Friday, November 07, 2008

Slow down there, Mr. Zombie, you're going to hurt yourself

Bless his genre-loving heart, Simon Pegg is a bit sad these days about the new, swift-footed model of zombies that are all the rage. (No "28 Days Later" pun intended.) He wrote a wonderful lament on the subject for the UK's Guardian newspaper. He writes:

I know it is absurd to debate the rules of a reality that does not exist, but this genuinely irks me. You cannot kill a vampire with an MDF stake; werewolves can't fly; zombies do not run. It's a misconception, a bastardisation that diminishes a classic movie monster. The best phantasmagoria uses reality to render the inconceivable conceivable. The speedy zombie seems implausible to me, even within the fantastic realm it inhabits. A biological agent, I'll buy. Some sort of super-virus? Sure, why not. But death? Death is a disability, not a superpower. It's hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.

I whole heartedly agree with Pegg on this matter. I don't like it when my mythical monsters evolve. It takes me out of the moment when I'm watching a film. Even something as ridiculous as the vampire movie the Cinematic Titanic crew riffed on at the live show a few weeks ago was getting to me when the vampire stood looking at himself in the mirror -- hello, vampires don't have reflections!

They may just seem like child's play, but the classic monsters -- wolfmen, vampires, zombies -- all represent metaphorical fears. Changing their dynamics moves them away from that metaphorical role they're meant to fill.

Plus, monsters exist in their own fictional world. Messing with that world and its attributes just throws everything off kilter, like if the U.S.S. Enterprise was suddenly fueled not by dilithium crystals but with kittens or if the Force turned out to be just another tai chi move. Fiction is a tricky, gossamer-like entity in the best of times. Disturbing that delicate balance just makes the job of both the creator and the audience even harder.

So, zombies, let's just slow down a little, okay? Let's go back to the good old days of shambling, one unsteady shoeless foot sliding in front of another. It's easy and it's fun!

14 comments:

Jennwynn said...

One word: midi-chlorians...

Liz said...

Midi-chlorians indeed. George Lucas makes me sad. :(

jendoop said...

great post, even shared it with my teenage daughter and shared a laugh. You're bringing families closer!

Mickie Poe said...

You're making me reconsider my romance novel about the sexy zombie...

agent57 said...

Ugh, I was gonna say midi-chlorians too! Lucas, don't you understand that sometimes it's better when there isn't really an explanation?

Though sometimes I like it when people play around with vamps and zombies and the like. Really, with vampires for example, (I'm using them because they're easy) there are a lot of types in mythology than the kind we're most familiar with, who are we to say that it's not valid if they can't cross running water or if they eat entrails instead of drinking blood? And the idea of vampirism being a disease rather than the work of the devil has a real-life basis, and... and that was officially me over-thinking this topic.

agent57 said...

(Although I'm not buying the sparkly skin idea under any circumstances.)

annie said...

Great post, Liz. :)

StarbuckBitch said...

I'm sorry, I may get some flack for this...but I sooooo love the sparkly skin!! I thought it was a genius twist. I know the books kind of undemonise (not a word, but I like it) vampires, but they just keep getting sexier since Rice, me likey sexy monsters!

agent57 said...

I'm all for undemonizing vampires! Actually, I have a whole comic plot along those lines that I've been sitting on for six years... And to be truthful, I haven't read one of those books. They just sound ultra-cheese from what I've heard. (But maybe if I read them with that in mind, I would like them?)

Anonymous said...

I don't mind a plausible twist on a classic monster. This was done really well IMO in the two Underworld movies, where both vampirism and lycanthropy evolved from the same single freak mutation, giving rise to two different but related monster species (vampires and werewolves). The classic weaknesses are there--the werewolves can't tolerate silver, and the vampires can't go out in the sun. But neither species is "demonic," and the vampires can see their reflections.

Of course there's a lot of infighting, and good guys and bad guys on both sides.

Then things get really interesting when a werewolf scientist comes up with the idea of combining the two species...

A terrific pair of movies that appealed to both the monster-mythology geek in me AND the former biology major geek in me... doesn't get much better. : )

"Fast zombies" OTOH sounds like a really stupid idea.

The Husband said...

I gotta disagree.

Fast zombies are much better than the slow zombies. Watching movies with slow zombies annoyed me for years because the girl would run and run and run yet they always caught her. You could never get away from the slow limping zombies.

Now look at Gunn's remake of Dawn of the Dead and also at 28 Days Later. The speed of the zombies made for more tense scenes. It seemed more realistic in that there was a solid chance you would have a hard time getting away as opposed to the lame run for your life but, oops he is still there limping and groaning towards me.


FAST ZOMBIES 2012

RedCochina said...

Wow. I read Pegg's article and one thing is obvious: He really likes zombies! A lot. I'm glad it didn't sound like he was ripping on 28 Days Later. I loved that movie and was genuinely terrified. Besides, I think you could successfully argue that there weren't any real zombies in it. They didn't die and then rise again. They were living people who were infected with a virus. What I liked about 28DL was that by the end, it really got you thinking about which was worse: the flesh-eating infected masses who killed indiscriminately or non-infected individuals who committed horrible acts of their own free will. But, yeah, I'm overthinking things now. :)

And I've read the Twilight books and heartily agree...sparkly skin? RIDICULOUS!!

agent57 said...

I do agree that fast zombies are more horrifying. My sister and I saw 28 Days Later in the theater, and while we were waiting for the bus afterwards, we were freaking out about something running out of the park right by us and eating us. I think the slow, shuffling zombies are really only scary in large crowds, that you can't force your way through... though, I admit, if they've already died, slow makes a lot more sense.

Tale Singer said...

The thing is that monsters evolve over time, they change with our fears. The vampire we know and love today is not the vampire of traditional folklore, nor the Victorian era. While I am not a huge fan of the fast zombie, I can accept it. I was also resistant to saying that the 28... movie were zombie flicks, as they aren't actually dead, but what else would we call them?

Granted I am writing a thesis on zombie movies, so I have some strong ideas on this.