I have very few pieces of actual art in my house not made by someone I'm related to. My favorite of the few exogamous pieces is a pencil with the words "The future is stupid" embossed on it. I don't know who the artist is. It was hanging in the frame shop I worked at forever, mostly to show off how we could frame objects. I would regularly freak out about this pencil to my boyfriend-now-husband, how it was this great commentary on an educational system that pays lip service to creativity while boiling it all down to a bunch of bubble-tests taken with No 2 pencils. There's a lot in the educational system that lends itself to a zombie narrative, what with all the pedagogical lobotomizing and whatnot. He bought it from the owner of the frame shop, slyly, because he is grand.
Anyway, I picked this up nearly a year ago on a big book-buying extravaganza with the kiddies. "Oh look!" My psycho obsession with zombies cried, "A book about zombie plush dolls for the middle school set!!" So I threw it in the cart. Of course, we get it home, and the boy will have nothing to do with it, given that he's a sensitive sort who doesn't really like kiddie horror. He demanded that I remove it from his room and keep it far away from him, because the very idea freaks him out. Okay, so I did, and it's been on my bedside table since then.
But I've been thinking about kiddie horror recently because the girl is not the sensitive sort, and she's been seeking out the scary for herself. We bought a copy of the movie 9
because of my husband's obsessions with steampunk, and I was unsure about showing it to them. Just because it's a cartoon doesn't it mean it's for children, right, boom anime babes? So I did the thing where I watched it with them with my finger twitching over the pause button, just waiting for the freakout. It's pretty tense, what with all the post-apocalyptic landscapes and evil robot cats (cats are pretty evil in any form). The boy wandered off to other pursuits, knowing himself well enough to know this wasn't for him, but the girl fully loved it. "I like when things are a little bit scary," she said. "Can we watch it again?" So she's seen it like eleventy million times.
So, Stanley Nudelman picks up a zombie doll, the eponymous Zombiekins, from a yard sale at his creepy neighbor's. It comes with instructions that he immediately discards, à la Gremlins. He takes Zombiekins with him to school, who begins biting kiddies and turning them into docile slaves/flesh eating monsters. Much of this is funny/scary, like a Dawn of the Dead
commentary on conformity run through Dickens, Simon Pegg, and Scooby Doo. The characters have great names, like someone with the last name Lickspittle, and some of the events are honestly freaky. But then the doll is referred to as a stuffy the whole time, and my immature brain couldn't handle this; too much like stiffy. Is this Canadian slang for plush doll?
You can't really go for the kill with middle grade horror though, and I'm not suggesting you should, so the whole thing is a little sweet and confounding. And neither of my kids have read it, so I can't report their feelings either. The girl might like it in a few years time, though she may not, because horror is as personal as comedy. You either feel it in your shoes twitching to run, or you don't. I thought of the pencil though, floating serenely in its well cut mats, so that is something. I hope the kids make out of their schooling alive. Scritch....scratch...