The problem with Zombies

The following contains mindless twaddle that many people will disagree with.  Please remember this blog post is just one opinion.  I am more than willing to accept when I am wrong because I often am 🙂

So what is the problem with zombies?

When they first started, zombie movies, in particular, weren’t really about “The Undead”… they were about Voodoo.   From the first zombie movie, “White Zombie” published in 1932, it wasn’t really until the 1955 film “The creature with the Atomic Brain” that zombies actually became resurrected corpses.

There then followed a series of mediocre films that often combined zombies with alien invasions (Plan 9 from outer space, The Earth Dies Screaming etc).  Zombie stories tended to reside in the trashier end of Hollywood.

However, it wasn’t really until George A. Romero ( Night of the Living Dead) came along that the classic zombie became a cinematic icon.  With the exception of some low budget numbers as well as foreign language films, this was likely the first film that depicted the dead rising up to begin the apocalypse.

And then it was off to the races, the genre maturing through several variations.  Here is a quick timeline with some associated films

  • Voodoo zombies (basically mind control – White Zombie
  • Classic Zombies – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Talking zombies – The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
  • The Infected (not actually zombies) – 28 Days Later (20012)
  • Fast Zombies – Dawn of the Dead (2004)

So here is my problem.  Most of the films out there follow this pattern:

  • A zombie outbreak.  
  • 10 minutes of all hell breaking loose
  • 40 minutes of character development
  • Everybody dies 🙂

Very few (with the exception of films like World War Z and Resident Evil) actually spent time on the outbreak AS IT OCCURS.  The origins of what causes the outbreak are often unknown or merely hinted at, and I think that this takes away a lot from the potential of the genre.  The standard format can become tired and dated in some peoples opinions.  The other issue, and I’m sure you’ve noticed it, is that the characters in these films often die in needlessly pointless ways.

So when I started writing zombie fiction, I wanted to try something different.  If you ever get a chance to read the Necropolis Trilogy or The Lazarus Strain Chronicles, you’ll notice I spend a considerable amount of time in the event as it happens, rather than dropping the novels in after the event.  The books also bring in different aspects other than the undead.  That was never intentional, but the story goes where it goes.

The other issue with zombies is that you can’t build a character around them.  They are mindless automatons who react to limited stimuli, so there is no way to build charisma or character into them.  The same goes for “The Infected” trope, which I personally feel should be held separate from undead fiction.  I don’t know if I’m right to say this, it’s just a feeling I have.  So the character development has to be based on the survivors, and you quickly figure out who is going to live and die.  That was something The Walking Dead dealt with well, beloved characters being slaughtered at the drop of a hat.

I think it adds to the tension when you know that a character you have come to like can die at any turn of the page

That’s the way it looks from here



Comments 1

  1. I got completely turned off by the zombie genre due to the lack of science behind their existence. I am however, a huge fan of Post-apocalyptic fiction. There have been a few zombie type books where the zombie characters were in fact infected living persons, not resurrected dead and rotted corpses. I can’t suspend my belief system enough to swallow that. I look forward to reading your take on this genre.

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