Anyone who knows me knows that I have somewhat of a longstanding zombie film appreciation. It was an addiction born of pure fear. As a kid, I was terrified of those slimy, grimy, stumbling dead bastards; scared shitless, actually. And, oddly enough, I loved every second of it. There was something strangely exciting about the way they shambled around, all haphazard, in search of juicy, warm flesh. My brothers would tease me with the now classic Night of the Living Dead line, “They’re coming to get you Barbaraaaaa”, and I despised and loved it at the same time. What scared me the most was that I just couldn’t wrap my young head around a specific reason as to why they did what they did. It made absolutely no rational sense, which was incredibly intriguing. As if the whole ‘you’re dead, and dead things are not supposed to be walking’ thing wasn’t bad enough, you want to fucking eat me too? Why? What the hell did I ever do to you? The concept of scattered bands of corpses roaming the land fiending to feed on the living…it was unfathomable…and if it did happen, what the hell would we do? That was some thrilling, exciting, white knuckle fear. I devised elaborate escape and survival plans, and pondered myself to sleep at night creating imaginary bunkers and caches of supplies in my mind. I just knew that if that shit went down, I’d be ready. I just knew that in the massive chaos of the zombie uprising, I’d be fully prepared. It became fun.
The original Night of the Living Dead was the first zombie flick that I saw, and it remains a classic to this day. It was a surprisingly multilayered script with a smattering of subtle political undertones, an interesting crop of characters/survivors weaved in, and a gang of remarkably spooky zombies, given the fact that it was made in 1968. It even had a non stereotypical black heroic lead, which was a rarity during that era.
The 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake was solid, but not nearly as good. For much of the 90’s, zombies fell into a sort of comedic, overly campy slump, and the genre was subjected to horribly cheesy renditions and awfully scripted C movie fare. Google ‘zombie movies’, and a gaggle of generic titles pop up, each one dumber than the last.
In my opinion, they sucked right up until 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, which breathed new life into the format. It was a breath of fresh air, really, to see them chowing down with quality vigor again.
Too long had zombies suffered under the muck of bad scrips and even worse acting; too long had they been buried under the weight of cheese and camp. That 2004 remake set the tone and laid the groundwork for The Walking Dead, which has shuffled its way into millions of homes, becoming one of the most watched cable shows currently on TV. An excellent script, based on the comic of the same name, has reinvigorated zombie cinema, and given it a much needed dose of credibility.
The whole zombie thing is an official phenomenon now, with zombie walks, zombie memorabilia, zombie everything readily available now, which is a huge turnaround from the veritable shunning that it received prior to 2004. It’s a great thing, if you’re a fan. But hey, I was a fan long before the horde of newcomers bit into their first zombie experience, and when the shit comes down to the wire, I’ll be ready and waiting!