Admit it – Zombies are fucking awesome. There’s just something badass about the potential of facing down 6.5 billion shambling, half-rotting people without the capacity for free thought, pain, or self-awareness, driven only by a desire to consume. Any way you hack it, the Zombie is a literary archetype that represents something far more meaningful than the portrayals we see in most Zombie movies these days. As the Western world becomes increasingly paranoid about the spread of infectious diseases (and ideologies), why then, do most Zombie Movies continue to suck?
It’s simple – somewhere along the line, very early on, someone got the ears of Zombiephiles around the world and said, “Zombie movies are about gore.” And so we inherit a legacy of films like Land of the Dead, where the gore is so completely over the top that the zombies take second stage to their victims. Zombie movies suck because the people attracted to making them are the people attracted to gore – typically those that don’t make good movies (Sam Raimi, you’re excluded from this discussion).
Lately we’ve seen the zombie genre being to mutate, directors trying out “alternative” conceptualizations of zombies – Zombies that remember being alive, for example, or zombies that evolve. “28 Days Later” brought in zombies played by professional athletes – and never bothered explaining how half-rotting people have such quick, responsive muscles.
Listen. Zombie movies don’t need rethinking. They need to be treated as the works of art they could be, and they need for the gore to sit back and play second fiddle. Zombie movies need to be about the sheer psychological horror of the Zombie itself – that utter subversion of an intimately familiar thing. Zombie movies must begin to examine the philosophical underpinnings of an all-out Zombie pandemic, and that ways that such a disaster might change the face of our planet. Most of all, Zombie movies need to start being about Zombies – not one or two “lead zombies”, but the potential Millions, or Billions, that we may someday be facing down ourselves.
Why do so many zombie movies suck? Because we, the zombiephiles, have allowed them to suck. Stand up and shout that you won’t settle for crap like “28 Days Later” or “Land of the Dead.” Laugh in the face of zombies that are in better physical shape than you are, like those in the “Dawn of the Dead” remake. If we’re going to survive the coming zombie outbreak, we’re going to need some realistic, useful movies to edify ourselves on the impending apocalypse.
For my money – if I had to pick only one movie to get me through the Zombie Invasion, it would probably be “Shawn of the Dead.”