How Do You Like Zack?
Well, October is almost over and next week is Halloween. I’m not much of a horror movie fan, but I do like zombies. I’m dedicating this week to zombies (or mostly zombies).
I wrote my senior thesis last year on zombies. Actually, I wrote a screenplay involving zombies that was accompanied by a critical portion. I think I had more fun than most of my peers. Sufficed to say, I can ramble on about zombies for a while and hopefully I’ll take advantage of that this week beyond just reviewing some badass zombie flicks. 1
To start things out, I feel like I might as well get this question out-of-the-way. How do you like your zombies? There really are only two options: fast or slow. People like to simplify this topic and they shouldn’t, but for a launching point, might as well.
Old school zombies are slow. The ancient horror films that are in black and white that few young people have watched, involve a completely different type of zombie than we are accustomed to today. Still, part of what people identify them with is their gait. They were slow. Night of the Living Dead had slow zombies and since it is The Godfather of zombie films it naturally has to be right. Can’t argue with Romero.
In the 2000′s though we invented fast zombies. Living dead 2 that can actually run. 28 Days Later (incidentally the first film I’m reviewing) helped revive the zombie genre on-screen to a wide audience. IT also helped changed what we thought of zombies. These creatures were something you had to run from, because they could actually catch up to you.
Then there’s the Zombieland take. It’s not like Zombieland invented this approach, but more people are familiar with the movie. Zombieland has more realistic zombies as far as how they move. It’s all about who you were before you died. Someone who weighed four hundred pounds is still going to be slow. Zombie Usain Bolt would have a better chance of being fast. It takes both fast and slow zombies and mixes them together. Ignoring the fact that they are zombies, it’s just like being chased by someone in real life.
This issue is complicated though. Sure there is something off about slow zombies. Their image is what most people conjure up. A slow-moving horde of undead shuffling their way towards you. That is it though. They are a threat because they move in hordes. Shuffling zombies are easy to take out if there are only a few of them. And hell, you can always outrun them if they are small in number and you have space. If nothing else it allows you to find someplace to hide to come up with a game plan.
Fast zombies are a bigger threat. They are athletic. Imagine all the athletes from high school chasing you, but all gnarly looking and not intending on just giving you a dunk in the toilet or taking your lunch money. 3 Just one of these guys is a threat. I mean look at 28 Days Later. When the shit hits the fan at the end in the house, only one zombie starts the whole thing. Yes, he has some outside help and you do end up with a couple more zombies in the house, but it’s a small number. They wreak havoc though because they can move. They are fast and at least moderately strong. On a pure physical level they are going to be a pain in the ass to take on one-on-one. Just imagine if you actually had to face a horde of them and didn’t have any guns.
And then there’s the mixed bag. Sticking with Zombieland as an example your characters 4 are facing an extra threat. You have hordes of zombies here. Some may shuffle, some may run. You never know what you are up against. You may get luck and can outrun or take on the overweight zombie, but if you run across Zack 5 and they happen to be fast, you have to make adjustments. You need to be on your toes even more because, like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
They all have their place. Personally, I kinda prefer the mix bag. When I was writing it was nice to be able to toss a wrench in things that way. I had a hard time legitimizing shuffling zombies being a threat, but if at least a few of them can run, it made things more interesting every now and then. What it comes down to for me is how the creator (author, director, whatever) handles their zombies. It’s something that really should be considered heavily, because it has a huge impact on how the rest of your story plays out. Shuffling zombies aren’t going to work if there are only a handful at a time.
There is a lot more to zombies than and they move, but it is a start. Where do you stand?