It’s been decades since the zombie genre crawled from its grave to feast on the wallets of movie-goers. In all that time, they haven’t gotten any more interesting. Here are 9 reasons why zombies need to take a dirt nap.
They Aren’t Zombies
Look, I know this has been covered before, but they aren’t zombies! They’re ghouls! Even in Night of the Living Dead (the 1968 movie that helped put the undead on the map) they’re referred to as ghouls. When the the movie that kicked the craze contests the definition of the word you are using, you don’t really have a rotted leg to stand on. And yes, I know, things evolve… But it still doesn’t change the fact that the whole genre has their monster mixed up with something else.
Explain to me why animated dead bodies are so hungry? I mean, do they always gorge? When exactly is a dead body full? Once they’re full, where does the food go? They’re dead, correct? What bodily functions still exist? I have yet to see one movie where a zombie drops trough and relieves themselves. If you don’t have a solid foundation to ground you in the setting, there really isn’t an emotional/visceral effect to the story, it’s just armed people running around shooting stuff. Think of this; If zombies start out as ‘the risen dead’, three quarters of your monster population is stuck in their grave, trapped by cement sarcophagi that almost all cemeteries store coffins in before they’re buried. And where are the naked zombies? Morgues don’t dress corpses, funeral parlors do, and until they’re ready for viewing, they’re still naked. I want my naked zombies, dammit! And at what point will rotted muscle and sinew not support a dead body? Honestly…..
All they do is walk around and try to bite things; slowly. Yes, 28 Days Later and World War Z are different. They are, however, going back to the roots of the monster; they’re more like Ghouls. You can’t be terrified by something that you can get away from in a brisk walk. Vampires and werewolves are at least active participants in the narrative. Even the Creature from the Black Lagoon had an active thought once in a while.
The femme fatale, the authority figure, the guy who knows what to do, the doomed cute couple that was just out for a walk, various red shirts to supply the blood, and never forget the character-that-gets-bitten-and-might-turn-into-a-zombie. There’s as much variation of characters in a zombie movie as there are in a pack of marshmallow chicks.
Folks, zombie movies are all alike, and not in the way all monster movies are alike. A group finds out there are zombies running amok, they all run to shelter, they find another group that got there first, nobody gets along until someone gets eaten, they all get along and fight their way out, the end. Really, that’s all there is to it. Sure, there’s some window dressing along the way, but in the end, it’s the same thing.
I can’t contend this point enough; they’re all the same! It’s like having a Toto CD that sticks on “Africa”. Sure, it’s cool once or twice, but after 10 or so times you want to just pitch the thing and move on to “Rosanna”. The last time I saw anything truly creative come out the genre was in V/H/S 2, and even then all they did was flip the point of view to the zombie. If it had gone on any longer than the 15 minutes it did, it would have been boring. Face it guys: The zombie genre jumped the shark long ago.
I’ve read a few articles that suggest that zombies are the perfect monster for the 21st century because they’re a metaphor for present day existence. At face value it works, but once you dig into it a little bit it’s clear that using sheep is still a better analogy. So, you’re saying, zombies walk around aimlessly, not caring, but only consuming. Well, you’re right, they do. But the metaphor is strongest when you use something that can think, but doesn’t. Sheep are herded into pens, fed the same thing day in and day out and kept in a constant state of aimlessness. They exist only to consume, make more sheep, and be consumed. They’ve had all individuality–all that a sheep has, anyway–taken from them, all thought, all action. All they do, from birth to death, is exist to be of use to their master. It’s a much stronger metaphor. When there’s a better option out there, why use anything else?
The zombie genre represents the epitome of ‘us versus them’ from opening to end credits. Not just the shambling hordes either, now we get into living humans taking shots at each other. It’s one of the least palatable ideas to come out of the ‘apocalypse’ mind-set. Granted, once any central control is gone, you’re going to have groups that want to take control, and have no problem killing anyone who may think differently. Now it seems, with The Walking Dead, the zombie genre has taken that as its central focus. That’s all well and good, but you can do that with any post-apocalypse setting. Ever see The Road? It never even says what happened, and it works beautifully. Now, all you have is people killing each other over differing ideologies instead of taking out zombies to save the human race.
Really? Really? For me this is the topper. When the zombie genre meets’ my twenty-something angst b.s.’, you’ve not only hit the wall, you’ve become molecularly bonded to it. The main character has to live her life (or un-life, they do make a point of adding that) hiding the fact that she’s a zombie from friends and family? Wow, dating will be such a drag! When is it acceptable to eat your boyfriend, third or fourth date? How do I hide from mom my craving for human viscera? Do we push the brains to the back of the crisper or are they more of a freeze and thaw thing? How do I reconcile my career with my desire to eat that guy on the second floor? I can’t even type this out without curling my lip at the idea that someone thought this up. This is the reason that some things are meant to be in comics and no other medium. It’s over guys, if this isn’t enough of an example of it for you, then nothing will be.