What is it about zombies that draw a crowd? It can’t be the stench that wafts off these organic, decaying meat bags. It must be something else.
In the last few years, zombies have become more and more ‘mainstream’. Why is this? What makes a reanimated corpse so popular?
Could this interest in zombies be a fad or some kind of reflection on society?
Let’s look a little closer at the genre. Zombies fall into a couple of genres, horror, science fiction and apocalyptic/dystopian. When zombies first hit the silver screen, way back in the 1930s-40s, they were relegated to the horror genre and their origins were more down to earth. In the early films, White Zombie is a good example; the walking dead were animated by voodoo and made to do the bidding of whoever reanimated them.
Serious bad juju for sure.
Over the years the reasons for corpses to reanimate walk, shuffle or crawl around changed. Plan 9 from outer space had aliens reanimating corpses in an attempt to conquer the earth and placed zombies right into the science fiction genre as well as B movies or lower.
When Night of the Living Dead came on the scene, we were introduced to another extraterrestrial method of reanimation in the form of some kind of cosmic dust that returned to earth on a probe. While this hit on the science fiction genre the film was definitely horror.
Return of the Living Dead had a military toxic spill that reanimated corpses and led to a couple of campy sequels but focused on zombies wanting to eat your brains not so much just eat you.
As you can see, zombies ride the line between several genres and actually hold a place in a sub genre of horror and even venture in the comedy genre ala Zombieland.
Of course there are films that are unintentional comedies which I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about.
Some may argue that apocalyptic/post apocalyptic and dystopian all fall under the science fiction genre. That is true for the most part but they can also be placed under the horror genre.
So what is it that really draws us to a zombie film or book? Is it the concept of the world ending as we know it? Is it the chance to watch or read about some hero character and how they manage to survive? Is it an opportunity to unplug our brains and watch 90 minutes of gore splatter with bad acting, a poor script and awful special effects?
There are numerous novels, short stories and films out there about the walking dead, even a television series, but how does someone know if that particular book or film is any good? By good I mean something that holds your interest, is entertaining and actually creates such a realistic world that you as a viewer or reader, develop a vested interest in what happens to the characters. There are so many really bad novels out there that rely on the ‘it came from outer space’ theme when it comes to a cause for reanimation that just reading the synopsis on the back of those books is enough to say you’ve read it. For a zombie story to work, I mean actually have some basis where the reader or viewer could sit back and say ‘Shit, I can see that happening’ it needs to have some solid groundwork in the real world. Don’t rely on space aliens or some thawed out 10,000 year old alien plague carrier as a cause.
Use Mira Grant as an example. This is an author who actually audited biological science classes and studied viruses before she wrote her books. Her basis of an outbreak and how it was caused freaks the shit out of people. Another author who used a real world cause is Jessica Meigs, author of the Becoming series. She used a government program that was testing soldiers to make them perform better in combat as her basis for an outbreak. Think that kind of thing couldn’t happen? Google Metabolic Dominance and read through that little treasure trove of information.
Zombies have permeated our way of life. Now more than ever there is an incredible influx of novels and films hitting the market. In fact, the other day I was at a public function and there were two kids about 8 years old playing with a huge amount of Lego’s and they were discussing methods of fortifying their Lego city from the threat of a zombie army.
I say start them young, prepare them for the eventual zombie outbreak and make sure they have a nice post apocalyptic skill set.
Why the interest or fascination with zombies? We’ve even created labels for them, shamblers, walkers, crawlers, Zed, stenches, scourge, scrags, and the list goes on and on. Maybe its the ‘fact’ that these reanimated corpses aren’t slowed down or stopped. Crosses, wolfsbane, daylight and sacred ground have no effect on them. Silver bullets? Maybe, if you shot them in the head but otherwise, no luck. Zombies are relentless and almost unstoppable. That could be why there is such an interest in them. Unlike other creatures that roam our nightmares and horror books and films, these rotting maggot magnets are more of a challenge. No one has yet to figure out how they can track uninfected humans or seem to have the uncanny ability to show up when you least expect them. That has to be the major reasons why the genre has become so popular.
In the meantime, I’m going to pop open a cold Pepsi, get my popcorn and watch AMC’s The Walking Dead.