March 09, 2005


All you zombies, or, Drastic's Measures does insightful political film criticism!

I was watching "Shaun of the Dead" the other day; it being one of the latest entries in the narrow genre of zombie comedy, or zomedy. It was a little startling in that it was actually a pretty good zombie flick, as zombie flicks go, aside from the comedy slant. And included one surprisingly gruesome Stupid Zombie Death (onscreen deaths in zombie flicks fall into only two categories; unfortunate accidents of the wrong-place-wrong-time variety, and the simply Stupid variety, usually but not always resulting from the requisite survivor group being a greater threat to each other than the dead folks are) which had a bigger startle factor than comparably gruesome zombie kills, mainly as the film's tone didn't lead you to expect it.

Mind you, this is "good" as qualified as applying to the scale of zombie movies, not applying to the scale of all movies. The weights are different. Anyway, it's even more worth renting than I thought it was going to be whenever I put it on my netflix queue.

Its zombies are of the traditional Slow variety. Slow zombies are simply not much of a threat unless:

Thus some satisfying scenes of outrunning non-crowded zombie conditions by briskly walking. At one point, our titular Shaun is heroic and draws off a crowd of zombies. As the "plot holes" extra on the DVD explains, since these zombies were so Slow (contrary to some recent theories--see below), he had to stop running every 50 meters (since he's running around in London) or so and wait for them to catch up at multiple points. Slow zombies. Good traditional values, in zombie fiction.

The less populated zombie family consists of Fast Zombies. The fellow behind 28 Days Later usually gets credited for this, which isn't really accurate, as some films prior also featured fast zombies. (Some people will argue strenuously that the zombies in 28 Days Later were not really zombies, and are the equivalent to the kind of people that nasally complain about how flawed the Lord of the Rings movies were, but have the saving grace of being slightly less annoying due to being unable to lapse into a Quenyan-Sindarin pidgin when agitated about such things as Aragorn not periodically bursting into painful spasm-attempts at poetry, or at characters having (slightly) more personality than your average head cold. They share the similarity of having arguments that may appear to be technically correct, are also nonetheless completely wrong.) But 28 Days was the first one in what passes for modern attention spans, so it gets the win. No matter.

The Dawn of the Dead not-remake-but-alternative-riffing-off-of, also featured zombies of the Fast variety. That's even more well known, by way of not making audiences uncomfortable by taking place outside of America.

There will always be more slow-zombie films than fast-zombie films; the latter are a more limited opportunity to resonate with the times. It's no accident, I say, and someone should give me a grant for it, that zombie flicks really peaked in relative popularity during the Cold War. It's like this: slow zombies were the Reds. The threat may take some non-vigilant types by surprise, sure, at least at first. But the bulk of the threat, the real story of the threat, is one of slowly growing menace. The survivors--who are us, of course, Americans who bleed red (but not Red!) white and blue, who are not now and who have never been members of the Communist Party--try to take an isolationist approach. We hole up in a house, or a mall, or an abandoned military base, or wherever; safe as long as we stay separate. But the threat keeps growing. The shambling few become a crowd, the crowd a mob, the mob an army.

This is the Domino Theory in action. By the time the impractical (probably pinko) sorts have killed each other off through their sheer incompetence and traitorous ways, the last few remaining practical common-sense patriots are doomed.

It doesn't have to be the Commies, understand, that was just the happy coincidence of the times. If movies had been such a force back in the pulp stories about the Yellow Peril, there would have been a lot of slow-zombie flicks then, too.

So no big surprise that zombie movies in general went into a great big lull after the Red Scare collapsed due to its balance sheets being so far into the, well, red.

Now, 28 Days Later. This might have been made regardless, but it would not have attracted near as much attention if certain fuckheads hadn't decided that driving some jumbo jets right into some skyscrapers would be a great capstone on a lives well spent. Fast Zombies, you see where I'm going with this, are terrorists suddenly breaking into America's consciousness in a way that the fizzled previous attempt on the towers didn't, and in the way that Oklahoma City almost did, but then fizzled right back out again when it was found it was a local crazy instead of something to get properly xenophobic about.

It's a nice day, sunny and pleasant, and then WHAM! out of nowhere there's these freakin' monsters come to freakin' moider us. Again, no coincidence that both 28 Days and Dawn of the Dead had protagonists literally waking up to apocalypse right here--not slowly building, but all of a sudden WHAM in their faces ACT NOW! Quiet moments that come after apocalypse's arrival are shattered just as quickly. That's also part of why Dawn faired better than 28, aside from the domestic release leg-up; the zombies (yes they ARE!) in 28 Days Later died off on their own, it was a flare-up that went away after being quarantined and allowed to burn itself out, which is not a metaphor America's comfortable with. Dawn's zombies laid in wait everywhere; no island of any size was protection.

Notice also that Dawn featured precisely one character who could properly project military force--but was brought down because of being starved by unfortunate starting cirumstances (not much food in the gun shop, though it's a little hard to swallow a proper gun shop without umpty civillian faux-MREs stockpiled around as well, but never mind that), and then by the sheer stupid incomptence at the non-competent-force-projectors' late attempts to actually get food his way. (Dude. Arrow. Rope. Stronger rope to follow. Pulley. Food and supplies back and forth far above the zombies' heads. You don't count on Ralph the Wonder Dog. You morons! (Eliciting the You Morons! reaction is a fine and proper part of any zombie film worth its decedents.)) I don't think the political commentary there needs much expansion.

If zombie flicks continue to enjoy their resurgence in popularity, I predict mainly the Slow Zombie team at this point. Romero's planned new installment in the Dead series will certainly include such. Plus revolve around the plot of isolated soldiers--or "contractors"?--in the anti-zombie squad tank Dead Reckoning (goddamn do I love horror flick silliness!) operating in hostile, zombie- (insurgent) infested territory. It'll do well; it's the right time for it to.

Now I need an honorary doctorate from somewhere and a large grant.

posted by Gar @ 3:03 AM
Dude, you are such a geek. Dave and I were having this same conversation about how someone meets their demise via the slow zombie a couple weeks ago. I haven't seen any zombie flicks in years, but it is important stuff to think about.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?