I’ve read that zombies are boring, and are played out. I think though, are zombies truly film villains like Freddy or Jason, or any number of slashers or Giallo sex maniacs? Or are they there simply to make the plot go along?
In the original zombie films, and I’m not talking about the real originals like “I Walked With A Zombie” but the Romero films, the zombies are there just to push the main plot along, as it’s mostly about the rivalry between a heroic black man, and the racist cowardly white man who wants to be in charge. The zombies are out there. They’re trying to get to the people, solely to eat them, but other than that, they’re background characters. They serve only as the looming threat. Each one of Romero’s films deals with some type of social commentary with the zombie plague merely there to set the characters along on their way.
Dawn Of The Dead had the zombies make the main characters go take refuge in a shopping mall, which also leads to the zombies looking like shoppers just ambling around, which if you go to any mall or store, you see that is the way people really are.
One of the characters even remarks that the shopping mall was an important place in their lives, further showing that while the zombies pose a threat, they are still serving to advance the plot, and are even the social commentary themselves!
Day Of The Dead is all about the military and how they handle things in the outbreak, while one zombie serves as the real focus of the plot, in that the humans want to find a way to tame them.
Of course, those are simply the Romero films. The original 3 films anyway. Land Of The Dead was pretty good, and the social commentary, of wealth, and how it can corrupt is there, along with the zombies slowly evolving, but the heavy social commentary is in the original 3.
Then we have the good old Italians. Fuck social commentary. We want to see zombies going after people and eating them with gruesome Gianetto De Rossi effects to show us everything. They wanted these movies to be fun and scary, and they succeeded. Sometimes we don’t need a “deep” movie. Just give us the action!
There’s the most famous one, Fulci’s Zombie, which actually has a good plot in that people are coming back from the dead for seemingly no reason, and Richard Johnson (The Haunting. The original, and much better one.) is a doctor trying to figure out a medical explanation for why they’re coming back. There’s no social commentary. It’s just about a woman and a reporter who shack up with 2 people who have a boat, and travel to an island because that’s where her father was last seen. Then it’s gore effects, head shots, and molotov coctails.
That’s the cream of the crop. Then we start seeing stuff that’s made by Bruno Mattei. This guy was basically the Italian Ed Wood. He did Night Of The Zombies, aka Hell Of The Living Dead. This movie not only reuses a large portion of the Goblin score from Dawn Of The Dead, but also uses stock footage. A lot of it. It sounds bad, and for the most part, it is, but there’s a nice little surprise at the end that deals in population control.
Now those were only a sample of the Italian Zombie genre. There’s stuff like Dellamorte Dellamore that has zombies, but once again, like in American films, zombies are merely there to move the plot forward, and Rupert Everett wonders why he keeps seeing the same woman over and over, why the dead in his cemetery keep rising, and if he’s going mad. Plus the ending is a mindfuck of epic proportions. Even some of Fulci’s other films after Zombie used zombies as a plot device to shuffle the movie along.
There’s also many other zombie movies from many other countries, but I chose to focus this piece on the more popular and known ones. Don’t think I’d forget about Shaun Of The Dead, which much like the Romero film it’s title parodies, uses the zombies as a plot motivator to get it’s titular lead to grow up and take charge.
To wrap all this up, I believe that zombies are both. Whether it’s to move the plot of the movie along, or to be the active antagonist in the story hunting down the protagonist(s), zombies will still be in films and video games, and like all the other antagonists in the horror genre, they will still be around for a very long time.
Rene’s song of the day: “The Rhythm Of The Heat” by Peter Gabriel.
Thanks for reading my blog and see you next time!