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The Zombie Renaissance
Ace of Spades HQ ^ | 12-19-04 | Ace of Spades

Posted on 12/20/2004 9:42:44 AM PST by Warhead W-88

Zombie flicks approach a .500 batting average-- far above any other genre of horror. Is there any other sort of horror movie where you can go into a theater and say, "There's about a 50% chance this is a legitimately good, well-crafted movie"? I don't think so.

Why do they tend to be so good? How do they continue to delight and surprise while working, by and large, within the same basic and narrow parameters established by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead? I think it's a combination of several factors.

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1. Zombies are, essentially, uninteresting monsters. They're scary monsters, to be sure -- make-up effects that realistically simulate the ravages of post-mortem degeneration make them the most gruesome of creatures -- but they're not terribly interesting. They're simple, they're undifferentiated, they're a mob of shambling idiots without personality or charisma.

And this is the strength of the zombie film. Because the monsters themselves aren't compelling as characters, the zombie film forces the writers and directors to put the emphasis on the really interesting stuff in any movie-- actual human characters and human interaction.

Dracula is, I suppose, compelling as a character, but directors become so enamored of his Gothic anti-hero angst there's little room to make the human characters anything more than ciphers and cliches. (Fright Night is a good vampire movie that has human characters more interesting than the monster.) Dracula is effectively a Gothic horror superhero, and vampire films are infected with the childlike power-fantasy tropes of superhero comic books.

Now, most good monsters remain memorable because they serve as metaphors for the human condition -- vampires, sexual obsession and sexual danger; werewolves, the animalistic murderous rage that lurks within all of us; Frankenstein, a similar capacity for violence borne not of rage but of moral innocence or, perhaps, moral insanity.

But still, all that is just metaphor. We may see elements of the human condition in Dracula, but only elements. It's hard to glean much about the human state from his transformation into a pack of rats.

In zombie films, the zombies do also serve as metaphors -- often brilliant ones, about the unthinking violence of the mob, unquestioned conformism, the drudge-heavy routines of our everyday lives, and, famously, rampant consumerism (both literal and metaphorical).

But the focus isn't on zombies-as-metaphors-for-the-human-condition. In zombie pictures, the focus is actually on humans, humans dealing with stress and violence, and humans dealing with each other. The most interesting conflicts in zombie films tend not to come between human and zombie, but between human and human.

This is true of the best horror films of course. Whatever your favorite horror picture is, the moments you remember the most-- and quote the most -- are the parts between people, not the conflicts with the monsters. Sure, Sigorney Weaver's power-loader fight with the alien queen was great stuff, but it's Hudson's "Game over, man! Game over!" that sticks most in the mind. The shark in Jaws was okay, but everyone talks about Quint scratching his fingernails on the blackboard, "Show me the way to go home," the scar-competition, and Quint's chilling description of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Imagine Jaws filmed more like a Dracula movie, with all the emphasis on the shark itself-- not a very intereting movie.

And in my favorite horror movie -- The Thing -- yes, the part with the head-scuttling thing was great, but the best parts involved the panicked and paranoid human characters arguing who ought to have access to the weapons.

Strip away the lurid premise of zombie films, and you often have, at their heart, a fairly serious examination of human characters and human flaws and the violence humans wreak upon each other when animated by anger, greed, jealousy, or simple panic.

More at Ace of Spades HQ.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: 20somethinglist; dead; horror; movies; night; of; the; zombies
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1 posted on 12/20/2004 9:42:45 AM PST by Warhead W-88
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To: Warhead W-88

Err...wha?


2 posted on 12/20/2004 9:44:41 AM PST by rightwinggoth
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To: Warhead W-88

Bump for a more interesting reply here in a few moments..


3 posted on 12/20/2004 9:45:11 AM PST by Armedanddangerous (Yep, ya caught me, ya caught the tater)
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To: Warhead W-88

that Italian movie ZOMBIE was pretty scary. Though I guess I will go with Night of the Living Dead as the best one.


4 posted on 12/20/2004 9:46:21 AM PST by escapefromboston (manny ortez: mvp)
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To: Warhead W-88

Great article.


