My fear/obsession with zombies started out as a teenager, when I went on a weekend trip away with some friends in the country. We got really high and watched Resident Evil and I FLIPPED out, squealing like a pig at every high-anxiety moment, retching from anticipation at every corner(or intoxication, looking back it’s hard to tell). After that point, I couldn’t deal with zombie games, but loved zombie movies because I would get so fucking amped up about HOW FUCKING SCARY A ZOMPOCALYPSE WOULD BE. I remember walking home through the streets of Kalamunda at night, always in the middle of the street, just in case there were any zombies hiding in the shadows because I’d have a better chance of survival. Straight up, I felt like it was a legitimate scenario, more legitimate than being kidnapped or raped it would seem.
I’ve always kind of thought zombie walks are pretty lame though.
However, my interest in the undead sort of dropped off for a while. Moving away from the comfort and stability of Perth turned my mind from deliberately scaring myself by watching 28 Days Later every month or two, and I haven’t had an internet connect good enough to keep my film/tv series watching hobby going…. UNTIL NOW. I got unlimited internet and got myself (YES I ABSOLUTELY PAID FOR IT INTERNET POLICE) Walking Dead, the latest in zombie themed goodness to appear on screens. Been watching it non-stop, it’s pretty terrifying, with an underlying moral thingo that makes me hate the protaganist’s wife even though she’s not that bad. Stupid hidden conservatism, damn southern USA.
But anyway, it got me to thinking about this little rant that I used to go on, back when I was in the thick of my zombie paranoia. Each period of time, each decade even, has it’s own standout, super popular horror icons, and for each time period those horror icons represent the biggest fears in society at the time. It’s those standout horror films, that everyone loves despite himself or herself, that best get across that fantastic, gory symbolism, whether or not the audience realizes it.
But then there is the commercial aspect to take into account- popularity breeds sequels and merchandise and happymeals. If people are spending money on vampire novels, they’re going to turn those novels into movies. People spend heaps of money on vampire movies, there’s going to be a television series made about vampires. Then another one, then another one, and then “Being Human” is released and that ruins the whole thing for everybody.
And that’s what I mean… did that used to happen in pop culture? This process of noticing interest in something then sapping it for all it’s worth, I understand that it happened, but was it this sped up? I can’t imagine that anyone would be thinking of releasing anything to do with vampires for quite a while now- the genre is bled completely dry (necessary pun), and within, what… 3 years of the first twilight movie coming out?
Walking Dead was released last year, well after what I perceived to be the tipping point of zombie popularity. It is certainly scary as all fuck for someone like me who can’t handle images of groups of zombies larger than 5 without hitting myself on the head and bouncing on my chair trying not to scream- but I don’t get the sense that this show, even though it was based on an older comic book, maintains any of that original feeling of what it is that makes zombies so scary in the first place… there’s no symbolism. There are the obvious calls about how race doesn’t matter anymore, and that our luxurious appliances are pretty pointless if no one knows how to catch their food anymore etc, but other than that it’s straight up zombie gore and obvious heros and quiet heros and a redneck who beats up his wife.
Is it possible to have that considered symbolic representation of a society’s anxiety anymore (ala George Romero), now that the rate of commercialisation is turning those fears into a commodity before we even get a chance to do some basic analytical contextualizing? But I suppose the time of zombies being representative of our slow realization that we’ve become slaves, or that humans are our own worst enemies is over. That anxiety has been realized and now the information to back it up is being stuck on signs and paraded through city streets during protests. Zombies wouldn’t be it anymore. Contemporary vampires seem to represent the idea that “love”, or at least lust, can overcome darkness and death, and aliens (and zombies and vampires) point out that humans aren’t so stable in their position at the top of the food chain. None of that is new, and it certainly doesn’t speak of the things and events associated with the last 10 years.
As I mentioned before, I am not at all up to date with the goings on in cinema anymore. I haven’t really seen anything released in the last 12 months or so except Snowtown and a bunch of comedies, so I know I should not let this turn into a lament for the death of good horror… and besides, the definition of “good horror” changes from person to person. Doing some research, I’ve found out there are at least 2 traditional zombie breakout releases every year, a couple of weird guy/girl goes crazy and gets revenge films, experiments in the concept of vampires, ghosts, angels vs. demons, werewolves… I don’t see anything fresh. EXCEPT The Human Centipede.
Now this film I have read a lot about, but I really don’t want to watch it. I don’t want that image in my head. That is why I chose not see A Serbian Film, and it is why I wish I read more about certain films before I watched them. I’m not the kind of person that can see an incest rape scene and be like “Yeah, I would definitely watch that film again”. Can’t help it, even if it was beautifuly shot and directed and acted with a fitting soundtrack. BUT, I love the concept behind Human Centipede, because to me it speaks loudly about modern humanity- communication, medicine, power, racial/political issues, all the things that point towards it being a key film to come out of this period. Get some more films like that coming out, and I’ll have a new thing to rant about.
Give me some film recommendations, just so long as there is no incest rape or child touching. Axes in heads though, I’m all for that.