If there’s been one trope that’s been done to death recently, it’s that of zombies. Perhaps this is due to the influx of post-apocalyptic stories that have been fueled by pessimism about the current aspects for our future. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that these films seem to make money. Perhaps these films are actually spreading via their own version of a zombie virus. Even films that I wouldn’t have thought could have zombies in them end up having zombies in them. Whatever the reason, it seems that almost every year passes with at least one new zombie film gracing the big screen. Of course, just like with any subgenre (this one being of the horror genre originally), eventually they become self-aware. This week’s two films examine a few different methods for dealing with the topic of zombies.
Night of the Living Dead
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours
Even though it feels like zombies have been in film for a long time, the accepted canon version of them has only been around for about 50 years. Before 1968, zombies weren’t depicted as the reanimated corpses that hunger for human flesh. This distinction was first explored in Night of the Living Dead (1968) and has stuck ever since. The reasons for zombies have varied from genetic experiments, to nuclear disasters, to chemical exposures; regardless of the method of introduction, the destruction of zombies has always remained the same: destroy the brain or set them on fire. There have been many films that have taken zombies seriously, including 28 Days Later (2002) and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later (2007). I’m not a fan of zombie films, but I did appreciate the logic applied in World War Z (2013). Still, Night of the Living Dead stands as the original by which all others are measured.
Scientists couldn’t explain it, but for some reason the dead were coming back to life and craving the flesh of the living. The leading theory was that radiation from a probe that returned from Venus was causing these zombies to attack people. In a small farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, a collection of survivors have holed up and continue to rebuff the onslaught of the undead. With a few of the survivors being bit by the zombies, the opinion of the remaining survivors is split. Some think they should get medical attention, while others think they should stay put. Setbacks cause the group to remain in the house, waiting for the vigilantes roaming the countryside to come and save them. Unfortunately, now there are zombies inside the house as well, giving the one lone survivor only one option: hole up on the second floor and hope that help will come soon.
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours
As with any genre, eventually it’s taken too seriously. This is when the parodies start to appear. The parodies then evolve into comedies. Even well-known zombie films start to become aware of their ridiculous nature. For instance, Sam Raimi‘s The Evil Dead (1981) was a serious take on the zombie theme, which was made a little funnier in Evil Dead II (1987), finally becoming completely self-aware by Army of Darkness (1992). This essentially paved the way for such films like Shaun of the Dead (2004), which takes the classic survival theme and flips it on its head. Even classic plots have been subject to the zombie treatment, the best example of which is the version of Romeo and Juliet that is Warm Bodies (2013). What’s interesting to note is that, even though they’re self-aware, these comedic zombie films still need to follow the same rules as more serious ones.
With the entire United States almost completely wiped out by “mad zombie disease”, the few survivors that remain roam the country for their own purposes. “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived this long by adhering to a set of “rules” that he has discovered to be the key to surviving the apocalypse. On his way back home to Columbus, Ohio, to check on his parents, he runs across “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson) and the two team up to increase their safety. While on the way, they come across two girls, “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin), who trick them and steal their car. After the two guys catch up, the four of them decide to travel to Los Angeles to have some fun, mostly because Columbus now has no home to go back to. Along the way, they meet Bill Murray and accidentally kill him before finally arriving at their destination: Pacific Playland.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 takes on the zombie theme