Before the review, let’s get the two elephants out of the room.

  • Elephant One. This is not a short film. It is a video game trailer. That said, for a video game trailer, it does an amazing job of being a well-considered short film.
  • Elephant Two. I’ve never played the video game because reviews indicate that it does not live up to its trailer’s potential. This review is just for the short film/trailer.


If you broke this film down to hashtags, they would read:

  • #FamilyVacationGoneZombie
  • #FamilyThatSticksTogether
  • #NotWithoutMyDaughterUntilDadThrowsHerOutAWindow
  • #LastFamilyPhoto

Dead Island Logo

A young mother, father, and their tween daughter are on an island vacation when zombies!

[If you type “zombies” is there a need to type “attack”? What else will zombies do? “When zombies text.” “When zombies channel surf.” “When zombies vote.” No zombies do those things!

… er… hmm…]

The film’s premise is straight-forward which allows the storytelling to be intricate.

The film is wordless but not mute. The emotion is built by the soundtrack and well-acted characters (“well-acted” within the limits of six year old CGI. What looked triple-A in 2011 looks unpolished today). The storytelling is a reverse chronological order tale – it literally runs backwards – intercut with flashbacks.

It’s an unfolding action-horror sequence but the amazing part is, for so brief – 3 minutes and 6 seconds – a tale, it pulls hard at the heartstrings with more skill than many productions. That’s because of the star of this film, the editing. The editing elevates the storytelling from a straightforward horror scene to an emotional story worth seeing.

Dead Island

Not sure I’m right about the storytelling and the editing being the stars? Compare the original cut to IGN’s chronological edit that runs from the logical start to finish. Seeing the story from different perspectives triggers different emotions. Watch them both and you decide which is better?

The movie has one glaring plot question (not a plot hole, just a question that goes unanswered) – Why was the tween daughter out of the parent’s room while the zombies were rampaging across the resort? The parent’s room only has one bed so it’s easy to assume they got their daughter her own room to sleep in but… where? That answer may be way the girls was running down the hall in the first place.

Dead Island – Trailer (2011)

Original cut:

IGN’s chronological edit:



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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Poverty & Pestilence – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Hollow Empire Slice

Long ago, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful.

But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between staying alive and crumbling into the grave.

Come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish…

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

A six-part series now available for Kindles graveyard-wide. Episode 1 is FREE!

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The Kindle Version (Episode 1 is FREE!!!)

Also available as a beautiful softcover with artwork by Amanda Makepeace.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The haunting softcover edition…

When everything else rots around you, you’ve only got one choice…


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Co-Authored by J Edward Neill and John McGuire

The Ultimate ‘Build Your Own Bad’ Guy Quiz



Ever seen a movie and thought, ‘That monster was cool. But I can imagine cooler?’ Ever read a good book but wished the villain were more of a badass? Ever daydreamed up a monster more terrifying than any hero can handle?

Good. I think you’ll like this quiz.

Answer the following ten questions and tally up your points. A’s are worth 1 point each, B’s worth 3 points, and C’s worth 5 points. Once you’ve answered all the questions, scroll down to the bottom and see what kind of abomination you’ve created.

Here we go…

Which of the following is most terrifying to you?

A. Skeleton, ghouls, and zombies. Relentless, slow-walking horrors.

B. Psychotic criminal types. Leatherface, the Joker, Freddy from Friday the 13th.

C. Monstrous, skyscraper-toppling horrors. Godzilla, dragons, the alien ships from Independence Day.

Where does your monster live?

A. In a crypt, a dungeon, a basement, or a vast underworld labyrinth stuffed to its top with bones.

B. Right behind you. It’s watching you…right…now.

C. Far from mankind. Out in the wilderness where no one dares to go. Or perhaps even on another planet.

How does it prefer to kill?

A. Claws, teeth, swords made of bone, axes forged in Hades.

B. A projectile to the back of your head. You never saw it coming. Hey, at least it didn’t hurt.

C. By making you its dinner. In one bite.

How grotesque is this beast of yours?

