Saturday, April 16, 2011


Bad news. For some reason, the dead have risen. All of them. They are now shambling about in search of human flesh and their bite turns their victims into more zombies. They can only be killed by destroying their brain. Brains do their thing because they’re part of a nervous system and fed by a circulatory system, but massive bodily trauma doesn’t stop zombies. Pretty much any poke to the noggin will, though. Shoot ‘em, stab ‘em, bash ‘em in the head, they go down like bowling pins. The trouble is that there’s too many of them. So, the few survivors of this zombie plague are now huddled together in boarded up buildings, fighting to survive as their food and supplies run low and as internal dissent rises – there’s always one asshole ready to screw things up, isn’t there?

This was the premise of a grim, grimy, grisly and really rather seedy 1968 horror film called Night of the Living Dead, and one think that that would be it, really. What else is there to say? The sequel, where the zombies shamble amok in a shopping mall, nearly indistinguishable from Christmas shoppers, provokes, I will admit, a slight crack at the corner of one’s mouth, but this supposed “social commentary” is just a veneer to conceal the real plot of the film, which is running from zombies. And the exact premise has been retold in literally dozens of films now, including quite pointless remakes of both Night of the Living Dead and its sequel, and in a small avalanche books (including at least one best-seller, World War Z, by Max Brooks), and, of course, in video games, where zombies have become the necrotic analogue to Space Invaders. You keep shooting them. They keep coming. Repeat.

Recently some students commended to my attention a new TV series entitled The Walking Dead. Reading up on it a bit I heard it hailed as as being the very zenith of the zombie drama. This is not the highest accolade, of course, but I did take note of the fact that the show is airing on AMC, the network that brought us two masterpieces of modern television: Mad Men, about 1950s-era advertising agents on the cusp of becoming dinosaurs amidst the social turmoil of the 1960s; and Breaking Bad, about a terminally ill chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer in order to provide for his family after he’s gone. I watched some of it and thought that, as zombie television shows go, it was eminently satisfactory, and will be loved by people who love that sort of thing. The producers might want to be careful how they promote their program, though.

The alleged “source material” — as if it needs any — for The Walking Dead is an utterly depraved “graphic novel” (that’s a comic book with sex and swearing) of the same name. I dipped my toe long enough into those waters to wish I hadn’t. A few selective readings revealed, among the usual zombie mayhem, decapitated children, vividly portrayed gang-rapes, and a woman shot through the chest with a shotgun while clutching her baby. They die in a spray of blood and body bits. If you meet people who like this sort of thing, I recommend that you take a step in the opposite direction. The comic's creators offer up the defense that this sort of thing goes on in reality anyway. Okay, granted. The horror genre is about the fear of death. But this isn’t about fearing death - it’s about making pornography out of it.

Zombies seem to be the next big thing in horror, perhaps because nearly all of the vampires have forsaken evil in favour of bedding teenage girls instead. You need only visit the “teen” section of the bookstore to see what I mean. Publishers have apparently given up on trying to get boys to read at all (well, somebody has to vote for the Tea Party) while for girls the teenage girl-meets-vampire-classmate genre has resulted in an avalanche of titles on the bookshelves. I’ve complained elsewhere that I invented this genre in 1986 and won’t renew this complaint here.

Anyway, in any other context, the efforts of a very elderly man to have sex with borderline or flat-out underage females would be called statutory rape or worse. (Edward is 98, Bella is 17; Angel is 240, Buffy is 16; Bill is 140, Sooki is, about 20, I guess.) Now add to it the fact that he is not merely elderly but, according to the genre’s own lore, deceased, and moreover almost invariably trembles on the brink of ripping her apart and eating her, and we have something else entirely. Let’s call it sadocanabalistic necro-adolescent-philia shall we? Something for the DSM V, as apparently millions of teenage girls have it.

Is there nothing new under the horror-genre sun? I am tired of vampires, zombies, witches, werewolves, ghosts, science-experiment run-amok monsters, and, above all, the slasher film, where people, usually teenagers, get butchered by a mask-wearing psycho because they act as if the live in a world where they don't have slasher movies. So I admit that I am curious about this, Rubber. It's a movie about a tire that comes to life and starts killing people. And I hereby claim copyright to the genre of teenagers falling in love with tires that come to life and start killing people.

1 comment:

Graham Broad said...

This late update brought to you by slightly zombie-like post-term condition.