I’m not a fan of zombie movies, especially movies with fast-running zombies; which I always consider cheating, they’re creepy enough already. So it’s only fitting that I shuffle aside to let a true zombie afficianado have a rant. Elliot Harris, who will no doubt be found holed up in Highbury with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost come the zombie apocalypse, writes:
I suffer from an affliction. While widely known, it’s not understood. Sufferers are frequently a point of ridicule from the media, strangers and friends alike. What is this affliction, you ask? Simple, I love the idea of zombies. There, I said it! I read books and comics about zombies, I watch TV shows and films about zombies, I play computer games about zombies. I’m not some sort of apocalypse waiting/wanting nut-job. Nor am I some sort of society-hating gun-nut. Actually, I’m pretty sure that I’d fall in the first wave. I can’t run very fast or far. I neither own nor can shoot a gun and I’ve no survival skills. What interests me is one simple question, a question with no real answer: What would happen if zombies were anything other than a work of fiction – what if they were real and how would the society react?
OK, that’s really three questions, but, I believe, that they truly go to the essence of a great zombie story. Zombies can be and have been used as a metaphor for society ills – everything from consumerism to the idolism of celebrities. Deep psychological questions can be posed by an author, a film maker, even a song-writer using this metaphor. That’s not to say that everyone gets it. Some look at zombies as the perfect excuse to make shlock about Real American Heroes™ blasting the faceless, unrelatable villain away without having to consider the impact that the use of a gun or a weapon of any sorts can bring. There’s one major problem though; Hollywood simply won’t make a good Zombie film.
Hollywood doesn’t want to make an honest to goodness zombie film. The essence of a zombie apocalypse is that there is no going back. Society has collapsed. Zombiesm cannot be cured. The police, the army, the government can’t help – they’re gone. Numbers of infected way outweigh those who have managed to survive… and even the use of the word survive is a misnomer. Uninfected is a more appropriate word. Those uninfected left, those very few are like prisoners on death row, with no chance of appeal, no chance of pardon. What’s left is a bleak, far too bleak for Hollywood to ever make a film about. It’s simply unmarketable. People want the good guys to win out. Hollywood pushes it to the limit, having society on the very bring with only a 59th minute, 100+ yard ‘Hail Mary’ of a pass to pull things back from the brink.
That’s to say that Hollywood has never made a zombie film, they have. Plenty in fact, but almost all of them suffer from Hollywood’s ‘don’t worry, the good guys won. Now go buy our merch’ shtick. A look at the zombie films of recent years backs this up: 28 Days Later – the zombies starve to death; Shaun of the Dead – the zombie outbreak is quelled; Warm Bodies – zombies start to regress to humans; World War Z – a vaccine is designed to dissuade zombies from attacking the inoculated. The few exceptions of note are Zack Snyder’s early 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and Zombieland, which was originally planned as and later remade into a TV series, are far outweighed by the junk pumped out year after year.
Good and original Zombie content that that genuine ask the “what if” question, or that play with zombies as a metaphor rather than gun fodder is sadly a rarity. It’s such a shame, because without those “what if” questions, we’re little more than zombies.