Zombies amok?

November 11, 2009

Okay, so the problem with zombie stories …. Well, fine. I really couldn’t tell you because I’m just not hip to the current zombie rage. I mean, I can tell you why I am not a big fan of the genre, but that’s just one person’s aesthetics. Still, though, I would think the Resident Evil films should explain the problem well enough.

But if they don’t, Josh Bearman explains the case a little better:

More than forty years after George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead made critics question the future of a culture that could produce such a thing, that future is here – and it is full of zombies.

There are zombie comics, zombie conventions, Rob Zombie Inc., and a Simpsons episode in which Bart informs Lisa that the zombies prefer to be called “living impaired.” There is even a growing movement of participatory fan-fueled performance-art “zombie walks” — BYOB (Bring Your Own Brains!) — where people don elaborately shredded clothing, powder themselves into a pall with makeup, add lots of blood, and spontaneously shamble together in public places.

Let’s see … what else is in there? 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, Romero’s Land of the Dead, Mel Brooks’ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies … and a host of video games.

Oh, and Zombieland, which I hear is actually pretty good.

And, of course, anyone who suffered through the recent I Am Legend might understand.

Of course, I noticed that zombies don’t shamble as much these days, which helps. They’re demonically fast, now, and can bust through windows and walls. This isn’t so much a betrayal as, say, vampires running around in broad daylight so it’s easier to con a bunch of young girls into spending their babysitting money on a ticket, but face it, aside from the jaw-dropping cinematography and a soundtrack laden with Bob Marley tunes, I’m glad I saw I Am Legend for free.

Zombies have a lot of potential, but my personal critique is that the genre lacks any real human appeal. You know, kind of like slasher films: Why is there always the one idiotic couple so sexually alight that they can’t help but tread out on their own to some dark, scary place to experience coitus interruptus at the edge of a machete?

(cue scream)

Which, of course, brings us to the reason I’ve bored you with a useless critique of the zombie genre. Go read Bearman’s overview. After all, it points to what Bearman calls, with much credibility, “the best zombie story of the year”. You simply aren’t going to see a movie, or play a video game, that matches Mischa Berlinski‘s article for Men’s Journal:

About a month after I arrived in Jérémie, a rumor swept through town that a deadly zombie was on the loose. This zombie, it was said, could kill by touch alone. The story had enough authority that schools closed. The head of the local secret society responsible for the management of the zombie population was asked to investigate. Later that week, Monsieur Roswald Val, having conducted a presumably thorough inquiry, made an announcement on Radio Lambi: There was nothing to fear; all his zombies were accounted for.

Shortly after that incident, I started taking Creole lessons from a motorcycle-taxi driver named Lucner Delzor. Delzor was married with four children, but he kept a mistress on the other side of town. He told me that he had never so much as drunk a glass of water at his mistress’s house for fear she might lace his food with love powder. He loved his wife and children far too much to risk that.

One of my first complete sentences in Creole was “Gen vréman vre zonbi an Ayiti?” Or: “Are there really, truly zombies in Haiti?”

Bien sûr,” Delzor said. He had even seen them: affectless men and women with a deathlike pallor, high nasal voices, and the characteristic drooping at the chin — men and women who he knew for a fact had died and been buried.

Ayiti, se repiblik zonbi,” Delzor added. Haiti is the republic of zombies.

• • •

In related zombie news, did anyone hear about last spring, when Seattle police crashed a local zombie crawl in advance of Crypticon?

Zombie outfit lands man in handcuffsWearing all black, knee pads, a knife, grenade, a gas mask, and carrying what looked to be a machine gun, he walked into the Metro Clothing store Friday evening on Capitol Hill, which was sponsoring the zombie crawl to promote the Crypticon Horror Convention at the Seattle Center next weekend.

But apparently, someone thought a masked gunman was walking into a store, and called police. Witnesses say a dozen police cars converged on the scene and officers ran into the store, guns drawn.

“The police came in with guns and they caught the guy and I’m like, ‘Oh wait, he’s in costume,’ ” said Carl, the store’s owner.

Seage, the event’s organizer, says the man was dressed as one of the zombies from Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation.

“I guess it was a little too good,” she said. “It was too believable and that’s why the police showed up” ….

…. Seage said she was surprised it caused such a commotion.

“I didn’t expect anyone to be arrested being dressed as a zombie because we did this last weekend,” she said. “(There were) a dozen of us walking around in full zombie gear — blood, guts and nasty skin hanging off and it just went fine.”

Carl said the man was the first one to arrive in costume, and he could understand how someone might mistake the costume for something more sinister.

“It would definitely alarm somebody that didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I feel so sorry for this boy.”

At any rate, the unfortunate reveler—known only as Jay—was understanding, explaining that the police weren’t aware of the zombie crawl and only detained him for a short time. To the other, he won first prize for his costume. And well he should have. If getting arrested for a convincing costume at a zombie crawl doesn’t get you a VIP pass to Crypticon, I’m not sure what will.


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