I love the unpredictable ways they seem to sneak up on a character in the film who is poking around in a deserted house, the hordes of them cornering the protagonists so that there seems to be no escape and the on-going mystery: who among those alive is going to be popped off next and turned into one of them? Those flesh-decaying, blood-splattered, glassy-eyed, “uhhhh….uhhhh…..uhhhhh”-mumbling, undead creatures. Yes, I love on-screen zombies.
Because I possess quite a wild imagination (which can be a huge problem, especially when alone, even in my own home!), as a general rule, I strictly avoid horror films … except for zombie movies. If done right, it is a genre that I enjoy thoroughly. In movies based on the supernatural, ghosts haunt specific people in specific places and at specific times. In zombie movies, however, the undead will terrorize anyone, anywhere, anytime. The possibilities are endless and truly entertaining.
Also, it all feels very believable. Ordinary people getting infected by a strange, new virus (remember H1N1?) that kills them and then awakens a part of their brain so that they attack and try to devour their fellow humans, spreading the disease by a single bite or scratch. Unlike ghosts or superhero villains, they possess zero superpowers and the way to defeat them is not at all complicated – a blow to the brain does the job. Their true power lies not in special talismans or weapons but simply in large numbers of them and the absence of a conscience (or consciousness). Consider also, the emotional angle involved – anyone you know or love could turn into a zombie. They look like their formal selves but inside, they are dying (pun intended!) to take a bite out of you and you are compelled to blow their brains out without hesitation.
I wonder how the creators came up with this concept. I don’t think they had to look far for inspiration. But more on that later. First here is a list of my favorites on film in no particular order:
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004 British film) – a zombie comedy thriller about two British blokes, who are best friends, hilariously becoming aware of, coming to terms with and facing the zombie apocalypse.
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968 Hollywood film) – an entertaining black-and-white classic that gave birth to the rest of its type. Unconventional at a time when it was controversial to cast a black man in the lead role with the remaining actors composed of whites.
“28 days Later” (2002 British film) – a very well-executed and engaging thriller leaving viwers at the edge of their seat. Technically not a zombie movie because the infected have a form of rabies where they go berserk with rage and attack others but a perfect fit for this genre.
“Zombieland” (2009 Amerian film) – a comedy film that never bores even though it is an ordinary zombie story with a quirky mix of main characters and a running gag throughout the movie of a funny list of do’s and dont’s when caught in a zombie apocalypse.
“The Walking Dead” (2010 – present, American TV series) – Leaves viewers addicted, eagerly awaiting shocking revelations in every episode and very much involved in the fate and moral conundrums of the protagonist, his family and others in his group.
“Go Goa Gone” (2013 Bollywood film) – a novelty in Bollywood and a surprisingly enjoyable comedy with colorful characters sharing equal screen time in spite of the inclusion of a star actor.
Now coming back to the previous point about how the concept might have been born. We already have zombies in the real world, don’t we? Only, they have a different name – ‘herd-mentality’. Take, for instance, rampaging mobs during riots running amok burning, killing, raping and plundering. With illogical fury settling over their minds like a thick cloud, they attack mercilessly in a horde. Or take gangs of cruel school kids bullying an unfortunate child to the point of suicide. Each one in the group is influenced by the other, united in one hateful effort of playing with and gorging out the victim’s heart. Another example that is more subtle yet equally potent is of image-obsessed women or the media spreading the problem of eating-disorders until the affected women resemble the living dead themselves. Consider also religious fanatics armed with deep-rooted beliefs and actions detrimental to the good of society. Like the living dead, they will ignore perpetrators that are part of their cult but lunge at healthy, impressionable minds that they sense around them.
Sometimes, the viruses of prejudices and cruelty are enough to leave humans no longer thinking logically or humanely but metaphorically brain-dead. These people may walk and talk normally but their minds are definitely infected and the epidemic they spread is hard to control. At least in the case of actual zombies, one can be sure of getting rid of them simply with a hard blow to the head!