“…It’s going to make Return of the Living Dead look like Return of the Living Dead, Part 5.”
It is clear that author Jeff Strand had a very disturbed childhood. This is very fortunate for us, however, as his latest offering, “The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever,” is a delightful read.
Strand, no stranger to young adult fiction, offers up this piece fresh on the heels of “A Bad Day for Voodoo” and “I Have a Bad Feeling About This” while not talking down to his young readers, but instead taking them along for a very wild ride.
Justin is a high school student and horror auteur whose list of credits is comprised of three unwatched YouTube videos. He enlists the help of his two best friends Gabe and Bobby to make what is sure to be the most epic, grandiose, monumental zombie-action-saga ever filmed. The only thing keeping the trio from their dream is the lack of money, actors, locations, special effects, cameras, and a title. There’s also that big history test coming up.
Ever determined to be the cynosure, Justin accidentally gets Alicia, his biggest crush, to be the star of his mega-opus, and there’s no backing out now. Can Justin and his friends pull off making a blockbuster movie without having any filmmaking knowledge? Will Justin get the girl of his dreams? What could possibly go wrong?
While Strand’s usual fare involves horror or supernatural elements with a bit on humor sprinkled in, this one goes against the grain and is instead a comedy with a smattering of horror references. In other words, the “usual” Strand novel would have a full-on zombie apocalypse going on, with some humorous situations happening to our protagonists (although I for one would love to see the author tackle that book idea, too), this novel has no actual zombies in it, as forewarned in the waggish introduction.
I admit that I laughed out loud more than a few times, and some of the situations which transpired really got me thinking, as I know from experience that when making an independent movie, Murphy’s Law is a constant, ensuring that everything that could go wrong will go wrong. Strand seems to take this idea and run with it, as he seems to take delight in making even the most mundane situations, like going to a character’s grandmother’s house, into a hilariously uncomfortable scene. Other times, he makes background characters become the most unforgettable (and unforgiveable) antagonists who try to foil our heroes. A bit involving a birthday clown played out in my head like a movie scene and had me giggling so much that my pre-teen daughter thought I’d become unhinged.
I highly recommend “The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever” to readers of all ages. At 272 pages, the chapters are short enough for the younger crowd, and the horror references and in-jokes are enough to keep the older crowd’s attention. This is a perfect read for any budding horror fan, and for anyone who grew up reading Famous Monsters of Filmland and Fangoria, and wanted to make their own horror movie. Even the cover was thought-out well, as from a distance, it appears to be a blood-soaked horror novel, but upon closer inspection, is revealed to be fast food and exactly what a high school freshman would doodle (I myself used to see how many horror movie titles I could fit on the cardboard backs of my notebooks).
If “The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever” has a flaw, it’s that the ending felt a bit rushed in an effort to tie up loose ends. I am grateful, however, that there was no deus ex machina used, but I thought that the book would have benefitted with having another ten or so pages to wrap it up. I do have to say that the epilogue was extremely satisfying, and made me laugh loudly one final time, making it so worth the setup.
You can find “The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever” in your local bookstore, or online at Amazon.
I give this four stars