A. Horrid, rotting, festering. I mean, this critter leaves pieces of itself on the ground as it crawls to get you.

B. Not grotesque at all. Maybe even beautiful or elegant. All the better to get closer to its prey.

C. Alien in nature. Chilling to behold. You’d be so petrified to see it, you might not even run.

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

A. It destroys because it has to. It knows nothing but violence.

B. It’s cold and calculating, but hardly senseless. This monster gets a thrill out of ending people.

C. Because it’s hungry. And people are crunchy-good.

Look deep into its eyes. What do you see?

A. Death. Bottomless, frozen death.

B. Yourself staring back at you.

C. Hunger. Nom, nom, nom

When does it come to claim its victims?

A. Only in the dark of night. It haunts houses after the sun sets, stalks moonlit graveyards, and frolics in forests black and empty.

B. At any time. You’re never safe. Ever.

C. Once every 1,000 years. During which it destroys everything, and then sleeps in the core of a burned-out star.

How can it be stopped?

A. It can’t be. You can drive it off, banish it, or flee so far away it’ll take years for it to catch you. But kill it? Nah. You might as well let it kill you now, otherwise you’ll just die tired.

B. Guns, explosives, nuclear weapons. The bigger the boom, the better the chance it’s dead.

C. Go back in time. Destroy its home planet before it hatches. Or hope the luckiest shot ever hits this monstrosity’s one and only weak spot.

 If it could say one thing before claiming each victim…?

A. “Give me your soul…forever.”

B. “I could’ve ended you a thousand times before. But this time it’s for real.”

C. “You’re so small…so weak…so easily destroyed.”

Name your monster’s nemesis.

A. A monster hunter. Cold-blooded. As relentless as the terror he/she pursues. With arcane weapons, a low cowl, and no shortage of courage.

B. A lawman, a knight, or the poor sod whose wife your abomination slaughtered. It’s a little about justice, and more than a little about revenge.

C. A scientist, maybe even a wizard. Someone who knows when bullets and swords aren’t enough. Someone whose mind can engineer the perfect plan to topple the beast with brains, not brawn.


So…what abomination have you created?

0-15 points – A undead horror, but not a lowly zombie or skeletal swordsman. You’ve conjured up the lord of the undead, a lich, a monster with the might to summon whole armies of the dead. This baddie desires nothing more than to drag every living thing down into the underworld. Congrats, your nightmares must be epic. Collect bones much?

16-25 points – A demonic spirit. You probably enjoy movies like Evil Dead, Paranormal, and that awful Billy Zane flick with the Tales from the Crypt dude. Your monster has two forms: One is a fiery, twenty-horned demon lurking within a smoking hellpit. The other…a malevolent spirit content to haunt the minds of mankind. Forget taking over the world. Your monster likes causing mass pain. Just because it can.

26-34 points – Your monster is…a human. That’s right, apparently you think John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer are awesome guys. But seriously, you’ve made a demented, lighthouse-dwelling, prostitute-slaughtering freak. Living on society’s fringe, your messed up human might be a nutcase who dresses up as a clown and kills for thrills…or a sexy bombshell who lures men back to her apartment…and then icepicks them and strings them up for the crows to eat.  Good job. Seek help.

35-42 points – The aliens on TV and in the movies don’t hold a candle to what you’ve created. You’ve dreamt up a skin-peeling, flesh-wearing, human-liquefying extraterrestrial. Oh sure, they’ve got lava for blood, seven rows of teeth, and telepathic powers, but what really makes your alien beasts terrifying is their agenda. They won’t be content with subjugating a suburban city or a village in the boondocks. They want to enslave all of humanity, force us to build a doomsday machine, and then turn us into human oatmeal for a nutritious, delicious snack.

43-50 – Yep. You win. Your abomination laughs at all the others. Hope you’re happy. You probably high-five Cthulu whenever you get home or have a luxury condo in one of Smaug’s teeth. Your monster is big. Really f’ing big. Why mess around with killing a few dozen people when you can eat them all? In five minutes. If your tentacle-armed, ocean-drinking, city stomping monstrosity ever looked one of us in the eyes, we’d be helpless but to stand still and wait to be crushed, enslaved, or hurled twenty miles into the sky.

More absurd quizzes to come.

J Edward Neill

Author of this.

And this.

How Undead are You?



A Happy Quiz for Everyone…

How Undead are YOU!


