There aren’t many television shows that I watch regularly, actually there are only two that I can think of. The top of my “to watch” list has to be AMC’s The Walking Dead. I discovered it on Netflix and binge watched until I caught up to start watching on Sunday nights. It’s not really the zombies that make this show compelling, it’s the relationships, the struggles, and the moral dilemmas posed to the living. I saw a comment on a board by a fan that said the title did not refer to the zombies or walkers as they are called, but the survivors of this harsh new reality. I never watched this show when it first started because I thought that an entire series based on zombies would be boring. I mean how many ways can you tell the zombie story? The dead rise, the living try to survive and find a cure.
When well done, the zombie story may follow that recipe but it’s the individual ingredients that make the flesh eater vs the living interesting in ways that can be surprising. As far as the genre goes, it is definitely not for everyone. However, there is an abundance to choose from: comedy, high drama, action, all out gore, and more. Here are my 5 top Zombie themed venues of entertainment and what we might possibly be able to learn from them.
1. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead
This classic spawned one of the best known movie lines, “they’re coming to get you, Barbra!” It may be black and white but to me that just adds to the creepiness. It’s based in era that is not exactly postapocalyptic but more of a bizarre “outbreak”. It’s not just a gory zombie tale but a commentary on prejudices we carry and inter-human-social relations. The ending will leave you gasping.
2. AMC’s The Walking Dead
Based on the graphic novels of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The issues of humanity and what is it, how do you hang on to it, and why should you hang on to it, are raised on a weekly basis. One of the advantages of having a long running serial is that people have more time to get invested in the characters and ask themselves, what would I do in that situation? This series is unpredictable as they have not shied away from killing main characters, you’ll have to watch to find out which ones.
3. Shaun of the Dead
“Let’s get to the pub.” Our hero, Shaun, makes lists of things to do to survive that changes throughout the ordeal but the best plan ends with getting to the pub. At one point he has to add the name of someone who has become a zombie and notes they need to be killed, sorry. This dark comedy shows us that we are all “zombies” in our modern self-absorbed world.
4. World War Z
This big money blockbuster features fast-moving zombies that act like a swarm of insects in their efforts to feed. I wasn’t sure I would like this one as I kind of felt it was an attempt to just jump on the zombie bandwagon but I was pleasantly surprised. The Israeli soldier character, Segen, played by Daniella Kertesz, has stuck with me as a picture of resilience and downright “badassness”. It speaks to our fears of collapsing economies and disease that may strike from afar, perhaps even our fear of a too inter-connected world. It was spun from a book by the same name, World War Z, An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.
Similar to Shaun, this dark comedy speaks to the ‘unconnectedness’ of modern life. It’s rather gory but the mix of characters keeps you interested, not to mention, it’s funny. The main character counts down his list of personal rules for survival throughout the story. I think we can apply all of Columbus’ rules to our lives, not just the apocalypse. For instance, rule one: cardio.
I think the zombie genre will be going strong for some time as evidenced by the still popular movies, new and old. Almost everywhere you look there are zombie-fests, zombie-runs, and zombie-crawls. Here in my small town they hosted a zombie-prom at the library not too long ago, I’m sure some citizens were baffled. There are emerging venues of telling the reanimated dead story from new perspectives, The Returned and Resurrection are the latest examples.
Zombies may have come to represent what we as modern people fear most: incurable disease, economic collapse, war, environmental threat, and death. Zombies are the ultimate “other”.
Forget about my usual advice about Never Turn Off the Lights. Zombies (as well as the fears listed above) don’t care about the light. They are the most dangerous and deep-seated fears because we can do little, if anything, to prevent them from coming when they are set in motion and there is literally nowhere to hide. Maybe, as these movies show us, the best we can do is stick together and: 1. cardio; 2. keep fighting (even if you have to cut off your hand); 3. (a.k.a. 32) enjoy the little things; and finally, 4. get to the pub.