World War Z as a Movie

I hope the author who wrote the screenplay adaptation of Max Brooks’s novel World War Z did a significant rewrite.  The book had no main character, and, without a hero for viewers to empathize with, I don’t believe it would translate into a successful movie.

I’ve heard reports from people who have seen the movie that the zombies don’t shamble or run.  Instead, they sort of leap like insects.  I have no way of verifying these reports, since I haven’t seen the movie.  If these reports are true, it would add another zombie mutation to the movies.

In Hollywood, zombies started out as slow and lumbering like the ones in Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932).  They didn’t eat people.  They blundered around in a trance and followed the orders of their evil master Bela Lugosi.  And then, over thirty years later, in 1968, George Romero’s classic lumbering flesh-eating zombies evolved.  It wasn’t until over thirty more years later in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) that film zombies became cannibals that could run.

A lurching, leaping, insectlike zombie might turn out to be pretty scary.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Zombies vs. Vampires

Which are scarier—zombies or vampires?

It used to be that vampires were scarier than zombies—back when Dracula and Nosferatu ruled the roost of vampires.  But vampires have become so romanticized what with such movies as Interview with the Vampire and Twilight that the creatures have been leeched of their fiendishness and nowadays are avatars of eroticism rather than of evil.

Gone are the days of Nosferatu, the ugliest and creepiest vampire of them all as Max Schreck portrayed him in F. W. Murnau’s eponymous 1922 German film, and of Dracula, the vampire with the evil eye as Bela Lugosi realized him in Hollywood.

Whereas Hollywood once envisioned the vampire as the maleficent, bug-eyed Bela Lugosi (in Dracula) with an eldritch Balkan accent, it kept reinventing the creature of the night.  Along came Tom Cruise as the ashen-faced romantic fop of a vampire in Interview with a Vampire and then Robert Pattinson as the frail, anemic vampire in the Twilight series.  These modern vampires aren’t scary by half.  In fact, their victims actually lust for these creatures to bite them!

Justin Cronin tried to juice up the vampire’s fear factor when he penned his horror novel The Passage.  Eschewing the term vampire because of its modern evocation of the words erotic and romantic, he called his vampires virals and made them hideous to behold and bloodcurdling in their assaults on humanity.

The fact is, though, that Cronin’s creatures aren’t really vampires.  Cronin himself cringes when the term vampire is used to describe his evil man-made creatures.  These days, no horror writer worth his salt wants to write about vampires if his goal is to stoke fear in his readers.  On the other hand, it is romance writers who employ vampires, and it is not to generate fear but to generate eros.

Enter the zombie.

The zombie is the walking dead.  It is an ugly, reeking, decomposing slab of dead flesh that walks the land day and night feeding on living human beings.  There is nothing romantic about this ghoul.  It is a filthy, disease-riddled creature that fills people with equal parts fear and disgust.  These creatures resemble the original film image of the vampire as Nosferatu more than they do Ann Rice’s Lestat.

Could anyone actually be turned on by the flesh-eating, lurching walking corpses in George Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead?  Unlike modern vampires, zombies instill only one feeling in people—that of horror.  Young women may lust to have their throats bitten by vampires in the guise of Robert Pattinson, but no young women alive (unless she’s suicidal) is dying to get bitten by zombies played by unrecognizable Hollywood extras with putrescent faces and ragged clothes and bites that will rip their bodies to shreds.

Who’s scarier in this day and age?  It’s not even close.  Hands down, it’s zombies over vampires.


Why Do Zombies Matter?

It seems that zombies are everywhere these days.  They’re not just in horror movies like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.  Now we have zombie computers and zombie banks.

Zombie computers are computers controlled by hackers who use them for nefarious purposes, such as sending out spam.  Zombie banks are insolvent banks that are propped up by the government.

The term zombie didn’t even come into existence until around 1871.  The Haitian Creole word was used to describe individuals in the West Indies who had died and come back to life.  In most cases, these cadavers were resurrected by practitioners of voodoo.

