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March 25, 2006

Zombies: Back From The Dead And They Won't Go Down

The New York Times reports on the new dawn of the dead in books, films, games, and pop culture generally.

As Dave would say: It's old. I wrote about the durable dead and the zombie renaissance a couple of years ago. Although the New York Times piece makes a big deal out of the symbolism of the zombie -- for social decay and collapse, etc. -- no one goes to see movies for the symbolism. That's a discuss-it-later-over-beer-for-five-minutes issue. Zombies are popular, first and foremost, because they're not very interesting.

As Griffin Dunne said in An American Werewolf In London, "You ever talk to a corpse? They're boring!"

Zombies are, essentially, uninteresting monsters. They're scary monsters, to be sure -- make-up effects that realistically simulate the ravages of post-mortem degeneration make them the most gruesome of creatures -- but they're not terribly interesting. They're simple, they're undifferentiated, they're a mob of shambling idiots without personality or charisma.

And this is the strength of the zombie film. Because the monsters themselves aren't compelling as characters, the zombie film forces the writers and directors to put the emphasis on the really interesting stuff in any movie-- actual human characters and human interaction.

Zombies provide the threat, the pressure-cooker of dire circumstances, but the actual interest in zombie movies is all about personal interactions and group politics in extreme situations. The movies have zombies in them, but human beings are the actual stars.

Whereas vampire movies tend to be about how kewl vampires are.

Also related: readers debated the fast vs. slow zombie question -- retro or turbo? -- here.

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posted by Ace at 10:46 PM

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