5 posted on 12/20/2004 9:48:20 AM PST by agere_contra
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To: Warhead W-88

Brainsss......brainssss.......


6 posted on 12/20/2004 9:48:49 AM PST by Dissident Aggressor
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To: rightwinggoth
Err...wha?

I think he said: "Blessed are the cheesemakers"

7 posted on 12/20/2004 9:50:15 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: Warhead W-88

FWIW, I read a very good article in Texas Monthly covering the making and aftermath of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Very good read if you get the chance.


8 posted on 12/20/2004 9:50:34 AM PST by highnoon (Christian celebrating Christmas....got a problem with that?)
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To: Warhead W-88
Netflix vs. Blockbuster Online DVD Rentals: Comments?
9 posted on 12/20/2004 9:50:55 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: escapefromboston

The original (1977?) Dawn of the Dead did it for me. Even at age 16, after seeing it, I was looking over my shoulder when walking alone at night for quite some time... then chiding myself for being a girly-man.

The great thing about it was, as scary as it was, it was also funny (if you have a dark, twisted sense of humor like I do..).

The recent remake was OK but.. Zombies don't run, they shamble!


10 posted on 12/20/2004 9:52:41 AM PST by Trampled by Lambs ("Making Al Gore regret inventing the internet, one post at a time")
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To: Warhead W-88
It depends on how you like your zombies.

Slow and rambling or quick and vicious.

L

11 posted on 12/20/2004 9:54:35 AM PST by Lurker ("I answer to you, 'F*** you-I shall die on my feet.!" Oriana Fallaci. You and me both Miss Fallaci.)
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To: Warhead W-88
"Because the monsters themselves aren't compelling as characters, the zombie film forces the writers and directors to put the emphasis on the really interesting stuff in any movie-- actual human characters and human interaction."

An excellent insight.

12 posted on 12/20/2004 9:55:42 AM PST by Yardstick
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To: Trampled by Lambs
The original (1977?) Dawn of the Dead did it for me

1978. :-)

13 posted on 12/20/2004 9:56:08 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: Warhead W-88

Dawn of the Dead (original) is the ultimate Pennsylvania film. It starts in Philly, ends in Pittsburgh and features a reference to rednecks in Altoona.


14 posted on 12/20/2004 9:56:55 AM PST by Tribune7
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To: Warhead W-88
The thing as well about Zombie movies, above other types of horror--is that it forces you into thinking along the lines of "What would I do if this was happening...?"

I remember looking at my parents house afer watching the 1st Night of the Living dead and trying to figure out where the most boards would be needed.

15 posted on 12/20/2004 9:59:16 AM PST by Sam's Army (Never trust anyone that still wears an 80's surfer cut)
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To: Lurker

Whoever came up with the concept of fast-moving zombies should be sent to Gitmo.

And Shaun of the Dead rocks...


16 posted on 12/20/2004 9:59:46 AM PST by jimbo123
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To: Warhead W-88

"28 Days Later" was pretty good, though it does violate the slow Zombie rule.


17 posted on 12/20/2004 10:01:50 AM PST by Wolfie
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To: Wolfie

Real zombies don't run.
18 posted on 12/20/2004 10:05:01 AM PST by jimbo123
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To: Dissident Aggressor
Brainsss......brainssss.......


19 posted on 12/20/2004 10:05:23 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: Warhead W-88; Dead Corpse; Do not dub me shapka broham
This thread needs.. More Zombies!


Can't start a thread about zombie movies without a zombie pic!

20 posted on 12/20/2004 10:06:44 AM PST by Darksheare ("His heart went dead underneath her gaze" - The Book of Foreshadowed Sorrows.)
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To: lowbridge

Great stuff. Thanks for adding a political angle!

I blogged your pic & caption on my site.


