By Contributing Writer Nicole O’Connell
I must in all good conscious preface this by saying I have never seen a zombie movie, other than Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, in my life. And yet, I feel qualified to tell you about the living dead. Whether you yourself think me qualified is another matter.
No longer just a Halloween staple, zombies in media are present year-round. From television shows to comics, to video games and board games, to novels and novelties, zombies are hot stuff.
Just take a look at what’s playing in movies theaters now. Recently “Zombieland: Double Tap” hit the big screens. Forbes reports that the film made $26.75 million during its opening weekend, a successful amount considering its sequel status.
So, why are these dead (or undead) beings so gosh darn intoxicating?
Zombies aren’t going to go “ooooooooh” and float through your walls all night, nor will they turn into bats and sink themselves into your neck. Zombies do not incant around cauldrons, nor will the full moon cause in them such a transformative and hairy change.
But let us consider these creatures that beg for brains. We have got rotting. We have got layers of dirt, torn clothing, and a shambling gait that, despite being slow, still induces terror. We have got decomposing bodies with surprising strength and brute force cracking open the skulls of living breathing human victims. We have got blood and pus spouting and spurting out of pores, bones jutting out of rotting and decayed skin, probably some teeth just hanging in gum-threads in an awfully gruesome manner.
Zombies are not always for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
But there is not always just tremendous amounts of gore and body horror. Zombies occasionally shamble their way into other genres as well, including action, comedy, and even romance, proving these undead monsters can handle more than just nightmare-inducing cinema.
And despite my raillery of this topic, there is truly meaning within this monster that should be acknowledged. A Smithsonian Magazine article explains how zombies have their roots in the culture of enslaved people in colonial Haiti. Zombies represented a sort of freedom from enslavement and became a part of folklore in Haiti.
“White Zombie,” first gracing cinema screens in 1932, is considered the earliest zombie film, and utilizes the Haitian folklore source material. However, many films have since strayed from the origin. George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” coming out in 1968, is one of the more popular films which helped skyrocket zombies into their prominence which is still widely, and almost inescapably, seen today.
This prevalence of zombies has also brought along a variety of zombies. While some of these creatures are just mindless, ghoulish, slow-walking bodies, they are sometimes more than that. Zombies with the emphasis on the living rather than the dead can be seen in current media portrayals.
If you go to see “Zombieland: Double Tap,” if you re–watch your favorite zombie movie, or if you partake in any zombie media, take time to consider the zombie. Is it just a rambling shambling creature bursting through our cranial cavities or is it representing something with more meaning? Think about the zombie’s history. And think about the zombie’s role in the future. Where will zombies go next (other than, of course, for our brains)? What is it about the brain that the zombies want so much? Is it just the part of the human that their rotten teeth are most able to digest? On the other hand, how do their rotten bones break through the bones of calcium rich walking folk? Or is it deeper, are brains a lactarian desire object of the zombie, revealing the deep psyche of the remaining rotting psyche of the once person behind the mask.