• Tag Archives monsters
  • Welcome to the New Canister X Blog

    Welcome to the new Canister X blog, your home for all things heroes and monsters.

    The blog redesign is complete, with mostly everything retooled. New banner, new overall design, even a new author headshot on the About page.

    There are a few changes still left to make as these things are always evolving, but the big redesign is done. I admit this was a tricky project in that not only did I need the blog to function a certain way, but I also wanted it to look good without coming off as a sterile creator site where the creator feels untouchable. Canister X is my online home and I want my home to feel as welcoming as possible.

    A chunk of Project Media is now complete.

    More winter project plans coming your way soon.

    Enjoy the new blog. Please stick around for a while to explore, and then when you’re done that, head on over to my Patreon page where this morning I posted a new chapter in my ongoing serial novel, Gigantigator Death Machine.


  • St. Valentine’s Horror Con 2017 Appearance

    St. Valentine's Horror Con

    I will be tabling at C4’s St. Valentine’s Horror Con on February 11 and 12 at the RBC Convention Centre here in Winnipeg.

    Last year was their first year doing the show and it was an absolute blast. I look forward to seeing what’s in store this year and watching it grow.

    Monsters will abound as will my zombie books and other horror titles.

    See you there.


  • Reinventing the Horde: Problems in Zombie Fiction

    zombiefightnightdrivethruAuthor’s note: This essay originally aired on this blog prior to the file purge of 2014. It is now being rerun for your reading pleasure. Please note Zomtropolis is no longer available as a free on-line serial and will be released in paperback and eBook in the near future.

    Zombies are monsters. At least, that’s the standard definition. Someone dies, rises, has a taste of human flesh and so hunts down the living and, once the prey is caught, chows down and eats their guts. Oh, and they’re ugly, too, slowly rotting away with each passing day.

    That’s the standard version of the zombie and the one most are familiar with.

    It’s the one I knew of when I first discovered them, but as for their main backstory, I didn’t know what that wasy.

    See, I grew up in a household where horror and monsters where off limits. This was a good thing, in that I didn’t have to view creepy faces, see blood and guts, watch people get killed, or be subject to dark forests like other kids I knew. I was probably saved hundreds of hours of nightmares as a result. This absence of horror made for a happier childhood, in that regard. My dad always said, “If you want to watch horror, watch the news.” And he was right, and still is. We live in a sad world with villains in it that outmatch most of what we create in books or on screen.

    At the same time, being so sheltered was a detriment to a well-rounded upbringing because later on, I was naïve about a lot of things, including the darker side of life, both in terms of what humans were capable of and scary images.

    My first exposure to monsters was seeing a ripped-from-a-magazine picture of Freddy Krueger lying in the playground in elementary. The image of a disfigured man with bubbles on his skin was so foreign to me that I had occasional nightmares from that single image for years. I never saw an actual Freddy movie until I was eighteen and living on my own, but I got to tell you: going to the video store to rent one sent up all sorts of red flags and I was scared to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time.

    But zombies, werewolves or vampires growing up?

    At most I saw the Halloween episode of Highway to Heaven where Michael Landon was a werewolf for part of it. Scared me to death. Same with that other episode with the devil.

    Highway to Heaven. Good show, from what I remember, and it was allowed in the Christian household I grew up in for its message. It was also this growing up in a Christian household and the zero tolerance policy for horror and monsters that shaped my life, not only in terms of what I couldn’t see, but how I reacted when faced with the horrors that pop up in life now and then.

    In fact, I only got into horror because of something painful that happened to me. It was in this place of darkness that I found comfort in other dark things for a long time.

    Later, when I incorporated writing about zombies into my writing career, my view of the undead and fandom of them wasn’t your typical horror fan’s. It wasn’t the blood and guts that excited me or their spooky nature, the whole things-that-go-bump-in-the-night thing.

    Instead, it was rooted in my first love: superheroes.

    And they still are.