21 posted on 12/20/2004 10:09:16 AM PST by Warhead W-88
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To: Warhead W-88

I thought "28 Days later" was really weak and derivative. In the very beginning the hero wakes up in a hospital to general devastation. This conceit was was lifted whole from a 60's cult film "Night of The Triffids". The rogue soldiers were cliched beyond belief - are we to beleive that the rest of the world is functioning outside the British Isles but not talking to anybody on the radio? 28 days is a short time for military discipline to fall apart, especially when it was obvious that these creatures were going to run out of steam eventually all on their own. Which they did.

All "28 Days later" did for me was conjure up images of the better movies they stole their ideas from and make me wish I was watching THEM instead.


22 posted on 12/20/2004 10:13:26 AM PST by Mongeaux
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To: jimbo123
Real zombies don't run.


23 posted on 12/20/2004 10:14:09 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: escapefromboston
that Italian movie ZOMBIE was pretty scary.

Was that the one with the trailers that ended "We are going to EAT you!" ??

That trailer still scares me.

24 posted on 12/20/2004 10:14:17 AM PST by Centurion2000 (Truth, Justice and the Texan Way)
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To: Warhead W-88

Fair Play for the Metabolically Challenged!

Zombies may be the perfect metaphor for shambling politically-correct group-thinking Liberals, but unlike Liberals, they are not actually a waste of oxygen.


25 posted on 12/20/2004 10:16:24 AM PST by headsonpikes (Spirit of '76 bttt!)
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To: Darksheare
Can't start a thread about zombie movies without a zombie pic!

Oh, all right then.


26 posted on 12/20/2004 10:18:58 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Warhead W-88

if you geta chance you absolutley haveto see shaun of the dead a spoof on the genre it is hilarous


27 posted on 12/20/2004 10:20:21 AM PST by freepatriot32 (http://chonlalonde.blogspot.com)
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To: Wolfie

Technically in 28 Days Later they aren't zombies they're sick but alive, though genrewise the movie fits best in the zombie apocalypse crowd (has more zombie movie flourishes than pandemic movie stuff, though the line between the two has always been pretty thin).

But that whole movie is made by the first 20 minutes, that whole "dead London" sequence is amazing.


28 posted on 12/20/2004 10:20:34 AM PST by discostu (mime is money)
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To: discostu

It creeped me out, that's for sure. Reminded me of "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston, which had me really creeped out as a kid.


29 posted on 12/20/2004 10:22:23 AM PST by Wolfie
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To: Wolfie

Definitely. All around one of my favorite movies in years. Creative and interesting and very well acted.


30 posted on 12/20/2004 10:23:37 AM PST by discostu (mime is money)
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To: Trampled by Lambs

Running zombies...


That is the part of the movie that made it even freakier. I can deal with slow moving zombies, but fast ones freak my sh!t out. ;-)


31 posted on 12/20/2004 10:23:38 AM PST by myself6 (Nazi = socialist , democrat=socialist , therefore democrat = Nazi)
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To: Mongeaux
The rogue soldiers were cliched beyond belief - are we to beleive that the rest of the world is functioning outside the British Isles but not talking to anybody on the radio? 28 days is a short time for military discipline to fall apart, especially when it was obvious that these creatures were going to run out of steam eventually all on their own. Which they did.

The section with the soldiers seemed needlessly tacked on. And you're right about the whole radio thing. I think that had to do with the fact that they filmmakers hadn't really figured out what the ending was going to be. Originally, it was much darker, with no happy ending, but audiences hated that.

The remake of Dawn of the Dead this last summer was pretty good. And the bad girl who get chainsawed by accident was really hot, IMHO.

32 posted on 12/20/2004 10:24:10 AM PST by Modernman (Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. --Benjamin Franklin)
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To: rightwinggoth

Err...wha? <------ why post gibberish?


33 posted on 12/20/2004 10:24:49 AM PST by isom35
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To: Mongeaux

Well I generally enjoyed 28 days later,it struck me as odd that it took about a month for a bunch of Military guys to become sadistic rapists.

Also 28 days later was a very weird sequel to that Sandra Bullock movie 28 days.


34 posted on 12/20/2004 10:24:59 AM PST by escapefromboston (manny ortez: mvp)
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To: freepatriot32

I saw Shaun of the Dead this weekend and it was really a lot of fun. The makers of that film totally understood the rules of zombie movies.


