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Attack of the Living Dead
by Poe Ghostal

Mezco's "Attack of the Living Dead" line isn't based on any particular film, despite the "Living Dead" moniker - a quick check at the U.S. trademark office shows that Mezco was able to trademark the title "Attack of the Living Dead," so it looks like George Romero and John Russo lose yet again, courtesy of the Walter Reade Organization. The line was originally going to be titled "After Life" (and Mezco had trademarked that as well), but at some point they must have figured out that the "Living Dead" phrase wasn't trademarked and changed to the new title to capitalize on the name recognition.

That said, these zombies look more Return of the Living Dead than Dawn of the Dead. Romero's zombies tended to look like pale-skinned humans (though they did got a bit gorier in the last two films), whereas the Return of the Living Dead series offered a variety of zombie shapes and sizes.

The Attack of The Living Dead 7" action figure assortment is comprised of three test subjects. How long each subject was exposed to the deadly matter determines their color strain and stage of decay. There are three figures in the line - Jake, Earl and Hellen - so if you do the math on that, you'll find that there are a bewildering 12 variants at retail alone. And there are six more online exclusives waiting to claw through the soft earth above their graves in the coming months.

I picked up the two boys, but I have no intention of getting Hellen, for the simple reason that she has pre-posed legs (i.e., her legs are permanently frozen in a squatting position and she can't be made to stand up). I refuse to encourage the production of pre-posed figures. Jake and Earl, however, are fully articulated. We already reviewed Jake. Now let's meet Earl.

This is the figure that sells this line. It's either the most horrifying thing you've ever seen, or one of the coolest. We accept that dichotomy. Obviously I fall on the "coolest" side.

Earl is definitely the flagship figure of Attack of the Living Dead. For one thing, he's got the most articulation: balljoints at the head, shoulders, wrists, chest, hips and ankles, pin joints at the elbows and knees and swivel joints at the biceps and waist. But wait - there's one more! Earl's jaw opens and closes for flesh-eatin' fun. If you decide to pick yourself up an Earl, watch out - the "Phase II" head doesn't have the articulated jaw. Why anyone would want that is beyond me. I mean, if you're going to buy this thing, you're going to want to go whole-hog and get the articulated jaw, no?

The sculpting by Ralph Cordero, a make-up and special effects artist, is top-notch. Originally his concept for Earl was that he was a hospital patient who got loose and made his way to the maternity ward, and thus the toy would have come with a half-eaten... nevermind. Even I'll admit that's way too far. Thankfully Mezco pulled back on that one.

Earl is a fat bastard, which seems to make him inherently more horrifying. He's consumed so much flesh his stomach has burst and his intestines are spilling out. Yes, in what may be an action figure first, Earl has removable intestines [not a first - there are a handful of McToys that do the same thing. --ed.]. In any case, they're rubbery and disgusting in the great tradition of gross toys. You can pile them into his stomach or let it all hang out; it's even got a little nub on the end so you can hook it around his thumb.

In addition to the intestines, Earl comes with a human heart and a skull with the spine attached (perfect for your Predator or Sub-Zero figures). You have to wonder how much longer you'll be able to buy toys like this without having to sneak into the store with a trenchcoat and buy it behind the counter in a paper bag. Or just order it online.

Lots of people enjoy making displays of horror-themed action figures for Halloween, myself included, and Attack of the Living Dead fits right in. I also find something inspiring in Mezco's chutzpah to release such gross-out toys. It's a shame that Reverend Rose no longer puts out his "Warped Toys" list at Christmas; these "toys" would be a shoo-in.

-- 10/17/06

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