I have been asked this question numerous times. If you know anything about me, you know my fascination with and revulsion of zombies. Sure, it is a movie/TV and book monster that has gained in fame over the last decade. Sure, most zombie films, shows and books are, at best, b-level. There are exceptions, but those are few and far between. But why do I like them? What makes them a “must watch/read” even when they are complete drivel? The scare the shit outta me.
Zombies represent one of the last major taboos of modern civilized western society: cannibalism. Sure, you can get into the symbolism of society devouring the individual, but it really comes down to an ingrained fear of being eaten alive by other humans. They represent a horrible death that is, in the end, inescapable. If the ZA comes, it is not a matter of if you are going to die, but when and how. Sure, zombie fans love to sit around and discuss how they will “beat the system” and know of the “ultimate place to go to wait it out.” But really, if you think long and hard about it, eventually, the ZA will kill you. Hell, I do it myself. What weapons I want to take, how much can I carry, just how good is my hammer going to be and how tired I will get using it?
Cannibalism, slow and horrible death, starvation, gangs, mobs. Fear. Zombies are my favorite monster because I am afraid of them, and in our modern society, very little offers the true adrenaline rush as fear. And yes, movies and books are much cheaper than bungee jumping or sky diving.
I have to admit that my favorite zombie movie still scares the hell outta me. “Night of the Living Dead” by George Romero is the classic and the first of the modern zombies. The whole thing is creepy, tightly shot, just off color (yes, I know it is B&W, but the hues are off). [Upcoming Spoiler] And no one lives in the end. Of course, if you didn’t already know that, shame on you for not seeing it before now.
Now, there is a turning point in my favorite ZA movies. “28 Days Later” was the introduction to the fast zombie (even though they technically were not zombies in the classical sense). That movie was creepy and had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time. The infected were always “just around the corner”. If you want to see a spine-tingling scene, just watch the church scene, where the main character first comes face to face with the monsters.
After “28 Days Later” the fast zombie keeps appearing, but changes a bit. Take the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” which still has my favorite all-time zombie moment. In the start of the movie, when the wife is running from her husband and jumps in the car, he can be seen running from the house and after the car. As she goes down the street, all hell is breaking loose, mostly because people dont know what is going on yet. A lady steps out her front door to get her paper as the wife drives by (husband still chasing the car) and the husband veers off and takes the lady down so fast the wife never even notices. Pure predatory instinct, picking off the weaker and easier to take down. That scene alone is worth watching the movie, to me.
There are quite a bit of off-shoots to the traditional zombie monsters. Take “The Crazies,” for instance. Also not technically zombies, the people are transformed after being infected by “dirty” ground water. As I mentioned above, the zombies in the “28 Days/Weeks Later” movies, they are infected by a drug called Rage, making them killers running on adrenaline. There have been aliens creating zombies, meteors, even the Large Hadron Collider and Chernobyl leaking radiation creating them. In one set of films, satanic rituals created the zombies.
The sheer amount of zombie media available right now really speaks to society issues. Like I said above. Society devouring the individual. Eventually, the rotation of the popular monster will move back to something else and away from the zombie, but I am enjoying reading and watching all the zombie media out there.