One of my favorite genres of film, the zombie/apocalypse. Zombies, alien invasions, breakdown of society films all have a few things in common. Each story is essentially a survival story where survivors have beaten the odds of disease, famine, occupation, genocide, nuclear annihilation and are trying to establish a new world in the ashes of the old.
This concept of building a new world out of the proverbial wilderness is something entirely unique to Americans. Since the United States is a rather new to the world stage, it took over a century and a half for us to settle and establish American society. It is due to our unique history and culture that we have created the modern zombie film. Everyone knows that George A. Romero and John A. Russo created Night of the Living Dead propelling tales of a mysterious disease that animates the recently deceased back to life and craving human flesh, which in turn caused society and communication to break down. That is until men and women pick up their weapons and band together fighting creatures and others who might transgress upon them. This theme of guerrilla resistance saturates Romero’s blockbuster sequel Dawn of the Dead. Another reason why this type of film is so popular and definitively American is that the United States of America is the only nation in the world that has written down in the Bill of Rights that the civilian population has a right to own military arms. It is in our nation’s DNA to be the ”armed to the teeth” underdog, and our zombie films reflect that. From Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series to Robert Kirkman’s very popular The Walking Dead the everyday use of firearms hearkens back to pioneer days with musket, knife, and tomahawk strapped on every able-bodied person.
A great comparison is the remake of Dawn of the Dead and the British 28 Days Later. In Dawn of the Dead a band of survivors shoot their way to a fortified position (the mall). While in 28 Days Later, survivors barely make it to a military checkpoint in which they are subject to their abuse because in the real world the people with guns make the rules.
American survival not only permeates the horror genre, but sci-fi and action too.TV shows such as Falling Skies and Revolution show America in two different circumstances. One has us in a resistance against an alien occupation, Falling Skies, and the other tells the story of an America without electricity, which causes a breakdown in government. Both shows display America’s will for armed resistance. Even shows such as Jericho, Red Dawn, The Terminator franchise, and Last Resort all display our romantic notion of defiance and our love for the rugged individual. Even with overwhelming odds and when all hope is lost there will always be that American who will cowboy up and give your enemies a little John Wayne. To quote another apocalyptic movie Reign of Fire, “Envy the country that has heroes, I say pity the country that needs them.”