Thursday 31 October 2013

Today's Review: Zombies

'Tis All Hallow's Eve, the night to celebrate everything spooky and scary, from witches and wizards to deranged serial killers. But no matter how many creepy thing exist in movies, stories, or weird old Doctor Who serials, if you ask people what their favourite monster is, a large amount of people will probably settle on zombies. Undead, bloody, dismembered people, hungry for human flesh? What could be scarier? Well, we shall see.

The origins of the zombie lie in South Africa, where it was believed that a sorceror, or "bokor" may have the power to raise a person from the dead and keep them under their control. This is a far cry from the zombies we love to watch eat people today though, so let's fast forward to 1968, when George Romero released Night Of The Living Dead, a seminal film about the dead coming back to life to feast on human flesh. Apparently this was a good idea for a movie monster, because everyone is still zombie crazy 35 years later.

But when you think about it, zombies are a bit rubbish. I'm not talking ultra fast, screeching zombies as seen in 28 Days/Weeks Later or the Left 4 Dead video games, nor the ultra buff, mutated monstrosities as seen in Resident Evil, or... the Left 4 Dead video games. No, I'm talking the traditional, slow, groaning shufflers that stumble along on their ragged and broken limbs. In general these zombies are easy to outrun, easy to kill, and really only pose a threat when there's a large number of them. You'll hear many people talk about how they could survive in a zombie apocalypse, but I wouldn't think those same people have plans for how to escape a serial killer or outrun a werewolf. Zombies have to be the most unrefined, sluggish killers in horror movie history, so why are they so adored? I posit that it's what comes with zombie territory that is so alluring.

You see, your regular zombie outbreak is caused by some kind of disease, that is spread through bites and can raise anyone from the dead, as long as their brain is intact. One bite means inevitable death, and whenever a zombie outbreak happens, it's pretty much assumed to be the end of the world. No cure is found, the military is useless, and all that's left is small pockets of survivors doing their best to scavenge for food and not get killed by either the undead or other, more dangerous survivors. This is where The Walking Dead gets its popularity. The zombies themselves are just a backdrop, the cause of the apocalyptic situation that the characters find themselves in. Sure, they show up from time to time to bite some people and ruin everyone's day, but the main causes of drama in the series, and the comics, are the relationships between the survivors themselves, or the hostility that forms between rival groups of survivors. In any other monster movie, it's humanity against the monster. In zombie movies, it's humanity against itself, lawless, desperate people killing other people to ultimately avoid being killed by, and becoming, a zombie. but the zombies themselves? Not so impressive.

Not that they don't have their good points though. A zombie can survive and get around in any kind of state. I've seen zombies with limbs missing, holes in their torso, or even with the lower half of their body blown off, but they still do their best to get around and sink their teeth into people. That's dedication. Also, their people detecting skills are top notch. I've lost count of how many time a zombie has sniffed out a regular human, or heard the smallest noise from a sneaky survivor. Once a human is in their sights, their dedication to catching them is pretty good too. No matter how shambling or dismembered they are, they'll hammer at windows or fences for hours, until eventually they give way. Also, when a zombie catches a human, I must say I'm consistently impressed with how easily they can rip open their stomachs and grab a fistful of intestines. I'd like to think that it's not easy to do that, but I can't say I've ever tried.

Zombies are a staple of the horror genre, even though they're not overly menacing. They're easy to kill and outrun, and the only danger they really pose is that they'll inevitably create an apocalypse that will leave us all fighting each other for our lives. Still, you don't wanna mess with a zombie, especially a pack of them. If you're not careful, they'll bite your neck, rip out your guts, and all other kinds of gruesome things. As crappy as they appear, they're still a great way to drum up some scares, and it's not really hard to see why they've remained so popular for almost 40 years.

My rating: 4/5

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