Reporting Patrick Braud
I used to have nightmares about zombies on a semi-regular basis. I’d always figured the reason they scared the crap out of me so much was because no matter how awful and slow and generally terrible at their job of brain-eating they were individually, they could eventually overwhelm you with sheer numbers and you wouldn’t be able to escape. Then there was the whole “getting torn to pieces while you’re still alive” thing.
Many people have laid out their survival plans for a zombie apocalypse, from their choice of hideout right down to what kind of gloves they’d be wearing to prevent zombie hand-gnawing while they’re trying to bludgeon the undead in the head with a 2″ x 4″ with a nail in it. I confess that even with as much zombie media as I’ve consumed, I haven’t thought that far. Realistically I’d probably just sob in a corner for a while, swinging a small stick at whatever came near me. If I were slightly more enterprising in my lack of plan, I’d at least try to charge at zombie crowds headfirst, so that they might all sink their teeth into my skull at the outset and hopefully get to my tasty, tasty brains quickly and end my life before there’s too much pain.
But nowadays the thought of being eaten by those you once knew to be good, caring people (in addition to some strangers and probably some jerks as well) doesn’t carry the same weight in fear points. My newfound fearlessness has a bit to do with just thinking the process through rationally; zombies by their traditional definition would be fairly easy to get rid of. It’s honestly explained much better than I ever could hope to tell you in David Dietle’s awesome Cracked article, but for those of you who don’t want to go read another article in the middle of my article, I’ll try and sum up a couple of the best points for you very quickly: zombies would be very susceptible to environmental factors, as they’re completely brain-dead and thus have no idea what’s going on and also thus wouldn’t know how to say, put on a sweater when it gets cold out. Then nature does its work and gives the bastards hypothermia. But then say it was hot out instead. There’s also the part about how zombies are in the process of rotting and so at any point an arm or leg could just fall off or other sickly gross heat exacerbated things. All things, of course, that would make it very hard for the zombies to catch you and feast upon your delicious brains. However, this doesn’t account for viruses that make people sort-of-zombies. That’s still holy crap terrifying. For that scenario, just refer to my previous strategy of tears and stick waving.
And that’s about where we get to my other point. Beyond rational thought, I think I’m starting to get less afraid of zombies because the market for zombie media is pretty damn oversaturated. There are so many zombie movies now that they have to invent new zombies to make us scared of them again. The concept of fast zombies was damn scary when it first showed up in 2001’s 28 Days Later – but they weren’t technically zombies; refer to the above reference to the above reference of tears and stick waving. But now nearly all zombies are fast even though they very well shouldn’t be. The 28 Days Later zombies were really just humans infected with a virus that made them sort-of-zombies but most of all very unpleasant to be around, as said virus made them hate how alive and not-bleeding-profusely you were. Other zombies that don’t have their face-eating explained by a virus or bath salts probably shouldn’t be able to chase after you, by way of the whole rotting all of their muscles and skin away thing (*cough* Zack Snyder *cough*).
So you have your virus zombies and your normal zombies and plenty of movies about both. It’s a good chance if a horror movie isn’t about a possessed little girl or invisible ghost-demons wrecking your house (which usually ends up being about possession), then it’s probably about zombies, because vampires and werewolves are too busy making out with our human females to actually be scary again. In fact, the latest movie about vampires that didn’t involve them humping clumsy, personality-challenged ladies was about them getting ritualistically murdered by our 16th president.
This leads to my next point. Even though they seemed to try and play that movie all slick and cool with spinning axes and wall jumps and stuff, the movie was pretty much based on a joke of the absurdity of Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires. But zombies had gone down that path a while ago; zombies are in so many things now that they’re not content to stay within the confines of horror movies. At some point it was deemed okay to make jokes about zombies, and whoever made that choice should be given a medal. The two biggest Zombedy hits, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland are damned hilarious and you are a fool if you haven’t seen either of them yet. But it doesn’t even stop at movies; you can insert zombies into a Jane Austen book and it will fly off the shelves.
The Walking Dead comics tried to scare me again, but they’ve really only made me scared of other people than zombies. Those of you who have only seen the show might understand what I mean by that in this next upcoming season, but I seriously doubt that they’re going to go as dark as the comics did with the Woodbury plot. It’s seriously pretty messed up. As for the show itself, the second season just made me scared of bad parenting and being really bored on a farm.
On the video game circuit, Valve scared the holy crap out of me with the fast zombies in Half-life 2, but then they made me actually excited to see zombies again in Left 4 Dead, because it meant that I could cut their faces off with a katana. The times when I don’t want to see a zombie in Left 4 Dead are when the maps trigger an endless horde of them and they’re more annoying than scary.
At this point we don’t have too much left to scare us anymore. We’ve been beating the respective dead horses of the horror motifs of zombies or zombie-like infected and possession for years now to the point that they’re just not all that scary anymore. At least there’s hardly anything we haven’t already seen at this point. Granted, there are probably some good, creative people out there who can make something new and innovative and frightening, maybe even with a new twist on something old, but when has Hollywood been about new and innovative? They’ll just wait for Japan to make something terrifying and then have some hack writer redo it for American audiences (with at least twelve added shower scenes). Until that day comes, I’m going to get started on my new project: Millard Fillmore: Frankenstein Wrangler.
Patrick is a writer and comedian living in Chicago and is sitting on a goldmine with the Fillmore picture. You’ll see his name in lights on that film soon enough, but for now you can check out his drawings and some other writing at his Tumblr. You can also give him some new followers on Twitter @fatfraud.
Patrick’s got way more blood on his hands than the zombie horde, as you can see for yourself in An Apology to All Henchmen I’ve Murdered.