From V to Z

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I read an interesting tidbit in the Hollywood Reporter that said: “[…] [C]ould zombies be making a run — or, perhaps, a very slow, clumsy walk — at the pop culture crown?

As a huge fan of the zombie genre, I would like to believe this to be true, but I’m not going to just accept the premise at face value. The article argues that zombies will supplant vampires as the horror genre of choice among the masses. You’ll recall a long while back, it was slasher films.

But the Twilight series, TV shows like True Blood, and films like Daybreakers have kept the spotlight on vampires for a good long while. And though the occasional zombie gems shows up on the big screen — think Zombieland with Jesse Eisenberg — most of the zombie movies released (often in the name of George Romero) are far less impactful as far as the genre goes.

There is one outlier that could thrust the zombie horror subgenre, and that’s the forthcoming release of the AMC TV series the Walking Dead, based on the comic books. This series is so much anticipated that when it’s released on Halloween this year, it will be released at around the same time in 120 different countries around the world — you know, to prevent people from sharing it outside of the networks’ hands over the internet.

It may not seem like a big deal, but it is.

And is this not an indication of the sort of underground reverence the zombie has? Moreover, is it not an indication of fascination with the fall of civilization through some rapid, violent disease that turns friends and loved one into mindless flesh-eaters?

The Walking Dead deals with the zombie phenomenon in a unique way: the zombies are somewhat incidental. More relevant to the plot, the thing that keeps the story moving isn’t the huge kill, the big battle of man versus zombie. It’s the way human beings deal with their new isolation, their new position away from the top of the food chain.

Maybe this new survival horror will be to my generation what the threat of all-out nuclear war was to Generation X… Mind you nuclear war seems much more tangible even now than the threat of a zombie invasion.

Regardless of the next leader in the horror sub genre war, I think I can safely say this: the sub genre that won’t be at the top is Mummies. No matter what Brendan Fraser does.

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2 Responses to “From V to Z”

  1. Mike
    September 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I would argue that the most recent iteration of zombies trending in the pop culture mainstream has already come and passed. Evidence: Dawn of the Dead Remake, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and to a lesser extent, Zombieland. DotD was a relatively successful springboard for a genre that hadn’t been “popular” for decades, and its success reinvigorated interest — if not in the complete public consciousness, then at least in a significant portion of the parts led by geeks. It rebooted traditional genre tropes and redefined the “rules” for the current generation.
    28DL did something similar, but pushed the genre further into unfamiliar territory (remember the huge debate between old-school Slow Zombies and new-school Fast Zombies?). In the evolution of genre, it’s the next logical step.
    Of course, Shaun took it even further with parody/abstraction. Zombies were well-known enough by the current generation of pop culture consumers to uphold a successful satire. Zombieland did likewise, though I have my own personal reservations about it and would argue it did so less successfully. Regardless, it was a huge hit that was no longer for basement-dwelling neckbeards — now they could bring their girlfriends too!
    Now, I’m a self-professed geek-snob. Just like hipsters get upset when the mainstream starts listening to their favorite obscure bands, I get all indignant when my geeky pleasures end up on the popular radar. In the past 5-10 years, zombies have re-emerged as a popular device and reached the point of being annoying. There are so many unnecessarily zombified pieces of pop culture these days that I’m forced to group them into the same category as Pirates, Ninjas, and Chuck Norris jokes: they were once amusing, but they’ve long since jumped the shark.
    That said, I still love zombies, and I hope to hell that The Walking Dead does well.

    • Adam Rozenhart
      September 19, 2010 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Mike. I agree with you, generally. However, I tend to look at the emerging popularity of a thing/genre/whatever as largely a good thing. Zombies will definitely undergo an undead renaissance with the launch of TWD on Halloween.

      I’ll continue to identify with the geeks who’ve always loved zombies, just like true lovers of vampires will always identify more with Anne Rice than they do with Stephenie Meyer… Just to take another dig at the Twilight series.