35 posted on 12/20/2004 10:25:20 AM PST by jimbo123
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To: lowbridge

LOL!


36 posted on 12/20/2004 10:26:45 AM PST by broadsword (When Islam creeps into a human society, oppression, misogyny and terror come hard on its heels.)
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To: myself6

I always prefered walking zombies to running zombies it reminds me more of a nightmare. In a nightmare when someone is chasing you no matter how fast you run and no matter how slow they are , they are always right behind you. You can't escape them.


37 posted on 12/20/2004 10:28:03 AM PST by escapefromboston (manny ortez: mvp)
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To: Warhead W-88
Zombies are popular because the media constantly hype them.

Hillary!, McCain, Kennedy...

38 posted on 12/20/2004 10:29:27 AM PST by mrsmith
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To: Centurion2000

I believe so. It did have the only Zombie vs Shark fight sequence ever.
Those Italian horror movies still give me the creeps.


39 posted on 12/20/2004 10:29:27 AM PST by escapefromboston (manny ortez: mvp)
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To: Billthedrill

Yikes!

Now that is one hideous zombie.


40 posted on 12/20/2004 10:31:36 AM PST by Darksheare ("His heart went dead underneath her gaze" - The Book of Foreshadowed Sorrows.)
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To: escapefromboston

'I was a middle-aged zombie' (Land of the Dead filming now)

http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2004-12-01-zombie_x.htm


41 posted on 12/20/2004 10:37:32 AM PST by jimbo123
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To: Warhead W-88

28 Days Later is another one. Truly a riveting movie.


42 posted on 12/20/2004 11:03:02 AM PST by wizardoz
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To: Billthedrill; escapefromboston; freepatriot32; Darksheare; lowbridge
Where are the West African, e-mail, spammer zombies?

(Curious Smiley.)

43 posted on 12/20/2004 11:41:35 AM PST by Do not dub me shapka broham (Why did it take me so long to come up with a new tag-line, huh?! What's up with that?)
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

LOL!

They're busy sending e-mails saying "send us 1000 dollars, we'll let you keep your shoes after we get done emptying your account."

Zombies have that brain diet thing going, and that gets expensive after awhile.


44 posted on 12/20/2004 11:48:28 AM PST by Darksheare ("His heart went dead underneath her gaze" - The Book of Foreshadowed Sorrows.)
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To: Do not dub me shapka broham

45 posted on 12/20/2004 11:59:26 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: escapefromboston

Amen on the original black and white NOTLD being the best zombie movie.....as a young teenager watching it at the drive-in (I date myself) then going home (where we lived right below a very large cemetery) and not having air conditioning and having my bed within "arms reach" of an open window, I couldn't sleep with my back turned towards the open window for weeks !! (cue the burning truck zombie feeding scene...)


46 posted on 12/20/2004 12:08:53 PM PST by OB1kNOb (They're coming to get you, Barbara !!)
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To: Billthedrill

They're coming to get you, Barbara !


47 posted on 12/20/2004 12:15:34 PM PST by OB1kNOb (They're coming to get you, Barbara !!)
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To: Warhead W-88

did someone say zombie?

http://users.myexcel.com/ozechs3/images/zombie.wmv


48 posted on 12/20/2004 12:18:52 PM PST by John O (God Save America (Please))
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To: John O

Bwaaaahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!! snort...snort....


49 posted on 12/20/2004 12:23:09 PM PST by OB1kNOb (They're coming to get you, Barbara !!)
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To: Modernman
The remake of Dawn of the Dead this last summer was pretty good.

I thought it was fantastic. One of the best remakes I've seen. I love zombie movies!

Zombie movies are always pro-Second Amendment. In the remake, a big part of the movie was getting to Andy's gun store. Of course, all the firepower in the world couldn't save them from thousands of running zombies.

28 Days Later was set in gun-free England. I never understood why they didn't try to go to a police station and acquire some firearms.

50 posted on 12/20/2004 12:27:40 PM PST by Drew68
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