Zombie Shorts Festival: Selections From Rockstar Games Social Club TV
A Film Feature

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 19 October Comments View Comments

What better way to kick off our Halloween festivities this year than with zombies? We lumbered around the Rockstar Games Social Club TV web site to find the undead lurking in sometimes surprising places and, therefore, we compiled a film festival, as one does when confronted with horror! Watch in order, or pick and choose - either way, we hope you enjoy it! (Although there are no brains in this showcase it's still not suitable for minors. If you fall into this category, we recommend a few years of growth and, in the meantime, "A Tale Of Terror: The Boise Zombie Walk".)

The PC version of the game Grand Theft Auto IV, by Rockstar Games, features an in-game editor in which you can record and edit real-time rendered player actions and add music from the game to create a short movie (this specific form of filmmaking, using a gaming engine that renders in real time, is known as "machinima"). Players can create stories by picking appropriate character skins, environments, music, and objects. (These are often restricted by what is available in the retail version of a game, although some game engines allow for player-modified contents, which makes for much more diverse gameplay and - therefore - machinima options.)

There's very little player editable content in Grand Theft Auto IV (although appropriate mods are now starting to appear) so players can't, for example, add their own dialogue, although they can use in-game dialogue snippets and one liners, and they have to use the game's skins and music tracks. Players are also constrained in that the characters have inflexible facial expressions, so they have to use other techniques to convey what is going on. However, the gaming environment (urban structures, locations, objects, vehicles, and so on in Liberty City) is vast, as is the choice of camera angles and times of day, allowing for a variety of genres and storytelling techniques for imaginative filmmakers. Gamers can also rope in their friends to help by playing some of the characters.

Once players have completed their production they can upload it to a special TV section of the player community web site, Rockstar Games Social Club. There, other gamers can view the creations, leave comments, and vote for their favourites. The game has a hidden zombie skin that can be unlocked and once players realised it was there and figured out how to unlock it the zombie storytelling began.

We've sifted through the Rockstar Games Social Club TV uploads to bring you a selection of the best (or, in a few cases, the more noteworthy or unusual) to get you in the mood for Halloween in our own little Zombie Shorts Festival. In some, the heroes are victorius; in others, they go down fighting; and, in a few, they are nowhere to be seen. All the videos can be viewed online for free at the Rockstar Games Social Club web site. You just need to be older than 18 to enter the site as much of the content (and the game, and most of these shorts) is not recommended for minors.

(PS: In case you're worried about bandwidth we've listed the FLV file sizes so you can see what you're getting in to - crucial for South Africa, possibly irrelevant for other parts of the world. Many of the smaller files sizes are equivalent to low-res uploads on YouTube, in case you're wondering.)

By: gozy88, Costa Rica
Three military zombies wreak havoc at the airport. (PS: We think it's supposed to mean "rebellion". We'll start a fund to send a dictionary to Costa Rica.)
Running Time: 00:03:15
Size: 16.5 MB
Concept: There's not much of a concept or story here - it's stunts and explosions set at the airport - but the chaos and destruction is appropriate zombie fare so we thought we'd kick off the show with this mania. [6/10]
Creative Execution: The video has a music-video feel to it, possibly inspired by something that you'll find later in this showcase, but this is a very distinct video, with memorable moments such as the driving scenes. [6/10]
Technical Execution: The editing is very good in places and complements the music well. The camera-angle choice and switches were well chosen. The ending is a bit abrupt, which is unfortunate. [6/10]

Zombies, Episode I, Part I
By: Toxicana, Sweden
Zombies, Episode I, Part I
A zombie plague reaches Liberty City and begins to assault its citizens. If you're pressed for time, this is one of two "must see" shorts in our selection. The only downside is that so far there has been no upload of Part II (nevermind Episode II). Are we gushing? Perhaps - but it's not blood.
Running Time: 00:04:11
Size: 30 MB
Concept: It's a fantastic idea that's well executed on all levels. The story has a very clear genesis scene and the mayhem builds until you realise no one is safe. [8/10]
Creative Execution: This is an exceptional example of storytelling and it's one of our favourites. The narrative flows with few words uttered, you know exactly what is happening, and you become emotionally invested in the story. [8/10]
Technical Execution: The execution is outstanding, from the editing to the careful use of slow motion at key moments. There are some camera-angle choices that are fantastic - I especially like the section as the zombies run towards the camera on the beach and the top-down shot as the zombies are running through the city streets, which is reminiscent of the early 2D Grand Theft Auto games. The entire production is strong and well thought out. [9/10]
Zombies, Episode I, Part I

