“Suck On That, Europe” The Max Brooks Interview, Part Three

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Yesterday, we talked with Max Brooks about the news that Brad Pitt has agreed to star in the film adaptation of World War Z, Brooks’ best-selling zombie novel. It’s good news in the midst of more good news. Brooks, now a leading zombie authority, just sold one million copies of The Zombie Survival Guide, after an initial print of just 17,000 copies when it was published in 2003. A million books and Brad Pitt? Like we needed any other reason to be impressed.

Here is part three (Read parts one and two) of our epic nerd chat with Brooks who graciously stopped by the office a few weeks back. We talk creature features, the plight of the modern remake and why America will always win.

Allie Townsend: Are you a big fan of any other horror genres?

Max Brooks: Giant monsters. I’ve always been a fan. When I was a kid I watched Them once a week.

AT: I loved Mothra. I don’t know why. I just liked Mothra most.

MB: Oh yeah. All of those Godzilla movies are great. Godzilla’s Revenge with the little kid and then the one before that in black and white where they just dubbed in Raymond Burr and edited him in.

AT: Yeah, that was so bad.

MB: Then there was Gamera. There was a movie called Empire Of The Ants with Joan Collins. Giant ants, but in color. It’s cheesy now, but as a kid, whoa.

AT: Was there one about giant rabbits?

MB: Yes. Night Of The Lepus. I have a library of all those movies. Night of the Lepus was a big one. Food Of The Gods was giant rats. There was a line in it that I never forgot – I directly put it in The Zombie Survival Guide – as he’s opening the shotgun shells to make a bomb. And one guys says, “Why are you ruining those shells? It’s all we have to save us.” And the guys says, “Look, Thomas, count the shells we’ve got. If we’re lucky enough to knock off one rat with each of those shells, there’s still enough of them to hold a people barbecue.”

That’s why in all of my zombie lectures when people tell me which gun they would use I say, “Yeah? Well, guns don’t kill people. Bullets kill people. How many bullets are you going to stuff in your pants? There are 300 million Americans, even if half of them are zombies, are you going to carry 150 million bullets?”

AT: Good point. I feel like creature features don’t get some of the credit they deserve for being so creative about defense in that way.

MB: Snowbeast is another. It’s one of the best Sasquatch movies there is. It just ripped off Jaws. Snowbeast is the Jaws story in Aspen. And, it’s shot from the point of view of the monster.

AT: Aww, that’s tender.

MB: Ha. It’s literally the monster’s POV and a hand in the brush.

AT: Do you ever see the beast?

MB: For a half second. It terrified me as a kid. I was a monster-watching fool.

AT: I think they’re actually remaking one of the Godzilla films. (Editor’s note: It’s true. Warner Bros. announced it in March. Yippee skippy!)

MB: Oh, I hope so. I hope it’s good. I think the problem with most remakes is that they don’t know why they’re remaking it and they lose a lot. Like Romero’s movie, The Crazies. I like Brett Eisner’s work, but there’s an element of The Crazies that was completely lost, showing how truly evil and crazy you can get. There’s a scene where a dad tries to molest his daughter. That wasn’t in the remake.

AT: He actually does it, I think.

MB: And then he’s so racked with guilt when he as a moment of sobriety that he hangs himself. That’s the most terrifying moment, when you think, “Oh my God, what if that were me? What if I lost myself and woke up and thought I had done something horrible t my own child?”

AT: I think in that movie it’s so interesting how disunited everyone gets so quickly. I think it’s a classic Romero move, but even the young lovers are separated. The guy just leaves her. “Stay here. See ya.”

MB: And that horrible scene where the scientist finds a cure and he runs out and he gets caught up with the crazies, but the guards can’t tell him from the crazies. There’s nothing scarier than that: than being sane, but no one believes you. How many of us have thought about getting locked in a mental hospital and trying to tell the guards, “I’m not crazy.” There going, “Sure, you’re not.” They took all that out in the remake. Instead, they had that cliché, “You stay here, I’ll go investigate. And while I’m investigating, you, who is staying here, is attacked.” I think that happened like five times in the movie.

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