    I’ve never viewed zombies as “horror monsters” in terms of how I create and write them. To me, they’ve always been supervillains, and I think it’s this definition of them that is more accurate: they are “super” because they can’t die via conventional means—only by the removal of the head—and are certainly not part of our everyday lives, and they are “villains” because of the evil act of eating others they commit.

    When I set out to write my first zombie book, Blood of the Dead (book one of the Undead World Trilogy,) I didn’t want to write a standard zombie novel about a virus, people dying, people coming back, people surviving. I’ve never been one for formulas in my fiction and have always tried to do something new with each tale. Once the story was done, it immediately birthed unusual plans for the sequel, Possession of the Dead: angels, demons, giant zombies some fifteen stories high, shamblers and sprinters, shape shifting zombies and the consequences of the time travel ending of the first book. The third, Redemption of the Dead, incorporated all these unusual elements, while neatly dealing with the time travel issue and ensuring it was paradox-free, which, as a major time travel fan, was something important to me. But all along, as these books were written, the zombies were supervillains to me, with my main cast—Joe, Billy, August, Des, Tracy—being superheroes in their own right, especially Joe and Tracy. While Joe was an excellent shot with the gun, tough as nails and grim, Tracy was a highly-skilled marksmen and fighter. Likewise, they had the tendency to rescue people versus just letting people die.

    The story certainly would not have been what it was without my love of the superhero genre and my sheltered upbringing. Doing zombie stories this way also enabled me to tackle Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead, with a kind of comic book sensibility, that is, classic characters—ninjas, samurai, robots, Vikings, and more—and pit them up against the undead in Bloodsport-like battles, each fight with a purpose that served the overall story being told between each bout.

    The supervillain angle—I like it. I grew up with it, being a huge fan of Super Friends, the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, the Tim Burton Batman movies, even the Spider-Man TV show. To be honest, I can’t imagine writing monsters any other way other than as supervillains because that’s what they are to me.

    Any monster is, actually, and I explored this idea in the series of anthologies I edit called Metahumans vs. The first two are Metahumans vs the Undead and Metahumans vs Werewolves. For the uninitiated, metahumans are superheroes are the same thing. The idea with this series was not only to showcase independent superheroes, but also put them up against a new kind of supervillain that isn’t used that often in comics or cartoons: monsters.

    Before you accuse me of this article being a giant commercial for my undead work—for free serial zombie fiction, see my on-line novel, Zomtropolis at www.canisterx.com, wink wink, nudge nudge—there’s a point to all these examples, and that is this: not to let stereotypes and archetypes be a guide for your fiction, in this, we’re talking about undead fiction.

    Why do zombies have to monsters via the standard definition? Why can’t there be something more to them?

    I fully realize we live in a very commercialistic society, where most of what’s produced is made because it’ll make the most money. For me, this is a shallow way of approaching storytelling. It’s selfish, it’s limiting, it’s, frankly, wrong. Art—which includes writing—should be about honest expression, about pushing boundaries and trying something new. Will this new thing always be popular? No, but the fact that it is new is important and shows the artist behind it has put thought into it and expressed something from within versus simply a formula of what would sell.

    Let’s look at the typical zombie formula.

    1) a virus sweeps the world, killing people

    2) these people rise from the dead as flesh-eating machines

    3) a group of people were somehow not infected—which may or may not be explained

    4) this group must survive in a half-destroyed world with limited resources—are our armies really that incompetent that the surviving military couldn’t defeat creatures who are stupid and slow?—and battle amongst themselves and against shambling zombies

    Did I miss anything?

    While this is fine for the skeleton of a story, it doesn’t make much for the meat of it. There needs to be more. Reasons for things need to be given. A new spin on these four main ideas needs to be taken otherwise it’s just the same story being told over and over again, the only difference being the people’s names and locales.

    “Well, that’s what the audience expects?” you say. They expect that because that’s what we’ve been giving them.

    Ever read a book or see a movie and go, “Now that’s a new way to do it?” I have. It’s an amazing realization and elevates the work in question to a whole new level upon seeing it.

