My wife just finished up her nursing school education, which means that she spent a fair amount of time in the Houston Medical Center. Having dropped her off at school on a number of occasions, I am here to literally beg Hollywood to descend on our city and film the greatest zombie movie ever made because there is no place better suited. Don't believe me? Here's my thesis.
5. Believability Zombies and hospitals go together. Think about how many great zombie vehicles have opened in hospitals. 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead come to mind immediately. After all, where else would you take a bite victim? There's even an entry in Max Brooks's Zombie Survival Guide that explicitly mentions not trying to hole up in a hospital since you'll almost certainly be able to see a pattern of attacks radiating out from it as an epicenter.
And yet, as far as I can tell, only one major zombie movie has ever been filmed in Houston, and a voodoo zombie film to boot. That makes zero sense to me. We have the finest and most diverse medical industry in the country right here. Surely someone exhibiting symptoms of a bizarre new undead plague would be sent here eventually. Throw in our city's reputation for diversity and immigrants from all over the world (yay!) and the fact that the nation's largest human trafficking route runs right through us (boo!), and you're looking at the perfect and most likely place for a bizarre supervirus that animates corpses into murder machines to really come off.
4. Atmosphere Have you ever been down in the Medical Center on an overcast Sunday? It's deserted, and it is creepy as hell. Oh sure, there are some people there. Hospitals don't ever close, but compared to the day-to-day industry during the week, it's a ghost town.
There's something about empty-looking buildings on the sheer scale of the hospital system in Houston that is very unnerving. All that science and accomplishment standing still, it's like being inside that freakin' Shelley poem about Ramesses II. "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair." That sort of thing. I've seen plenty of American cities deserted and abandoned in movies, but for me an empty Medical Center is worse than all the rest combined.
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3. Old Hermann If you're lucky, then you might have stumbled on the original entrance to Memorial Hermann Hospital. Did I say lucky? I meant the opposite of that. Holy cow, who designed that place, Dr. Frankenstein?
Every single creepy haunted asylum trope that you've ever seen in a film exists in the old entrance and lobby of Memorial Hermann. They even have stone griffins just hanging out and begging to come to life as the power fades. The transition from modern hospital setting to gothic monument is especially jarring. I can see the dead pounding against that old door in my head, and it's frightening enough to make me run away from just the thought.
2. Claustrophobia All hospitals are large and confusing, but again, the scale of Houston's medical industry simply dwarfs that of most other conventional hospitals. And yet, for all their size, each one is still a maze of tiny hallways and tunnels that even longtime employees can get lost in. In the dark, they are even more terrifying. You never know where you are, or, as is more important for a zombie film, where the hordes of ghouls are.
There are two types of zombie films; the ones where you're trapped and the ones where you're on the run. Thanks to the width of your average hospital in the Medical Center, you can actually do both at the same time. Trapped doctors, nurses, techs and patients can barricade themselves against attack, with all the psychological tension that brings, while at the same time planning a long and dangerous route through the hallways toward an escape. It's the perfect setting.
1. Life Flight If Resident Evil has taught me anything, it's that the best way to end a zombie narrative is with a helicopter ride. You rise above the carnage and see the writhing mass of the dead below you. You don't get more perfect than that.
There's always a problem, though. To achieve that shot, you have to sort of make amends with whether or not the government is still functioning in your dystopia because they are in general the people who have helicopters. Not in Houston. In Houston we've got Life Flight, and if any objective makes more sense in a hospital full of zombies than fleeing to the roof to take off in an EC 145 twin-engine helicopter, then I'll eat my fez. Granted, you get about 300 miles before you're forced to land, but that's what sequels are made of. See, Hollywood? I just wrote your whole movie for you. Hope to see you soon.
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