Sunday, February 10, 2013
ZOMBIES. THE LIVING DEAD. THE WALKING. DEAD. WALKERS. BITERS. CHILDREN OF LAZARUS. CRAWLERS. SHUFFLERS. ROAMERS.
Whatever you call them, The Undead are here.
They've died. Been revived! And they can't be denied!
Why do we love them?
First off, let's identify that there are two types of zombies.
The first type of zombie is the slow walker. This is the zombie who shuffles slowly, wandering aimlessly looking for the ultimate brain buffet. The perfect examples of this type of zombie can be found in George Romero's ground-breaking Night of the Living Dead from 1968 and currently in AMC's most awesome-and gruesome-The Walking Dead.
There is nothing slow or shuffling about the second type of zombie. These zombies are fast and unpredictable and obviously did a lot of cardio when they were alive. For the best evidence of the second type of zombie watch Zak Snyder's directorial debut, 2004's Dawn of the Dead which is a remake of Romero's 1978 film of the same name.
Snyder's remake was particularly scary because the zombies were fast!
Crazy fast! Get that guy a NIKE contract fast!
Up til then, we had never seen a zombie move quite like this. For the first time the playing field was leveled and the thought of a tipped scale scared the crap out of us.
For the record, and before we go any further, I need to say that not all that shuffle or that nibble on the living are zombies.
In Danny Boyle's 2002 28 Days Later, we are presented with The Infected. The infected are victims of a highly infectious virus dubbed The Rage.
Sounds like a club doesn't it?
"Hey mate! Have you been to The Rage? It's bloody wicked!"
According to 28 Days Later, it takes only seconds to turn, but once exposed to The Rage, the infected become mindless, super-violent creatures. They're fast. They travel in packs. Did I mention how fast they are? The Infected have red glowing eyes and they growl like something that is no longer human but not quite animal. They drool and spit and any of their fluids get into you, you will become like them. If they catch you, they will rip you to shreds. However many zombie-like characteristics they exhibit, though, they are not, in my opinion, zombies.
Close but no Macanudo!
Arguably one of the best zombie movies to come out since Romero's classic, is Simon Pegg's 2004 Shaun of the Dead. The first zombie comedy, Shaun is all at once smart and funny and the perfect homage to the zombie genre.
It is one of my all-time favorite movies. Shaun allowed audiences to laugh at a subject which had never been even remotely funny.
It is interesting though, how well comedy and horror went together.
Pegg really tapped into something.
Another of my all-time favorites movies which just happens to be about zombies, and is also a very dark comedy, is Ruben Fleischer's 2009 Zombieland. Unlike the undead of Shaun of the Dead, Fleischer's zombies are American which basically means they are faster and have less manners. Like SOTD, Zombieland is smart and original and gives us an opportunity to laugh at the undead.
"I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead."
~Jimmy Buffet, Growing Older But Not Up
What is a zombie?
One definition of zombie reads as the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but is mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.
Zombies are usually in the process of decay and therefore not the most attractive things. They have poor posture and they are attracted to noise.
Kind of like old people at the library.
I guess that the scariest thing about zombies is that they're not just monsters, they're monsters that used to be us. We recognize them. They are our mothers and fathers, the kid who delivered our newspaper, the girl who worked the drive-thru at the bank and the asshole from work who always managed to steal the last bear claw from the employee lunchroom on Pastry Day.
I hate that guy!
Good riddance, Brad!
#$%@ YOU BRAD!
It's not pastries zombies are craving, though. It's us. And zombies, fast or slow, aren't picky. We'd like to think they're only after our brains, but they'd be just as happy with a foot.
Not my feet, mind you. I have the ugliest feet on the planet. I'm currently waiting to hear from the Guinness Records people. Apparently my only competition is a woman in India with 78 inch toenails.
Your feet, though. A tasty little appetizer.
This little piggy went to market...and this little piggy is...mmm...mmm...good.
You ever see a pack of zombies with a kill?
They're like piranha. They're like hyenas. They're like that family nobody wants to sit near at the 4th of July picnic.
It ain't pretty, is what I'm saying.
It's hands ripping and teeth gnashing.
It's like Salisbury Steak Night at Golden Corral.
