Zombie saturation?

Zombies everywhere, that’s what you’re thinking, right? AMC has a hit series with The Walking Dead, people are parodying Jane Austen with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and even the CDC has a page on how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I myself enjoy a decent horror movie, and zombies are okay for that, but — are we reaching the limits of zombies?

Let me say the following — in the horror genre, one of my favorite movies is The Serpent and the Rainbow (Wiki link here), an early Wes Craven effort starring Bill Pullman and loosely based (and I use the word “loosely” loosely”) on a non-fiction book of the same title, describing a scientist’s investigation into voodoo and “zombi-ism” in Haiti. I have also enjoyed movies like 28 Days Later and Zombieland, and of course the classics like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I even confess to liking the remake of Dawn of the Dead from a few years ago (hey, I have a soft spot for both Joe Weber and Matt Frewer, and Ving Rhames is cool). I’m a fan of The Walking Dead, and I am the one that got my husband hooked on it.

I have also read zombie books, such as the aforementioned P&P&Z, the other two books that make a trilogy with it (also liked Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters). I am currently reading a series on my Kindle called Living with the Dead, by Josh Guess, and just finished another e-book called Dead Earth: The Green Dawn. William Gibson, he of Neuromancer fame, also wrote Flatline Virus: When Zombies Evolved. This, I guess, is an attempt to show my zombie bona fides. I am not immersed in all of the stories and themes, but I’m probably more familiar than many 42yo suburban moms.

So the question I’m pondering is — are we at the zombie saturation point? Can anything new be done with this? Or if not exactly new, then different? Over on Literotica, where I post my stories, more than one author has story about zombies going on, and I hope they are well-received and that both readers and the authors enjoy them. I myself have toyed with the idea, but honestly, I can’t get there. Okay, so people are having sex after society has broken down — umm, okay, then what? Sex is still the same process right? I sincerely hope so.

The problem, as I’m sure many of you realize, is that zombies are not terribly interesting bad guys. I’m hardly stating anything new there. The focus of zombie stories isn’t the zombies, it’s the humans who survive and then have to keep surviving. So then you’re into stories with people in desperate situations. How much of that can you take?

I think zombie stories have, by necessity become “meta,” like the Scream franchise. Before Scream, characters in horror movies had apparently never seen any, at least none reflecting their situation. So after many years of this — Halloween, Jason, Freddy, etc. — something new was needed, and Wes Craven did a fantastic job with a movie that spoofed horror by having both the good and bad guys know the “rules.” Don’t go alone, check the corners, all of that.

It’s become the same with zombies, mostly. In The Walking Dead, they must be in a non-zombie universe. I haven’t heard a single Romero reference in two seasons (I am not a zombie nerd, so I may have missed it), plus they call them “walkers.” Zombieland and books like Living with the Dead, on the other hand, take a different approach, especially the latter, in that people do know what zombies are and hence are prepared to fight them. In fact, there’s a little bit of geek revenge going on because it’s the people who were ridiculed for paying attention to the details in things like Romero’s movies who are best fit to deal with it, if only in a strategic sense.

Still, I’m finding a lot of sameness in these stories, which I guess is to be expected. LWTD‘s gimmick of telling the story via blog posts is at least different and I like the way the people in the story, mostly the narrator, turn to the internet and use it to try to keep in touch with the outside world. Still, as in The Walking Dead, it’s a matter of survival and the group dynamic and there is the rational one, the humanitarian one, the guy or woman who wants to shoot anyone who isn’t in the immediate group, etc. Living with the Dead deals with the same things, but they went the opposite way and they are staying in one place where The Walking Dead‘s survivors are on the move.

The next step appears to be that zombies can learn, but I’m starting to wonder if this is a good thing. In one way I guess it is, because it forces a change in your survivor group’s dynamic. It’s one thing to pick off mindless, uncoordinated monsters, but another to deal with an enemy that can plan. Gibson did this in Flatline Virus and it appears to be the next step in Living with the Dead. I’ll have to wait until it’s all done to see what I think, but it kind of puts me in mind of crossing Jason Voorhees with someone like Pinhead. And why would you do that? If Jason has run his course (with mask, naturally) then can’t we just move on to something else? If zombies suddenly regain brain functions, are they still zombies? Is being a zombie just a state of undead being, or are you something else once your synapses start firing again?

I have to admit I’m less interested in how people in rural and suburban areas survive the apocalypse than in how it came to be. I’d like to see a zombie story/show that shows you how it happens, and the scientists and others trying to deal with it. Not just the politicians calling in the National Guard. One of the things that has disappointed me in The Walking Dead is that so far, we the viewers do not know — except by the occasional dropped hint — what happened in the month or so that our hero, Rick Grimes, was in a coma and the zombies appeared. I would really like to see that; AMC has done some webisodes, and I should watch them, I guess, to fill in a few gaps. But part of me can’t believe that Rick hasn’t cornered someone on the show and asked them, what the hell happened?

28 Days Later has this but to a lesser degree. At least there, we see in the beginning what happens — animal rights guys liberate some rage virus-infected chimps. That turns out to be a bad idea, perhaps right up there with Burger King putting bacon on sundaes. The chimps bite their liberators, the virus takes effect within minutes and, presto, no more fish and chips. Still, it might have been interesting to see things collapse as it happened.

Again, I give some credit to Josh Guess with his Living with the Dead, because our narrator gives us some of that. However, he’s in Kentucky and catching what he can on the news and internet, so while we have as close to first-hand as I’ve seen in many stories, it’s not quite what I’d like.

I guess the solution is to write what I’d want to see/read, but *whew* too much on my plate for that right now.



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lady Falcon on June 14, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I am not much on zombies or zombie movies. I really enjoy the End of the World (EOW) movies like “The Day After Tomorrow”, “The Core”, “Dreamcatcher”, “2012” (I love John Cusack), “Battle: Los Angeles”, and the closest one I can think of to zombies is the movie with Will Smith, “I Am Legend”. In Legend we see how it all began. I was reading your post and kept thinking why haven’t you mentioned “I Am Legend”? You might not have seen it that is the obvious answer. 🙂 Or, (gasp) you thought it sucked and was not a good example of zombies. You might be right about the zombie angle..I have no idea…but, I’ll argue that it does NOT suck. lol


    • I don’t mind a good EOW or disaster flick myself. Cusackw was probably the only decent thing about “2012.” 😉 I did not mention “I Am Legend” solely because I have not seen it and therefore did not think of it.

      I’m sure the zombies in “Legend” are just fine. As I noted, zombies change. I meant to note that the zombies in “28 Days Later” aren’t classic zombies, either — those aren’t dead people who reanimated, they’re people who were infected with a virus. Living zombies, I guess.

      I think what I’m saying is that there are few zombie stories that deal with the actual zombie epidemic as it happens and society’s reaction, no matter what causes the initial problem (virus, aliens, whatever). Most stories show you the very beginning, if they show you anything, and then they just jump ahead to the afterwards. If we can do whole movies, as you mentioned, about the end of the world (and let’s not forget “Independence Day: 🙂 ), why not one about the zombie threat growing.

      Because I think what you have now is that you have to up the ante with the zombies — they have to be faster, smarter, etc., and then you have to wonder if they really are zombies anymore.


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