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Dan Moran: Cashing in on zombie love

Updated: November 14, 2012 3:02PM

Agenuine reanimated corpse might object to being exploited in such a way, but our greater world’s zombie cottage industry will take over downtown Waukegan today with 12 full hours of scheduled living-dead activity during ZombieWauk 2012 — “Food, Fun, Films & Freaks.”

The growth of this
industry has been fascinating to behold, leaving economists to nail down exactly when it became a going concern. While students of Svengoolie can point to a post-”Dracula” Bela Lugosi in “White Zombie” (1932), many zombie scholars lean toward 1968, when George Romero’s “Night of the
Living Dead” ignited a franchise that generated not only five sequels, but also two outright remakes, just in case the first one didn’t cover all the flesh-eating bases.

Along the way, we had HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” (1989-96), helmed by the now-iconic Crypt Keeper; comic takes on the zombie culture like “My Boyfriend’s Back” (1993) and, arguably, the “Weekend at Bernie’s” saga (1989-93); and the recent birth of the “zombie apocalypse” sub-genre with new multimedia franchises like the “28 Days Later” library.

And then there was the “Evil Dead” canon, brought to us by a pre-“Spider-Man” Sam Raimi, who expertly mixed horror and comedy in a way perhaps not seen since the seminal work “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948). Fittingly, one of the key scheduled activities of today’s ZombieWauk is a Genesee Theatre screening of the third entry in the “Dead” trilogy, “Army of Darkness,” which grossed all of $21.5 million when it was released in 1992 but subsequently achieved your basic cult following.

As fate would have it, I saw “Army of Darkness” during its original theatrical run, despite not having seen the previous two films. A friend insisted that a group of us see it at the now-defunct Hillside Theatre off the Eisenhower Expressway, and I recall that the entire experience was made worthwhile by the dry comic stylings of a young Bruce Campbell.

In fact, I can nearly recommend the entire film from the immortal “boomstick” speech, in which Campbell, as time-traveling protagonist Ash Williams, intimidates a Middle Ages village with a cheap shotgun:

“Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Mich. Retails for about a hundred-and-nine, ninety-five ...”

Classic stuff. I submit
that it rivals MacBeth’s
“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” soliloquy. But let’s get back to the zombie business in
Waukegan, which
promises that both
“zombies and survival extremists” can “enjoy live action role playing all day and night in costume,” with Jack Benny Plaza (Genesee and Clayton streets) serving as ground zero.

Looking to generate synergy following a modest ZombieWauk debut last October, today’s schedule includes “zombie fun for all ages” from noon to 5 p.m., including free live music, free face painting at the College of Lake County courtyard on Genesee, art displays, and a free noontime “zombie dance clinic” at the Rhythm Academy of Dance, 200 N. County Street.

After dark, the event continues with a “Zombies vs. Survivors Pub Stagger Contest” from 9 to 11 p.m., with a grand prize offered to the first team to complete a circuit of six Genesee Street taverns and restaurants. For complete details, visit the ZombieWauk page on Facebook.

By the way, the “Army of Darkness” screening is at 7:30 p.m., and general-admission tickets starting at $6 for adults. It’s not exactly “Casablanca” with re-animated characters, but you won’t be disappointed.

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