Welcome back to the cavalcade of pop culture references in this series of editorials! After a short break, I’m more than pleased to present the next (and almost final) set of influences from this amazing game.
This week’s series is a bit more varied and odd, considering the past two. Everything from the usual horror and comedy fare to the dramatic and even food pops up in the pieces following this. It really feels like there is no limit to the resources this game used to charm its audience.
So without further explanation- buckle in for the third set!
Level 23 – Caves of Mystery
What a vague title, right? Well, apparently, the internet thinks so, too. Finding anything of substance to link this title to is tough without really stretching the imagination. There is a game up on one of the Kids Disney sites with the name, and the movie that comes up the most in results is the film The Descent which, while a movie I enjoyed and can see the connections to in theme, falls dreadfully out of the criteria set up for this experiment.
Per the usual, if anyone finds something good for this, please let me know! I’d love to complete this list as much as I can, even with far-fetched connections, if need be.
Level 24 – Warehouse of the Evil Dolls
Speaking of far-fetched connections, Warehouse of the Evil Dolls might find itself in that category, depending on your willingness to take it at face value. There are plenty of movies about dolls that come to life and start to kill people, Child’s Play being the most famous by any stretch of the imagination. In the 1990s era, however, a production studio by the name of Full Moon Studios put out two movies of this type: 1989’s Puppet Master and 1992’s Demonic Toys.
Demonic Toys has the plotline, quite literally, of a group of people stuck in a warehouse with- you guessed it- evil dolls. There are various staples of the ‘demonic’ types of movies to be had here. One of the main characters is pregnant and this becomes a symbolic focal point in the film, and there is the spirit of a demon that manifests as a child but the spirit’s previous manifestation is buried under the warehouse-
Needless to say, it appears to be pretty complicated, though it seems like the series had a few entries. It even intermingled with the much more prolific Puppet Master series and had a line of toys and comic books, so it clearly did well for itself at the time.
Level 25 – Look Who’s Shopping
Leaning on the comedy slant for a reference, this level actually pulls from a really famous movie from 1989 called Look Who’s Talking. Given that both the movie and Look Who’s Shopping prominently feature a baby as their main focus, I feel safe in connecting these two sources this time around.
In Look Who’s Talking, Kirstie Alley plays a woman who ends up giving birth to a child and winds up, while trying to court potential fathers, falling for a man she is helping back up on his feet played by John Travolta. Throughout the movie, however, her newborn son, Mikey, makes commentary on various goings on and his opinions on what is happening via inner monologue (and voiced by Bruce Willis). All in all, if I’m remembering correctly, the movie is a pretty feel-good movie, and it sets up for the sequel at the end when Alley and Travolta have another baby, leading into the sequel Look Who’s Talking, Too.
Level 26 – Where the Red Fern Growls
A lot of the pop culture references in this entry are making me relive my youth pretty thoroughly, and Where the Red Fern Growls is no exception. Most kids who grew up in the 1990s, at least in my region of the world, have at least some recognition of the novel “Where the Red Fern Grows”. Published in 1961 and written by Wilson Rawls, the novel was one of the first hard hitting novels that I was introduced to in school, and from the folks I have referenced this to, it appears that I’m not the only one.
In the novel (and the film adaptation from 1974), a young man, after rescuing a dog from an attacking pack, becomes intent on owning his own. After hard work and some strong effort, he purchases two dogs, one male and one female, so that they can live and hunt together. One day, while they’re hunting, the dogs corner a mountain lion and tragedy ensues with one of the dogs passing away in the night due to injuries and the other passing away due to grief. The title comes from the red fern that grows between the graves of the two dogs, signalling that they have moved on to a better place, so far as the story dictates.
Level 27 – Dances with Werewolves
Dances with Werewolves is another title that has made this article a little easier. In 1990, Dances with Wolves came out, and it was a huge success. It was directed by and starred Kevin Costner in the height of his career, and while it received mixed reviews from the people that the material referenced, it is still fairly well known at this point.
In the film, as a long-story-short synopsis, Costner plays a soldier in the army who requests to be moved out to the frontier as part of his reassignment after a near death experience in the field. After some time, he decides to interact with the local Sioux tribe to work out relations and try to stop his people from being targets of their ire. Throughout the movie, he and the tribe come to respect one another and he becomes a part of the tribe. This still ends tragically, as he begins to see the callous way that his people have treated the tribe as the movie goes on.
While the movie is mostly praised for its topic matter, it has a lot of the same commentary from critics to it as Avatar and its ilk where an outsider brings peace between two opposing cultures and seems to make the culture that isn’t his ‘better’ as a result.
Level 28 – Mark of the Vampire
Having not been much of a fan of vampire movies in general, I don’t have much in the way of reference myself regarding what could have been referenced by Mark of the Vampire’s title. Have no fear, however, as there is a film from 1935 titled Mark of the Vampire. Simple enough, right?
In the film, starring Bela Lugosi and Lionel Barrymore, for those of you classic horror buffs, a man is found dead with what appear to be pinpricks in his neck. As people in his life begin to investigate, it becomes clear that there is a next target already picked for his murderer, and there are some mysterious circumstances regarding the nature of this murderer.
There isn’t much more to be said for the picture, save for the fact that it appears to be a remake of a movie from a few years before called London After Midnight, which was produced before the time of ‘talkie’ movies.
Level 29 – Zombie House Party
The vague allusions continue with Zombie House Party, as there are plenty of films from the past that have to do with zombies and plenty to do with house parties- but not much mixing of the two in a referential way. The closest- and I do mean that in a tenuous way- reference that I could complacently link to this is the Kid n’ Play vehicle from 1990, House Party.
I know. Bear with me.
