01 Feb

I am iced in today. Since I’ve exhausted my current stock of productivity, and have failed at taking a nap, I’ve decided to subject you all to a personal pet peeve of mine: zombies.

The past couple years I’ve heard people bitch that they’re tired of zombies. That there are too many zombie stories, particularly in comics. Me, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many zombie stories… provided they don’t suck. The problem is, the majority of them suck. Yes, that film/novel/comic/whatever else is your favorite is probably on my list of zombie-related stories that aren’t actually good.

Way back when Romero gave birth to the bastard child that is the zombie genre, he wasn’t telling a story of plucky heroes up against impossible odds. Okay, I can’t say that’s entirely true, because to a degree it was about that; however, the reason it was about that is because the larger point of those films was really about how we, as a species, are utter shitbags. He was engaging in that fine tradition of satire and social commentary that the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres have long been heir to. Yet most of the post-Romero zombie tales I’ve seen/heard/read since then simply take what Romero did, strip out all the meaningful bits, and tell the exact same plot that Romero already told. That’s pretty much a recipe for shit soup right there, and flavoring it with the urine of “we’re the exact same movie as all the other movies but our zombies go fast,” does nothing to cover up the taste of feces.

This isn’t too say there aren’t good zombie stories out there, but truth be told the only ones I’m aware of are comedies. Even the two stories about zombies I published are probably more humorous than not. I’ve a third piece that is arguably mostly serious with only traces of dark humor, but it’s not likely to ever see the light of day until I can afford to pay an artist (that won’t be any time soon), and a fourth piece that’s little more than n0tes which is admittedly more humorous than serious. Right, I almost left out a zombie-related “PSA” that came about when I was doing a weekly webcomic… which was again more humorous than not. Hmm… maybe the only way to innovate on the genre is with humor, but I’d like to think that’s not true.

Think of it as a challenge. Rather than presuming that there are conventions that a zombie narrative must have, think about the social commentary that Romero was making. Hell, think about the story elements that Romero used, and which have since been picked up as the conventions of the zombie genre and the ways they can be played with. Just in the time it took me to right this post I’ve thought of new options, and I’m not even that bright.  Of course thinking up ideas is the easy part. It’s actually producing them and getting them out there that’s the important part of the challenge.


Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Comics, Pop Culture


Tags: , ,

3 responses to “Brrraaaaaaaiinnnsssss!

  1. bleeyargh

    February 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Racially speaking…

    I appreciate the fact that the black guy in Romero’s first four zombie films was always the guy to watch. He was the smart guy. He had a lick of sense, pragmatism, and a moral standing that would suggest that he’s the first guy you’d want on your lifeboat. In the fourth film, when the camera panned over to what amounted to the first black zombie, you knew that he was going to be something special.

    When you compare this reality to that of contemporary films, it is a nice feature.

    Of course, in the first film, said hero also died. This was simultaneously shocking (since the hero in horror is supposed to live) and de rigeur (since it was a white American shooting him). Nice bit of cinematic dissonance.

    • Josh Benton

      February 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      It was indeed a classic moment, and I do believe that Romero has explicitly said that in addition to illustrating how we tend to treat each other like shit in general he also wanted to deal with racism. I don’t remember his exact words, though, particularly since I largely gave up reading Romero interviews after some comments he made about one of the remakes of his films. I realized that the particular comments were trying to be nice while implying the movie was in fact crap, but I felt the way he phrased them would only encourage people to make additional crap zombie films.

  2. Bleeyargh

    February 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Re: the remake

    I can imagine, if he was refering to the remake of Dawn of the Dead, that he would want to imply that the film was crap. Sarah Polley aside (she will rarely appear in a big film, though she often makes the small ones interesting), the film’s only redeeming feature was the creepiness of the pregnancy (which ended in serious disappointment).

    Many people believe that Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is the finest zombie film ever made. It had one serious flaw (the truck scene in which an actor spontaneously put in his only rotten performance) and one humourous flaw (the appearance of the zombie nurse in every scene in which the undead were shown). It had a number of fine psychological elements. It was playing more than one thematic note. Some were humourous (the implication about “in neutral” behaviour that would be reproduced in Shawn of the Dead’s bus scene) and some were serious (the danger of trust by identification and its natural consequences).

    The remake was shiftless bunk. Apart from the aforementioned pregnancy, it had little original value (while failing to reproduce the value of the original film). When a strong highlight of a film is watching someone shoot Jay Leno in the head, this indicates that it is not one of the better remakes. On some level, one could argue that it is a textbook example of Buddhist or Taoist thought– expectations and desires frequently produce disappointment. Happiness and satisfaction are more likely to occur when erroneous pre-evaluation is avoided.


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