One of the first books about zombies was Magic Island by W. B. Seabrook concerning Haitian zombies, but zombies didn’t really catch on until horror movies popularized them in the 1930s.

One of the earliest and most popular zombie movies was Victor Halperin’s creepy White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi in 1932.  Lugosi is an evil genius who uses zombies to do his bidding.

At this point in the evolution of these monsters, zombies are Haitian-type creatures that have been resurrected by a voodoo-practicing malefactor, or by an evil madman, who orders them around like they are slaves.

It is interesting to note that these zombies evolved during the Great Depression and also during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany.

The zombies in White Zombie shuffle around with their eyes staring blankly out of their heads as they act like minions to the whims of their evil master played by Bela Lugosi.  The zombies’ servile obedience to Lugosi can be interpreted as mirroring the Germans’ blind obedience to their fuehrer Adolf Hitler.

The next incarnation of the Hollywood zombie came in 1968 with the release of George Romero’s low-budget classic Night of the Living Dead.  Like the zombies in White Zombie, Romero’s zombies shamble around mindlessly.  However, these newer zombies are different in several important respects.  First, they don’t take orders from an evil genius, and second, they have developed an overpowering appetite for living human flesh.  In fact, the only reason they exist is to eat.

The next generation of zombies manifests itself in 2007’s 28 Weeks Later.  Like their predecessors in Night of the Living Dead, these zombies are flesh-eating ghouls, but there is a striking difference.  Whereas the older zombies shambled around like drunks, these new zombies are fleet-footed like humans.  The new generation of zombies isn’t resurrected from the dead.  These zombies are infected by plague, which may explain why they can move as fast as their fellow living humans.

Modern zombies reflect the collapse of contemporary civilization and its inability to cope with its failing and disintegrating economic systems.  These zombies aren’t controlled by a Hitler-type evil genius.  They aren’t controlled by any human being.  Mindless, they are controlled only by their insatiable craving for living human flesh.  Zombies now represent mankind run amok.

It is no wonder then that zombies, who most accurately symbolize the times we are living in, have become the ne plus ultra of bete noires for modern times, superseding other monsters like vampires, Frankenstein monsters, and Godzilla.

Evolution of the Zombie in Movies

Zombies first appeared on film in the Bela Lugosi movie White Zombie in 1932.  They were lumbering, blank-eyed creatures that were controlled by the evil character played by Lugosi.

These creatures neither killed nor ate people.  They only attacked people if they were ordered to by Lugosi.  Otherwise, they plodded around harmlessly, looking spaced out.

Jacques Tourneur directed the famous zombie movie I Walked with a Zombie, a slow-moving eerie horror tale set on a Caribbean island, harking back to the zombie myth that originated among Haiti’s voodoo worshipers.  Again, these zombies act like humans in a trance.  They shuffle around with staring eyes and show no interest in anything.

The modern zombie, the flesh eater, didn’t appear in the movies until George A. Romero’s groundbreaking low-budget shrieker Night of the Living Dead. These zombies, though nobody actually calls them zombies, shamble around like the older film versions of the zombie, with one important difference–they eat human flesh.  They are ghouls.  In fact, they eat any living thing, including insects.

Zombies evolved again in Danny Boyle’s zombie movie 28 Days Later.  Instead of being oafish creatures that trudge around with great difficulty, they now can run after their human victims.  In the sequel 28 Weeks Later, the zombies are even better coordinated and, as a result, faster still.

The theme of the “zombie apocalypse” appears in the ongoing modern evolution of zombies.  In 28 Weeks Later and similar movies, the zombies are taking over the earth and nothing can stop them.  The apocalypse is here.  Society breaks down into chaos and only isolated bands of human beings survive the plague.  These remaining pockets of humanity now have a bunker mentality and live accordingly, scavenging off the remnants of a collapsed civilization as they are attacked relentlessly by roving zombies.

As man’s fears keep evolving, so too will the face of evil, the zombie.