, writer at

I've been a lover of horror for as long as I can remember and although I've gotten a bit more choosy in my old age, I still try to embrace as much of it (the good and bad) as I can.

However, there is one genre that I now treat approach with caution and a definite lack of enthusiasm and that is 'the zombie movie'. But it wasn't always that way.

I still remember how shocked I was when I first watched Night of the Living Dead (NOTLD). The famous scene in the graveyard had me transfixed: "They're coming to get you Barbara". And on that first ever viewing, I turned off as Barbara approached the seemingly abandoned house, because it was just too damn scary (I was young at the time).

I eventually got over my fears and was immediately taken by Romero's early works and found both the original and colour remake of NOTLD compulsive viewing. There was something inherently interesting about the notion of being one of the lone survivors during an apocalypse of this kind, living in a world with no law, so much uncertainty and the need to completely re-evaluate your morals.

The idea that the highest sin (killing another human being) could be excusable in such a circumstance, given that they were reanimated or a threat to you and your kin was both sickening and thrilling. A heady cocktail that quickly gets you hooked.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)

And the idea of friends and loved ones coming back after death, decaying and hungry for flesh was terrifying. It was all very reminiscent of my favourite childhood ghost story, W. W. Jacobs' The Monkey's Paw, in which a greedy couple use an enchanted paw to wish for riches at the cost of their son's life. Trying to fix what they have done, they wish for him to return from death, but when he does, he's nothing more than an animated corpse - possibly one of the first literary zombies.

As time passed it seemed that Romero could do no wrong and as other zombie tales made their way onto celluloid different scenarios were realised and more graphic violence was employed to amplify the effect.

Fulchi rediscovered the zombie's West Indian roots in Zombie Flesh Eaters and Return of the Living Dead merged the concepts with modern surroundings and culture.

Soon films like Dead Alive were showering its audience in zombie guts and even films taking zombies in a completely comedic direction, such as Shaun of the Dead, still entranced me. They made me think that zombies were a thing that I would never tire of. Like Marmite or sleeping in at the weekend.

Wrong turn

But as Romero reboots emerged things went weird. And with the arrival of Dawn of the dead (2004) and more tragically, Day of the Dead (2008), things started to go very wrong.

Not only was the zombie market getting suffocated with hordes of pointless, predictable zombie flicks, but the zombies themselves were changing. Crucially, they became faster.

There is something sad yet terrifying about a slow zombie. Sad because in a way you pity them, feel sorry for who they once were and think they look a little bit pathetic when confronted by a simple obstacle - like a fence or door.

But they're still terrifying at that speed. The slow, relentless lumbering as they approach. The ominous sound of dragging feet and low moaning. They have no conscience, no reason to stop and that's what's terrifying.

28 Days Later seemed to kick off the whole fast zombie idea. Although the 'zombies' were in fact, humans infected by a rabies-like virus, the association was there. Soon every zombie movie producer was thinking 'zombies that run? That's different. That could work!'

Fast zombies
Fast zombies

And as a procession of fast zombie movies sped onto our screens, the traditional zombie flicks were still being cranked out at a steady pace, leaving us all drowning in a sea of zombie scenarios with crazy mixed up rules and essentially the same old story over and over again.

Everything starts normal; outbreak occurs; people slowly realise what's going on; hero escapes; learns that zombies need a 'head shot'; girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend gets bitten; bitten one meets their end; either the infection subsides and he war is won, or it's the end of the world.

And there's only so many times that you can see all that before it gets very tired.

The self-aware, tool utilising zombies is Land of the Dead, were the straw that broke the zombie camel's back.

Funny zombies

Producers looked in other directions, searching for 'another twist' to keep things fresh.

Zombies are rapidly losing their ability to scare
Zombies are rapidly losing their ability to scare

And as low budget efforts like Wasting Away, Colin and Deadheads decided to show us life from a zombies perspective (with varying levels of success) more spoof zombie films emerged, obviously inspired by Shaun of the Dead and tainting its image with their lack of originality.

And whilst tv has been a saviour of sorts with the likes of The Walking Dead, even that great concept has arguably run its course, leaving us all feeling like we need a holiday from deadwalkers.
It's all a bit like what Twilight did for vampires, but without all the romance and glowing skin.

Add to that the advances in gaming and the popularity of zombie games in particular (from Resident Evil, to the House of the Dead series and right up to modern offerings like The Last of Us and Dying Light) and it's quite obvious that zombies are now part of every day life, even for kids.
They're part of the furniture now. And who's scared of a lamp, dressing table or cabinet?

The future

So what can we do? No amount of budget can bring the excitement back to zombies, World War Z is testament to that.

Ridley Scott has said goodbye to his marvellous xenomorphs for future movies because "There’s only so much snarling you can do."
The same could be said for our lumbering, groaning dead heads.

One could argue that we have enough zombie movies to keep us 'entertained' for a lifetime.
So perhaps we need to just leave the genre to fallow for a while. Come up with a new angle entirely, experiment with different creatures and just find something new to terrify and tittilate audiences.


Latest from our Creators