The beginning of came in the early part of 1996, when I was working for a small computer center in New Jersey. I had just met the woman who would become my wife three years later. At that time our relationship was in its first ambiguous stages; since she lived over 300 miles from me, I suddenly found myself feeling very lonely while she was away. At the time, I was also house-sitting for a friend who was traveling overseas, so I was all alone in an unfamiliar house, feeling sorry for myself. That's the only excuse I have for doing something nobody should ever do: I got drunk and watched a Bruno Mattei double feature.

Oh, God. It all seems like a bad dream now. I actually sat myself down in front of the tube and inflicted first Night of the Zombies, then The Other Hell on my poor, beer-soaked brain. Miraculously, I survived, though it took me over a week to flush the seamy residue out of my soul.

I have never been the same since.

Before that, I had a reasonably healthy life and career. I was a composer of contemporary "classical" music, and a reasonably successful one at that. I was the Assistant Director of the Composers Guild of New Jersey, where I worked for seven years. I'd had performances of my music all over the world, and I was even establishing a new career as a poet and storyteller for children. I was just beginning to get seriously involved with computers and IT, and I'd met a truly wonderful woman. I even had a small reputation as a film critic for a local magazine, and was frequently invited to choose films and host screenings at our County Libraries. But then came the Mattei disaster, and following that came the tragic death of Lucio Fulci... and my fate was sealed.

Since then I have retreated from the world of High Art and Good Taste, and surrounded myself with movies none of my friends can stand to watch. I have ended friendships over Jodorowsky; I have seriously annoyed my wife by filling room after room with videos, new and used, some with lurid covers, some with no covers at all; I have tracked down and ordered grey-market Fulcis and Argentos and Ishiro Hondas (I have three separate edits of Zombi 2 and two of Zombi 3); I can identify obscure, retitled Italian thrillers by their real names, as they sit gathering dust on the video store shelves; I am praying my wife will let me blow even more money on a DVD player, so I can finally see a Jean Rollin movie that isn't a fifth-generation dub from PAL. In short, I am a movie zombie.

And I like it.

So now I'd like to pass the mindless joy of zombiedom on to you. Not all these movies are guaranteed to actually eat your brain, but most of them will leave indelible teeth marks if you get too close to them. You'll know if you've been zombified: the warning signs are very clear. If you find yourself scanning the garish and uninformative boxes in the Horror section of your video store (like the huge 80's slipcases with the bad cover art and ungrammatical summaries) for names like "Jacinto Molina", "A. M. Frank" or "Clyde Anderson", you're a zombie. If you find yourself feeling a bizarre kind of love for even the most staggeringly bad movies you've ever seen, and prefer them to the watered-down Hollywood remakes and direct-to-video fodder that everybody else is watching -- then you're a zombie. It can happen to anyone.

Not even my wife has been immune. A few weeks ago she came home from the Thrift Shop with a copy of Once Upon A Time In The West. Now, I love Sergio Leone, but I've never mentioned Spaghetti Westerns to my wife. I asked her what made her buy the movie. "Oh," she said, "I saw the name 'Dario Argento' on the back, and I figured you had to have it."

Teeth marks.

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