View Full Version : Zombies in movies - what ARE they really?

22-11-2007, 14:30
Y, hallo tharr!

I'm writing a thesis where the theme should be language or media and I chose to write about zombies in horror-movies (beats writing about dead authors). What makes them scary? What do they represent (ie. aliens in 50's sci-fi = soviet russia, xenomorph from the Alien-anthology = HIV/AIDS)?

I need good sources (books or online) which discuss this. I'm probably going to compare the "brain-dead consumer" Romero zombies from the 80'ies with the zombies of the latest "revival" (see? I made a pun) of the genre with 28 Days Later, the remake of Dawn of the Dead and the games and litterature that followed in its wake.

Do you have any ideas or any sources where this is discussed?

Thanks in advance :)

Templar Ben
22-11-2007, 14:47
Zombies in Night of the Living Dead represented racism.
Zombies in Dawn of the Dead represented consummerism.
Zombies in Day of the Dead represented the growing militarism in the US.
Zombies in Land of the Dead represented homelessness and the use of fear (e.g. terrorism) to control your population.

As far as the runners go, I think it is just another monster.

22-11-2007, 15:09
I'm not sure about sources you can refer to however I do remember hearing somewhere that the infamous way that zombies shuffle was never intended. Apparently when the first zombie movies came out the amount of make up they used on the actors meant that if they moved to fast it would fall off their faces!

22-11-2007, 15:16
I don't think this is what the film-makers intended, but I think recent 'zombie' films* such as 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead re-make have tapped in to the post-911 psyche of a traumatic event and dealing with its aftermath; films are not alone in exploring this, take tv series such as 'Lost' and the new 'Battlestar Galactica'.

*I acknowledge that, from a zombie purists' point of view, these are not proper zombies as they run, as opposed to shuffle along shambolicly.

The pestilent 1
22-11-2007, 16:20
*I acknowledge that, from a zombie purists' point of view, these are not proper zombies as they run, as opposed to shuffle along shambolicly.

Screw the Purists, 28 Days later is a better Zombie film than basically anything you could ever mention.

Templar Ben
22-11-2007, 16:38
Here is an article. http://www.lsu.edu/necrofile/land18.htm

I think the use of virus zombies more recently is due to our culture needing some sort of scientific basis for the zombies. Decades ago saying there is no more room in hell was sufficient. Now people want to know why they are zombies, do zombies continue to rot, are animals affected and that sort of thing. That is why I was saying now zombies are just a different monster. The zombie isn't a stand in for AIDS it is just the creature that destroys the humans.

22-11-2007, 16:51
A lot of the fast zombies (particularly 28 Days later) come from the fear of a global pandemic that has permeated over the past few years. It used to be ebola, then it was terrorist smallpox, now it's birdflu - either way a fast moving virus that can rapidly kill large amounts of people.

Another thing about zombies is that they are an excuse to show a massive amount of violence. By only being able to be killed by shots to the brain (even in 28 Days/Weeks they can take an enormous amount of damage) allows graphic effects showing lost limbs, evisceration and all other nasties. Their manner of feeding alive on humans is also pretty horrible. In the end, although unlike most they balance it out with good plot, zombie films are just incredible gore fests.

Sgt John Keel
22-11-2007, 18:39
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Please, anyone?


22-11-2007, 18:50
The Infected arent zombies at all as they arent dead. They're just ordinary people driven homicidally insane.
28 Days Later was the worlds fear of global disease and how unprepared for disaster we are with a hint of a search for a father figure (Jims Dad - Frank - West - Jim)
28 Weeks Later is a comentary on the Iraq war. Just change London to Baghdad and the Infected to Insurgents and the similarity is slapping you in the face.
Directors comentaries are your friend!

The people here (www.zombiehunters.org/forum) will be more qualified to answer any questions.

25-11-2007, 11:41
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Please, anyone?


Wow, thats real helpful, maybe I should just write that in my thesis :rolleyes:


Hideous Loon
25-11-2007, 12:04
Master Keel was quoting Freud, saying that sometimes we over-analyse things, and that some things do not have to be analysed at all. But of course you already knew that.

Mad Doc Grotsnik
25-11-2007, 12:44
Depends on the film.

People mention what the Zombie/Cannibals in 28 days and weeks represent, but, truth be told, they aren't representative of anything. Why? Because the viewer knows the source, the Rage virus, and how it was able to spread. The film itself is the warning of what can happen when we start messing around with things we really shouldn't be.

The Romero ones are as posted above, but also contain a uniting theme that ignorance is not bliss, and burying your head in the sand only allows situations to extend beyond control, at which point your stuffed.

Sadly, when you look at the genre as a whole, there are surprisingly few good Zombie movies. For every Dawn of the Dead, theres 6 or 7 Zombie Flesh Eaters....

25-11-2007, 13:00
They're neither zombies nor cannibals...

Goq Gar
25-11-2007, 15:25
I'll give you a quick run down.

28 days/weeks later: "infected" humans, a super aids form of monkey virus makes everyone really really angry. I mean Mike tyson times 6 billion. They eat flesh IN ORDER TO LIVE. They may also eat processed food, but we've never seen them do it.