No matter how horrific, there is a sad, sympathetic quality to your modern day zombie. Whether they are missing an arm or both legs and dragging themselves after you...even if their jawbone is exposed or the top of their head is peeled back, you have to feel a little sorry for them.
They are stumbling lost souls who moan and groan and have abhorrent social skills. I'm sure those of who need that all important cup of coffee in the morning can appreciate that.
No matter how slow and stumbly they are, you have to give them their due. They do one thing and they do it with a determination that should be admired.
They don't sleep. They're not bothered by a conscience.
Zombies are scary in the same way the great white shark in Jaws was scary. They are eating machines.
WHERE THE HELL IS ROY SCHEIDER?!
That was rhetorical. Scheider sadly passed in February 2008.
I have to imagine that zombies have got to be a little pissed off too. Especially women zombies.
They have to wear the same thing every day and they can't wash their hair.
Why are movies and television shows about zombies so popular?
Considered by most to be the first zombie movie is Victor Halperin's 1932 White Zombie.
Since then there have been give-or-take over 660 films which featured the living dead.
This does not include 1978's The Closing of Winterland.
That was The Grateful Dead.
So what is it about zombies we like?
It can't be their witty repartee. Seriously...you ever get cornered by a zombie at the office Christmas party? It's just "...brains...brains...brains..."
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Shoot them in the head?
Dear GOD someone please shoot me in the head!
So if its not their wit and charm...what is the allure of the zombie?
I think it comes down to projection.
We are all, for the most part, sane, rational human beings. None of us would ever intentionally hurt another living soul.
We all also have a dark side.
Don't deny it! Don't sit there and tell me you've never laughed at those montages of people falling down on America's Funniest Home Videos. Don't tell me you've never Googled 'fat people falling off trampolines," seen an episode of Jackass or imagined the guy who cut you off in traffic being eaten alive by velcociraptors.
I know I have.
(Raising right hand)
Guilty as charged.
I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU, BRAD! JERK! PASTRY THIEF!!
As twisted as it may sound, maybe we all take a little sick pleasure in the absolute freedom the characters in our favorite movies and television shows have to just walk up to a zombie and shoot it in the head...putting it out of its misery...and, maybe, in a sense, putting us out of ours.
Some zombies are just assholes. They were assholes when they were alive. They're assholes when they come back. It's just in their nature.
If you are a fan of AMC'S Walking Dead than you are all too familiar with the character of Shane, who he is, what he was, and what happened to him. Don't tell me you didn't cheer just a little when Carl shot him in the head? Shane was a mad dog and he needed to be put down. **SPOILER ALERT ENDED**
Side note: If the above was a spoiler alert for you, I have to ask: WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH YOUR FREE TIME?
That was Season 2 of The Walking Dead.You're just a little behind, friend.
So maybe that's what we do as viewers of these movies and television shows. Maybe we project onto zombies the faces of those people who piss us off and who have made our lives miserable.
Its easy to identify with the characters of these movies and television shows. I'm guessing we see ourselves in one or two of them. So is that the attraction? Does that identification make us think how we would react in the same situation?
Could we retain our humanity?
Maybe it makes us look into our own souls and ask, in terms of The Walking Dead, would we be Rick or would we be Shane?
Then again...maybe its not that deep.
Maybe its the thought of having a shopping mall and the interstates all to ourselves?
Romero certainly played with that them in his Dawn of the Dead, and I believe that is one of the major reasons that movie is as popular as it is. Who wouldn't want an entire mall to themselves? How freaking cool would that be?
Maybe we just love the thought of walking into a department store and taking whatever we want...loading up a shopping cart and breezing right through the 15 Item or Less Lane without so much as a rolled eye or exasperated gasp.
Zombies don't care.
And if one should get in your way, well, then, a shot to the head ends the discussion pretty darn quick.
Maybe its just cool to imagine ourselves walking around with crossbows, righteous machetes and all sorts of firearms strapped to our bodies...driving whatever cars we want and going wherever we want and doing whatever we want to do.
There are no rules in Zombie World. No laws. No taxes. No diets.
There's nobody telling you what to do or what to wear.
It is the Wild West...and we all love cowboy movies.
