Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Plague of the Zombies was on TCM last night. This is the first movie that had zombies in it that looked like they had actually risen from the dead, looking decrepit and rotting. In previous movies the zombies looked like ordinary people shambling around with their eyes bugging out of their heads.

However, these zombies in Plague were still taking orders from their human masters who controlled them with voodoo as Bela Lugosi did in White Zombie. Granted, the zombie special effects in Plague were nothing to write home about, but they were an improvement over previous film zombies.

The zombies in Plague of the Zombies hadn’t yet morphed into independent flesh eaters that take orders from no one. That was to come later in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which presaged today’s Hollywood zombies. It was Romero that created zombies as we know them today–the carnivorous walking dead that eat human flesh and take orders from no one, mindless beasts wreaking havoc on the world for no other reason than to eat.

The zombies in my Zombie Apocalypse: The Chad Halverson Series take after Romero’s zombies.

 

Enter for a chance to win a free e-book box set of Zombie Apocalypse

Enter the Amazon giveaway for a chance to win a free e-book boxed set of Bryan Cassiday’s zombie epic Zombie Apocalypse:  The Chad Halverson Series.  Amazon giveaway

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Night of the Living Dead on Criterion

Is the new Criterion Blu-ray edition of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead worth purchasing? I’m of two minds on this question. Part of the eerie charm of the original edition is its low budget–its grainy black-and-white film, cheap sets, tinny music, and actors nobody ever heard of.
 
The Criterion edition attempts to enhance the cheap black-and-white print with Blu-ray technology. But do we really want it enhanced? Doesn’t enhancement take away part of the sinister charm of the grungy original?
 
On the other hand, it’s good to see that the movie is getting the attention it deserves from its groundbreaking reenvisioning of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature that feeds on living humans. Before this movie, zombies lumbered around with their eyes bugging out of their heads, looking spooky, but they were harmless. They were the walking dead without a bloodthirsty appetite, as in Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie.
 
Then along came George Romero and the invention of the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead. And the zombie was forever changed. It has now become identified as the monster that is the most terrifying threat to humanity, much more terrifying than vampires and werewolves.

Why Are Zombies So Popular Now?

Zombies aren’t just about zombies. They’re about people and how people react to them. People are the main characters in any good zombie fiction, not the witless zombies.
 
Unlike zombie fiction, vampire fiction is more about the vampires and their personalities than about the people that oppose them. Count Dracula is the most interesting character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, not Dr. Van Helsing, who is his human antagonist. The fascinating count is an aristocratic charmer who seduces women so that he can sink his fangs into their necks and suck their blood. He is so seductive he can make women swoon simply by staring at them with his transfixing gaze that immobilizes their wills and renders them his slaves, all so that he can suck their blood and go on living till the end of time.
 
Zombies as characters, on the other hand, are insipid creatures that lumber around eating human flesh and insects as well, as depicted in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which set the standard for the modern zombie. Zombies are filthy rotting corpses that have become reanimated and go around feeding primarily on living humans. In contrast to the charming Count Dracula, they are creatures with no personality. They all blend into one amorphous, shambling, stupid, flesh-eating mob.
 
In zombie fiction, the zombies aren’t the most interesting characters. They simply propel the action and motivate reactions from their human prey. What is most interesting in zombie fiction is how the main human characters battle the zombies and battle each other, as well, in their struggles for survival in a world overrun by mindless repulsive creatures bent on human annihilation.
 
For example, what is fascinating in Romero’s classic zombie film is how the main characters that are trapped together in a farmhouse battle each other as well as the zombies that besiege them. The tension among the trapped inhabitants is palpable and, combined with the zombie onslaught, generates nerve-racking horror.
 
In contrast to aristocratic vampires with intriguing personalities who are basically loners, zombies are ghastly creatures without any personalities who congregate in huge mobs. Zombies are symbols of modern democracies where numbers are more impotant than royal bloodlines. It’s a case of the majority rules, as in democracies (from which zombies were bred), versus the aristocracy rules (from which Count Dracula was bred). Zombies are perfect monsters for democracies, where everybody is considered equal. All zombies are equally characterless, mindless, and horrifying. Unique vampires with intriguing personalities, on the other hand, are perfect monsters for Victorian England and its dissolute bloodlines and crumbling aristocracy.
 
Zombies then are truly products of modern democracies, whereas vampires are products of decaying aristocracies. Now is the age of the zombie. Zombies rule.

Halloween Treat

Halloween is almost here.  This is the perfect time of the year to buy a zombie boxed set–like Zombie Apocalypse:  The Chad Halverson Series available on Kindle.

T S Elliot had it wrong.  This is the way the world ends . . . not with a whimper but a bang as gangs of bloodthirsty zombies run amok, decimating humanity.