Acrophobia, Nictophobia, Mysophobia, and Kinemortophobia. These are my primary phobias that plague me day in and day out. But… mainly that last one has been a nagging more insane but very troublesome phobia that has grabbed on to me since I was old enough to walk and hasn’t let go. Kinemortophobia (or Ambulothanatophobia) can be described as fear of the undead, or more importantly fear of the walking dead. Sure to some of you, it may sound idiotic and something to laugh at, but when you’re a little kid trying to sleep unable to go five minutes without looking behind you or sleeping near the edge of your bed, it’s not funny. And it’s quite traumatic. No, this is not meant to be a satirical article, this is quite real to me. I simply can not explain it. I’ve tried to figure out why since I was a child, but I simply can not explain it. I have a fear of zombies. Not vampires, or mummies, or anything else undead, but specifically zombies. The walking dead, the brain munching, gut gnawing, glazed over, staggering, shambling, moaning, groaning, mobile, green skinned, mouths agape, oozing, bleeding, rotting monsters that have become so absolutely prevalent in modern death obsessed pop culture.
They frighten me to the point where I’ll be reduced to tears if exposed to a certain image of a zombie that just hits me where it hurts. There’s one zombie in particular that I just can not look at. No matter how much I tell myself “It’s just make-up, that’s just acting, it’s only a movie,” my heart jumps from my chest every time. In one word: Flyboy. Ever since I was a kid this is a zombie who plagued my nightmares every single god forsaken night and even as a grown man who has confronted heart disease, fires, muggings, and near heart attacks, Flyboy is that sole image in horror films that has left me on the verge of panic attacks and incapable of staring at him for long periods of time.
I love “Dawn of the Dead,” don’t get me wrong. But I’ve only seen it twice. I could only sit through it twice. I’ll sit through “Day of the Dead” as many times as possible, I’ll watch “Night of the Living Dead” a dozen times, I’ll see the remake as much as possible, but… “Dawn of the Dead” I’ve only seen twice. I have the Ultimate Edition DVD set on my shelf and I’ve never cracked it open. Seriously. The first time I ever saw “Dawn of the Dead” was in 2004 before going to see the remake in theaters, and I couldn’t sleep for two days, spent a better portion of the movie with my eyes covered, and came close three times to stopping mid-way.
The second time I saw it alone in my room. The Independent Film Channel in America celebrated the release of George Romero’s “Land of the Dead” by playing “Dawn of the Dead” one night. So, I took my bat and set it down beside me, locked my door, turned the lights on, made sure to distract myself as much as humanly possible all the while watching “Dawn of the Dead” for the second time. And it was just as horrifying to sit through the second time. I guess my best approximation of my Kinemortophobia and when it started could be when I was a mere toddler. My primary image that is eternally burned in to my subconscious and continued to linger in my dreams is the image of the climax in “Day of the Dead” where the zombies are lowered down along the platform in to the military bunker preparing to feast on the soldiers residing in the underground base they’ve reached for all those years after the apocalypse.
It’s such a horrifying yet mesmerizing image thanks to old daddy Romero, and one that I continue to have nightmares about in spite of adoring “Day of the Dead.” But really, I think I have my dad to thank for this paralyzing fear of the undead. My dad of course is not a horror fan in spite of the fact that I grew up around horror geeks all of my life. My mom, my uncles, my cousins, they’re all horror geeks and I became one as well, but my dad has an aversion to horror films. Most specifically: Zombie films.
My uncle constantly recalls a time where he begged my dad to go with him to see “Night of the Living Dead,” to where my dad refused insisting it looked stupid and corny. Finally managing to persuade him in to seeing it, he watched in surprise as my dad nearly jumped out of his seat in a crowded theater during a crucial moment in Romero’s film. That’s when he discovered my dad had a fear of zombies, and surely enough my dad passed it on to me. Speaking with a psychology student, I was able to learn that my fear of zombies can stem from certain aspects of my life, particularly the fear of death.
Zombies are walking death, the signifiers of mortality and endless mobile death, and that may possibly touch something in me that has struck a nerve. Mostly though zombies are a symbol of loss of identity and loss of control, not to mention the fear of being eaten alive. Or as I was told could be a symptom of fear of the Wendigo psychosis which is the intense craving for human flesh. As with most phobias, the primary one always stems from one or two insignificant or sub-conscious ones we’ve never quite confronted until faced with this primary emotion. The fear of death is a likely strong element in my fear of zombies, one that reaches in to a core phobia of dying or most importantly dying suddenly, which is a common occurrence with folks constantly faced with health problems.
