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They’re Coming to Getcha, FloJo! They’re Coming to Getcha! June 16, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies.

There has been a recent development in horror films that has been both revered and reviled by all members of the pop culture watchdog community. No, it’s not the re-introduction of the classic slashers of our youth. It isn’t Hollywood’s thought process which somehow believes that every movie from Japan with a supernatural theme has to be remade with the starlet of the moment. It isn’t even the sons of hack seventies directors undertaking laborious shoots using handheld steadycams.

It’s the advent of the fast zombie.

Bear with me on this.

Danny Boyle started with it in 30 Days Later. The Dawn of the Dead continued on it. Several recent promos for this winter’s crop of atmospheric movies show the glassy eyed, brain eating monsters tearing after someone while running through a cornfield, all the while threatening to break Carl Lewis’ land speed record. The slow moving lumbering monsters of your youth are slowly disappearing, being replaced with something all the more scary: a possible threat.

In the zombie filled cinema of the eighties,  George Romero and his contemporaries flooded cinemas with all takes on the genre. You had zombies at a fieldhouse, in a mall, on the Queen Elizabeth, dancing with Prince. But they all had one think in common: that slow, plodding one limp leg drag that you tried really hard to re-enact at your eighth grade Halloween party. They often bumped into one another like drunken revelers at a frat party, but never moving fast enough to spoil the perfectly coiffed hairs in their half hatchet wound, half pompadour dos. The word zombie even wound up entering the vernacular for any person who looked dazed and confused, ironically how much of us were in the eighties. Zombies were slow.

I’ve read many theories on just what Romero was really trying to do with his movies. He has often stated that the first Living Dead was his comment on racial bigotry and stereotypes and that the zombies were a perfect metaphor for the slow creep of the racially hateful in America. He did the same in Day of the Dead, only this time it was the slow onset of American capitalism turning us into a brain dead mass. But either way they had to move slowly. Otherwise, he didn’t have a fully ninety minutes of film to fully develop his theme and commentary. That and it provided more opportunities for every take on decapitation his prop crew could think of.

However, the genre resurfaced recently and suddenly the zombies weren’t slow anymore. They still had the look and desires of the more familiar zombies of our past. Glassy red eyes. Check. A low moan that sounds like me after a night with Jack, Mark and Mr. Heineken. Check. Pale white skin that sticks to their faces tighter than Jessica Simpson’s skirts. Check. Only thing, was, wait, where’s the walk? Where’s the limp that looked that at any time it could break into the freaky freaky shake dance of the Thriller video? How are they able to take off after prey like African lions? And how can they chase and take down the fit, athletic cops tearing down the sound of the hill? Why is that zombie leaping a fence like a fucken gazelle? Mommy, make it stop.
I’m not indicting the new films as lacking the powerful message of the earlier zombie films. In fact, I’m glad they’re gone. If I want meaning, I see a Spike Lee movie. If I want boobs, I rent a porno. Or a Spike Lee movie from that strange period in the late nineties when every one of his films involved with the sex industry. Why then am I alternately upset and thrilled by the zombie? Simple. It’s humanized them.

Creating the ideal that, if and when the zombie apocalypse happens, they will be just like us, possessing all of our qualities has turned them into much more fearful creatures. No longer can the protagonists of our films out wit them with a simple breakneck run into a supply closet. They must now use their wits to survive. They must use their intellect to compete with these brain dead Superbeings. Still the trappings of modern transportation remain their best friends. Only now they have to outrace a zombie to do it. I love the idea. It’s brought an action staple, the chase scene, into the world of the zombie film. Before the fast zombie influx, every zombie chase resembled the OJ white Bronco fest of 1994. Sure, it was riveting and a life and death struggle, but it moved so slow a turtle on Xanax could lap the whole situation.

I cheer the fast zombie. But it still upsets me a little bit for the reasons stated above. Sure, I know a zombie apocalypse isn’t coming the same way I know a twenty mile alien ship isn’t going to rain fire on me. But I always prided myself while watching the films that I could be a survivor. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to zig and zag my way away from one of the undead. I may not have good ups, but I can outrun the gored cheerleader with one leg. Now, I am faced with the upsetting reality that I can no longer rely on my fleet of foot if placed into that situation. With hordes of monsters running after me, I have this deep seeded fear that the zombies on my block would be the track team from the local high school. And then, what’s worse, even after I’m killed and become a zombie, I still wouldn’t have the speed to keep up with them. Meaning now I have to worry about my survival after being a zombie, because in this new world of the fast zombie, the slow fat guy still gets picked last for brain eating contests in gym.

Why worry, you ask? The fast zombie is just another way to spice up a genre that has long gone stale. Because if recent world events have taught me anything, it’s that shit can happen. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Building collapses. I’d be willing to bet that at least one kid survived Katrina because of something he saw Jake Gyllenhall do in Day After Tomorrow. You didn’t hear about because the kid, while glad to be alive, didn’t actually want to publicly admit he saw Day After Tomorrow. And now, with the zombies becoming superhuman, I can say honestly and openly that the obesity epidemic in our country has made us unable to withstand a zombie attack. Let’s see matt Lauer investigate that one on Countdown to Doomsday Two: Shit that Scares Me Even More Than Aliens.
But keep the fast zombies. They’re at least providing me a teaching tool and an inspiration to drop those twenty pound of beer weight I’ve been holding on to. In fact, give them weapons. Teach them how to drive. Give them every single possible advantage so we can have a play by play manual on how to survive them. Because, if in reality, the zombies that are on their way are slow, we’ll feel better about ourselves knowing that we can definitely handle them now. We’ve done research. Just don’t give the zombies the ability to dance. Because I may be able to increase my speed and my proficiency with a weapon, but I know I’ll never be able to compete in a dance fight with them. And that, if they are able to bust a zombie move, is the scariest development of all.



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