Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's Your Favorite Zombie?

If this year isn't the year of the zombie, then certainly next year will be... or maybe the year after that. It has arrive sometime.

The last few years have seen a plethora of zombie films, both "serious" and comedic. At the moment, Zombieland is booming at the theaters, and "mash" books such as Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (zombie version) are filling bookshelves. As for books, there are quite a few others out there. They vary from traditional zombies (we don't know why they exist, they just do) to SF/thriller blends - usually associated with a viral infection.

And yes, I have two similar projects in the works or soon to be released. The one that is perhaps the greatest surprise is the novel Pallid Light. Yes, this one is with the ever pleasant co-author Alexander Griffin. Wonderful to work with. Always agreeable. And ever so witty.

But this post is really about the different types of zombies out there. If you haven't been keeping up with the walking dead, then you should know there are shambling zombies, ambling zombies, intelligent zombies, and brain dead zombies. There are also those that crave flesh, and others that desire brains, and some they just bite and chew.

While zombie lore existed long before George Romero's film Night of the Living Dead, it was that film that planted them in the horror genre - though it took a few years for them to sprout.

In Romero's classic film, the zombies were slow, brain dead beings, that walked the Earth for no known reason, and they liked to eat living flesh. Oh, they were groaners as well, as opposed to the more recent screamers.

Following Romero's film were a number of others, including follow-ups by Romero (I remember watching Dawn of the Dead at the midnight show at the mall theater). The zombies in that film were a bit smarter, although they did tend to hang out waiting for good prices of consumer goods.

Now throw into this the cornucopia of zombie novels and short stories, and we have a new sub-genre. To underscore this, many entertainment companies and websites are having zombie contests, protests, and of course games. Ah, did I mention The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks (Mel Brook's son)? This book is neither novel nor story. It is a guide on surviving the zombie apocalypse, and wildly successful.

And back to films. Dawn of the Dead saw a re-make with faster zombies, and they were a bit smarter. In many ways they were similar to the critters in 28 Days Later (although some would argue they are not zombies).

Needless to say, I could continue this all day - but I won't. However, if you haven't read or seen any of these books or films, take the time. If the sub-genre is this popular, it seems like it is related to popular culture, which begs the question why is popular culture embracing zombies?


TonyKenealy said...

Zombies are always lurking around in popular culture, but they do seem to be on the increase in the past couple of years. I think World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide did a lot to push that along a few years ago.
Vampires, werewolves etc go in and out of fashion, but everyone seems to like a good Zombie movie, book or game etc.
Increased Zombie presence seem to attach itself to periods of economic and social strife. When people start to get concerned about their jobs, finances etc they start thinking about a post-apocalyptic world and that usually leads to Zombies.
Me, I like a good Zombie film.


Rick said...

I interviewed several people on this topic, William, and here were their unedited answers:

"I think they're cool because they remind me of the pyramids." Age 34

"They're scary because they're real. They've like found them in graveyards. They're not like vampires and that bullshit." Age 47

"I like them because they eat everybody like the IRS." Age 22

"They dance good like in Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Age 33

"They can't help it and they're like people with food addiction. They don't want to eat us. But I think it's great they eat all the time and don't get fat. It's like you can be addicted to food and not gain wait, you know?" Age 38

"Everybody's afraid of them cause they're like a metatag for the government. There's more and more of them and they want everything we've got. They want to eat everything they see til everything's gone and it's going to be George Bush's fault. Everything's his fault. That's what a metatag is." "You mean a metaphor?" I asked. "Whatever." Age.. somewhere about 18 or 19.

To further round this out, I'm calling only organic chemists and engineers today to see what they think. I'll let you know.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm actually pretty cool with zombies, although they are starting to get a bit saturated maybe. I have only flirted with zombies in a couple of stories but never a full blown zombie piece. Maybe it's time.

Akasha Savage said...

I love zombie films and books. One of my favourite films is 'Shaun of the Dead' starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I can watch it again and again. If you've not seen it, you should! :0

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think there needs to be a mixture of the critters. The shamblers to set you up and lower your defenses..the scramblers to scare the crap out of you.

May I make a suggestion that if you have the opportunity that you pick up LEFT 4 DEAD. This is the most astonishing zombie game, it has all the familiar tropes and throws in a couple new ones. Perhaps one of the most outstanding moments is the game is when the survivors make it to an airport and are surprised by a 747 crashing on the tarmac. It's an awesome cutscene and paves the way for the gruesome action on the tarmac.

Anonymous said...

I watched "Night of the Living Dead" for the FIRST time this Halloween, if you can believe it. (I had seen the remake before.) I've also seen the "Dawn of the Dead" remake (but not the original).

Jack Ketchum has been upfront about how he used "Night" as part of the basis for "Off Season." How many of you have read Ketchum's book? I'd like to read some opinions on the overlap of the zombie genre with the cannibal genre.

Vesper said...

I’ve never been into zombies… :-) I don’t think I’ve seen one zombie movie from one end to the other, except maybe for the first part of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, with its pure Rodriguez/Tarantino madness.

But, you know what, after reading your post, I feel tempted to give zombies another… try… :-)