My uncle explains that zombies don’t scare him because there are much worse things to be afraid of out there, but that’s the thing about phobias. They don’t make sense. They’re irrational, and inexplicable, and illogical and just plain idiotic at times, but to the person bearing said phobia, it’s not at all beyond the realm of understanding. Zombies have been with me most of my life. They’re in my nightmares, in my fantasies, and in my older age nearing my thirties, I’ve made efforts to embrace this fear and use it to my advantage both creatively and psychologically. I’ve broken down this fear and in many respects used it as a tool to empower me and use it as fodder for my writing. Many of my nightmares inspired me to venture in to zombie fiction and I’ve written a series of “Dawn of the Dead” fan fiction that has been published by me on Fanfiction.net that has garnered much acclaim from readers. Why?
Because these images you read on my fan fiction are images that have come directly from my nightmares. To this day I still have epic zombie nightmares that have such a vivid realm and dimensions with settings, and tones, and characters, and situations, and climaxes that I can feel the environment around me. I can smell the rotting flesh, see the glimmer of blood and guts, feel the darkness engulf me when I turn corners, and in one dream where I picked up a corpse, I could feel the back of the corpses head and neck joints pressing against my palms. I don’t exaggerate, this has actually touched my mind and stuck with me throughout my life. Back in 1994, I sat down to watch “Return of the Living Dead” with my brother and after about twenty minutes when the zombies began rising from their graves,
I shut off the VHS and never looked back. I was able to see the film in its entirety without flinching many many years later. 2008, to be exact! For years I was that horror geek who never saw “Return of the Living Dead” in spite of its rabid following in the horror community and I was often mocked by my fellow fan boys for never having seen it. And yes, to answer your question I think “Return of the Living Dead” is quite great, and worth every bit of hype it receives. I had a blast watching it without pissing my pants. But my theory was that it was better to be mocked by my consortium of horror geeks than to spend two nights unable to close my eyes for fear of having my brain munched by one of those fucking ghouls. Ridiculous, melodramatic much? Yes, but that’s what a phobia is.
It’s ridiculous and melodramatic. I’ve met people who have nervous breakdowns at the sight of small roaches, my sister can not listen to anyone vomit and has an instant impulse to cry and run as far as away as possible. That’s what a phobia is. It makes no sense in spite of being able to be traced back to a point of origin most times. It’s a psychological tick, and as such my kinemortophobias has been a major influence on my life both in the negative and positive aspect. It’s kept me from fully embracing the horror genre due to my fear of the walking dead, but it has also allowed me to take a more thorough look at my mental prowess and my willingness to overcome most obstacles in my life. I wish I could grasp and embrace all of my irrationalities to my benefit, but I can’t. I’m only one man. But I can proudly proclaim that in spite of still being absolutely petrified of the walking dead, I have taken that fear and used it to spark my creativity and inspire the imagination like Bruce Wayne did with his fear of bats.
I’m not about to dress as Zombie Man and fight crime, but I have taken the fear and made it my bitch. Like many people insist, you have to desensitize yourself on your fear and it gets easier to cope with it. And I’ve done that over the years. I certainly will not be watching Romero’s horror masterpiece about the dead parading the halls of the shopping mall anytime soon (and you can’t make me), but I’ve learned that whenever I have one of my epic zombie nightmares that usually involve me running and hiding from the stalking dead in elevators, and hospitals, and street corners, I take it as a sign from my brain that perhaps I should be writing this down and using it as material for my next story where I pay homage to George A. Romero, the man who brought the walking dead to the homes of millions of people and traumatized a generation of horror buffs like me who looked for thrills and got a glimpse of their own mortal fears that still just doesn’t make a lick of sense in the wider scope of things.
Over the years I’ve exercised the demons in my head, and have shared them with many people like me in hopes of conveying this stifling and petrifying little devil on my shoulder who still inspires me to lay in my bed with my body facing the door so I won’t be surprised by anything sneaking in. It’s disturbing and nagging and… it’s the price you pay for being a horror lovers sometimes.
Hello, my name is Felix V and I am a kinemortophobe. Do you think there are therapy groups out there for someone like me? It’s possible. I’m willing to bet it’s a group of people like me who have weapons in hand in case Flyboy or the flannel zombie come out of the shadows prepared to chow down on their innards. Perish the thought. I’m going to watch “Ed, Edd, and Eddy” now. Sweet dreams.
P.S. Don’t send me pictures of zombies as a gag in response to this article, I won’t find it the least bit humorous.