    Some possible fixes to the aforementioned zombie formula, off the top of my head:

    1) Why is it always a virus? Why not something supernatural? Or something from space? Something from Earth? Something mechanical that gives the illusion of people back from the dead? I edited an anthology called Dead Science, which challenged the authors to create unique science-gone-wrong-based origins for the undead. The stories they came up with were fun and original.

    2) Shamblers and sprinters seem to be the order of the day. Some have ventured into smart zombie territory. What if they had super strength? What if to kill them it wasn’t cutting off their heads but it was their guts—source of hunger—that needed to be removed? What if they were giants? What if part of the cause of them dying also shrank them and you had zombies so small they were like bugs and could get all over you so quickly like ants that you had no hope of survival?

    3) Seldom is it explained why the group of survivors were immune to the zombie virus. An explanation for their survival needs to be included? Was a vicinity thing? Did the cause of the undead only affect people indoors? Outdoors? Is the whole world taken out or just a part of it?

    4) How come the world is always destroyed within a few weeks of the outbreak? Have you noticed this or is it just me? While I realize people act like animals under panic—we’ve all seen riots on the news—all these cities with broken everything, over-turned cars, bodies everywhere, graffiti, everyone suddenly in torn clothes, etc.—I just don’t get it. What about our military? Wouldn’t the countries’ forces combine to eradicate a common threat like a zombie outbreak? How could even a horde of zombies take out a guy with a machine gun unless they’re oh-so-slow moving bodies somehow got in a sneak attack? What about planes and bombs?

    I won’t admit to having read every zombie book or seen every zombie movie, but it seems to me the element of realism has been taken out. It’s always been my view that a book or comic or movie—whatever—needs to be grounded in reality somehow, the whole “what if this happened tomorrow for real” thing. To add such an element to a book—regardless of how out-of-this-world the circumstance is—suddenly brings that fantastic circumstance into our world and puts the reader right in the middle of the tale because he/she can completely understand why things happen a certain way. Life isn’t full of conveniences, tidy plotlines and clichéd ideas. It’s a mess with tons of twists and turns.

    Shouldn’t our stories reflect life?

    The argument is people want to escape. For me, that’s just an excuse to get out of a life that isn’t the one you wanted. How about turning that on its head and reading stories about lives like yours, that aren’t the way the characters wanted, and you draw strength and encouragement from that? There’s lots to be said about relatability and seeing people in the same boat as you, whether they’re real or not, whether the world they inhabit is yours or not.

    But I realize that trying new things and going against the grain is countercultural, especially in the West. I realize that to propose writing zombie fiction as something other than zombie fiction flies in the face of decades of tradition.

    It just seems, though, that these standard ideas have become so ingrained in us that we’re afraid to move or operate outside them. Afraid to grow. Afraid to step off the beaten path and blaze a new trail.

    Seems we all just go with the flow.

    Just like a pack of zombies.


  • Canister X Movie Review #130: Doghouse (2009)

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    Doghouse (2009)
    Written by Dan Schaffer
    Directed by Jake West
    Runtime 89 min.
    4.5 out of 5

    A group of friends head out to the town of Moodley for a “boys only” weekend in an attempt to get away from their significant others back home and also rediscover themselves. All is well and good. Drinks are had before they left, a fun roadtrip, jokes, ribbing—but everything changes when they find the town of Moodley deserted.

    Soon it is discovered the only folks left are the women—and they have a deadly appetite for human flesh. Grotesque female monsters send the boys on the run and into a battle for survival in this throwback to classic horror.

    And that’s what really sums up this flick for me: classic horror. Prosthetic monsters, excellent makeup, and good old-fashioned blood and guts, along with a storyline that carried with it a sense of depth ala Shaun of the Dead.

    This is one of those flicks that are worth watching again because the writing is quite good, with each line feeding off the other—whether subtly or overtly—references to earlier lines/comments, objects and people. Extremely well done.

    Not only that, but the cast also had great chemistry and created a buddy-horror flick that reminded me a lot of hanging out with my friends back in the glory days of all-night partying and crude jokes (minus the cannibalistic women, of course).

