The PC Thug: You Can’t Keep a Good Zombie Down

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Okay, so I know not everyone enjoyed “Land of the Dead.”

Many people I spoke to during the time of its release seemed to hate it, though I persisted in my thoughts that it would eventually gain appreciation, much like “Day of the Dead” eventually did. I fondly remember many people telling me that “Day of the Dead” was a terrible film back in the early nineties, and now it’s considered a classic. Even director George Romero considers it his favorite.

I don’t know how different the original script would have made the film, but in an alternate reality we got our first big budget zombie film in the eighties from George Romero. And it didn’t star Brad Pitt fighting off CGI blobs running at lightning speed. I however enjoyed “Land” even in the light of its plot holes and paper thin story. I enjoy it, I really do. I spent money to see it in theaters, and had fun. But if you want to see a better version, check out the Director’s Cut. It’s more complete and much gorier.

Zombies have changed a lot since I was a kid. The ones I grew up with were pale, shambling, and moaning, and ate human flesh. They were numerous, merciless, and the plague took the dead without bias or pity. And of course there were excellent variations like “Return of the Living Dead” or “Nightmare City.”

Many people have claimed their exhaustion of the zombie genre, even today when there’s seemingly no end of zombie movies. You can perhaps attribute that boom to the atrocious 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” but I like to think it all took off thanks to Robert Kirkman whose dream of an indie comic about the zombie apocalypse introduced zombies in to the mainstream finally.

For decades zombies were more an underground or cult monster, unlike vampires or werewolves. The zombie boom has been nigh unstoppable and I’m okay with it. Surely, we have “Warm Bodies” and “World War Z,” but we’ve also gotten “The Dead,” and “Dead Girl,” and “The Battery.” And of course, the hit television show “The Walking Dead.”

Despite its occasional stumbling I just can’t stop coming back to “The Walking Dead” ad falling for it over and over again. From “Days Gone Bye” right down to the current episode of season four, I just can’t stop watching. The performances are rich, the writing is fantastic, and the special effects are amazing. Forced in to a corner, I’d choose the comic, but that’s only because comic book Andrea would kick the crap out of television Andrea without breaking a sweat.

I’m still not sure why they took super sniper warrior woman Andrea and turned her in to an adrenaline junkie whose weapon of choice was a small knife. You figure Andrea would be against close quarters combat with zombies after her experience in the woods in the end of season two, but that gripe is for another day.

There’s just something irresistible about zombies in the modern age, now with civilization obsessed with death, disease, and the apocalypse. Everyone from Rome, and Germany right down to Cuba have given audiences their versions of the zombie apocalypse, and the results reflect their own current social climate, as most zombie movies are want to do. “Juan of the Dead” was really a film about the context of living in Cuba. I wonder if anyone else understood the undertones in “Dawn of the Dead” about American consumerism and our mall obsessed culture.

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Much like Westerns, and mob movies, the zombie genre may die on film, but there’s always literature to keep the dead shambling and rotting. Now, not all the literature for the genre are gold. “Remains” was pretty cheesy and bland. But then there’s “The Walking Dead” once again. Admittedly I’ve sought out a lot of zombie fiction in the past, and the rewards were quite slim.

Zombie comic books are especially boring, as they’re all so void of plot or interesting characters. The only thing I’ve really liked beyond “The Walking Dead” was “Marvel Zombies,” which took every single thing about the Marvel Universe and turned it in to a blood soaked zombie apocalypse. Reed Richards turned his family in to zombies on purpose, Galactus was eaten whole by zombie superheroes, and zombie Peter Parker eats aunt May.

With the upcoming second half of “The Walking Dead” TV series coming up, I can’t help but want to re-visit some of my favorite zombie films and pop culture offerings all over again. The original comic is still going very strong, and I’m very compelled to pop in “Return of the Living Dead” once more, if only to see Linnea Quigley as the immortal Trash. Seriously the woman has permanently set up residence in my wet dreams.

Surely, many make the assertion that we wouldn’t be here without George Romero, but you have to also give it up to Richard Matheson for giving Romero the mold for “Night” through “I Am Legend.” The allusions and references to the “Dead” films are in “The Walking Dead,” as we’ve seen time and time again. “The Walking Dead” is an epic piece of zombie lore with so much characters to hate and root for, and presents many interesting concepts about the end of the world and how humanity rots with the dead.

Definitely, the dead are disgusting rotting flesh eating monsters, but humanity are ten times worse than they’ll ever be. They’re conscious of what they’re doing, and we’ve yet to see a walker match up in hideousness to what pain the Governor has inflicted on the group this season. If you’ve ever read the Governor in the comics, you’ll know that his stain on the group continues, even in the face of new nomadic monster Negan and his bat Lucille.

Trends in pop culture are cyclical and the zombie craze will inevitably run its course, but with a world terrified of what a potential doomsday event holds, it won’t be any time soon. Once upon a time people feared the living dead in the form of vampires, beasts built around religious hysteria and the terrors of giving in to temptations and lust. Now the new monster has taken the form of a diseased rotting carcass, eating away at humanity. It’s probably why I also love the entire doomsday sub-genre of film. The prospect of the end of the world is absolutely horrifying, but thought provoking. How would humanity devolve?

For a brief period a few years ago, the world seemed very convinced that we were going to eventually have a zombie apocalypse. Fears are meant to be irrational, but while the fear of a zombie uprising is indeed absurd, they’re steeped in our fear of the end of the world, and disease wiping out the world. Zombies have and will always be symbols, no matter what. They can be used to represent almost any facet of humanity, and that’s why they’re still so damn appealing to pop culture worldwide. The walkers on “The Walking Dead” have been used to represent everything from lost innocence to sins of the past, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.