To determine just exactly how foul, creeping, and unholy you are, answer the following questions and keep track of your score. A’s are worth 1 point, B’s worth 3 points, and C’s worth a rotten, festering 5 points. Check your undead-ness at the bottom of the quiz!

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What part of every day appeals the most to you?

A. Dawn. You just love waking up to the sun beating down on the world, melting all the shadows away.

B. Evening. Perhaps you’re at home watching a movie, sipping wine, or barbequing up some delicious man-flesh. Either way, you’re content to watch the day die slowly.

C. Late, late, late at night. Everyone else is asleep. You’re awake at Waffle House, flirting with some wonderful creature…or maybe you’re out on the town, closing down establishments that never close.

Which movie is closest to your heart?

A. Pearl Harbor. Because watching Cate Beckinsale corrupt and ruin a perfectly good Josh Hartnett sounds like fun.

B. The Lost Boys. Bloodsucking, soul-gobbling vampires are awesome, but only if they’re cute and wear leather.

C. 28 Days Later. Death. Misery. The end of the world.

 If you had to choose a song…?

A. Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. Who needs country music when you can just market sexy, bouncy pop?

B. Anything by Creed. Seriously, if you pick this answer, stop taking this quiz and get help.

C. Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. Music for when the earth cracks open and everything dies.

 When’s the last time you did anything meaningful outdoors? (Other than walk to and from your car)

A. Five minutes ago. Hell, you just did fifty pushups on the summit of Mount Doom.

B. Yesterday. You think you remember taking out the garbage. Or opening the door long enough to yell at the cat to come in.

C. More than two days ago. Sunshine hurts. I mean, oh gawd…you’ll burn away if you’re forced to put down the Xbox controller.

 How often do you eat dinner at a restaurant? In the presence of the living? And no, Golden Corral and Waffle House do NOT count.

A. Two or more times every week. Because people-watching is just as fun as gorging on those orange biscuits Red Lobster makes.

B. Once per week. You’d go more often, but that’d require moving more.

C. Hardly ever. Pizza and a movie are way cooler.

How many times have you had sex this year? (With someone else)

A. One hundred or more times. Congratulations, you’re lying!

B. Between ten and ninety-nine times. Sorry, married dudes.

C. Zero to nine times. Because in order to have sex, you’d have to stop eating brains for at least three minutes.

Ever watched a movie at a movie theater alone?

A. No way. People who do that are either stalkers, serial killers, or both.

B. Considered it, but haven’t pulled the trigger. Because kids. Or spouses. Or friends. Or the latest collection of garbage Hollywood has heaped upon your world.

C. Yes. Because sometimes being awesome requires being awesome alone.

When confronted with hostility (in the form of frienemies, strangers, significant others, or Wal Mart employees) you…?

A. Take the high road. Your chin is held high, your ego intact, and your knuckles only slightly white.

B. Boil inside. But ultimately refrain from dismembering the hostile party…and all his/her friends.

C. Fists. And profanity. But if no violence, then at the very least you plot the annihilation of the offender’s entire bloodline.

How relentless are you?

A. Not very. You’re laid back. You brush failure off and move along to the next thing.

B. You’re a skeleton. If hacked into a hundred pieces, you slowly reassembly your parts and clickity-clack back to work.

C. You’re a vampire. Oceans of time can’t stop you. If told, ‘no‘ at every possible access point to your goal, you sit in a coffin outside and wait for everyone holding you back to die.

 How intense are your dreams?

A. Moderate. You don’t dream much, and when you do it’s usually about falling, or sex, or money, or work. Or beer…

B. Creepy. You had night terrors once or twice. You swear you saw a ghost upon waking. You remember at least a handful of dreams that give you the chills.

C. Gravetastic. You dream and daydream terrible things. You’ve swam through rivers of blood, sat atop mountains of bones, fled from crimson-eyed spirits, and died thousands of times…only to rise again.

* * *

So about your score…

0-15 points – You’re safely mortal. Go back to your cubicle and keep a shotgun handy. Remember your cardio.

16-30 points – Your grandfather is probably a ghost. Your parents let you stay up to watch Evil Dead when you were five. But no…you’re still alive. Although graveyards are pretty cool. And your household pottery is haunted.

