Zombie Plague: The Undead Rule the Silver Screen & the Zeitgeist. From "Shaun of the Dead" to "Dawn of the Dead" Directors Like George Romero Help Us Deal with our Paranoia & Fear of an Unseen Enemy; PLUS Top 10 Zombie Movies - FASHIONTRIBES POP CULTURE PODCAST - MP3File
After posting about bubonic plague (!) & recent viewing of 28 Days Later, Gawker recently noted that zombie flicks are hot-hot-hot right now. We couldn't agree more. As we LOVE a good zombie-themed anything at Fashiontribes, we decided to, er, resurrect (sorry, couldn't help it!) some of our fave zombie-themed posts:
- Handbags of Horror
- The best mints to offer any zombie visitors that drop by
- A Heartwarming tale of Yuletide zombies
- and below: a reposting of a piece from the end of 2005 (were were prescient, or what?) on why zombies are so popular right now, along with a list of the best zombie movies ever:
Zombies here, zombies there, zombies bloody everywhere.
Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Land of the Dead - forget mere shopping malls and the countryside, the zombies have now overrun movies & pop culture. "I think (zombie movies) have become part of pop culture," opines Doug Rogers, assistant professor of communications, as he recently told The Eastern Progress Online (EasternProgress.com).
While original zombie movies from the the 1930s - such as White Zombie and Revolt of the Zombies - used voodoo spells to bring the dead back, Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead (1968) introduced wayward radiation from a crashed satellite - an added bonus fear: outer space! - to reincarnate the dead, while 2003's 28 Days Later relied on a virus. While the causative agents may change, the structure of the zombie movie has basically remained the same.
Although zombie films are quite varied when it comes to motivations, the technicalities behind how the zombies are created, and how you actually terminate one, Everything2.com makes the point in American Society Reflected in Zombie Films that the proper zombie film always centers around a small band of paranoid survivors attempting to fight off or escape growing hordes of an enemy, which have grown to include former friends and family that were transformed by "unknown means" and are now unable to stop attacking. The zombies, who could be anyone, will either kill you or assimilate you, regardless of family or social ties, and they require a huge effort to kill.
Characteristics of a Successful Zombie Flick:
- Enemies Everywhere: Whether the fear of the survivor is being bitten, sprayed with blood, or even being invaded by a pod person, "the sociological fear is that foreign agents are poisoning all of us. Any one person could unwittingly become an agent of evil and his comrades wouldn't be aware of the danger until it was too late, until the newly created fifth columnist attacked his friend and loved one," explains Everything2. In the classic zombie movie, the enemy can be anyone.
- Destruction of Family & Social Rules: In Night of the Living Dead, family-members-turned-zombie kill and eat each other with abandon. While the way zombies attack & the proper method for dispatching them vary in the different movies, "what remains a constant threat is the attack on the social rules of the audience and the nuclear family. More than the danger of physical assault, the zombie film represents a terrifying external threat that can easily infect individuals against their wills and turn mother against daughter and wife against husband. The implied message is that when the enemy comes, they will come not from the sky or in tanks, but from your living room. The enemy will wear the shell of your loved ones and destroy every facet of your way of life."
- Surviving Rather than Joining the Zombies: When someone becomes a zombie, they give up what makes them individual. "With a prevalent theme of loss of individuality it's perhaps no wonder that many of the survivors choose suicide to potential conversion into the enemy." Being part of a new "family" group with survivors, the humans will go to heroic lengths to protect their fledgling group, even self sacrifice, anything to avoid being converted to a zombie. In 2004's Dawn of the Dead, a formerly hostile mall security guard who initially tried to prevent the survivors from finding refuge in the mall later gives up his own life to save his new family group by hugging a propane tank, and blowing himself up.
- No Happy Endings: The beauty of the horror movie is that in the end, the survivors triumph over insane odds. Not so in zombie flicks. "We are rarely granted that release in zombie films though, as the survivors almost always, well, don't survive. The zombie film almost always ends on a sour note of hopeless defeat." After fighting for survival, pushing themselves to the limit, the survivors are dispatched. The only survivor of Night of the Living Dead makes it to dawn, and is promptly shot by the Sheriff's deputy who mistook his tired slumping walk for the lurch of a zombie. The survivors of Dawn of the Dead escape in a boat to an island sanctuary...to be greeted by horde of zombies rushing at them. According to Everything2, "this is a relatively unique way for any film to end."
- Zombies Tend to Appear in Times of Trouble: Because zombie movie heroes tend neither to win, nor even to survive the zombie plague, the zombie flick is in essence "a fantasy of hopeless battle against a world-altering force." In these uncertain, post 9/11 times where the threat of terror seems to be everywhere, and yet, remains intangible - causing feelings of paranoia and hopelessness - the zombie movie is an effective means of dealing with our feelings and fears. "By taking part in the fantasy of hopeless loss, the anxiety of doubt and paranoia is purged in a safe environment instead of becoming a hostile emotional trap that prevents inclusion in the very social network the film destroys in its fictional setting...During periods of great national distress and threat of foreign subversion of the domestic population, the popularity of the zombie film increases as the audience uses this fictional outlet to indulge in the safe release of anxiety about a problem they can't hope to confront in their everyday life, but fear nontheless."