    The ’80s-style soundtrack gave this flick an eerie mood that reminded me of the old Nightmare on Elm Street stuff, really setting the tone.

    Really happy with this film, and would recommend it in a hot minute.


  • Canister X Movie Review #118: Day of the Dead (2008)

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    Click Here to Order from Amazon.com
    Day of the Dead (2008)
    Written by Jeffrey Reddick
    Directed by Steve Miner
    Runtime 86 min.
    3 out of 5

    A strange flu outbreak.

    Nose bleeds.

    Death.

    Rebirth . . . in rage.

    No one knows how anyone got sick . . . at least, no one is telling us. The US Army is all over it, quarantining Leadville, Colorado. Sarah Bowman (Mena Suvari) is serving her country and is part of the troops bordering the town.

    Except they can’t contain the rage-filled maniacs that have returned from the dead after being killed by the flu.

    Going back for her mother (Linda Marlowe), she runs into her brother, Trevor (Michael Welch), and tries and save their mother’s life. Unfortunately, the mom falls victim to the virus and Sarah and her brother—along with his girlfriend/female interest, Nina (AnnaLynne McCord), and a couple of Army Joes—try and flee from the ever-escalating attack of flesh-hungry zombies that stop at nothing to satisfy their gut-munching desires.

    Adding a strange twist to things, one of the army chaps, Bud Crain (Stark Sands), gets infected and later transforms into an angry zombie as well, but Sarah keeps him along for the ride, feeling sorry for him. Besides, he seems harmless enough and hasn’t attacked them.

    When their hope of escape falls through, Sarah and the others must make their last stand against the undead before they are ripped to pieces.

    Can they survive this Day of the Dead?

    The first thing that comes to mind about this movie is that it’s hardcore. The zombies in this flick aren’t just your average gray-skinned, baggy-eyed monsters. The person infected dies then are suddenly transformed into pale-skinned, decayed-fleshed, white-eyed beasties loaded with so much rage that hate and hunger emanates from them before they even move in for the kill. Speaking of which, they move so fast you’d think they’re part vampire or something. Crazy speed with these guys and, for me, those quick, jerky movements of the undead creep me out every time.

    The story’s simple: an outbreak, people turn into zombies, folks run for their lives. Hey, standard zombie fare, and that’s part of the fun. I also liked having a female in the lead and it was neat to see Mena Suvari—who usually plays the fun, get-along girl—take charge and blast the heads off these creatures.

    I was totally into this flick. The suspense was building. Every time a zombie jumped out I was jumping on my couch. All good.

    Then Bud died, came back—and was nice? This bit took me out of the movie and it’s why I’m giving this a 3 out of 5 instead of a 4 like I was going to. It just totally ruined it for me, especially when Sarah and friends were riding with him in the Humvee and, after a short debate about why this zombie was riding with them, they all seemed pretty cool with it.

    Bud’s bit at the end was also predictable, but, hey, what’re you gonna do?

    I did like how vulnerable these zombies were to fire and how quickly the flames destroyed them.

    The ending director Steve Miner chose for this flick was the better of the two as the alternate ending on the DVD, though very similar, wasn’t as strong and was a bit hokey. Having Salazar (Nick Cannon) die was the best choice.

    If you like your zombie flicks raunchy, quick and gory, you’ll love this Day of the Dead remake. If you’re one of those folks who are sticky about story plausibility—even in the realm of zombie movies—then this probably won’t be up your alley.

    Your call.


  • Canister X Movie Review #112: I Am Legend (2007)

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    I Am Legend (2007)
    Written by Mark Protosevich, Akiva Goldsman
    Directed by Francis Lawrence
    Runtime 101 min.
    4 out of 5

    Based on the book by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend is the story of Robert Neville (Will Smith), sole survivor of a plague that, originally, was supposed to be a miracle cure for cancer three years before. Instead, most of the world died at the hands of the plague. Others mutated into bloodthirsty vampiric creatures; only a small percentage of humankind remained immune to the disease.

