Wednesday, April 6

Universal Zombies Themes, Part 2

You wouldn't know it from outside my blog, but for some reason, this post has the most page hits of anything I've written so far. Apparently some college professor somewhere has a class with an emphasis on the walking dead, so lots of sweaty students are typing "zombie themes" into Google and ending up here. Don't worry about it, I've been there. Your secret is safe with me.

I'm also fully aware (as it has been thus since Shakespeare's day) that the players should conform to the wishes of their audience, so here is another thought on zombies as a trope. Steal it...ahem, quote me and provide a proper MLA style citation. Or whatever. Just be aware that the dusty dude with glasses and a red pen can use the internet, too.

So here goes:

For the majority of movie history, zombies have been predominately one type: Sad. They wail, they shuffle around, they don't particularly look like a fun lot. I'd even go so far as to say they were depressed. I mean, maybe that's why they eat brains, just to make themselves feel a tad better before they burst apart at the seams. They aren't even really that scary, since they are so freaking slow. I mean, one dude with a baseball bat can take out at least twenty without any effort. Come on Hollywood, hear that? It's called suspension of disbelief shattering.

Then around 2002 we had a new type of zombie, the angry type. You can thank 28 Days Later for that one. Finally, a film with zombies in it that is actually scary. Rage zombies are pissed off, and oh yeah, they can run really fast. They are also pumped with adrenaline, so that means they are like undead PCP junkies with super strength. Think Incredible Hulk.

Still, rage zombies, while fun to watch, aren't necessarily built for one of the major tools in filmmaking: Suspense. It's tough to build up to a scare in an audience when the zombies are so stinking fast, and your entire movie changes to a shlocky surprise flick at every turn if the zombies aren't laying in wait for an ambush somewhere.

Okay, so we have sad and angry zombies, what are we missing? What major emotional state has been yet to be explored fully by zombie filmmakers as a whole? I'll tell you what:


That's right. There should be happy zombies. Think Wall-E. Think of zombies that actually wanted to become zombies in the first place. Imagine the themes possible in an exploration of that. You'd have protagonists that would have to wrestle with the fundamental questions of an eternal reward, right here on Earth, that would be better than living as a "normal" human. Let me list a few places where a movie like this could be applicable to our modern world:

  • video games (particularly MMOs)
  • religion (specifically heaven)
  • pharmaceuticals (a pill that makes you a happy zombie)
  • humans as secondary lifeforms (alien or machine or whatever zookeepers, think Matrix)
  • advertising
  • government
  • movies (talk about self-referential)
  • relationships (eHarmony type sites)

That's just a drop in the bucket of what I'm talking about. Sure, there have been movies that tangentially explore these themes, but minus the zombies. Get some gory zombies running around with giant smiles on their faces, have Woody Harrelson say, "Man, I'd sure like to be happy again and see my little pup," and get some drama going with this stuff. Add in some clowns for giggles, just to be sure.

So get to it Hollywood. Make some freaking Happiness Zombies.

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