Your best friend is dead. You watched him die. Hell, he died in your arms, for God’s sake! Yet, there he is, standing in front of you. You know he’s dead, but he’s walking towards you. He’s your best friend, but he wants you dead.
He’s shambling towards you, walking like he has a full body Charlie horse. He still has that huge wound on his shoulder and his clothes are stained in blood. You try to reason with him, you tell him “it’s me!” but he doesn’t listen. He doesn’t respond. He just keeps moving. Slowly but surely, he’s somehow moving despite the advantage of a beating heart. You still have a beating heart, you still have blood pumping to your legs, and that’s where you have the advantage. You can still run. So that’s what you do, you run and run until you can’t run anymore. Now you’re at the disadvantage, because now you’re tired. Your friend, he doesn’t get tired anymore. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t stop for a drink of water. He just keeps coming, relentlessly. If anyone gets in his way, you will either kill them or he will change them to be like him, and then they will both come after you. Before you know it, you could have hundreds, even thousands, of these people coming after you.
But wait… you found a gun! Oh happy day! Now you can just shoot these people and be done with it. You raise the scope to your eye and, after a long inner turmoil, fire a shot into your buddy’s chest. What’s this? He doesn’t go down! He’s still walking! You’ve seen him die twice now and yet he still just keeps moving. You fire off a few more rounds, each one hitting your friend in the chest or stomach but they have no effect. You raise the barrel slightly higher and pull the trigger. The bullet whizzes through his skull and finally he goes down. Thank god. Only… there are more of them. More people shambling towards you. And now you’re out of bullets. Do you risk getting close enough to them to engage in hand-to-hand combat? Or do you run?
Do you see? DO YOU SEE?! Zombie movies used to be terrifying. Zombies represent the most basic and primal fear in all of humanity; the fear of death. They were the walking personification of being dead. They were terrifying creatures that you avoided until you had no other choice, then you would fight as hard as you could until you were overtaken by their sheer numbers and tenacity.
These days, zombies are one of two things; the first is what has become of the “classic zombies” as referenced above. These zombies in today’s movies have become jokes, parodies in and of themselves. They have become playthings for the super cool ultimate hunter. He waltzes onto the scene, guns blazing or machete swinging and kills everything without a pulse. He tries to come up with new and clever ways to finish off the undead, when a simple head shot will do, you showoff. This are the kinds of antics that, in the good ol’ days, would get someone noshed on.
The other kinds of zombies these days are “The Flash” zombies. These are zombies that, despite being rotting, rigor mortis plagued corpses, somehow have the ability to run. Sometimes they run the same as a human, sometimes they have superhuman speed and abilities. In today’s go-go-go world of instant coffee and “need it now” attitudes, people don’t appreciate suspense. They want to get to the feasting as soon as possible. This eliminates the fear of death. Hell, if dying gives you super powers, why would you be afraid of that? This then creates the attitude of “zombies are so bad ass. I want to be a zombie.” NO YOU DON’T! No one should want to be a zombie. No one should want to be dead… or undead.
Do you realize that if you were a zombie, you wouldn’t even know it? You would have no recognizance, no recollection, no sense of awareness. You’re dead. Your body is acting on its own without your brain mucking everything up. If that sounds like fun to you, then by all means go high-five the first zombie you see when the outbreak hits. I’ll be busy boarding up my doors and windows and, you know, staying alive (literally, not listening to the Bee Gees).
And while I’m on the subject, can we stop with the whole “braaaaains” thing? It was started by John Russo in 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead,” which was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. First of all, zombies don’t talk. Second, zombies don’t exclusively eat brains. They eat human beings. Flesh, organs, skin, whatever. They don’t care. So just… stop it.
So this is my plea to Hollywood. Please, Hollywood, please big time executive producers, bring back the classic zombie movie. Bring back the suspense. Bring back the fear.