Jumping the Snark is a weekly column that will take a blunt, sometimes brutal look at trends in Hollywood that are worn out, overused, cliched, and that just need to go away forever already. In other words, they've jumped the shark and it's up to us to tell them.
Have a topic idea for Jumping the Snark? Post it in the comments and if I can use it for a future installment, I will. Jumping the Snark is posted every Monday on Moviepilot.com.
I recently went to the theater, along with Moviepilot Entertainment Editor Scott Pierce, to check out the problem-plagued, $200 million dollar potential disaster that was World War Z, and...I liked it. I liked it quite a bit, actually, 's weak third act aside.
Still, I couldn't help but think, as I watched the film, Haven't we seen enough zombie films already? Can't this trend just...die for a while? (I say 'for a while' as, much like zombies, nothing in Hollywood ever stays dead forever). Movies about zombies have been delivered to us in every form (seriously, EVERY form) and it's time for them to be shot in the head and buried once and for all.
But before I break down why zombies need to die already, let's get one thing straight. If you're one of the overly-pedantic, socially awkward guys who nitpick and argue that creatures are technically not zombies due to having a virus and not being undead (You know who you are), then you should probably leave right now.
However, if you're one of those sane and balanced individuals who can read through an article without completely losing your shit over minor semantics, I both a.) applaud you and b.) invite you to keep reading.
When the zombie genre was resurrected for a new generation with 2003's 28 Days Later, it created an A-lister of actor and established the zombie genre as THE genre to jump on board. I saw the movie twice in theaters and was blown away by how had made zombies relevant again and so perfectly captured the post-9/11 feeling of a world spun out of control, of an alien other infiltrating our society and wreaking havoc from the inside. It was stunning, it was relevant, and, most importantly, it was unique. But after a decade and countless movies later, there is nothing unique about the genre. Nothing.
Since 28 Days Later, we've seen some fantastic zombie films, from cult comedy classics Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, to the brutal and terrifying [REC] series from Spain, to this summer's aforementioned epic World War Z. Television is getting in on the game, too, with AMC's The Walking Dead being a worldwide hit that keeps viewers glued to their seats every week, and upcoming projects like 's The Strain ideally set to air this fall.
But for every Zombieland, there is a Zombieland: The Series. For every The Walking Dead, there is a Vampire City 2: Rock 'N Roll Zombies from Outer Space (Seriously, that is a thing that exists in this world). In fact, for every really great zombie-based project that takes the genre and puts a new spin on it, that presents it from a fresh perspective, one could argue that there are countless other projects that are just terrible. Seriously terrible (Though that is as much the result of somehow still being allowed to make films as it is due to zombies).
There is literally nothing that can be done with the zombie genre in film or television that hasn't already been done. From small boy-meets-girl stories to sweeping tentpole blockbusters, it's been done. Over and over and over again it's been done. Name a genre that hasn't appropriated the theme of zombies. You can't. Romantic comedy? Buddy comedies? Horror films? War movies? Westerns? Futuristic sci-fi? Musicals? Documentaries? Porn? Video games? Every single one of those genres has utilized zombies.
Don't believe me? Check out this list on IMDB of zombie films from 1991 to 2011. Granted, some of the films included only loosely incorporate zombies and some are generous with the definition of "undead", but all told, there are 826 films on that list.
Let me repeat that: Eight hundred and twenty-six.
That list doesn't include any zombie films or television shows that have been made post-2011, and if you've paid attention to entertainment in the last few years, that number is a lot. In fact, it doesn't include television projects at all. That is a staggering amount of films to be made from one niche genre, all but ensuring it will completely flood the market, and when the market is flooded, it means there is no room left for growth, nothing new to be said that hasn't already been said before, a zombie pastiche that ends up a mediocre miasma of "Haven't we seen this before?"
Really, how many times can we see a zombie get shot in the head, whether with a pistol, a shotgun, a semi-automatic, or a crossbow (sorry, Daryl Dixon) before it starts to all blend together? How many times can we watch the Zombie Apocalypse unfold in front of us before it all starts to feel the same? Simply put, we are oversaturated with zombies. We are overrun.
And more than that, we have reached the law of diminishing returns with the zombie genre. The Walking Dead is still a juggernaut on television and World War Z has beat the box office predictions and gone on to be a surprise hit. But the zombie genre has been steadily becoming less of a sure thing for success. It's becoming less reliable in terms of being a solid financial investment. Warm Bodies, while a solid, entertaining movie, only provided so-so box office returns. Zombieland: The Series was eviscerated by fans and critics alike as being garbage (and rightfully so). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been stuck in purgatory as no studio wants to finance it. Gallowwalkers is supposed to resurrect 's career, but has all the signs of being a huge flop, or even going straight to DVD.
It seems the tide of public opinion is starting to turn against the zombie genre, and here's the thing: That's not necessarily bad. The movie industry is cyclical like anything else. Trends come and go, new genres come into and then go out of vogue again, and the cycle keeps repeating itself. It's not that fans are fickle - a genre that has been going strong for over a decade isn't the result of a fickle audience - it's just that it's human nature's way of keeping things from getting too stagnant.
I don't know about you, but I'm suffering from an acute case of zombie fatigue. I can't take one more brain splatter, one more slight variation on how the Zombie Apocalypse happened, one more half-baked pseudoscientific explanation of a virus or a bacteria or radio waves or a curse. I can't take one more obligatory moment in which the protagonist has to kill someone he or she once loved after that loved one has been bitten. I can't take watching the social commentary, once so fresh, turn so stale and heavy-handed (i.e. Society will descend into anarchy, the military will show itself to be corrupt and lose its humanity, corporations are evil and probably stated the mess in the first place). We get it already.
So listen up, you undead, you rotters and zeds, ghouls and walkers, shufflers and deadheads, you've had your time in the spotlight, and it was fun while it lasted. It was a good run; we gained some great films and one great television series from it. But you've worn out your welcome. You've jumped the shark. It's time to go back to your graves where you belong. Of course, you won't stay dead - you never do - but maybe you can stay dormant just long enough to become relevant again.