Zombie Genre Re-Emerge in Mainstream Media
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Run. And run fast. If you choose to stop, then you will be eaten, pulled down by a hellish creature that was once human, something that has risen from the grave and now stalks the night in search of flesh, preferably brains, as the story goes. The undead being will make you wish things were different, that your own life were over. Or they’ll make you laugh hysterically. Either way, they’ve been resurrected from the ordinary.
The story of the zombie goes like this: They are humans who have reanimated from the dead. From a nuclear fallout, a virus plague, or some other atrocity-usually something caused by humans on planet Earth. They rise up in vast numbers and set out with an instinct to feed on human flesh. They rip and tear at the victim until all that is left is a bloody mess. The zombie virus is spread through bites and blood; the world comes to an inevitable end with only a few survivors left.
Night of the Living Dead, 1968.
Not since filmmaker George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) has there been such an interest and intrigue in the zombie genre. There has been a massive influx of fictional books, comics, and essential guides to zombie horror, such as books like World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, The Rising by Brian Keene, and Breathers by S.G. Browne and movies like the Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, and most recently the hit film Zombieland. Hollywood and publishing seem to have taken heed.
“The 1970s and 1980s saw quite a few of these films, but most of these were low-budget films and not intended for mass-audience appeal,” said Nico Maestu, chair of Film Studies at Santa Barbara City College. “The main difference today is that films like Zombieland are produced for mass-audience appeal.”
These areas of storytelling are redefining the gore that is zombie and taking it to a new level. Such is the case with the book Breathers; Browne has taken the old tale and turned it into a dark romantic comedy with guts-literally and figuratively.
“I’ve always found zombies to be sort of tragically comical, shuffling around and moaning, body parts falling off. It just seemed natural to have them star in a dark comedy,” said Browne over email. “And as for the romantic angle? I guess I figured, ‘why should vampires have all the fun?’”
Breathers does something different entirely with the zombie genre. The book sets the zombie in the human world, allowing them to talk, interact, and live among the living. The zombies are faced with dealing with emotions and the prejudices of society toward a minority group.
One of the first films to have the zombie run and hunt was 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle. In the past, the undead moseyed along with what seemed like little motivation. The characters in 28 Days Later aren’t actually zombies, but rather diseased people, yet the film is still classified within the zombie genre. The aggressive zombie, as seen in 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, directed by Zack Snyder, seems to be the norm when it comes to making a zombie creature-feature these days. A sprinting zombie is unstoppably terrifying to audiences.
The zombie’s popularity in films erupted when Romero released Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Ever since then, people have been terrified and entertained with the idea of a walking dead person. The public seems to be enjoying the recent zombie uprising-Zombieland has made more than $60 million, and books such as Browne’s and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith have been in high demand.
“For the most part, I think it’s been well received by hardcore zombie fans,” said Browne. “Even people who aren’t necessarily zombie fans seem to enjoy what’s being done with the genre, and it’s always good to develop an appreciation among zombie virgins.”
Zombies are different when compared to their counterparts, vampires, as well. Vampires, as portrayed by Hollywood, are something sexy and seductive, most often seen at night wearing tight clothes and promoting gritty glamour. People get drawn to them. Zombies make you want to run away, and for good reason. Zombies are not sexy or seductive.
“They wear their decomposing hearts on their sleeve and aren’t ashamed to say, ‘I’m a zombie, I’m going to eat your brains,’” said Browne. “You have to admire that in a monster.”
With lots of blood-gushing popularity, the zombie genre has seen a massive growth in everything from film to fiction, and hopefully there will be a few more living-dead Halloween costumes this year. The zombie has been revamped to challenge the vampire in the mythical monster department. Today’s zombies seem to have people running toward them instead of running away at an ever quickening pace.