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Ryan C. Lieske was born in 1973 and is a self-professed movie geek. He hopes to make a career in writing, and possibly in filmmaking, but if all that fails, he will beat himself over the head with a baseball bat. He resides in the middle of a dense forest in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is surrounded by insects and lots of strange noises.

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"I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain"
directed by Andrew Parkinson
starring Giles Aspen and Ellen Softley
1998, Lost Films (available through Fangoria Video), unrated
Reviewed by Ryan C. Lieske


Horror has always been the genre that you visit to avoid happy endings. In most horror films and books, the hero and/or heroine does not usually ride off into the sunset, ready to begin a new life and fall in love. Horror at its best undermines the complacent Real World that we all occupy and gets right to the heart of the darker truths about the human condition.
"I Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain"," is an uncompromising look at death, plain and simple. Sure, on the surface it works like any other dramatic horror film. You have your protagonist, trying to overcome some stressful and terrifying situation. You have the people around him, the ones he loves, the ones he hurts, the ones who try to help him. But what "I Zombie" is really about is the horror of death, and the agony of decay.
Fortunately, most of us will never know what it feels like to rot away. We will be dead, and hopefully, if the religions of the world are correct, vacant from our earthly shells. However, the hero of Parkinson's story, Mark, is not so fortunate. Mark has been bitten by a zombie while doing field research for his college degree. At first he passes out from blood loss, only to awaken with a powerful craving for human flesh. And, being the dutiful student that he is, he chronicles his slow transformation into a zombie by recording notes on his mini-cassette recorder. We hear, in painful, candorous detail how his flesh is falling from his bones and how his cravings for meat grow stronger day by day.
What we witness is how one man goes from living to living-dead. As Mark watches his body decay, his mind stays intact, allowing him an agonizing front-row seat to what the rest of us are going to be missing as we lie in those velvet-lined coffins.
"I Zombie" is a brilliant, provocative, sobering horror film. The writing is on key every moment of the way, as are the performances, especially that of Giles Aspen, who comes across as a combination of Edward Norton and Clive Barker. His performance drives the film, pulling us into this bleak and nihilistic nightmare. We first meet him as a nice and normal guy. He's in love with his girlfriend, but yet he's determined to finish his schooling, even though it is getting in the way of his personal relationships. He is determined to get his life on track and make it up to his supportive but frustrated girlfriend. And as we watch him turn into the zombie, and we watch him kill innocent people and eat them, we cannot help but feel terrible for his plight. He could be any one of us.
Two of the most disturbing, and strangely poignant scenes in the film feature no killing or flesh-eating at all, but just raw human emotion. In one scene we see Mark break down crying in his bathtub after he goes out and kills again. The pain is so real and chilling that we can feel it coming through the screen, each sob nailing us in the heart. The other scene shows mark at his most vulnerable, aroused by memories of his estranged ex-girlfriend, trying to pleasure himself and finding out that death steals your humanity as well as your flesh.
Filmed on 16mm on a very low budget, "I Zombie" packs more of a horrific punch than most studio-driven "product." I know, I know, the "little indie movie that's ten times better than the big studio movie" is the cliche of the day, but what the hell. It's the truth. It takes us down a very dark path that sticks to the roof of your mind like wormy, putrid peanut butter. And for my money there ain't nothing better.
God bless Fangoria for releasing this little gem on their brand new Fangoria Video line. Let's pray they continue to deliver such brilliant genre work as this. We horror fans could use the fresh blood.

(this film contains graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity, disturbing subject matter)