Josh Levin wrote this great review of Zombieland for Slate back in 2009. His thesis states that Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone’s romp through the undead, Bill Murray’s mansion, and the Southwestern United States is so good because the action unspools less like a movie and more like a movie made by a gamer who’s obsessed with first-person shooters.
Here’s an excerpt:
Zombie cinema has already been sliced into such thin micro-genres— zombie pole dancers! zombie Nazis! — that auteurs of the undead should probably stop striving for originality. And yet Zombieland is something new, perhaps because it borrows from another medium. While the movie may not have been hatched inside a PlayStation, Zombieland reveals why every video-game movie ever made has been horrendous. Games, particularly the kind that get optioned by Hollywood, are supposed to be fun. Movies based on games, however, take themselves altogether too seriously, evoking the mood of the dour, pixel-faced characters rather than the thrill of the bloodthirsty, button-mashing gameplay. Zombieland, with its belching, goo-spewing undead, looks at the scenery of a video game through a fanboy’s eyes. What’s the point of wading through a zombie nation if you’re not going to kick some zombie ass?
So, if Zombieland is a movie that’s like a video game, Bite Me is a web series (and TV show) that’s like a Zombieland levelled up.
The online original from online video powerhouse Machinima and independent film and television distribution company Lionsgate is produced by the genre storytellers at Epic Level Entertainment, directed by sci-fi fan Jarrett Lee Conaway, written by relatively new George A. Romero buffs Andy Shapiro and Bob Quinn, and stars Yousef Abu-Taleb (Lonelygirl15), Justin Giddings (Pretty Little Liars), Ryan Welsh, Dani Lennon (The Casting Office), Risdon Roberts, and Morgan Benoit (The Forbidden Kingdom) as a ragtag group of expert Resident Evil players and individuals who would never be caught dead talking to expert Resident Evil players, traversing and trying to survive in a Los Angeles overrun with zombie hordes.
The charm of Bite Me and what makes it so palatable to Machinima’s gamer-centric audience (aside from the fancy freeze-frame character intros, 8-bit animations, and comic book-style recaps that are all kinda reminiscent of the rules of Zombieland) has to do with the last part of that description above. When I say members of this set of surviving humans are expert Resident Evil players, I don’t mean they are like expert Resident Evil players. I mean they’re the types of people with game-controller-induced thumb calluses who can manipulate Lara Croft like Chuck Yeager can a P-51D-20NA.
That all makes Bite Me one of the only entertainment properties I’ve ever seen that’s about zombies, in which the characters already know about the existence of zombies. There are no important persons waking up in hospital gowns after being unconscious for 28 days or less wondering, “WTF?!” after finding grotesque and decaying human forms with a taste for human flesh milling and/or sprinting about. Our heroes have seen Planet Terror. They constantly reference zombie video game and movie mythology as if they’re compiling research for a survival guide or writing a dissertation for a doctoral degree.
The production, action, and everything else about the show aside from the genre references are great, too. If you don’t believe me, check out the view counts. The first season of Bite Me racked up over 14 million views on YouTube across its five episode run. That added up to enough of an audience for the powers that be at Machinima and Lionsgate to greenlight a second, season.
That second season of Bite Me debuted this week. It’s comprised of 10-episodes with a run time bumping 15 minutes for each installment. It’s also shot with some serious production equipment and mostly inside the confines of the appropriately post-outbreak-apocalyptic-looking Lacy Street studios, which is where we caught up with Bite Me co-writer Andy Shapiro to ask him about zombie lore, how many hours he’s logged of Dead Rising, and what’s in store for Bite Me Season 2.
If you want more Bite Me info than what’s provided in the incredibly edited interview above (Editors Note: I edited the interview above), then be sure to listen to Los Angeles 89.3 KPPC radio story about Machinima and Bite Me, with commentary from Tubefilter’s very own Drew Baldwin.