I was thinking of writing a review of World War Z, but if you're interested you can hear all my (generally positive) thoughts in the forthcoming, very special episode of the Dark Discussions Podcast. Instead, let me address something that's been bugging me for some time now: what a zombie is or is not. Specifically, I'm getting tired of the Zombie Authority telling me exactly what a zombie can and can not do.
Ever since breaking out into the public consciousness a decade or so ago, there have been self-appointed Keepers of the Zombie Faith telling us what does and does not qualify as a zombie and, by association, a zombie story. I first took note of it with the releases of 28 Days Later and Resident Evil 4, and it continues today. The latest whipping boy is World War Z, which has elicited complaints about zombies running, swarming, climbing and having a hive mind (which they don't in the film, but that's another story. Go listen to the podcast).
1) There is no agreed upon definition of what a zombie is. Go check a dictionary. You'll get a reference to voodoo zombies, to the popular drink, and some vague definition of people that behave in a mindless way.
2) Zombies aren't zombies. All good zombie nerds already know this - What Romero created were ghouls, the living dead, or, going by NOTLD's original title, "flesh-eaters." He didn't use the term in the film, and didn't use it until years later. The zombie label was slapped on by fans (or perhaps critics) of the film and it stuck. Sadly the Zombie Authority wasn't around back then to declare that "zombies don't eat people" or "zombies don't act independently" or "zombies aren't brought back to life by space radiation."
3) Mythologies Evolve. Everyone knows that a werewolf is created when a poor soul is bitten by one. Except that was never part of the lore until The Wolf Man popularized it. For that matter, most werewolves were wolves, not men with dog masks. The same goes for vampires turning into bats, something that got incorporated into the mythos after vampire bats were discovered in the new world. Before Karloff donned the makeup, Frankenstein's monster not only wasn't mute, he had a vocabulary that would shame most Princeton grads. The point being, none of these things are real. They are all made up, and the rules governing them are too.
4) Even Romero got zombies "wrong". At least according to the Zombie Authorities. Night of the Living Dead gave us fast (if not running) zombies and zombies that used tools. Tool use and learned behavior were further worked into the series with each new installment. Return of the Living Dead, by Romero's NOTLD partner, gave us zombies that not only ran, they talked, they planned, they strategized. Oh and they were the first zombies to ask for "braaaiinns", some 17 years after the modern zombie first appeared. Try making Return today and Russo would get some hefty citations from the ZA.
The modern zombie is a fairly new monster - newer than aliens, newer than kaiju, newer even than killer robots. The zombie genre is busting open wide and, despite the insistence of critics, shows no signs of slowing down. It is a shame that at a time when horror films struggle to find an audience, so many fans are trying to stifle a flourishing genre.
List of Things Zombies Do
Eat only people
Eat only brains
Display emergent behaviors
Die from head tauma only
Die from any old trauma
Die from total destruction of body
Die by filling mouth with salt and sewing it closed
Get made by space radiation
Get made by viruses
Get made by government chemicals
Get made by ancient curses
Shop (during a Christmas themed zombie flash mob)
Saturday, June 8, 2013
In honor of Dark Discussions 100th episode (released last week), I thought I'd come up with a list of 100 reasons why I am a fan of horror movies.This list was pretty much stream of consciousness - there is no significance to the order. Also it is far from exhaustive. I could have added plenty more quotes, scenes, film titles, and filmmakers, plus I didn't even touch on the awesome scores.
- My parents had a poor understanding of “age appropriate.”
- Nothing better than hiding under the covers…
- …especially if its with someone special.
- Horror movies are less scary than the real world.
- The Universal Monsters
- “Here’s Johnny!”
- We are one big, freaky community.
- Scared shitless is a universal language.
- All the weird creepy shit from Japan.
- Korea, too.
- “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
- The Indianapolis speech.
- The Blob
- Slow zombies.
- Fast zombies.
- Stupid zombies.
- Clever zombies.
- Dead zombies.
- Infected zombies.
- Voodoo zombies.
- Rob Zombie.
- Chiller Theater.
- Halloween (the movie)
- Halloween (the holiday)
- Killer Santas.
- Severed head cunniligus.
- “They’re here!”
- 3D phallic fish food.
- Shameless hucksterism.
- They bother all the right people.
- We crown prom queen’s with pig’s blood.
- Kathy Bates at the foot of the bed. With a hammer.
- Nicholson, Coppola, Fincher, Clooney, Depp, Cameron, Anniston, Jackson, Stone, Bacon, Hanks, Scorsese all got their start in horror.
- No budget? No problem.
- Horror has the best anthologies.
- "Just tell him to call you Billie.”
- Who wants The Simpsons without the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes?
- Screw Marvel. Universal gave us the first shared cinematic universe.
- There’s always room for Poe.
- “Hail to the king, baby.”
- And to S. King as well.
- Hammer films.
- Amicus too.
- Vincent Price
- Christopher Lee
- Peter Cushing
- Lon Cheney Sr, the Man of a Thousand Faces
- Boris Karloff
- Bela Lugosi
- Robert Englund
- Dick Smith
- John Carpenter
- The Raimi family
- David Cronenberg
- Wes Craven
- George A. Romero
- Ray Harryhausen
- Tom Savini
- Rick Baker
- Stan Winston
- Robert Chambers
- Jack Pierce
- Rob Bottin
- Greg Niccotero
- The scream queens.
- All the horror hosts
- Because I live in Corman’s world.
- "Too much blood” is not a criticism.
- Crappy sequels do not tarnish a legacy, they ARE the legacy.
- The only genre to give you giant killer bunny rabbits. With a straight face.
- Bad actors? No problem.
- We have all the inbred cannibal hillbillies.
- No more monsters on Earth? Fuck it. We’ll go to space and find more!
- It’s the best genre for traumatizing small children.
- We take our face peels literally.
- No other genre would make stars out of Bruce Campbell, Sid Haig, or Michael Berryman.
- Mel gave us Young Frankenstein…
- …and Max gave us World War Z.
- Creative use of garden tools.
- If there’s a good remake, it’s probably horror.
- Plot holes? No problem.
- Tree rape… three times.
- “Do you like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor.”
- Creepy kids.
- It’s always a wonderful day for an exorcism.
- The bad guys have a chance to win.
- “Help me! Help meeee!”
- Crows on the monkey bars.
- “We have such sights to show you.”
- Because no one leaves Australia alive.
- We’re on a first name basis with its biggest stars - Jason, Mike, Freddy, Chucky…
- We prefer a rubber suit to state of the art CGI.
- No one ever walked out of a theater because a movie was too funny.
- Dinner with John Hurt.
- “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
- The spider walk
- All the best scientists are mad.
- “Hey! Check this out! I found the ass end!”