Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.
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.
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.
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.