Friday, October 8, 2010

Running Zombies

I've decided I'm not going to do the Friday news summary posts I've been doing anymore. I don't really see a point to it since anyone that would care about the news items has probably already heard it. So since it's now October, the month of Halloween, I decided to write on a topic that seemed more fitting: Running Zombies.

Zombies that can run, easily climb fences, agile fighters, etc, are a growing trend in movies. I used to be absolutely against the trend, but I've grown to accept it in general.

The idea of zombies began in voodoo folklore as a dead person who was raised from the dead and controlled by a bokor. Anthropologists later discovered what they believed to be a combination of neurotoxins and psychoactive drugs given to people to make them appear dead and later "rise from the dead" without full brain functions. But zombies didn't really enter into mainstream consciousness until they became associated with the flesh-eating ghouls of George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. That film and most of Romero's subsequent Dead films didn't use the term zombie, though his portrayal of dead bodies coming back to life to eat the living became the modern idea of zombies.

Though suggested in Night that a bite from a zombie would "infect" a living person, it was later established in the movie that anyone that died from any causes that left the brain intact would come back (assumed in the movie to have been caused by radiation from a meteor). (Romero himself ruined this his Dead reboots, but that's a rant for another day.)  Later on, a different sort of zombie starting showing up: Viral Zombies. That is, zombies that become zombies through a virus. 28 Days Later, Zombieland, the video game series Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead and Max Brooks' books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are all examples of this sort of zombie (Zombie Survival Guide actually discusses the history of the virus and how it effects the body). In these cases, zombies are often shown running, hopping fences, and other things that Romero's zombies were never capable of. I eventually accepted this, because my initial anger was over the fact that a reanimated dead body wouldn't have the motor skills anymore for things like that. With viral zombies, however, the body doesn't need to fully die to turn into a zombie, so I tolerate them as long as they aren't being portrayed as Romero-style zombies but still run (like in the awful, AWFUL Dawn Of The Dead remake).

But here's my real problem with running zombies and why they'll never be on the same level as Romero zombies in my mind: the ability to run, fight, etc makes them scary. Zombies have long been my favorite horror movie creature because of the essential element that one zombie or even a handful of zombies doesn't pose much threat. One vampire can cause a large amount of terror. One werewolf, one Frankenstein's monster, one alien beast, etc can cause a large amount of terror. But anyone with a gun or a blunt object can stop one zombie (remove the head, or destroy the brain). Their real terror comes from the ease in which more are made. One zombie left unchecked can easily become a thousand. Think of the trailer for The Walking Dead, a new show coming to AMC based on the comic books. The scariest looking moment in the trailer isn't when he's dealing with a couple of zombies. It's when he's on the horse surrounded by an ocean of zombies (for me at, least). If zombies can run, etc., then they're scary alone, which makes them less appealing to me.

For anyone interested in seeing the origin of modern zombies, Night Of The Living Dead can be watched at the Internet Archive. Due to a loophole in copyright laws of the time, it's open to the public domain, so  there are other places you can watch it online, I'm sure.


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