There seems to be myth perpetuating within horror that’s gathering speed at a frightening rate. On some levels it’s affecting the genre and passing off perfectly sound films as trash. This myth tries to affect the way writers, producers and directors come about their ideas and the way they transfer them to the page and ultimately the big screen. So, what is this argument? Zombies have set rules.
I’m not saying zombies don’t have rules, no not at all. It is screenwriting 101 that the universe you create must have rules that you abide by. However, the rules your zombies endure should be set by you and you alone. Have your zombies shuffle, have them run, have tearing up the road on a Harley Davidson just be sure you set the rules and you stick to them.
The rules that many believe to be gospel are long standing, dating back to George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”. These rules are only in place because Romero dared to challenge the existing, tired premise of what a zombie was though. Before Romero zombie didn’t crave flesh, most never killed and they were rarely actually dead. Pre-Romero zombies were brain dead plantation workers, zombified by a bokor.
Romero stripped the zombie subgenre down to its parts before rebuilding it into something new and relevant to the culture of the period. Romero, in an act not unlike the cadavers in his films, killed the genre, resurrected it and watched it take over the world. It was bold move but it revolutionised zombie cinema and now Romero is synonymous with the undead.
Now it seems that anybody who tries to do the same is torn to shreds and cast asunder by the same people who praise Romero, often “fanboys” who would gladly shuffle off the end of the earth if George told them to.
Now I admire Romero and what he did for the genre but am I the only person who sees the hypocrisy in this argument? How can people praise a film maker for being daring by turning a tired format into something new a fresh, yet write off anyone who tries it subsequently?
I have read numerous articles and blog posts in recent weeks declaring that zombies have run (or at least shuffled) their course, that they aren’t nearly as entertaining or terrifying as they once were, more shambolic than shambling.
So, maybe it’s time that zombies evolved into something to cause us terror again because the truth is the audience has evolved too. The “Dawn of the Dead” remake and Charlie Brooker’s “Dead Set” showed how terrifying fast moving zombies can be and how much more relevant they are to our culture. In a new fast moving world of fast food, instant downloads, on demand TV and anything just click of a button away maybe it’s time our zombies picked up the pace a bit or run the risk of being left behind.