    All alone in New York, virologist Neville tries to find a cure and “fix” the problem that stole the lives of everyone he knew and everyone he loved, while also trying to survive in a city infested with the infected and ferocious monsters.

    Straight from the start you know you’re in for a ride.

    An empty city, overgrown and broken down.

    A lone guy speeding through the streets in a fancy car, weapon at his side.

    Animals prowling the streets, free of their cages.

    The lock up.

    The screams.

    The howls.

    Yeah, good stuff.

    The intense feeling of atmosphere was what drew me into this flick. Immediately isolation sets in right from the first frame as we see Neville trying to maintain a normal life in a dead city (renting movies, talking to mannequins, keeping a routine), his eyes washed with pain yet underscored with determination to keep going. This is a one-man show and I haven’t seen it done so well since Cast Away (one of my favorite movies) years and years ago.

    No complaints about Will Smith here and he’s done a good job over his career to make you forget about the loud-mouthed homeboy he played in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Plus, did you see the guy in this film? He’s ripped! Shredded. But, I guess, you’d have to be if you lived a world where vampire-zombie-human things prowled the streets and your life could be in jeopardy at the drop of a hat if you weren’t too careful.

    Which brings me to the monsters in question. Overall, well done. Creepy skin, no hair, loud growls, amazing agility and intensely vicious. Yeah, killer. Obviously they were CGI so they did look a tad rubbery and there were a few moments where it felt I was looking at a cartoon. Thankfully, those moments happened so fast and the action was so intense that I quickly forgot my quibble and moved on.

    My only thing was the ending. Now, I never read the book so I can’t compare, but it ended too abruptly and really lost its post-apocalyptic feel in the last five minutes or so. Sort of a Disney ending, which didn’t fit in with what was a gloomy story up until that point.

    Regardless, if someone asked me what I thought of this film, I’d tell them to go see it.

    It’s that good.


  • Canister X Movie Review #111: Fido (2006)

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    Fido (2006)
    Written by Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie and Dennis Heaton
    Directed by Andrew Currie
    Runtime 93 min.
    5 out of 5

    Every so often a movie comes along in a particular genre and does things “outside the norm.”

    Fido is such a movie.

    Yes, it’s about zombies. Yes, it’s about gut-munching. Yes, it’s about survival in a post-apocalyptic world.

    But that’s where the similarities end compared to other end-of-the-world zombie flicks.

    This movie is more like a cross between Pleasantville and Night of the Living Dead, with a little bit of humor thrown in there as well.

    After a zombie epidemic took over most of the world, a lone scientist invented a collar to control the undead and, through the ventures of the company Zomcom, was able to transform these mindless and hungry monsters into humanity’s slaves, turning them into butlers, house aids and gardeners.

    Enter the Robinson family, the only family in the ’50s without a zombie. However, things change when the people-pleasing mom, Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss), gets Fido, a lovable zombie with life and warmth.

    Fido quickly becomes best friends with Timmy, Helen’s son, but one day when the collar goes on the fritz and Fido eats the neighbor, everything changes, a cover-up ensues and it’s up to the Robinson family to hide Fido from those who would want to take him away and kill him (which is something that Daddy Robinson would love to see).

    This isn’t your standard zombie movie. Far from it. It has heart, and though a comedy, it’s not slapstick or silly. Just regular funny moments. Billy Connolly as Fido is charming, lovable, fun. You genuinely care for the poor dead guy. You smile with joy when he’s happy. Your heart goes out to him when he’s sad. You even side with him when he gets mad and takes out his uncontrollable hunger on unsuspecting victims.

    The story is original. The dialogue is great. The cast couldn’t be better.

    New spins on genres are something I’ve always been into. Though classic takes on things have their place, every time something new comes along it’s like a breath of fresh air and Fido is definitely that.

    Even hardcore zombie lovers who need a dose of shambling, rotting corpses and loads of blood will enjoy this film as there are “classic zombie moments” in it as well.

    This DVD also contains director Andrew Currie’s extremely poignant short film, Night of the Living, about the cause-and-effect of alcohol in the family but with a zombie twist.

    Very recommended.