Probably one of the most common questions I hear from people is “what’s your zombie apocalypse plan!?”
And it’s taken me countless hours of watching movies, tv shows, reading books, comic books and playing zombie videogames to finally realize what my zombie apocalypse plan is!
……..NOTHING! Because Zombies are stupid!
Yes you heard that correct, I hate zombies. I don’t hate the zombies themselves, them as a monster is understandably scary. They’re reanimated corpses who try to eat people and attack in swarms. So yes I get that they’re supposed to be scary.
But my complaint with zombies is this. The zombie apocalypse story is the same.
A few people start experiencing signs and symptoms of being sick. Then more. Then a lot. Then the first person turns and it turns to mass hysteria. Society breaks down. A survivor escapes and finds the few remaining survivors. They build a mini society free from zombies. Zombies return, kill most of them. Few remaining survivors leave and are rescued by military/militia/survival colony. End story.
“But Joaquin! Every zombie movie isn’t like that!”
28 Days Later. 28 Weeks Later. Night of the Living Dead. Dawn of the Dead. Shaun of The Dead. Resident Evil 2. World War Z. Pontypool. Planet Terror. Zombie Land. Etc.
Sure each has a slight slight SLIGHT twist on the narrative, but for the most part the foundation is always the exact same. So my question is this. Why do we keep retelling this story!? When writers say that they want to write a zombie film, don’t you think they’d say “let’s do something different that no one has seen before!” You’d really think so right!?
Instead you get:
“Okay….so it starts off slow…then the virus explodes and society falls! And our hero escapes the city! They meet other survivors!”
And the producers say “brilliant. 100% original idea! Let’s make it!”
So instead of saying a different story being told about this monster you’re being told THE EXACT same story every single time! The Zombie is one-dimensional. They are trying to eat humans and attack in swarms. They don’t have plans, they don’t have motives, they don’t offer a range of issues. They just try to eat you and you just try to escape them.
They basically took the story of Pepe Lepieux and the Black Cat from Looney Tunes and decided to retell it using humans. Chase. Run. Chase. Run. Chase. Run. No original thought needed.
Look at Werewolves. Not my favourite movie monster but just look at the million different stories about this monster. In the 1980s we saw Michael J Fox turn into one and he became good at basketball. In the 90s we saw them travel to Paris and attack tourists through vicious night time assaults. In the early 2000’s we saw them as slaves to the vampires in Underworld. In the late 2000s we saw them as a the romantic rivals of the vampires in Twilight. And in each of these versions the representations are entirely different. Michael J Fox was a human with wolf fangs and hair everywhere. In American Werewolf in Paris he was a large half-human half-wolf creature. In Underworld they were tall, muscular, standing wolves. In Twilight they were just full-out Wolves. But in each version, their origin is different, their physical characteristics are different and their motives are different. They’ve been in romantic films, comedies, teen films, horror films, dramas and in kids movies even!
But the zombies are no different than from their original in Night of The Living Dead. Slow Walking, groaning, hungry biters. With the exception of 28 days later when instead of slow walking they sprinted……
(Ps. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved 28 Days/Weeks Later due to the great acting and the only original portrayal of zombies).
But I just find myself asking why are we being told the same story again and again and why do people keep liking them? Surely I’m not the only one who’s become entirely bored by this monster and this genre!
Recently I picked up the novel ‘Red Hill’ by Jamie McGuire. It was the third ranked horror novel on Good Reads for 2013 and lost out to NOS4A2 (one of my top five favourite novels ever) by less than 500 votes. Which when you get to the top 5 on the yearly award section for Good Reads is quite crazy since the 1st place book that year – Doctor Sleep – beat out NOS4A2 by about 17 000 votes. Normally the books are separated by this quantity of votes so when I saw that his ranked just ever so slightly behind one of my favourite novels I decided I’d read it.