In the film, Kid n’ Play (of the actual hip-hop group from the time) decide to throw a huge party while Play’s parents are away. This leads to the usual party shenanigans, complete with hot girls, persistent bullies, and crazy misunderstandings. While this is clearly not in line with anything involving the level in question, the House Party movies were actually incredibly popular at the time, so there is a good chance that the designers simply tacked on ‘zombie’ to the title of this level to capitalize on that popularity as well as the fact that they were making a game with ‘zombie’ in its own title.
Level 30 – The Horror of Floor Thirteen
The Horror of Floor Thirteen calls to mind a lot of urban legends involving mysterious circumstances in which a certain floor of a large building, usually the thirteenth as it is considered an unlucky number, has some dark secret which has resulted in the boarding off of an entire level of the building. Some shows, like Are You Afraid of the Dark, found ways to translate these stories into screen adaptations. Nightmare on the 13th Floor, however, seems to have brought an interesting and mysterious tale to the fold, as well.
As a made for TV movie from 1990, the story follows a woman who is staying in a hotel that has a sordid past involving blood sacrifices, an axe-wielding murderer, and the thirteenth floor of a hotel that has been closed off for years. After an elevator malfunction results in her witnessing a murder in the current day, the tale unfurls as she tries to unravel the history of the building to put it to rest before more people can fall victim.
It actually sounds like the film was a decent made-for-TV film, and while it seems unlikely to receive any kind of re-release thanks to its obscurity, it does hold a small place in horror history for some.
Level 31 – Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
Some of the references in Zombies Ate My Neighbors come from such serious source material that it’s strange to write about, especially given that most entries on this list are fairly lighthearted or horror related. Look Who’s Coming to Dinner is one of those references.
The title clearly relates back to a movie from 1967 called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. While the source is billed as a ‘comedy-drama’, the movie centers on an interracial couple who plan to wed, a topic that was stilted (and in some cases, illegal) at the time. While the movie remained positive overall in the depictions, the matter of the movie was serious and controversial. It also bears the honor of being the final pairing of film legends Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The film did receive a ‘remake’ of sorts with Ashton Kutcher and Zoe Saldana in 2005, and it has been referenced numerous times in other popular media.
Level 32 – Giant Ant Farm
Another vague sounding title, Giant Ant Farm actually did lead to a similar sounding source in my travels across the internet to seek out some kind of origin. From the mind of H.G. Wells (of The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau fame) came a novel in 1905 called “The Empire of the Ants”. In 1977, a series of Wells related movies were produced, and The Empire of the Ants became one of them, as well as the most likely candidate for reference to this level.
Starring Joan Collins, the film focuses on a land developer trying to sell what would appear to be useless land to a group of prospective buyers. What should be a banal and lucrative trip for the developer, however, becomes a horror show as the group stumbles upon giant ants, the result of an errant toxic spill on the land. The movie centers on the will of the ants to overtake the human race and the group trying to survive and stop the ants from their apocalyptic machinations.
While the titles are vastly different, the giant ants and the toxic spills are both represented in the film and in the level in question.
Level 33 – Fish and Crypts
While the source of this title is incredibly clear, Fish and Crypts’ source doesn’t actually involve film, video games, or anything of the like. The item may have appeared in some way in many piece of media, but the source is drawn from one of my other favorite things: food.
Fish and chips, for those not familiar, is an English dish that consists of fried fish and french fries (or “chips”, as coined in the UK). It is served throughout the United States and the United Kingdom and appears to be served in less ‘mass market’ capacity in some other countries. It seems like the origins of the dish date back to the 1860s in London.
Bonus Level – Curse of the Pharaohs
The Pharaoh’s curse is a concept that has been explored in many pieces of literature and film, so the selection of sources for Curse of the Pharaohs is vast. Hence, I had the opposite problem I seem to have and needed to whittle down what the actual reference here could be. The best choice, in my opinion, is the 1983 Konami arcade game Tutankham.
In this game, you attempt to steal the treasures from King Tut’s tomb, fighting off creatures like asps (because, y’know, Egypt), bats, and even curses. While the character can fire weapons at the enemies as they are racing from level to level, if the time runs out, the character cannot fire anymore. This means that the player needs to find the key to the next level as soon as possible and grab as many points (treasures) as they can before they progress.
Many clones came out of this game, it appears, and one of those clones was aptly named The Pharaoh’s Curse. Coupled with the fact that the original game was published by Konami, who also developed Zombies Ate My Neighbors, this seems to be the best reference to stick to this level.
Level 34 – I Was a Chainsaw Maniac
I Was a Chainsaw Maniac, by title alone, brings up horrifying memories of this game for me. That said, the reference was one that I was familiar with, despite not having seeing the source material of 1987’s I Was a Teenage Zombie.
While low-budget and fairly obscure, the movie sounds like it was more of a labor of love and an interesting take on the genre. The film opens with a pair of teenagers attempt to
buy some pot, but they come up short with their usual dealer. They decide to take to the streets and after some time, they end up attacked by the dealer they go to, placed into the position of having to kill him and dump his body into a nearby river. Of course, that river is contaminated with toxic sludge, which expounds upon the title of the movie and brings the true plot to the surface.
While the movie appears to have been re-released under the Criterion name (which has been a huge boon to reviving hidden gems like this), it appears that the film did not reach much higher than cult status and even that is pushing it.
Level 35 – Boardwalk of Terrors
Beginning on the same note that we ended on, Boardwalk of Terrors has managed to elude my research and pop culture knowledge. There are plenty of horror movies with beaches involved, and while the title calls to mind a few horror films in my memory, I can’t for the life of me place where the title to this one derives from.
Thus this ends the third part of the analysis of pop culture references strewn throughout Zombies Ate My Neighbors!
If you’d like to check out the thrilling conclusion, click here for Part 4!