The James Clayton Column: Rules for surviving ‘the Christmas Creep’

Can we have a festive zombie movie, wonders James, as he sets about surviving Christmas, Zombieland-style...

Yo ho yuurrrrgh. Can you hear the seasonal shuffling of the undead? Can you smell that stench in the air? That, my friends, is Christmas Day: the closest ‘real’ civilisation comes to achieving post-zombie apocalypse conditions on a grand, global scale.

Think about it: by 5pm on the 25th December most people are barely conscious, bleary-eyed and bloated, stumbling in a festive stupor spilling fluids over what remains of their relatives. Victims of the season, they’re lost without reason in a winter reverie that is only excused because, hey, it’s holiday tradition. Polite, ordered society would normally see such debauchery, disorder and debasement as unthinkable and abhorrent.

It surprises me that George Romero hasn’t got around to directing Christmas Of The Dead yet and added a touch of tinsel to his oeuvre of undead flicks. All he’d have to do is simply superimpose some Christmas decorations into the Monroeville mall of Dawn Of The Dead and change the elevator muzak for carols and crap Christmas pop hits of ages past. Alternatively, The Night Before Christmas Of The Living Dead would send Santa’s reanimated corpse wriggling down chimneys, ready to chomp on the guts of the children tagged on his naughty list.

When every type of zombie imaginable is being offered up and sub-genres forming rapidly to bring in box-office revenue and ride the revenant wave, I don’t see why we shouldn’t have some festive Zombie action. There are Nazi zombies, zombie sheep and even zombie superheroes out there, so why not add zombiefied Christmas elves and reindeer to the ranks of the undead?

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Christmas is great fun and zombie movies are great fun but the truth is that no one really wants to be a zombie. There’s an appeal in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ state that comes with  being a brain-dead cadaver, but after a while you’d probably want to start to have an intelligent conversation, munch on something other than rancid man-flesh and get your head around the train timetables so you can send Grandma home.

To get through the Yule season and survive to the other side of Boxing Day it makes sense to observe the wisdom of zombie-themed cultural works. You could read one of the many ‘How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse’ instruction manuals out there (you’ve probably got one waiting for you in your stocking). Most of the time, though, these books are simply cheap attempts to cash in on the zombie pop-culture craze and simply re-present the knowledge exemplified in our real source of salvation: the movies. The entire wisdom of the Universe can be found in the frames of film and so, citing the sophisticated and sagacious cinematic masterpiece that is Zombieland, I venture forth into the winter festival wasteland ready and prepared to persevere through the Christmas onslaught.

Thanks to one of the funniest movies of 2009, the masses have been shown not only how to survive a revenant uprising, but also how to cope with all the relatives, excess and saccharine strangeness of Christmas. All it takes is a surprise celebrity cameo and close observance of a few rules, and you can easily apply Columbus’ survival checklist from Zombieland to the Christmas period…

Rule 1: Cardio

Ridiculous amounts of rich food will render you a choking heart attack job with arteries furrier than Chuck Norris’s chest. Make sure that you do something more strenuous than simply pulling a cracker, go easy on the saturated fats, chomp down those sprouts to get the fibre and go for a long Boxing Day walk to avoid cardiac arrest.

Rule 4: Beware of bathrooms

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Heavy-drinkers, hard-partiers and Christmas revellers wholly ignorant of rule number one are likely to be spending a significant amount of time stuck in bathrooms. What they leave in there (if they ever do leave) may constitute a form of biological warfare that could traumatise even the toughest of individuals. There is also potential peril in entering a bathroom to discover family members in compromising positions; all-round, awareness and care around the crapper is crucial.

Rule 12: Bounty paper towels

For effective cleaning of up of all spillages and leaks of substances overflowing in the holiday season (alcohol, tears, vomit, spit, blood, snot and other assorted bodily fluids), accept no substitutes. (Other brands of kitchen roll are available.)

“Hey readers! Jackie Chan here! Yeah, Jackie always OK! Jackie just dropping by to say have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

Whoa! A surprise cameo from martial arts master and chop-socky legend Jackie Chan! Even the combined stress of Christmas and the raising of the dead can’t bring down the Chan-Man! Enthused by an unexpected celebrity appearance, we return to the rules of Zombieland

Rule 22: When in doubt, know your way out.

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If you’re faced with an entire day trapped in a house with people whose presence you are forced to suffer and will never genuinely enjoy even when you’re high on festive good feeling, an escape plan is essential. Before you get bogged down with the most cantankerous relatives and vile acquaintances and end up spending Christmas with gritted teeth, get the hell out of there. Prior knowledge of exit routes and prepared alibis may help prevent you dying a grim death being gnawed down by the negative energy of forced company; plus, it also presents the chance to have a riot attempting to re-enact The Great Escape (if it all doesn’t break down into arguments over who’s playing The Cooler King).

Rule 32: Enjoy the Little Things

On the surface, Christmas can appear as a big, brash blast of excess, expense and stress, but if you take it simply and keep a relaxed sense of peaceful appreciation, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Find happiness and harmony in the little things: the geektastic glory of your new novelty socks, the experience of sitting down with your nearest and dearest to watch Home Alone for the umpteenth time, the dog farting in time to White Christmas after it swallowed all the sprouts.

If you have a sense of the sensible, a spirit of enthusiasm and eclectic holiday film-viewing available then your entire Yule period won’t be an ordeal. Take care and you’ll escape the creeping Christmas contagion and not start New Year as a crippled stench, rotting around the Christmas tree.

Seasonal wisdom from the cinema regurgitated then, all that’s left is to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a dead good New Year. Yo ho yuuuuurgh, indeed.

James’ previous column can be found here.

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