Zombies 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.
Zombieland (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.