Are you prepared?
The zombies hordes are coming. It’s just a matter of time. Maybe not today, though it is Halloween. It could happen next month, when some egomaniac scientist at a giant pharmaceutical company creates a retro-virus that cures cancer, and death, with the little side effect of turning you into the walking dead.
Preparing for the zombie apocalypse can be fun and useful. Having a stockpile of basics like food, water filters and ammunition will serve you well if (a) giant asteroids smash into Australia and turn the planet into a snowglobe, (b) some idiot dictator decides to start playing global thermonuclear war or (c) the bird flu makes sweet love to the swine flu and turns into the 99 Percent of People on Earth are Dead Flu.
(Click over here to read Zombie movies are NOT standard horror movies. Then come on back for more deep, intellectual pondering of zombie flicks.)
Also, zombie movies are just fun to watch.
So let’s talk, you and I, about why zombie movies are so popular while you think about how woefully unprepared you are for any sort of disaster. What if the power went out right now – do you even know where the flashlight is, and some batteries that actually work?
FIRST: It’s always fun to imagine an apocalypse because that means there are no rules. You can do whatever you want. No police, no prosecutors, no jails. Total freedom. Need some groceries? Hop on down to the grocery store, shoot a few zombies wandering around the aisles and load up on all the canned food you can find.
SECOND: Zombie movies are completely unlike other horror movies, where it’s the Boogeyman who gets to have all the fun. In zombie movies, the heroes get to dish it out just as much as the zombies. They get to blow them up, dismember them with chainsaws and beat their zombie brains out with whatever croquet mallets or golf clubs are handy in the Sports Authority at the mall.
THIRD: Shooting zombies is a huge part of the appeal of zombie movies. DAWN OF THE DEAD had an entire scene where they played zombie chess by shooting zombies.
And this leads us into something deeper and all meaningful or whatever. Shooting things and blowing stuff up is fun. HOWEVER: We are trained from birth to not hurt other people, because if we ran around shooting and blowing up other people, we’d be in prison, and in Hell, if that’s your thing. Even if religion is not your thing, it’s morally repugnant to get your kicks by hurting people at all, much less setting treating them like zombies.
Men who got drafted to fight in World War II had trouble firing their rifles at other human beings, even though they were Nazis, because they knew killing people was wrong. This feeling was so strong that even when they were getting shot at, many soldiers didn’t fire their rifles, because killing other people was wrong. It’s good they have these instincts. Otherwise, we’d be a bunch of savages.
The percentage of soldiers who shot at live human soldiers on the other side went up in other wars, such as Korea and Vietnam, when they started having soldiers fire at human silhouettes instead of bull’s eyes.
This is why war propaganda portrays the enemy as cartoonishly evil subhumans, and why soldiers in every war have slang terms for the other side that dehumanize them. It cuts down that barrier.
With zombies, there’s no barrier. They’re not other human beings. They’re already dead. Zombies are unthinking monsters that you are supposed to blow up, decapitate or set on fire, because if you don’t, they will eat you and every other person you know and love. There’s no negotiation. There’s no chance for diplomacy. Kill or be killed.
And that’s why zombies movies are fun. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel bad watching stupid action movies with insane body counts. The evil bad guy, fine, he deserves it. His 5,932 soldiers for hire, they’ve got moms and wives and little kids, right? Not cool.
I don’t feel bad watching zombies go boom, though it is required by law for a character in a zombie movie to come face-to-face with a wife, husband, son or daughter who got zombified, and they can’t bring themselves to put the zombie down, and it’s the only time in the movie when you might get something stuck in your eye.
Otherwise, it’s a free-for-all. In regular horror movies, you can shoot the Boogeyman with a .357 magnum, stab him in the chest or plant six pounds of C-4 in his tighty whities, and he’ll still keep coming back. You will not get anywhere. It’s frustrating, and to me, it’s cheating. I mean, come on. How many times have Jason, Freddie and every other horror movie villain been killed and resurrected?
Zombies don’t cheat. They play fair. Though the heroes usually die anyway, at least they have a fair chance, and they get to romp around the apocalyptic wasteland, taking whatever they need and doing whatever they want until the zombie horde catches up and goes nom-nom-nom.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.