I always liked zombies, they are probably the last real monsters of horror. When you look at it, all other monsters lost their scary mojo. Vampires became sparkling lovesick day walkers, werewolves turned in to tame puppies. But zombies, well they stayed zombies, of course there was a try to tame them also (Warm Bodies), but how can you make a brain eater lovable, right? Basically they remained the same through entire history of horror genre. Mindless beings with two basic operating modes:
- Sleep mode – most often they fall back to this mode when there is nothing to eat near them. If you are lucky enough you can pass by them unnoticed, if not there is;
- Eat mode – they smelled you and it’s time to run or get eaten. Depending on the movie they are either slow or will outrun you at any time.
It is because of these two modes that they are such great monsters and bend the rules of horror genre. In order for a zombie flick to be good you need really good human characters. You can make a vampire / werewolf movie where a monster is the main character, but with zombies you need real live people. Otherwise you are stuck with humanoid forms in various states of decay that either sleep or eat bloody chunks of meat.
So you are never introduced to a single zombie and follow his career through the movie, they are always a mindless mass and most of the time support characters while the really story revolves around humans and wherever there are people, there is also the real enemy in times of zombie apocalypse and that is:
If you wish to survive zombie infested wasteland you need to find a group of people (normal ones preferably) and find a place that is easily defended. So when you put people of different backgrounds into one place and keep them there for the rest of their lives, there will be trouble. They will get cabin fever, try to replace “democracy” with martial law and survival of the fittest rules.
Then it will come to small rebellions within the group that will tear them apart and be their own demise. Because if you wish to survive zombie apocalypse, strength is in numbers and team work. When you think of it almost every zombie flick / TV show has small group holed up somewhere. With time the find weapons, food build their defenses and basically they need to sit out through the outbreak and try to stay calm. But then human nature starts to show its real face and while they fight among their selves, zombies manage to get through and the have to run somewhere and start all over again (if they survive the running part). There is also the problem that with all the killing they seem to start losing their humanity. Killing zombies becomes easier and after a while killing a living person over a bag of canned beans is good for the group. So here are a few shining examples of humans being the real bad guys in zombie genre:
Dawn of the dead (2004)
It was a great movie, zombies were back in the game. This one was based on George A. Romero’s (The Godfather of zombie genre) cult classic. Only this time zombies were really fast and they could outrun you. The survivors were stuck in a mall. They had clothes, food even weapons all they needed to do was to sit back, try to relax and let the time flow. But due to their mistakes they are forced to run and their plan almost fails due to a selfishness of one of the characters (Steve guy with boat keys, just see the movie again).
The Walking Dead
I watched season 3 recently and it is a shining example of humans being the real problem in zombie wasteland. The undead are nothing more but a support cast and cannon fodder. Story is about two groups of people living in a secluded safe havens, but they can’t stand knowing that there is another group of people near them, so they go to war. Of course, war gives zombies the opportunity to give them some serious trouble. Also there is The Governor a power mad sadistic tyrant, but the real interesting part was watching the main protagonists losing their humanity. There was an episode when Rick, his son and Michonne drive out of the prison to find weapons and casually drive by a panicked human screaming, nay, begging for them to stop. On their way back they find him torn apart on the road and stop only to pick up his backpack. We can also see Rick’s son Carl turning into a real cold-blooded killer, when he shots another kid. If the world was a normal place they would probably play outside together, but these days…
These examples (there are more) are also the reasons why zombies are such great monsters. You can’t reason with them and you can’t beat them. Your only chances are to either stay alone, which means you will have to drop your guard at one point and end up dead. Option number two is to go with a group of people, this might give you an illusion of safety for a while, but when you spend too much time with them things will fall apart. So you will end up dead also, either eaten by THEM or shot by a fellow man.
So that’s zombies, you can’t live with them and… well, you can’t live with them! At least they aren’t cuddly, they don’t sparkle and they don’t make teenager girls fall hopelessly in love with them. They are monsters and nothing more…