Friday, November 10, 2006

Fast or Slow?

I can tell I'm talking to a fan and not a fellow academic when that's the first question, so I guess I better weigh in on it. (If it's a fellow academic, then the question is something like, "So that's what you can write about, now that you have tenure?!" *Grin*)

I'm going to have to go with slow. While the attacks by individual, fast zombies in movies like 28 Days Later and the Dawn remake are more harrowing and thrilling, I think the movies and the zombies lose a lot of their lurking, abiding terror when they're not depicted as an enormous, shambling horde. Part of the terror of zombies is how personality-less they've become: the ultimate fear of all modern people in the industrialized west is that we are faceless, interchangeable drones leading meaningless, pointless lives. Fast zombies look more like packs of wolves, when I think the real zombie menace is to look outside like the people do in Night or the original Dawn and see this crowd just waiting. Not attacking, but just not going anywhere. Ever. Just waiting. As long as it takes. And unlike the zombies, the humans have to sleep. And they run out of supplies. And, most importantly and frighteningly - they fight amongst themselves. More fear.

Now, don't get me wrong: there's no sense becoming an ossified traditionalist in either religion or horror movie fandom, and new directors and writers should be encouraged to develop and change the imagery and parameters of the myth as they see fit. It's how genres stay alive and evolve. And, to be honest, I never would've written the book if I hadn't stood in line at the opening night of the Dawn remake, to be thrilled and horrified anew, in a way I hadn't remembered or thought of for years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the "fast" variety of zombie plays to a different fear, one that we aren't familiar with anymore: the fear of being stalked, run down and eaten as prey.
It is disconcerting to our alpha-predator selves that such a thing could ever possibly happen.
This momentary dissonance awakens strongly atavistic fears that have long since slumbered.

8:50 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Yes, I think that's about right. The scare or fright of fast zombies is more immediate and reflexive, the fear of the shuffling horde is more abiding and lurking. I was wondering also about hunter/hunted feelings when I thought about the "grossness" of zombie movies. How much of our repulsion is based just on the fact that, in the industrialized west at least, most of us have been removed from the "grossness" or gore of everyday life? But only, we should recall, for a very short time: up until a little over a hundred years ago, even in the west you would've seen people executed in public, and you would've regularly killed and gutted an animal for your supper. So maybe all this desensitization that we worry about is not a descent into some mad, cannibal hell, but just a return to a fairly recent (and more normal?) bloodthirsty past.

4:44 PM  

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