Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where Are The Smart Zombies?

As the zombie trend shuffles listlessly on year after year, nothing much seems to change. Aside from a few minor details (fast zombies) little exists to differentiate one film from another. And yet the genre remains strong. But just as the over-abused vampire milieu has been tortured this way and that (before unceremoniously settling into glitter-skinned douchebaggery), so too must the zombie evolve.

In the past, there have been hints at an avenue that would prove most intriguing and even downright frightening: intelligent zombies.

I'm no zombie expert, but at least as far back as 1984's Night of the Comet, we have been treated to hints of this character. One of the scariest parts of that movie isn't the sudden emergence--the cut-to, if you will--of mindless creatures out to consume our flesh, but the slow and disturbing disintegration of those who were only sort of protected from the comet's effects from normal humans to zombies.

And even this last season of SyFy's Being Human  had us witness Sally and her other former ghost friends returning from the grave only to slowly and horrifyingly become ravenous consumers of live flesh. And they're aware of this. They see themselves going down that dark path and they hate themselves for it. Still, the hunger consumes them. Watching them agonize over the loss of their humanity while at the same time justifying it to hang onto that same said humanity is what makes the story compelling. These aren't me-want-brains cardboard cutouts, but fully rounded characters.

Too often the zombie cliche involves some disconnect from our protagonist's point of view prior to the "zombie apocalypse" to well after said event has occurred. We're seldom treated to that breakdown, that loss of humanity and social order. The terrifying prospect of losing your friends and family to something that consumes their identity. Instead, time and again, we start out with some sort of voice-over narration about the times before and how nobody knows exactly how it all began...blah, blah, blah. Or someone conveniently wakes up 28 days later to a world suddenly changed.

I say the most horrifying thing would be the change.

If zombie movies continue their slow, staggered shuffle over the next few years, let us at least explore different ways to tell the story instead of boring us with the same ol' cliches.

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