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 moviegoers — and people who read Stephen King and other horror novels — to see what’s really going on, which is more interesting than you’d expect.
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 and random adults at the grocery story. They feel helpless because they’re not making decisions in their own life. Which is why teenage rebellion shouldn’t 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. Let’s get right to the heart of about zombie movies.
Zombie movies aren’t horror movies.
Does everybody die in the end? Yeah, usually. Except the reasoning, and the morality play, is completely different than your standard horror movie.
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 as an indictment of society itself.
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.
Along with indicting society instead of individuals, zombie movies are the only type of horror movie where the “victims” get to fight back and actually kick butt.
Yes, they’re still doomed in the end. It’s this phase of zombie movies, what Blake Snyder would call “fun and games,” which really appeal to adults versus the typical high school and college crowd for horror movies.
Everybody seems to like picturing what they’d do if there were no rules, no laws, no cops. Loot the mall? Sure.
So zombie movies appeal to more people. You don’t see the usual horror topes, like victims running in high heels from the Boogeyman until they trip in the woods. You don’t see cocky frat boys wearing letterman jackets do stupid macho 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 summer camps. Or corporate scientists get trapped at the deep-sea research facility where they stupidly created genetically engineered super-sharks that — surprise! — decided to eat them.
Zombie flicks may wax and wane in popularity. They may get rebooted, recycled and revolutionized by new directors.
What they won’t do is disappear, because they perform an important storytelling function, giving a critique of society itself.