Gangsta Zombie TRAILER
By: Sparrow, The Netherlands
Gangsta Zombie TRAILER
This is a trailer for a(n as-yet unavailable) production that it appears the filmmaker intends making as he has posted comments about its impending release in various places on the web site.
Running Time: 00:01:34
Size: 7.9 MB
Concept: Mix a Sopranos-style gangster (from the hood) with a zombie and you have... Gangsta Zombie (complete with low rider). He seems rather sentient, which will require a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it's an original idea. If we look at this as a standalone short whose concept is a trailer for a movie that may or may not have to exist, it's very well done. [8/10]
Creative Execution: The short flows very well as a trailer, with a great mix of action and "talking" sections to build suspense. The opening black and white sequence gives it a wonderful film noir feeling, although the text could use a bit of work, but you can see that a lot of thought has gone into the work. [8/10]
Technical Execution: The editing could be a bit punchier in places but that's a minor issue. The mix of black and white and colour, as well as the great camera work (such as when the camera follows the opening shot of the car) is very well done. The fade out is, unfortunately, a bit abrupt, which ruins the tension in the end chase sequence. [7/10]
Gangsta Zombie TRAILER

Zombie, Part 1
By: Warl0rd, Germany
Zombie, Part 1
A woman visiting a grave in a graveyard in the middle of the night is attacked by a zombie.
Running Time: 00:00:58
Size: 4.9 MB
Concept: This isn't particularly original but it is still fun to watch and a more logical use of a zombie theme than some of the other uploads. As much as I'm sure it's terrible to be beaten to a pulp by a zombie you have to admit that the woman had it coming, what with the bizarre "wandering around a graveyard in the middle of the night" schtick, which is up there with "answering the phone when you know it's the serial killer calling". Everyone knows there are certain things one just does not do! [5/10]
Creative Execution: This is, surprisingly, one of the few zombie shorts that features a graveyard - there are more uploads set at the airport! The beginning is very atmospheric although the short then devolves into an action comedy rather than a horror. However the "zombie wiggle" makes me laugh and is a reason why this short is a little better than some of the rest. The choice of music, and the moment when it starts playing, is very well done, though I would have preferred if it had gone in a more sombre direction. The short is, unfortunately, literally a bit short and Part 2 hasn't been uploaded yet so we may never know what happens. [6/10]
Technical Execution: The initial camera pan over the graveyard with the ambient sound of the wind sets up the short beautifully, although it then doesn't deliver in the expected genre direction. The camera is a bit erratic later on with the close-up zombie shots but the editing is good. [7/10]
Zombie, Part 1

Zombies In The City
By: rockybalb, Brazil
Zombies In The City
A civilian gets chased by a zombie in a car park so he and his cop friends enact serendipitous revenge later that night (or something - I'm really not sure).
Running Time: 00:01:38
Size: 8.4 MB
Concept: The whole concept's a little hazy. I think it was really just an excuse to upload the "extinction" scene. I'm not really sure what the car-park scene has to do with the "extinction" scene with the cops. Is the guy from the car park a cop later out for "revenge"? [3/10]
Creative Execution: So the guy's relatively safe in his car and therefore chooses to get out and start running from the zombie? Then, he miraculously heads in the direction of the only other vehicle in the car park, a scooter, and chooses to use it to make his getaway. Is this making sense? I didn't think so. Did he run out of petrol? He couldn’t have - the car was running. There is no logic here! [4/10]
Technical Execution: Where are all the other cars in the car park? That bothers me. The players' mismatched running abilities (note how the zombie overtakes the man and then has to pause to let him catch up) could also do with some work. The cops ploughing over the zombie and the excellent camerawork, editing, and slow-motion playback (listen to the police siren, for example) that goes with it is the reason this short has been included in our selection. It's well executed and looks good. Who hasn't secretly dreamed of being able to do that (and not necessarily to a zombie)? [7/10]
Zombies In The City

