I’m not going to bother seeing World War Z, and not just because the release date was pushed back – although that is always a terrible sign; ‘hold up everyone, we need to do a couple of weeks of turd polishing’.
No, I’ll avoid it because I’m uncomfortable with zombie saturation – not on screen, but in popular culture. I’m going to leave it at the classic George A Romero Dead trilogy, with a pass for Shaun of the Dead. Even Zombieland, which was great fun, looks like the start of the rot from here.
I saw Night of the Living Dead again recently, and it is great. Harshly, deliberately naturalistic and bleak, it works on every level, as ‘woah!’ style Saturday night entertainment and powerful, sci-fi style lens-to-society metaphor – if you’ve seen it, I doubt you’ve forgotten it. And all for, what did it cost? About a tenner, by the look of it. It’s a film about twentieth century America, not monsters, and the sequels push that point home; Dawn of the Dead’s use of a shopping mall as its castle-under-siege is a masterstroke.
In a way, the natural successors of those films are conspicuous consumption satirising fables Idiocracy and Wall-E, which skewer America and the West even as zombies stumble around in the wilderness.
The reason Shaun of the Dead worked so well was its love and understanding of the Dead trilogy; Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright totally get not just how Romero’s Zombies moved, behaved and existed (as endlessly discussed by nerds) but what they meant (less so), and they use that to tell a personal, romantic, funny story, against all the odds – effective narrative juxtaposition; nice.
Since then it’s all changed. Since then zombies never make the point – they’re just the jumping off point. Films like Warm Bodies and World War Z seem to use the assumption of zombies and all their tropes to tell stories they would have told anyway.
Meanwhile, in the actual world, zombies are, like, cool. Why not do a fun run dressed as a zombie? Do you know what would make this book for little kids quirky and contemporary? Zombies. Halloween at Oceana? Sexy zombies!
At the risk of sounding like a big, square, party-pooping Buzz Killington, I think this is a horrible, bourgeois, moneyed, Western middle-class habit, borne out of having a safe, pampered existence; I don’t think anyone around the world who’s seen death and injury in their lives – and there are one or two of these people – is as likely to see the fun in it.
And now, I am reliably informed by the Internet, some people have taken it into their heads to start preparing for the zombie apocalypse in real life, lobbying congress, building bunkers etc. Idiots. These fictional, numb, lifesapping, relentless automata aren’t going to arrive to take America.
They already live there.