The Best Zombie Movies Ever:
Enough high falutin' zombie "discourse" (like a discussion, but it goes to 11). Time for mindless fun. According to AskMen.com, a, er, killer (sorry, couldn't help it!) zombie movie must actually have a zombie-driven plot - the mere presence of zombies does not a living, lurching zombie movie make. Also, it better be good; lofty themes and social commentary come in a distant second to nudity, violence and gore. For your zany zombie pleasure, we present AskMen.com's Top Ten zombie movies:
- # 10: DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). The third of George A. Romero's trilogy - starting with the Night of the Living Dead in 1968 & Dawn of the Dead in 1978 - a plague of zombies has overrun the earth. A small band of scientists & military types are hunkered down in an underground bunker in Florida, trying to figure out what the hell to do. "One of the first zombie flicks to focus on how testy humans can get during a zombie infestation, a story element that nearly every one of its successors would pick up on."
- #9: 28 DAYS LATER (2002). After animal rights types break into an English lab & free the animals being used in genetic research experiments, pretty much all of London, the UK, and the world show up undead. Only Jim, a bike courier, and his small band of survivors remain of the human race. The zombies don't lurch slowly, they zoom by in a blur, leading some to nickname the movie 28 Red Bulls Later.
- #8: BIO ZOMBIE (1998). Iraqi agents smuggle dangerous biochemicals into Hong Kong in soda bottles. Two bumbling video game bootleggers unleash it onto the public, and the usual zombie madness ensues, this time in a local shopping mall. Especially noteworthy scene: a sushi chef from the mall dispatches an undead football team.
- #7: CEMETERY MAN (1994). Aka Dellamorte Dellamore. A pre-Madonna-pal Rupert Everett stars as a man who has to keep watch over a cemetery where the recently buried keep rising from the grave in "a dreary existence of splitting open zombie skulls and and reburying them." While funny, gory, and entertaining, it's also considered to be an intelligent zombie flick.
- #6: RE-ANIMATOR (1985). Dr. Frankenstein-ish med student Herbert West has great success reviving dead human brains using his secret re-animator fluid - unless, of course, you count the violent side effects.
- #5: ZOMBIE (1979). Italian Lucio Fulci's attempt to cash in on the success of Romero's Dawn of the Dead the previous year - apparently, Fulci even tried to name it Zombi 2 to fool zombie fans everywhere into thinking it was the sequel to Dawn. A nosy journalist and his bimbo girlfriend on a Caribbean island, where voodoo is transforming the local population into the undead. Don't miss a zombie and shark duking it out underwater.
- #4: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004). Humans take shelter from zombies in a shopping mall, and then battle their way out. According to AskMen.com, you're not imagining things: "That's right: The remake made the list and Romero's 1978 original didn't...The remake is simply a better, more entertaining movie. Crow all you want about how Romero's film was brilliant for its time, but we ain't in Romero's time no more. Our is a time that appreciates gushing neck wounds, cars careening into gas stations, and zombie-consuming fireballs. And Dawn of the Dead delivers all that, and more."
- #3: ARMY OF DARKNESS (1993). Time travel, evil spells, and Sam Raimi. What, I ask you, is not to love here? Despite the cheap-o production values - "ridiculously obvious" set backgrounds & hit-or-miss special effects - it stars B-movie god Bruce Campell as "a loyal S-Mart employee who finds himself transported back in time to medieval England. Booking a return trip requires finding an ancient text of spells, the Necronomicon, the recovery of which raises an army of the dead."
- #2: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). A mysterious satellite crashes into the Earth, releasing radiation which re-animates the dead. A rag-tag band of survivors gather in an abandoned farmhouse to fight the zombies. A low budget black and white film, while not particularly scary by today's standards, it not only "set the bar for zombie movies, but...was one of the first horror flicks to take the contemporary world as its setting, familiarizing the fear (in this case, the Cold War) for the audience."
- #1: DEAD ALIVE (1992). Aka Braindead. Directed by Lord of the Ring's Peter Jackson, it boasts so much delightful gore - one scene even used five gallons of fake blood per second - the full version is banned in various countries. However, in this zombie flick, humor rules the day as the hero (Timothy Balme) plays New Zealander Lionel who is "suffering from the psychological issues that come from an overbearing mother. Personal salvation comes in the form of a new girlfriend, but Lionel's blossoming romance is disrupted by the living dead. Coming to terms with his inner demons suddenly involves tearing out zombie's innards." There's even an impromptu zombie party at Lionel's mum's place, where they drink, crank the stereo, and get it on. Comedy combined with gore make this "the perfect zombie movie."
Wait, stop the presses! We at Fashiontribes feel there is an unfortunate omission in this list. To address this wrong, we hereby confer on Shaun of the Dead the special Fashiontribes Lifetime Zombie Achievement Award for Excellence in Plot, Acting, Gore & Humor!
- SPECIAL ENTRY: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) A spoof of Dawn of the Dead, a hapless low level manager at an electronics store with loser friends, a fed up girlfriend who just dumped him due to his daily trip to the local pub, and no prospects decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead. A most excellent rom-zom-com. Who knew zombies could be successfully dispatched with some of the cheesier records in your vinyl collection?
- EXTRA BONUS: Shaun of the Dead Game where you kill the oncoming zombies with your favorite music collection. http://shaun-of-the-dead-game.freeonlinegames.com/
- Lesley Scott