but this place is just right.
Over at the long-forgotten horror movie website The Living Dead Horror Reviews, the 2007 film 28 Weeks Later once received a score of one Bub out of five. Films get Bubs because in George Romero’s 1985 classic Day of the Dead, a scientist living in an underground bunker experiments on a zombie that he’s named “Bub.” He’s a kinder, gentler zombie who likes music. He doesn’t want to create problems. But that goes out the window in the final act of the film when the kindly scientist is killed. Bub gets his revenge on the Marines who offed his only friend, and in doing so, became the namesake and ratings system for this website.
So, now that that’s out of the way, we should also establish that while one Bub is not a good score, it is not the lowest possible score that a film can receive — that would be five Uwe Bolls, a score which takes its name the German filmmaker whose movies BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark are considered some of the worst ever made. If your movie is in Uwe Boll territory, that’s a negative score. The best score? Five Bubs. It’s silly and slightly too complicated, much like the rest of The Living Dead Movie Reviews, a long-defunct DIY site built on the platform Tripod that was, very possibly, read by absolutely no one. I love it.
It’s hard to know the exact date of the last post on Living Dead Movie Reviews. There are no timestamps on any of the pages, and my inquiries to the lone email address listed on the site (a yahoo.com address) have gone unanswered. Context clues lead me to believe that the site once primarily focused on movies about the undead, before branching out into movies about other scary things, then hit the brakes and called it a day without so much as a sign-off. As such, it’s a perpetual work in progress, a website about zombie movies that itself has now effectively become the internet version of one.
Web hosting companies like Tripod, Angelfire, and Geocities used to provide a way for people to stake their claim in the early days of the internet. They cost nothing to use and provided an unlimited amount of space where anyone with a modem could recreate themselves online. When I was 14, I started a band with two friends from school. We never practiced, wrote songs, or played but we did have a website that featured a poll where you could vote on your favorite member of the group. Sites like ours weren’t aesthetically pleasing, but returning to them years later, they feel homey and cared-for.
Finding The Living Dead Movie Reviews was akin to picking up the Holy Grail at a flea market. While working on an article about the Leprechaun film series (don’t ask) I stumbled across this LDHR page, featuring a fan theory about interstellar time travel and how it affects the viewing order of each of the Leprechaun movies. For almost a year, I thought that the site consisted solely of this one page, before returning to it while working on a separate piece about Leprechaun 4: In Space. (Are the Leprechaun movies “good?” No, of course not. But have they affected me emotionally? Absolutely. This piece has not been published.) While clicking around, I was charmed by its simplicity and sweetness. The reviews are kind, with even the lowest rated film, House of the Dead (2003; FIVE Uwe Bolls!), receiving a compliment: “Some of the zombies actually do look cool.”
Even though I was immersed in online culture from a young age, I didn’t have my own computer until I was 16. Getting an internet connection on top of a hill in central Texas wasn’t an option, so my Macintosh LC 580 was only good for writing and playing Warcraft II. To be online was special. In 2002 the internet was held captive at my local libraries. I spent hours growing pale beneath fluorescent lights learning basic HTML, foolishly thinking that one day it would do me some good. When I look at The Living Dead Movie Reviews, I can look through the reviews themselves and see the anchor points, brackets, and fonts holding it all together..
My favorite reviews on the site are for the films that achieve the pinnacle of success, five out of five Bubs. This rating tends to be reserved for classics – Phantom of the Opera (1925), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Nosferatu (1922), etc. It’s in these reviews where the author has the most fun. They rip into their friends for not understanding character development and implore you to watch a movie in black and white even if you’re used to color.
In their review for Nosferatu, the author makes a startling admission: rather than watching the standard version of the groundbreaking silent film, they accidentally watched a version soundtracked by ’90s goth-metal hunks Type O Negative. In spite of this oversight the film garners five Bubs, and a note that viewers should find “a version of the film that features the old type of music that usually accompanied a silent movie.” Such an admission, in the age of Film Twitter, might qualify someone for a day of “How could you?” from online fellow-travelers (both well-meaning and not), but this is a website from a simpler time.
There’s no one individual, or even a brand associated with The Living Dead Movie Reviews. There’s no online store, no tie-in podcast, and no Patreon links. To be honest, I have no possible way of knowing how popular the site was during its existence. All we’re left with is a web address and pages of film reviews that sometimes choose the right words, and other times fail to find them. I have so many questions for the person behind it, but if they’ve moved on with their life, or even if they’d rather keep the answers to themselves, I’m happy with that, too. To paraphrase the author’s review of Night of the Living Dead (1968), some things don’t need a reason for being.