Saturday, April 17, 2010

Zombie Films: An Odyssey

Recently, I have been in a mood to watch zombie-themed films. Over the past few weeks I have taken in several selections from this genre and I have noticed a few trends that I would like to share.
Zombie films overly exaggerate our propensity for sympathy.
As disheartening as this may seem, most of us are not inclined to continue approaching another person who has large quantities of human blood streaming from their mouth as they produce guttural moans. I imagine most movie scripts in these situations would read like this:
Zombie:  emits gurgling noise through blood-stained teeth while dragging someone’s severed limb
Bystander #2:  “Is everything okay?”
Zombie:  responds by simultaneously retching and taking a bite out of aforementioned limb while continuing to approach Bystander #2
Bystander #2:  “Is something wrong?”
Zombie:  closes distance between itself and Bystander #2 while menacingly chanting “Hungry!”
Bystander #2: wondering out loud   “I think that something might be wrong…”

At this point zombie eats Bystander #2 amid his cries of “What are you doing?!?”

While I am all about concern for another human being, that concern tends to be dependent on whether or not the other human being is currently devouring a jogger or the FedEx guy. Despite the fact that our newspapers are inundated with stories of callous disregard for imperiled fellow humans in real life, during a zombie outbreak the entire human populace apparently becomes Mother Teresa.

People in zombie films are disturbingly unaware of their necks.
This is almost universal and seems to run contrary to human nature. The placement of one’s teeth on the flesh of a fellow person’s neck (provided that they are conscious) is an exceedingly difficult feat to accomplish without consent. This is due to both the awkward angle the attacker’s head must assume and the fact that most people instinctively raise their shoulder to prevent such uninvited contact.
If you disagree, I invite you to approach a total stranger and attempt to give them a hickey. You will quickly notice that this is a difficult task even without an alien virus ravaging your delicate central nervous system and the stench of death giving you away. On a side note, I believe that Christian Slater may still be in court over a similar experiment.
Changing into a zombie adversely affects your wardrobe.
In almost every instance where a person is bitten by a zombie, the articles of clothing they have on become instantly tattered and overly soiled. I will grant you that some of this is due to the bloodletting that often accompanies such a change. However, this does not account for the split pants and torn shirts, especially when these fabric breakdowns occur in areas unmolested by the virus-deranged aggressor.
One minute, a woman is wearing a stylish purple blouse with a plaid skirt and heels, and two minutes after she is bitten her shoes have gone missing, the blouse is ripped in four places, and her skirt looks as though it has survived an eight-month old shipwreck.
I realize that fabric durability has taken some hits lately but I see nothing wrong with giving Old Navy the benefit of the doubt.
Posterity always seems to trump self-preservation.
The most recent example of this is the film Quarantine, in which the central characters are members of a local news crew. This is utilized as a plot device allowing the film to be presented to us in a first-person perspective (i.e. as the cameraman sees it). Situations like this tend to be sensible at first, but after you have documented a dozen people eating each other in rapid succession, most of us would choose to remove the tape and leave the fifty-two pound camera behind.
I remember the scenes in that film going something like this:

Guy #4:  “Turn that camera off!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “People need to see this”
Guy #4:  “Haven’t you already gotten enough carnage? I said TURN IT OFF!!!!”
Reporter Sue:  “Don’t listen to him Gary! People need to know the truth!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “If you want this camera; you are gonna have to come get it!”

As Guy #4 approaches news crew he is attacked and eaten by zombies 6 &11 as Camera Guy Gary continues to film.

Reporter Sue:  “Tell me you got that!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “Oh, I got that!”

Again, I think we can all agree that there is inherent value in first person footage of unusual occurrences. It seems unlikely, however, that a normal person working part time for a local news channel is going to risk his life in order to obtain footage that will likely be edited down to an 8-second montage used to kill time before the local meteorologist checks the forecast for the sixth time.
I propose this as a more realistic rewrite:
Guy #4:  “Turn that camera off!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “People need to see this”
Guy #4:  “Haven’t you already gotten enough carnage? I said TURN IT OFF!!!!”
Reporter Sue:  “Don’t listen to him Gary! People need to know the truth!”
Camera Guy Gary:  turning to reporter Sue 
“Well, perhaps, you should film it so that I have a free arm to defend my abdomen from deranged zombies. After all, the only thing you have been burdened with is a two pound microphone and what I can only assume is a pantsuit from the Hillary Clinton collection. While you may be unaware of it, I have a mortgage and two children to support, which is the only reason that I agreed to trade with Frank and take this shift in the first place. And while we are on the subject, I lied earlier and I do feel like your eye-shadow makes you look like the third-string quarterback for a low-budget escort service.”
Reporter Suevisibly crestfallen “But how will we spread the truth?”
Camera Guy Gary: placing camera on the ground “I guess they will just have to check my Facebook status”

The Idea of Natural Recovery is Ignored.
Although the source of zombie mayhem is normally attributed to a “virus,” the idea of natural recovery never seems to occur to the survivors. In almost every case the script gives them two options:
1.       Violently murder everyone infected that you come in contact with.
2.       Create an artificial cure.
I always thought it would be funny to begin a zombie movie with the typical premise of a band of survivors who is forced to maim, beat, and generally slaughter everyone in their entire community. Only later is it revealed that the zombie virus was a five day sort of bug. Other than lingering dehydration, the infected had no long term problems and would have made a full recovery had they not been killed prematurely by the band of survivors.
The medical approach taken by most zombie films is the equivalent of going to a doctor’s office with the world’s first case of the flu and the staff decides it is best for humanity that you are shot in the face before they try Tylenol and a few days of observation. Granted the flu does not normally lead into cannibalism, but after four hours in the waiting room with a 100 degree fever the boundless aggression is certainly there…..

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