In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb annihilation

Annihilation

An ambitious, challenging piece of work that people will be dissecting for years. Don’t miss it.

Thumb game night ver3

Game Night

Game Night is a nearly perfect entertainment for adults over a certain age.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Zombies: Time of the Season of the Witch

Zombies and vampires, zombies and vampires -- sure, we're entering Dias de los Muertos, but the undead are crawling all over popular culture these nights. "Twilight" to "Tru-Blood," "Zombieland" to "Fox News," the undead are back with a vengeance. But, of course, they've been around for a long, long time. Matt Zoller Seitz takes a bite out of the cinematic zombie corpus with his latest video essay, "Zombies 101." He begins, (un-)naturally, with George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), flashes back to Jacques Tourneur's voodoo-themed "I Walked With a Zombie," and moves forward through the Romero "Living Dead" pictures to 21st century remakes and variations -- "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), "28 Days Later" (2002), "28 Weeks Later" (2007)...

Advertisement

Matt writes:

Ever since director George A. Romero released his 1968 shocker "Night of the Living Dead"--which reimagined zombies, the dark magic-entranced slaves of voodoo folklore, as shambling fiends that crave warm flesh and can only be offed with a head shot--the zombie genre has displaced the western as cinema's most popular and durable morality play... [Its] deeper resonance lies in its portrait of ordinary people struggling to survive in extreme circumstances.

Ultimately zombie films aren't about the zombies, which have no conscious mind and therefore no personality. They're a collective menace--rotting emblems of plague, catastrophe, war, and other world-upending events.

And, of course, the most terrifying thing about zombies is that they were us, and we could easily become them. (This is also at the root of the attraction-repulsion people feel toward vampires: everlasting life, but what kind of "life" if it involves a steady diet of human platelets and plasma?) The unearthly pod people of movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956 and 1978) are blood kin to zombies in that they resemble people we know, but are not. Like the dead, the undead are physically there, but drained of their human essence. Cold and cold-blooded, they embody only appetite -- but they don't feed to stay "alive" (because they aren't), they feed only to consume and convert. They might be members of Super Adventure Club or some other cult, or maybe they're just... sick, but they're definitely not feeling like themselves. Then again, maybe they're just investment bankers.

In David Cronenberg's 1975 "They Came from Within / Shivers," the infected/afflicted are pure appetite, bloodthirsty and libidinous. In John Carpenter's 1988 "They Live!" they are, in the writer-director's words, "Republicans from outer space," sporting expensive accessories and brainwashing the docile populace with invisible propaganda to make them more submissive to authority. But they're not human -- they can only mimic human behavior like sociopaths do. Until they revert to their monstrous true selves.

What do you think? Why have zombies and vampires are found such a ravenous audience in the last few years?

UPDATE: Edgar Wright likes it, too!

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

When Is a Superhero Movie Not Just a Movie? When it is "Black Panther."

An article about the wide-ranging efforts to arrange free screenings for students and young people to see the groundb...

Dreams of Africa: The Fantasy Politics of "Black Panther"

A rare superhero fantasy that's plugged into the real world, but that still can't be all things to all viewers.

American Horror: On Criterion’s “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Silence of the Lambs”

On two excellent Criterion releases of classic horror films.

The History of Hollywood's Difficult Women

Difficult is a gendered term fueled by the Hollywood machine and maintained by the belief that actresses aren’t respo...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus