lot to get excited about: at a theater or living room near you.
of a sudden ...
are really scary
fans have a lot to get excited about this month. Theatres are showing
both "Shaun of the Dead" and "Resident Evil Apocalypse,"
the sequel to the 2002 zombie-fest "Resident Evil," which
hit video store shelves with a Special Edition DVD just two months
Additionally, the Halloween season will see the much-anticipated
DVD release of "Dawn of the Dead," the remake of George
A. Romero's 1978 classic that spawned a generation of low-budget
splatter zombie films. If all this wasn't enough, this month, Romero
is expected to start production on "Land of the Dead,"
the long-awaited finale to his definitive zombie series.
After years of lurking in the shadows of foreign and low budget
gore genres, zombies have gone mainstream.
Over the past two years, zombie movies of one sort or another have
been piling up in theatres and on DVD. This phenomenal growth of
blockbuster zombie films is largely due to the fact that, unlike
vampires, mummies and werewolves, the zombie has recently undergone
a Cambrian evolution from which has emerged a modern monster,
uniquely equipped to terrify and excite even the most jaded horror
Zombie movies today are not at all what they were just a few decades
ago, when zombies emerged as solidified horror figures for the first
A reference point for zombie films: George A. Romero started
the modern zombie era in 1968.
A zombie is born
The modern zombie era started in 1968, when Romero released
"Night of the Living Dead," a spooky, atmospheric film
with a heavy socio-political message. Widely regarded as the finest
film of its kind, "Night of the Living Dead," along with
its two sequels, "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the
Dead," has served as a reference point for every zombie film
While technically one could argue that zombie films have existed
since before the talkies, it was Romero who truly birthed the flesh-eating,
lumbering, mindless zombie we all know and love today.
The commercial success of the original "Dawn of the Dead"
(released internationally as "Zombi") launched an entire
sub-genre of international exploitation films, many of which have
become classics themselves. But none ever regained the prestige
or popularity that Romero's first two zombie films found.
These sub-genre films, to a large degree, ignore social commentary
and instead tend to revel in a degenerative gore-fest, where plot
and poignancy take a backseat to mutilation and special effects.
Because of their high shock value and low art factor, zombie films
have remained on the fringe until recently, when one film turned
the genre on its head.
Rebirth of a zombie
The zombie has pretty much been the low man on the totem pole of
horror since day one. Zombies lack the romance of the vampire, the
exotic mystery of the mummy or the mobility of the werewolf. They
have tons of deficiencies: they're slow, they lack even rudimentary
intelligence, they are relatively weak and, like the nearly extinct
koala, they rely solely on one source of food, namely, human flesh.
The only advantage they have over humans is their ability to converge
on their prey in large numbers, and the fact that they're dead and,
therefore, impossible to kill. Only incineration or disruption of
the brain can stop a true zombie.
|A new level
of urgency: succumbing horribly to zombie savagery.
It was the 2002 release of a relatively low-budget film, Alex Garland's
"28 Days Later," that transformed the zombie forever.
Unlike the lumbering, lurching, slack-jawed, suited zombies that
terrorized mankind in throngs of Italian splatter films in the '80s,
Garland's zombies move with amazing and, at times, alarming speed
adding a new level of urgency and suspense not seen before
in zombie films.
Where Romero's zombies gathered, Garland's zombies swarm. With
this newfound agility, just one measly zombie can be a menace to
a handful of humans without having to rely on sheer numbers to overwhelm
For audiences, the speed-empowered zombie leads to unprecedented
intensity, as any dull moment could quickly erupt into a gory blood
bath where the ill-fated human characters barely have time to find
a crowbar or a fire poker before succumbing horribly to zombie savagery.
The zombie virus
Recently, the cause and explanation of "zombie-fication"
has been gradually changing to keep up with the news. While traditional
zombie outbreaks have been caused by some kind of radiation, either
terrestrial or from outer space, recent zombie pandemics, much like
SARS or the Asian Flu, tend to be caused by viral infection or,
on a geo-political note (as in "Resident Evil") chemical
weaponry gone awry.
The zombies in "28 Days Later" and "Dawn of the
Dead 2004" are referred to not as dead, undead or even as zombies,
but rather as "the infected." Transmission of the "zombie
virus" tends overwhelmingly to result from physical contact
usually a scratch or bite from an infected. The zombies in
"28 Days" are so infectious that contact with a single
drop of their blood can transmit the virus.
Modern audiences shouldn't find it hard to believe that a virus
could quickly wreak worldwide havoc, turning otherwise healthy,
likeable folks into bloodthirsty, snarling zombies.
If you think about it, that seems at least a plausible concept.
Ebola virus: The final stage of zombie evolution?
Consider the damage that a virus like SARS or Ebola could potentially
unleash on humanity if left unchecked, or take into account the
staggering loss of life that continues to be caused worldwide by
AIDS. Isn't it conceivable that a virus that acted a little faster
and was slightly more contagious could cause a zombie outbreak that
could threaten mankind?
The final stage of zombie evolution is from plausibility to possibility.
No one could honestly say that it's not possible that the world
will end in a gory zombie apocalypse.
That's why, all of the sudden, zombies are really scary.