Day of, Night of, Land of: the dead - Realistic zombies (read Max brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide) they're dead, they have a virus/radiation/etc that makes the bodies reanimate with basic motorical skills (a lerch, not running, which is impossible if the body dies first) and they feast on human flesh BUT DO NOT NEED TO DO SO TO LIVE!

Dawn of the dead: Sort of a mix between 28 days later and Day/night/land of the dead. They can run, but they are also dead first, and dont need flesh to live.

Resident evil films: The zombies can move relatively fast (walking pace) and in the recent one (forget the name) the really angry ones (copied the style of acting from 28 days later if anyone noticed) can run. The virus was meant to be some military experiment, etc.

Based on that info you can probably start your analysis.

THE BEST BOOK YOU CAN BUY: Max Brooks' The zombie survival guide. This book points out FALLACIES in movie zombies compared with what is scientifically possible. It also has tons of plans for what to do, cool conspiracy feel, and great advice that really makes sense after you read it. Plus, second only to QI's general ignorance book as bathroom literature.

If you need anything, feel free to PM me :D Im a bit of a zombie freak. I know this stuff.

Agrip. Varenus Denter
25-11-2007, 16:09
I can honestly and truly recommend this book: Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth by Kim Paffenroth. It has exactly what you're looking for. It's a fantastic read.

Yes, Max Brooks has a nice book out - but it's not really what you're looking for as far as serious literature on the true meaning of Zombies.

25-11-2007, 16:44
They eat flesh IN ORDER TO LIVE. They may also eat processed food, but we've never seen them do it.

No they dont. The Infected dont eat anything at all. That was a pretty big plot point in 28 Days Later.

25-11-2007, 17:25
Swordwind's right there, they don't eat people, just tear them to pieces, 'cause that's what you do when you're that angry...

apparently :eyebrows:

Hideous Loon
25-11-2007, 17:27
They don't? I missed that... Good point, swordwind. So the big picture is that they basically exist, and eat if they feel like it, if I have understood things correctly. Izzthatit?

25-11-2007, 17:29
THE BEST BOOK YOU CAN BUY: Max Brooks' The zombie survival guide.

Also check out his latest "World War Z" Great read for a Z'phile. Less use for the original posters study perhaps. Its more on how a zombie attack would pan out on a global scale, told through interview type stort stories ! Definatley better than the Group of Stereotypes "Surviving" yarn. This tired plot needs putting to bed.

Dont have nightmares :evilgrin:

25-11-2007, 20:13
Another point about the Infected is that we're all capable of being like them. They're no different to you or me. We've all had that red mist come down and felt the desire to just indescriminatly destroy and smash. The Infected just dont have anything else in thier mind to say "whoa, hang on, thats not a good idea".

25-11-2007, 21:48
I've already read Word War Z, and I really enjoyed it, I'll get the survival guide as well :)

25-11-2007, 21:54
I've already read Word War Z, and I really enjoyed it, I'll get the survival guide as well :)

The survival guide is quite a bit of a different read to World War Z, but if you enjoyed the latter you'll enjoy it. It complements it quite well; a lot of the stuff about how the humans fight the zeds is advised in the zombie survival guide.

They were supposed to be making a World War Z film, but I haven't heard anymore about it.

25-11-2007, 22:10
I think one of the main thoughts on zombies (summed up poorly, but ah well) is that they represent man's at his most atavistic. They represent also a total removal of societal boundaries.

Non-zombie movie for comparison with the first point: Children of Men. Particularly the scenes that involve various vehicles being attacked. i.e. People just throwing themselves blindly at the car with rocks and bits of wood.

Non-zombie movie for comparison with the second point: The mask. I'm not kidding here. If you want a better zombie comparison, read the comic it's based off, which is suitably more violent than the celluloid edition. As soon as the mask goes on, the person wearing it looses all concience, doing whatever the hell they want without thought of the repercussions. Failing that, a serial killer movie. Any serial killer movie.

Now here's the amazing summary that brings it all together and why I chose non-zombie movies for examples: both points can be applies to zombies in all cases, but can also be applies to people in some.

And lo, I have made a point. Not a very good one, but a point nonetheless. Please don't hurt me.




26-11-2007, 20:00
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Please, anyone?

Anyway, the answers the OP is looking for are here:

http://www.themightyowl.com/marxism2005/marxism-and-monsters-china-mieville.mp3 Talk

http://www.themightyowl.com/marxism2005/marxism-and-monsters-discussion-china-mieville.mp3 Discussion

http://www.themightyowl.com/marxism2005/marxism-and-monsters-sumup-china-mieville.mp3 Summing Up

This is a talk given by the sci-fi/fantasy writer China Meiville at Marxism 2005, a left-wing conference put on by the Socialist Workers Party (Britian) that has a variety of talks on topics ranging from Womens Liberation in the Third world, the War on terror and other contemporary topics, through Hard Marxist revolutionary theory and stuff, to interesting off-beat discussions about odd bits of culture. This was very much in the latter category. I was lucky enough to hear it live and it had a very profound impact on me, I took the topic of Monsters up and completed a history Masters Degree with a 20K word research project on Monsters that follows directly on from the stuff raised in the talk. Its very interesting and worth listening to the whole thing but the bit about zombies is 17 minutes into the first part if you want to skip straight to it, but I highly reccomend listenting to the whole thing. He basically goes into the history of how Zombies are depicted in western culture and how it changes over time.