By Jeff Strand
Reviewed by SA
Halloween may have come and gone, but it’s never not time to be talking about Zombies. Though, as the author will warn you before you start reading, this isn’t exactly a book about Zombies: it’s a book about a zombie movie, and the making of one of the worst movies of the genre. And it’s incredibly fun.
After producing three horror films that went mostly ignored on YouTube, Justin and his filmmaking buddies decide it’s time to make something epic. In fact, they’re going to make The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. They may not have money or a script, but they have passion. And, after a rash text message, they also have the beautiful Alicia Howtz as the lead.
Hemmed in by a one-month timeline and a cast of uncooperative extras, but aching to fulfill Alicia’s dreams, Justin must face the sad, sad truth: he may, in actuality, be producing The Worst Zombie Movie Ever.
This may be The Greatest – book about the worst attempt to make a – Zombie Movie Ever. Anything that could go wrong does go wrong in this wholly hilarious book. From odd pastel clowns to shady grandmothers, along with a hoard of zombie problems, Justin’s plan to make the greatest zombie movie ever – not just a good movie, the greatest movie – seems like an uphill battle, an impossible feat. It’s enough to give up home, but he is determined to make it all work, no matter what obstacles come in his way. Which means he’s in for the worst weeks of his life.
While the characters read a little younger than fifteen year olds, and some plot points were a little predictable, this novel still managed to make me laugh out loud and hold on for more. It was a fast read, and I devoured it in a mere two hours, but it was a fantastic two hours that were very well spent, and in good company, too.
Because for all their faults, these characters are so darn lovable. Justin with his dogged determination to get this movie done. Alicia’s wavering emotions about her hair. Spork’s obsession with filming every behind the scene detail. Weird Uncle Clyde’s problems with money, and vaping. Bobby and Gabe, the kind of friends you want by your side when the zombie apocalypse comes knocking, even if it is an apocalypse you put together yourself in an attempt to create a fantastic movie. And I’m still quite worried about Justin’s Grandma.
It hit me right in the nostalgia-gut: I was obsessed with film making when I was fifteen, and thought I could do anything on a budget of twenty bucks, so long as I had good friends and a reliable camera. Though I never faced the kinds of problems that Justin had to deal with! There was a moment – and I’m going to remain vague, so I won’t spoil anything here – when he has to face the absolute worst nightmare an amateur director can face, and it made me actually cringe in my seat. I related way too much with this character, and not only felt for him, but was really rooting for him to succeed.
While the ending is a little predictable, it’s the fun finish this novel deserves. I came out of this read feeling excited and content, wishing that this could get made into a movie itself. A fantastic, hilarious novel well worth the read.
Release Date: March 1, 2016 by SourceBooks Fire
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About Jeff Strand:
Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books, and is a four-time nominee (and four-time non-winner) of the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his young adult novels, A Bad Day For Voodoo and I Have A Bad Feeling About This, were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Tampa, Florida.
Excerpt from The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever:
The vampire, whose fangs were too big for his mouth, turned to the camera and hissed.
“Don’t look at the camera,” said Justin Hollow, the director.
“I keep poking my lip on these things,” said Harold, spitting the plastic fangs out onto the ground. He hadn’t been a very frightening example of the undead before, and he was even less scary with no fangs and a thick line of drool running down his chin.
“Cut!” shouted Justin, loud enough to be sure that the command was heard by his production crew of two. “C’mon, Harold. Stay in character. We’re three hours behind schedule.”
“I don’t care. I hate this. You promised that I’d get all the girls I wanted. So where are all of the girls I want?”
Justin let out his thirty-ninth exasperated sigh of the night. “The movie has to come out first.”
“It’s not even a real movie.”
Justin bristled. It was a full body bristle, head to toe, which he hadn’t even realized was physically possible. Bobby, who handled sound recording, and Gabe, who handled everything else, both stepped back a couple of feet. Neither of them truly believed that they were about to witness a murder, but they wanted to get out of the splash zone, just in case.
Had this been one of Justin’s movies, he would have very slowly lowered his camera, stared directly into Harold’s eyes with a steel gaze, and then after an extremely dramatic pause asked “What…did…you…just…say?”
His actual response, delivered in a squeakier voice than he would have allowed from his actors, was: “Huh?”
“I said it’s not a real movie.” Harold started to wipe the fake blood off his mouth. It didn’t come off, and probably wouldn’t for several days. Justin had planned to feel guilty about this later, but now he wouldn’t bother. “Nobody’s ever going to see it. You probably won’t even finish it.”
“I finished my last three movies!” Justin insisted. “I got hundreds of hits on YouTube!”
That statement was technically accurate, though it was the lowest possible number of hits you could get and still use “hundred” in its plural form. The only comment anybody posted about his latest film had been “This twelve year-old filmmaker sort of shows promise,” which really frustrated Justin since he was fifteen.
Harold shrugged. “This is a waste of time. I’ve got better things to do on a Friday night.”
“Nobody ever said this was going to be easy,” said Justin, who had indeed said that it was going to be easy when luring Harold into the role. “You can quit now, but what are you going to think about your decision ten years from now?”
“I’m going to think, wow, it sure is nice to be such a well-paid dentist.”
Harold walked off the set. It wasn’t an actual set, but rather a small park near Justin’s home, where they were filming without a permit. Justin knew he should shout something after his ex-actor. Something vicious. Something devastating. He thought about shouting “You’ll never work in this town again!” but, no, it had to be something that Harold would consider a bad thing.
“Fine!” Justin shouted. “But when we record the audio commentary track for the Blu-Ray, I’m going to talk about how you abandoned us, and how much happier everybody was with the new actor who took your role, and how we all agreed that he should have been cast in the first place, and how he had so many girlfriends that he couldn’t even keep track of them, and how they all found out about each other and had a great big awesome catfight in his front yard! And I’ll pronounce your name wrong!”
Harold continued walking, apparently not heartbroken.
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