What’s the deal with Zombies?

Every monster has their time in the limelight. Vampires and Werewolves, both staples of horror, had their time when the Underworld and Twilight franchises were in full flow. Now it seems that Zombies are the current ‘in-thing’ amongst both Hollywood and Gaming circles. Not only have we got “The Walking Dead” captivating audiences worldwide but we also have “World War Z”, a mega-budget blockbuster starring Brad Pitt waging war against the masses of the undead.

The Walking Dead

On a similar note Gaming has brought us some good and not-so-good Zombie related titles in recent times. On the good side we have the light hearted “Plants vs. Zombies” and on the bad side we have “The War Z” which could not be more of a cash-grab knock-off of “The Walking Dead” if it tried. Speaking of which “The Walking Dead” has come out with its’ own survival adventure title recently which has received widespread critical acclaim. This is not even taking into account some frankly promising looking titles on the way in the near future, titles such as “The Last of Us”.

The nature of the beast in media is that if an audience is over exposed to one specific trope they will inevitably become bored of it. Make no mistake, Zombies will recede back into obscurity when the next ‘in-thing’ comes along whether it be demons… dragons… ghosts… or god forbid Vampires again (in their current incarnation that is!). Is there more to Zombies than just this however? What is it about them that makes audiences like them and at the same time get inevitably sick of the sight of them? From an aesthetic point-of-view Zombies are not much to look at, especially once compared to their horror brethren. No, it’s what lies below the surface that I think gives Zombies their impact. When you really think about it Zombies are ultimately the perversion of arguably man’s greatest desire: Immortality. Its’ hardly a surprise in this respect that in the numerous times that Zombies have been portrayed across media they have come about as the result of the science of man striving too far and crashing like Icarus. “I Am Legend” showed this very well; where a vaccine that was supposed to cure cancer ends up bringing about the Zombie Apocalypse. Have Zombies become the embodiment of mans’ twisted desires, a hypothetical warning of sorts?

AngelusThis brings me to what doesn’t work about Zombies and why they never seem to hang around for long once they snatch the limelight. As I mentioned earlier, there’s not a whole lot to Zombies once they’re seen for what they are. Resident Evil is the best example of this in practice. When the first Resident Evil game arrived players were completely clueless as to why the undead were walking the earth and subsequently the situation was terrifying because it was a hostile environment bolstered by the looming threat of the unknown. People will always scare themselves better than external elements will and this is arguably the quintessential ingredient of horror titles. However, once the horror of Zombies has been seen for what it is and players understand them what else is there to do other than grab the biggest boomstick nearby and go to town on the undead?

Vampires in particular are a different story by the nature of their mythology. Unlike Zombies, Vampires actually retain memories of their lengthy lives. There’s some serious potential in that element alone and its’ astounding that developers have not delved into it much if at all. I’d say that a title based around a story similar to Joss Whedon’s “Angel” series would make for a fascinating and ground breaking take on the “Assassin’s Creed” formula. Imagine it this way: A time-spanning epic about a Vampire with a soul who has lived for centuries and whom has fought against injustice for just as long. Whereas in “Assassin’s Creed” the player experiences different time periods with different characters what would it be like if we followed the same character experiencing history unfolding before him? There is some serious potential there, I really mean it! It could be a captivating story where a tortured soul is seeking redemption and absolution from a world that is itself indecent and no better than himself.

The Last of UsWhilst I am interested to see how “The Last of Us” pans out I think that the current fascination with Zombies will inevitably come to an end. “The Walking Dead” and (hopefully) “The Last of Us” offer something on top of aesthetic Zombie-horror because they show what might happen to society in the wake of a Zombie Apocalypse but, as engaging as that is, it still gets stale after a while.

3 comments

  1. I hate twilight and zombies and vampires and everything pop culture at this point. The “paranormal romance” section of my bookstore now spans 3 *double sided* aisles and was moved to the opposite side of the building where the current events and history sections used to be. Now, all the books about actual things (finances, history, politics, and current events) have been condensed to 1/4 the space and are in the ‘hobby’ section shoved near books about coin collecting. And people literally wonder why Americans are stupid. It probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I also can’t go to the movies on weekends when some paranormal crap is opening or I’ll be swarmed by squealing teenagers. All I want to do is watch my movie in blissful quiet.

    I’ll stick with my Doctor Who for anything paranormalesque and keep praying to any deity that will listen at this point to please save me from a resurgence of Twilight or anything remotely resembling it. Ranting aside, I am clearly over the whole genre and I honestly wish everyone would just drop it and move on to something else. I might be a little bit ahead of the curve on this one. The Walking Dead is huge and I’ve been told to watch it a million times, but… zombies.

  2. […] What’s the deal with Zombies? […]

  3. Great post! I agree with Katie Renee. Enough already!

    I’m a World War II baby, and sick of the ranting and raving about Twilight, The Walking Dead and Underworld. I don’t understand the obsession with zombies and vampires. When I was growing up the scariest vampire I ever saw in the movies was Dracula, starring Christopher Lee.

    Then came the ridiculous and scary movies, “Night of the Living Dead,” and “The Exorcist.” My sister and I saw Night of the Living Dead with my uncle, and none of us slept for weeks. I still can’t and won’t watch it!

    I’ll stick with Doctor Who, and repeats of Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Night Gallery and Night Stalker.

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