Zombies aside I said “well it wouldn’t be ranked 3rd if it wasn’t amazing”. It was marketed as a story about a zombie outbreak that forces a group of survivors together at a farm house called Red Hill where tensions run high. I truthfully thought the novel was about a zombie outbreak that would last 50 pages and then the remaining 300 would be spent with the small group of survivors where they develop cabin fever and societal boundaries would break down and be destroyed within the farmhouse. I said “this should be different and kind of cool”. I almost pictured a Night of the Living Dead scenario.
What I got was an incredibly well-written book about a story I’d heard a thousand times. I’m not criticizing the author on her writing style. What I’m criticizing is that it was the EXACT same story I’d heard 1000 times, so I found myself wondering “what was the point of writing this novel?” Sure it had the personal human stories that we’re meant to relate to, but I mean they weren’t the craziest or most captivating human interest stories. And their personal stories were driven by the exact same events we see all the time “I hope my daughters are okay during this zombie outbreak. I hope my daughters can find me in this isolated group of survivors. I hope the military rescues them too, etc.”.
I’m speaking broadly to not give away any spoilers in case you decide to read this book (although if you’ve seen ANYTHING with zombies in it then there isn’t much point to it).
And in this book, they had the same Zombie character archetypes that every single film/movie/comic/book has.
The Fighter: This is the military/police officer/gun specialist who has superior knowledge in gun handling, survival skills, battle tactics and is a marksmen. Often this person takes the lead through their stoic personality. (When you do two tours in Afghanistan THEN you can talk to me, but for right now we’ve got to get these people to safety. I’ll pick them off while you guys escape!)
The Medic: The former nurse/doctor/paramedic/military medic who joins the group and can heal the group member from just about any single injury with the exception of a zombie bite. They conveniently have SOME medical supplies with them (painkillers, bandages and a syringe). (I’ve reset their bones, stitched them up AND given them some drugs to go to sleep. They’ll be 100% by morning since I’m here, had I not been here they’d be dead by now).
The Conveniently Knowledgeable One: The character who just so happens to have the exact knowledge that the average citizen doesn’t have, which conveniently is the thing that saves them. (Oh! I’m a city planner and I designed this very street we’re on! I know what sewers get us out of here!)
The Useless One: The emotionally sensitive, physically weak damsel in distress who constantly acts selfishly and never thinks of the objective goal. Often they are responsible for one character death due to a moment when they panicked and put themselves in danger for someone braver to save. (I’m not going out there to the military helicopter that’s going to save us! I’m going to panic and not listen to our perfectly reasonable plan we’ve established!)
The Critic: The angry, sarcastic one who doesn’t contribute a single thing to the group other than shooting down ideas and telling everyone what they’re doing wrong. They’re in a constant bad mood and will almost always argue with the group leader. (You want us to go out there to the armoury where we can defend ourselves!? And just how do you plan on making it there!? How long do you plan for us to be in there for!? What are we going to eat!? God you’re so stupid!).
The Child: The character everyone has to ‘protect’ and who constantly has to be carried, saved, protected and who will retain their plucky, positive attitude throughout the entire thing! (Daddy! Do you want me to shoot the zombies like I do in my videogame! Tee hee!!).
I’ve just gotten sick of reading/seeing this same story again and again. It’s not a bad story, but it’s like listening to your friend telling you the same story again and again.
Then when you tell them they already told you this story, they rebuttle with “oh but I never told you what happened while this was happening!” then they add one tiny minute detail that is indeed different but doesn’t dramatically change or alter the story in any way.
If you like zombies then that’s cool, I’m not criticizing you in any way. I’m just explaining why I hate zombies, why I’m bored of them and why I have never bothered to make a zombie apocalypse plan. Because I’ve seen the exact same successful plan work in every single movie/book. I just have to make sure I pick the right character to be and I’m guaranteed to survive once the survivalist camp gets attacked by the horde of zombies in the climax of the story!
Well that’s enough complaining from me! Until next time!