The Red Pen of Doom

Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.

Zombie movies are NOT standard horror movies

Zombie movies are epic and wonderful and far, far superior to the Standard Horror Movie featuring horny teenagers getting mowed down by the Boogeyman or silly scientists who create genetically modified super-sharks which, of course, escape their tanks and EAT EVERYONE.

People — especially those who wear tweed and like to talk about “dialectical materialism” all the time — tend to lump together horror movies as simple B movie trash, including zombie movies.

They are wrong.

Zombie movies are NOT like your Standard Horror Movie.

(1) They are better.

(2) They feature zombies.

(3) Zombies rock.

Seriously: zombie movies are different. Let’s pry open the skull of movie goers — and people who read Stephen King and other horror novels — to see what’s going on. Will we eat their brains? No. That would be undercutting the job security of zombies.

You read books or go to the movies for new experiences and emotions.

To laugh, you see a comedy. To feel excited, you watch an action movie or read a thriller. To cry, you see a drama.

Some people don’t get horror movies. Who wants to feel scared out of their pantalones, aside from teenage boys hoping their dates want to be held?

But fear is one of the most intense emotions. Above all, we want to feel. Watching horror movies makes us feel like we’ve cheated death.

In your Standard Horror Movie, you have two common elements: (a) people sinning and (b) the unstoppable Boogeyman killing them all, one by one.

Unlike other movies, in true horror movies, the bad guy wins. Every time.

No matter what the victims try to do, it doesn’t work. Everybody dies. There is no happy Hollywood ending.

Teenagers are the main audiences for horror because they understand this feeling of helplessness. They aren’t in charge. Everybody bosses them around: parents, teachers, random grandpas on American Idol singing about  getting their pants off the ground. They feel helpless because they’re not making decisions in their own life. Therefore teenage rebellion should not shock anyone.

Horror movies make sense to teenagers. Sit back and enjoy the roller coaster, because there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

However: that is getting too deep. Bah. LET US TALK ABOUT ZOMBIES.

Zombie movies are different. Does everybody die in the end? Yeah, usually.

But not because the people who get munched by zombies are sinning.

In a zombie movie, there isn’t a lone Boogeyman killing sinful teenagers who’ve been raiding Daddy’s liquor cabinet and having premarital sex OUT OF WEDLOCK in a car next to a mental institution or a remote, haunted cabin.

Instead, zombie movies have endless hordes killing innocent people, and it’s an indictment of society.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was about racism.

DAWN OF THE DEAD was about mindless consumerism. It wasn’t an accident that George Romero set it in a shopping mall, and had zombies wandering around the mall because their little zombie brains remembered that malls were an important place for them to wander around.

Also, zombie movies are post-apocalyptic, with no rules, no laws and nobody answering 911 to save you.

But despite the indictment of society, zombie movies are the only type of horror movie where the “victims” get to fight back and kick butt. Though they are doomed in the end.

So zombie movies appeal to more people. Grownups. You don’t see the usual characters, aka victims, running in high heels from the Boogeyman until they trip in their high heels. You don’t see cocky frat boys do stupid things that inevitably lead to Jason or Freddy or whoever decapitating them.

In regular horror movies, anything you do versus the Boogeyman is useless. Only in a zombie movie do the heroes get to shoot things that die and stay dead.

The heroes are supposed to find weapons, learn how to use them, go all MacGyver to build anti-zombie  flamethrowers and put together some kind of armored school bus or whatever. This is always interesting, and fun, and quite unlike the Standard Horror Movie, which is simply a Monster in the House story where the sinful teenagers are stuck at a summer camps or corporate scientists are trapped at the undersea research facility where they stupidly created genetically engineered super-sharks that — surprise! — decided to eat them.


This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

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.

About Guy Bergstrom

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot.

15 comments on “Zombie movies are NOT standard horror movies

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  2. sqL_handLe
    May 18, 2015

    My favorite zombie movie:
    The Warriors (1979)


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  5. fpdorchak
    October 31, 2012

    Reblogged this on Reality Check and commented:
    Why am I reposting? Well, okay, though I am a fan of “the undead,” I have a soft spot for SOME zombie flicks, and this is a great post….


  6. fpdorchak
    October 31, 2012

    Great post! Great points, but fancy myself more of an “undead” person myself:


  7. Pingback: Joss Whedon + politics + zombie apocalypse = EPIC WIN | The Red Pen of Doom

  8. cmkneipp
    September 27, 2012

    Ahh Shaun of the Dead and who could forget Bruce Campbell in the evil dead movies. I love a good Zombedy.


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  11. I’ve noticed a sharp divide among friends: There are vampire people and there are zombie people. (I don’t count werewolf people.) I love vampires, but if the zombie movie has enough over-the-top violence and witty one-liners, I will be entertained.There’s a lot of gray area between the two (The Passage: vampires or zombies? I say zombies). Absence of morbid sexuality usually points to zombies… Party on, sexless flesh-eaters!

    Fun post, as always. (But P.S. Did you mean Venn diagram, or did I just not get a joke?)


    • fpdorchak
      October 31, 2012

      Heh–you said “gray area”…. >:-E

      “Zenn” = “Zombie Venn.”


  12. Dawn Montgomery
    February 14, 2012

    Finally! Someone else who gets the zombie thing! It’s about fighting back against all that’s wrong! Killing the annoying roommate, but feeling good about it because…well…he’s a zombie. 😀


  13. Good Online Games
    December 8, 2010

    Hello, I think your blog is epic. Congrats.


  14. jodi
    October 18, 2010

    The George Romero version? *happy sigh*


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This entry was posted on November 18, 2011 by in 1 Survival Sunday, Zombie apocalypse and tagged , , , , , , , .
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