Why Zombies?

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Why zombies is a question worth consideration. For me, my fascination for the ghoulish undead started in the early 1990s. My older sister and I used to have what we called Fright Movie Nights. We’d set up camp downstairs in the basement where my dad typically watched TV. I suppose you could call this space a den, of sorts. It was cold and usually damp feeling. In the winter, the wood fireplace would be burning, giving a very pleasant warmth to the place. At any rate, this was where we’d have our ritual Friday night movies. We’d drive to Blockbuster, rent a couple VHS tapes, order a pizza, pop some popcorn, open a bag of candy, and fill our cups with glorious soda.

I cannot recall every movie night, but i do remember one in particular. I’m not sure if it was my idea or my sisters, but we rented Night of the Living Dead, the Tom Savini directed remake with George A. Romero writing the script. I can still recall how mesmerized I was. Not just the gore; I mean, yes zombies are cool and all. But I was also mesmerized with the personal struggles between the characters, how they were at root their own worst enemies. As Barbara amply pointed out, “[zombies] are so slow, they could walk right past them, if they were careful.”  But, as it seems, even for level headed Ben, fear of the unknown crippled the survivors from taking any sort of action. They had no guarantee of success and so became paralyzed from taking risk.

Barbara on her part understood the risk and was also afraid but was still willing to take a chance, to do something, anything but sit around bickering and being consumed by their own internal turmoil with each other. She had no guarantee but was still willing to confront the risk. And, in the end, she survived.

The beautiful ugly about zombie movies, at least the ones in the Romero vein, is that the story isn’t so much about those walking dead, its about the people struggling to survive. Seeing how they behave in the most extreme situations. This is why, I think, AMC’s The Walking Dead is so popular. I’m sure there are maybe some other reasons too, water-cooler edict, so to speak, not wanting to be the last in the know. Fundamentally though the show is really about the survivors in this new world in which all the things we take for granted, internet, government, electricity, stores, shopping, gas stations, cell phones, are all gone.

But why this is such a popular motif?

While sure, some are watching because they want to know what their co-workers are talking about at the water-cooler. And there are those who are in it for the kills, the gore, and the very well done practical effects. But some, I think, are in it for the story in part as an examination, even if only subconsciously, of society. TWD is a sociological study on what happens when you take away all the barriers and comforts. How civilized does civilization remain when you take away the things that made people feel safe? Which begs the question, what are the things that make us feel safe? And like any good horror story, there are no easy answers, rather, horror works in order to drag (kicking and screaming) those nagging questions out into the daylight and forces audiences to examine themselves and come to their own conclusions.

This is why zombies.

George A. Romero had once said, the story could be about any natural disaster, and while that is true, I believe that zombies, the living dead, and their unquenchable lust for living flesh is the perfect stage for a sort of metaphorical critique. Of which I suggest you come to your own conclusions of what those metaphors might be. In my new book, PLANET OF THE DEAD, I forced myself to look at what I thought those metaphors might be, as I saw them. There’s a line in the book, I think near the end when one of the characters says something in the line of how people have always in one way or another been consuming one another, now people are literally consuming each other, and to survive, something will have to change.

Well…that’s my two cents on the subject.

What’s your opinion on “Why Zombies?”

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3 Comments on “Why Zombies?

  1. Pingback: Why Zombies? — Live. Laugh. Scream. – horrorwriter

  2. I really like the last point you made there – I suppose, in a way, we are consuming each other. Honestly, I love horror movies, but for some reason zombie movies have always been particularly unnerving to me. I have always wondered why those types of movies attract so many people – and why they make me feel so uncomfortable. Anyway, you got the gears turning, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Kristina. I’m the same, love me some horror movies. But zombies have always held a special place in my dark heart. There is something scary-honest in Romero’s work that has always appealed to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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