Well...except for Cowboys and Aliens.
Seriously. What the Hell happened there?
It is survival of the fittest...and survival of the not-necessarily the fittest...in Zombie World.
You just have to be faster and smarter than a zombie.
Computer geeks, old people, young people, pregnant women can all be heroes. And isn't that what we all want to hear? That when the shit hits the fan...whether its zombies or talking apes...everyone has an equal opportunity.
That's the appeal of Shaun of the Dead. A slacker store manager who has trouble committing to his frustrated girlfriend and his stoner-slacker friend step up and become heroes. They are us and they are kicking arse and taking names.
As we all know, in order to be a hero, you need a villain and that's where zombies come in. That's the appeal, then. They are the target of all our angst and frustration and desperation. It is a release.
Let's talk about AMC's The Walking Dead for a minute.
After all, tonight is the premiere of the second half of the third season of this incredibly popular show and the reason I'm writing this today.
WHAT is it about this particular show that makes it so popular?
Is it the writing? The acting? The production values?
Is it the violence and the super-cool make-up effects?
Hell. If you want great writing and acting, you can watch Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Both, ironically, are also on AMC.
What is The Walking Dead offering that is so appealing?
I'll tell you. It is the writing and the acting. The Walking Dead has something else going for it, though. A shitload of zombies!
I've never seen so many zombies in one place. It's like the cast of The Ten Commandments. The one with Charlton Heston.
The makeup crew and special effects crew for The Walking Dead deserves combat pay.
Whatever the reason, makeup, acting, or writing, people are watching and in record numbers.
In the movie Zombieland the character Columbus, as played by actor Jesse Eisenberg, comes up with a set of rules for existing in a zombie-filled world.
According to Columbus, there are 33 Rules For Surviving Zombieland.
These are The Top 5:
Rule Number One: CARDIO
Rule Number Two: BEWARE OF BATHROOMS.
(Because nobody wants to die in the shitter)
Oh. Sorry Elvis. My bad.
Rule Number Three: SEATBELTS
Rule Number Four: THE DOUBLE-TAP
Rule Number Five: NO ATTACHMENTS
There are several websites which list all of the rules.
This is just one of them
In the third season of The Walking Dead, an interesting question was raised.
"Do they (zombies) remember who they were?"
Romero asked the same question and answered it in the third installment of his zombie trilogy, Land of The Dead.
The zombies in LOTD had more personality and retained more memory of their former alive self than any other zombies presented before...even more so than any of the zombies presented in Romero's own previous work.
I don't agree with Romero's choice.
I can understand why he went there, but I don't agree.
I don't want my zombies having any memories.
I don't want to see a zombie postman shuffling along trying to stuff envelopes into mailboxes. I don't want to see a zombie stripper on a pole.
I want my zombies dead, mindless and hungry for brains.
Is there anything creepier than a little girl zombie in her jammies?
Well played George Romero. Well played.
Yes. We love our zombies. As long as they are adult zombies.
We don't want to see children zombies.
The Walking Dead.
If you watch the series than you know what I'm talking about.
I cried like a baby. Oh Sophia. So...so...sad.
We don't want to see newborn baby zombies.
Dawn of the Dead Remake.
I guess we just don't expect to see little zombies...and that shock...is what puts the horror in both of those movies.
In the end, maybe all this mindless zombie fun is just that. Mindless fun. Mindless fun in the same way watching WWE's RAW is fun.
Ultimately zombies are intended to be creatures of horror...stuff of nightmares.
They're also faded mirror images of what...who...we used to be and therefore a tiny bit sad.
The question has to be asked: Who is the underdog here? Them or us?
Maybe we keep watching because we're trying to find the answer to that very question.
Whichever zombies you prefer, keep one thing in mind.
Seeing as they used to be us...our neighbors...our co-workers...it goes without saying (and yet here I go saying it) that zombies represent everyone...all races. There are white and black zombies...yellow, brown and red zombies. There are straight zombies and there are gay zombies (and they are Fabulouuuuuus!)
There is no class among zombies and the rich and poor all shuffle along together.
Zombies are team players and everyone gets a chance to play.
Maybe we could take a lesson from them?
and that's 'Jody' with a 'y'
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