Zombie Falling
By: RhumNcoke, Canada
Zombie Falling
This is our gratuitous inclusion, so don't expect a cinematic masterpiece, although the camera angles were well chosen.
Running Time: 00:00:32
Size: 2.8 MB
Concept: Throw a zombie from a car. Watch him bounce! Not particularly original (the filmmaker does admit that this is a test) but nevertheless mesmerising and worth watching a few times. Plus, the driver (and his sunglasses) seemed to survive intact. That's a bonus. [5/10]
Creative Execution: There's no music, which actually works in the film's favour, but there are gunshot sounds that seem out of place. The action is short and a macabre sort of sweet. It's a simple idea that is well executed. [7/10]
Technical Execution: Tight editing during the chase and then fantastic camera angles and notably minimalistic, restrained editing at the climax make for a fun short. One assumes that the myriad gunshot sound effects are alluding to an epic battle going on in the car between the driver and the zombie. That's what I like to think, anyway. [8/10]
Zombie Falling

It's Just A Dream
By: Asaf1234, Israel
It's Just A Dream
A man falls asleep and has a terrifying dream about a zombie.
Running Time: 00:01:48
Size: 9.2 MB
Concept: You pretty much think you know where this is going but throughout you do wonder if you are right. [7/10]
Creative Execution: The use of two colour palettes to represent waking life versus the dream distinctly is a very good idea. The music choice is also great. While some of the 95-odd GTA IV tracks are favourites for filmmakers and you get to hear them regularly if you watch a lot of shorts on the site, I've never heard this music, which I presume is also from the game, before. The story idea, while an old favourite for filmmakers, is well done. Plus, how wonderful not to have the word "zombie" in the title! [7/10]
Technical Execution: There are a few robotic movements but there are also a few well executed moments that were very carefully chosen and utilised, such as the close-up shots of the man trying to hide from the zombie under the bridge that emphasise the terror he is feeling. I don't know how the filmmaker got his eyes to do that. The visuals are well edited to match the music, the chase sequence is superb, and I love how it ends. [7/10]
It's Just A Dream

Left 4 The Zombies
By: WickedMassive, The Netherlands
Left 4 The Zombies
This is another trailer for a more traditional zombie movie that a group of filmmakers say they will be making.
Running Time: 00:01:08
Size: 5.4 MB
Concept: Zombies are invading the city. The survivors are fighting back. [7/10]
Creative Execution: There's no music, which I think detracts from the possible impact that the trailer could have because there isn't enough (appropriate) ambient audio (in the trailer or likely available to the filmmakers) to generate a sufficient feeling of dread. Other than that, the short does a good job of creating that sense of a city that is being overrun by a terror and is slowly losing its inhabitants to the dark side, becoming a deserted, ruined urban shell where all hope is lost. [7/10]
Technical Execution: The scenes blend together well and the mix of segments that evoke desolation as well as desperate action work to create the appropriate tension. The end scene is especially well executed (so to speak), especially as it evokes a rising sense of dread as the zombie emerges from the tunnel. [8/10]
Left 4 The Zombies

The Zombie-Invasion
By: Jarhead1992, Germany
The Zombie-Invasion
A one-man army faces off against an invasion of zombies.
Running Time: 00:04:08
Size: 21.1 MB
Concept: It's not highly original and could have been done a bit better but you can feel the guy's desperation as, although he's not quite being overrun by a horde, the zombies still keep coming and you can only keep running for so long. [6/10]
Creative Execution: The music, at first, seems inappropriate but it turns out to fit the theme quite well. It helps to give the sense that this guy is out there on his own but is forced to continue due to a sense of duty and self preservation. I like the choice of rooftops, construction sites, and seemingly abandoned buildings as locations for the battles. [6/10]
Technical Execution: The battles are too long and there are a few character movement missteps (such as on top of the fire escape). The short is a little laboured (it could do with 30 seconds to a minute shaved off the running time) but it does have the effect of building to the ending, which I really like, although it feels as though it may have been a gaming accident rather than the intention behind the story. There's a haunted car bonnet right at the climax that's very distracting at the most crucial moment, though, completely ruining it. You'll be distracted. You'll have to rewind. I promise. [4/10]
The Zombie-Invasion