31-42 points – You’re clearly undead. Before going to work, you should probably make sure some of your skin isn’t falling off. Sleep isn’t sleep to you. It’s torpor, during which you regenerate your dark powers. How are you even able to read this, considering your eyeballs rotted out long ago?

43-50 points – In the caverns beneath your apartment, you collect skulls, mummies, and dolls that you’ve poked the eyes out of and sold to horror film directors. The sun hurts you…badly. Whenever you’re not alone, you’re spending time with others like you. And by others, I mean the team of thousand year-old ghouls you’ve assembled with the aim of global annihilation.

Look for more ridiculous quizzes in the future.

J Edward Neill

Author of this.

And this.

Duane Jones: A Horror Film Pioneer

“Now get the hell down in the cellar! You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!”-Duane Jones as Ben/“Night of the Living Dead”

Growing up in Chicago, we had one of those late night B-movie programs, where some obscure horror flick would get shown every once in a while. This is where my love of zombie flicks beganwith George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”


This film was my introduction to one of the greatest horror films of all time, and a film that gave birth to a sub-genre that has influenced the creation of numerous films, television series, novels, comics, video games, and even music videos.

At the age of 28, Romero and writing partner John A. Russo crafted a solid script that followed a group of individuals who find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse, as the dead rise around them.

The film featured some of the most suspenseful filmmaking of its time. It was a forerunner for the use of gore effects in horror films, and featured an omnipresent sense of despair that left viewers tense throughout the film. In light of all this, what sealed the deal for me with this film was one character: Ben.

BenPlayed by Duane Jones, Ben was the take charge survivor, who used his wits and resolve to get through the hellish night. One thing that was awesome about this guy, outside of being such a resourceful and intelligent badass, was the fact that he was Black.

We often find African American characters being the first to die in such films. It’s even become something of a joke. If they weren’t inspecting a dark corner where the killer obviously was, the character was often relegated to being the comic relief or sidekick. This got old pretty quick.

Imagine how it felt to finally see a strong Black male lead taking hold of the catastrophic situation, attempting to keep things from getting worse. Add to this, and I know it’s been pointed out numerous times before, that it’s amazing that a film like this was made during the late 1960s. This was during a time where the idea of a competent African American character as a leader was anathema to a large swath of America.

In the film’s script, Ben was described as a blue collar truck driver, where his race was not specified. The character wasn’t fully fleshed out until Duane Jones was cast in the film, causing Romero and Russo to perform rewrites for his character. Romero explained he simply cast the best actor for the role, highlighting the amount of acting skill that Jones brought to the role of Ben.

As Jones explains in an interview featured on Dimension Films 40th Anniversary release of “Night of The Living Dead,” “Ben didn’t really have a biography. Ben was just passing through.”

As Jones further explains in another interview, “It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was Black. But it did occur to me that because I was Black it would give a different historic element to the film.”

Ben never falters in his resolve to survive the night, even coming to verbal and physical blows with the other NOLD3survivors. Now I know in today’s world we have a wide variety of African American leaders in a host of industries, but once again, you have to place this in the context of the time in which the film was made.

Others might even argue why even focus on something like this? What’s the big deal when we’ve got countless examples of African Americans making it to the finish line of many of today’s slasher/horror films?

Whether it’s Naomie Harris in “28 Days Later” or Ving Rhames in the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead,” there are a number of individuals making it to the end of the major studio films. This doesn’t even include numerous examples that may abound in independent films.

I’ve just taken the time to just show some appreciation for the guy who set the standard (whether he meant to or not), for those who’ve come since.

If you’re looking for a great horror flick, with a standout performance courtesy of the film’s star actor, definitely check out “Night of the Living Dead.”


Ben 3

Hollow Empire – Episode 5 AND Complete Softcover Edition!

In the aftermath of a horrific plague, the nation of Vhur teeters on utter annihilation. Its cities lie in ruin. Its king hides in his tower. Its people rot in their graves. Surrounded by death and suffering, four survivors struggle to live their separate lives. But the lords of Vhur have different plans in mind for them. For soon must come the Night of Knives.
With elegant cover art by Amanda Makepeace

The softcover edition of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Complete Season One – Episodes 1-6



Or pick up Episode 5 – e-version


Both available now!