Crisis of the Undead: Zombies ate my movie script

zombie night of the living deadZombies are huge right now and never before have so many astoundingly bad films (and books… and TV shows… and video games) made their way into the mainstream. Never has the genre been populated by so many characters who are, in fact, less intelligent than the zombies they are up against. Never have there been so many characters who FORGET. TO LOCK. THE DOOR.

Just once I want someone to make a zombie movie in which the characters are aware of the decisions they are making. I want characters who will stop and think before walking into that dark room. I want characters who remember that a zombie’s single greatest weakness is a building with locked doors and small windows.

Essentially, I want more zombie movies in which the clever characters survive and the idiots get their Darwin awards in the opening scene. There must be a way to explore the human experience of the zombie apocalypse without bombarding viewers with hollow and clueless characters.

I want the primary focus to be on people learning to live together and to survive the impossible threat of total annihilation. I’m pretty sick and tired of the rebadge and recycle methodology, in which the primary plot driver is “kill zombies” or finding that cache of much needed food or medicine, only to have half the cast die in the process.

I’ll grant that there is room for the ironic appreciation of more traditional (and largely awful) additions to the genre, like Dead Snow (2009). However, there is an opportunity for greatness within the zombie movie. This has been demonstrated often enough in earlier classics like Night of the Living Dead (1968) or Return of the Living Dead (1985). And there are still occasional flickers of hope.

zombie return of the living deadZombieland (2009) was a solid film, balancing an intelligent parody of the genre with a degree of emotional intelligence in its depiction of characters. Woody Harrelson delivered an impressive performance as a character dealing with profound grief, and the remaining cast members are equally impressive in their skillful delivery of comedic and dramatic elements. Even the semi-believable romance between Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone seems to work.

The Resident Evil movie franchise started with a degree of depth (for a zombie movie), with a strong statement about the nature of corporations, bio-research and capitalism. The second film saw this message dissipate in favour of spectacle, and by the time the series hit its fifth instalment, all was lost.

World War Z (2013) was a good effort but something went wrong in the translation from book to movie.

So something needs to be done. Here’s an ideal opportunity for a high quality film adaptation that would circumvent all the biggest problems with the zombie genre today – the impressive “Newsflesh” book trilogy by Mira Grant. All three books are intelligent, terrifying and generally entertaining reconstructions of the genre as a whole. They provide intelligent female and male leads, a sensible plot, rich characters, relatable themes and worthwhile commentary on “big” anything – all the things you could possibly ask of the genre.

So there it is. The zombie problem and the solution. Here’s hoping the studios are listening.

About the Author

Ernest Buehman is a full-time mechanical engineer and part-time snarky blogger from Cleveland, OH in the USA. He aspires to promote interest and understanding of science, engineering and geek culture through the continued development of his writings. Ernest is a movie buff with a dedication to science fiction books, films and television shows. His geek-centric blog and outlets of nerd rage can be found at themadmechie.wordpress.com.

12 thoughts on “Crisis of the Undead: Zombies ate my movie script

  1. Pingback: Crisis of the Undead: Zombies ate my movie script – CURNBLOG | Bubba The Zombie Tracker

  2. The masterpieces of zombie cinema are to be found in the 1980’s work of George romero and Lucia Fulci. Just as the sterpieces of rap music are to be founin the 1980’s recordings of NWA. it will never get better than it was then. today’s zombie movie has replaced the slasher as the easiest piece of crap for an amateur to lay down on film. all they need is a halfway decent make up artist and a couple dozen willing friends. it is nearly impossible to find a legitimate zombie picture among all this junk.then there are the rotten soap operas like the walking dead in which you cant wait to see the characters killed just to eliminate their travesty of a plot line. it is all over for the masterpieces of zombi cinema, but there are at least a dozen worthy of reviewing. Fulci’s Gate of Hell reamins at the top of my list. Oh, and you can shove those zombie comedies where the sun dont shine.

  3. I love ‘Dead Snow’!
    I see where you’re coming from Ernest, I really do. Trouble is, if they stop going into the rooms, and dark places, looking for medicine, or petrol from abandoned cars, then the Zombies won’t be able to kill them! Next thing you know, young women wouldn’t be walking into the woods at night, groups of college friends won’t be renting remote cabins, and others will stop opening doors and shower curtains, in case something nasty is behind them. That will be the end of a genre.
    Like it or loathe it, take it or leave it, (and I usually leave it…) it is what it is, and almost certainly always will be, until the world explodes.
    Great thoughts, and well-presented. Regards from England, Pete.

    • I agree the typical zombie film will always have a place in cinema and in our hearts, but I strive to see the genre evolve. “Dead Snow” was a respectful addition to the long line of films before it and left me genuinely entertained but I think it’s time we took zombie films to their full potential.

      • Of course, I really do agree with your point, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek. I would dearly love to see a zombie film at full potential, I just doubt it will happen in my lifetime. (Still, I am 62, so you might see it!)
        Regards from England, Pete.

  4. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend novel, while it has been made into a zillion films, has never actually been translated directly into a film, instead several films loosely based on the idea have been introduced over the years, each and every one of which has been a far cry from the intellectual masterpiece that novel actually is. I for one am still waiting for the film that does that novel justice.

    • “I am Legend” is a literary classic. I couldn’t agree with your assessment of Hollywood’s interpretations more if I tried. Hopefully, we will get our wish within the decade since Will Smith’s 2007 incarnation held promise but let us all down in the final scenes.

  5. Good article, Ernest–love the writing style! And you’re right: It’s important to find a stronger niche in this genre, which has been beset by middling flicks with virtually the same plotline. Zombies have never been my cup of blood, though I do like (of course) Night of the Living Dead, and perhaps my dissatisfaction with the category owes much to the problems with characterization and story. So I’ll second your motion for better content in that area.

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