By: Raysputin, US
It's the trigger-happy Russian zombie gangsters versus a lone Russian hero (yes there can be such a thing I promise!)
Running Time: 00:00:54
Size: 4.6 MB
Concept: It's not particularly original as this doesn't play so much as a movie short as rather as a snippet of a gaming moment. However the frenzied action is great and immersive. This is what zombie action should be about. You can (and will have to) build the rest of the story in your mind if you feel it needs more. [6/10]
Creative Execution: You're immediately thrown into the middle of the action, complete with a gung-ho protagonist with great stunt moves, and that horde is intimidating, as a zombie horde should be. I wish it was longer - this would be a great basis for a proper short as the setting is open, yet claustrophobic, and the footage is some of the best zombie action we've seen. [6/10]
Technical Execution: This is a one-shot take with no editing or camera-angle switches and the third-person perspective follow-cam style makes you feel as if you are right in the middle of the firefight with the Russian protagonist. The camerawork complements the visuals perfectly. [8/10]

By: mapguru, Germany
A lone hitman tries to fight a zombie plague sweeping across America.
Running Time: 00:02:24
Size: 12.2 MB
Concept: I was initially confused as I couldn't understand why the hitman kept slaying Americans and not zombies but then I realised I needed to employ my imagination on this one - he's killing as many of the recently infected as he can before they can lay waste to more of the population. They are the zombies. The infection is slowly spreading and he is running out of time to stop it. [6/10]
Creative Execution: : It starts off well, and the black and white opening scenes paired with the action at night gives it a great stark feeling, in contrast to the pumping rock music that always makes me think of the Wii game Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (although that's probably just me), but there's that bit in the middle where he's, um, stuck behind the desk... (Is he hiding? Is he rummaging for a key?...) that makes no sense and it ruins the effect. The ending is very amusing (to non Americans who can understand it - here's some help). [5/10]
Technical Execution: The editing and camerawork at the beginning and the end are great. I love them both. It's just the middle that's a mess. [5/10]

Zombie Hunter
By: cobra-k2, Germany
Zombie Hunter
We've saved the best for (almost) last. In this short two stylish zombie hunters stalk their prey at a graveyard, with dire consequences.
Running Time: 00:03:45
Size: 19.2 MB
Concept: It's (sort of) like Buffy (the vampire slayer), but with hip-hop hitmen. It's clever and a welcome change from the usual "desperate gunman" or "running away in terror" themes. These guys actively seek danger and they mean business. [8/10]
Creative Execution: The muted palette and music work very well with the camera angles, subtle use of slow motion at key moments, and editing choices to tell an engaging story that's not quite a straight narrative as it has creative hip-hop music-video influences and flair. [8/10]
Technical Execution: The technical execution, all around, is exceptional, from the title sequence and opening shot to the subsequent camera-angle choices and effects, editing, and pacing. You're immediately invested in the story and the fates of the characters and you remain that way to the fateful end. [9/10]
Zombie Hunter

Sex Zombie
By: Mr.Bell, UK
Sex Zombie
Dance! Dance! Dance! You may recognise the music from the first video in our film-festival selection but Sex Zombie is, to my knowledge, the first noteworthy zombie video that was ever uploaded to the site. We've saved it for last because, even though it's not the best piece of filmmaking, it's an irreverent take on zombies that will make you laugh and possibly forever alter your perception of them. Just because it's Halloween doesn't mean that we can't end on a high note!
Running Time: 00:01:05
Size: 8.6 MB
Concept: A music video... featuring a zombie. A sex zombie. Who thinks of these things? It's irreverent genius! (Or complete crap, depending on your capacity for, and appreciation of, delightful humour.) [8/10]
Creative Execution: There's an interesting use of colour (red-light district, anyone?) and the editing works very well with the music. There's not much to it but the numerous crotch shots and slow-motion strutting tells us this guy means business. [6/10]
Technical Execution: It's a bit short but there are some shots here that may help you understand how a zombie can fit a rocket launcher in his R* Speedo. So, ultimately, it's educational. [6/10]
Sex Zombie

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