Okay, hater might be a strong word, but I don’t like zombies. There. I’ve finally admitted it.
The popularity of zombies is befuddling to me. It would seem that there just isn’t enough story potential in the shambling undead. They’re brainless. There are only so many reactions one can have to a fresh-from-the-grave relative. And…that’s the end of it for me. There is no potential for a sexy zombie (though I suppose one could have a sparkly zombie…) or a zombie that shows regret for the monster he’s become (as in the case of a werewolf) or a zombie that can plot a sophisticated revenge (like your average angry ghost).
To have an interesting zombie, you have to go beyond shuffling and rotting (which might mean it’s not a zombie at all). Therefore, here’s my list of favorite zombies works:
- Night of the Living Dead – George Romero never uses the Z word. Undead that eat human flesh are ghouls (a concept that I found very disturbing when I first encountered it at an early age while watching, presumably, The Monster Club). But the best part of this classic is the relationship between the characters. I’m not sure enough can be said about a 1968 movie that has a black man taking charge of the survival of a bunch of generally incompetent white folks. Also, Romero gives me one of the best "bad endings" ever.
- Shaun of the Dead – Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s follow-up, is often seen as a further critique of the "zombification" of society through evils like consumerism, but that concept doesn’t really fly with me. It comes off as a little dated and is handled much better by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s horror comedy. Or, with Pegg’s character referentially shuffling off to work in the morning, maybe I’m just too post-modern for my own good…
- Brian of Michael Lalonde’s Orneryboy web comic. Brian is not your average zombie. He’s an MC, making excellent use of an old Speak & Spell, and has recently taken up company with the ghost cat. But Lalonde seems to love turning horror tropes on their ear. It’s spooky fun all year long.
- Zombies in Voodoo – The concept of a man being manipulated into believing himself to be the undead servant of another is pretty fascinating. Wade Davis has written a couple of books on the possibly pharmacology behind the practice, but in many ways it’s the pliability of human mind, it terms of belief and memories, that may be the linchpin of their possible existence. We all like to believe we’re beyond mumbo jumbo, but maybe we aren’t.
- And lastly, the best zombies ever, zombie ants. Okay, it’s more like a "possession." A fungus takes control of an ant and walks it to a place in the forest (usually up a tree) with the best environment for the fungus. And by best environment, we’re talking the right temperature and humidity with "remarkable specificity." What makes zombie ants disturbing is that this fungus isn’t the only parasite that affects behavior. Toxoplasma gondii, for example, changes the behavior of rodents and possibly humans as well.
So, there you have it. Five zombie things (roughly defined) that I find pretty cool.