rainbox Six--it was written as a vehicle for Arnie.

(Small European counter-terrorism unit, based with the SAS, commanded by two Americans, with at least one German member. And the whole amusement-park incident reeks of Hollywood.)


Oh yes, Dog Soldiers....
It's the one.