Zombies may represent our darkest fears
What makes the zombie genre so popular? I looked at some reasons for this Halloween story for The Oklahoman.
“Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills. The people it kills get up and kill.”
— Dr. Foster (“Dawn of the Dead,” 1978)
Arguably the most popular horror subgenre of the past decade has been the zombie tale, with motion picture hits including “Zombieland,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and the “Resident Evil” series. People have even taken to dressing like zombies in “Zombie Walks” in various parts of the world, including in Oklahoma City. (In 2010, fake blood left by a zombie walk led to a brief police investigation.)
But what has led to the ongoing appeal of these brain-eating, slow-witted monsters? Maybe it’s a way of facing our fears.
“I find zombies to be an interesting subgenre of horror because unlike their narrative cousin the vampire, the werewolf or even Frankenstein’s monster, zombies don’t have individual identities or personalities,” said local comics writer and critic Rob Vollmar. “You don’t fear an individual zombie so much as you have concern about the phenomena of zombies. Horror tends to be a genre that takes on the fears that we can’t face in their primary form and so they mutate into something that we can process. It seems to me that the re-emergence of zombies in film, fiction, etc., was tied to the onset of the War on Terror; a sort of sublimated fear of the unknown horde with no demands that can be satisfied except through mindless killing.”
Zombiezonenews.com estimates 45 zombie movies were released in 2010, almost enough to watch a new one every week. The highest-grossing was Milla Jovovich’s “Resident Evil: Afterlife.” According to Box Office Mojo, it’s the second-highest grossing zombie movie of all time, with a $60 million gross, behind only “Zombieland” from 2009 at $75 million.
“The Walking Dead” continues to be a juggernaut on TV and in comic books, with the graphic novels hitting The New York Times Bestseller list. Robert Kirkman created the series and writes the ongoing comics and graphic novels. The first prose novel, “The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor” by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, and “The Walking Dead Chronicles: The Official Companion Book” by Paul Ruditis were released in recent weeks.
“The Walking Dead” follows sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes and a band of survivors following a zombie holocaust.
“The central genius behind the Walking Dead is that zombie narratives are typically very self-contained affairs,” Vollmar said.
“It’s usually the Night or the Day of the living dead, not here’s how we cope with zombies being around for a long time.”
The long-running narrative gives more time to explore the world after this major event.
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