Zombies

Heard this piece from The Why Factor on BBC World Service, all about zombies. It was the noise at the start that got me – this sort of clicking, vocal low growl. It was a little unsettling. But listening through, it got me thinking.

It seems that AMC’s The Walking Dead led this current phase of popularity, and while I thought that maybe the zombie was waining, it seems to still be going strong. Last year’s Zombieland 2 (which I still haven’t seen), popular games like The Last of Us, and the white walkers from HBO’s Game of Thrones all point to a strong showing by the reanimated corpse.

The zombie, and the wider horror genre, is a cyclical beast. While zombies have been en vogue starting from the October 31, 2010 airing of Days Gone By, the first episode of The Walking Dead, they were made popular first, and in their current iteration, by George Romero in his 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Though Romero lost the rights to that film, it became a lucrative franchise for him as he created five more films in his Dead Saga. Dani Di Placido at Forbes wrote this history of the zombie legend following Romero’s death in 2017.

Before Romero, Americans knew of the zombie mostly from White Zombie, a 1932 film about a Haitian honeymoon with voodoo and raised corpses. The Haitian zombie wasn’t bloodthirsty – it was merely a resurrected person to be used as a slave by a sorcerer. Director Wes Craven revisited this aspect of the zombie legend in 1988’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. In A History of Zombies in America from NPR’s Rachel Martin and Rund Abdelfatah, the Haitian beginnings of zombies are explored in depth.

Through the 80s and the 90s, zombies got more of a B-movie treatment. Slasher films were the mainstay, with films like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Sleepaway Camp following up on the popularity of 1978’s Halloween. The masked killer got a revamp in 1996 with Wes Craven’s Scream, ushering in a smarter, meta-version of the slasher film.

While the film industry wasn’t doing great with zombies, video games were killing it. The Resident Evil series, started in 1996 for Playstation, was immensely popular and eventually got its own film adaptations as well. Additionally, new life for the zombie came in the 2000s, including the 28 Days LaterShaun of the Dead, and the 2004-remake of Dawn of the Dead. In 2003, Robert Kirman began the long-running series Walking Dead for Image Comics, which would be adapted to television by AMC.

And books as well get the zombification treatment, with popular novels like Max Brooks’s World War Z, Stephen King’s Cell, and M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts, not to mention the Seth Graham parody mashup of Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

So while I echo Romero’s sentiment that the zombie genre has become overrun in recent years, there is still plenty of material to pull from for a bevy of stories to tell about the living dead. I suppose horror, and its fan-base, is just waiting for the next resurgence – maybe it’ll be Universal Monsters this time around.

Further reading:

Friday…

I’m considering what to call this weekly post. I used to post a poem a month, and the reading/book list every month. When I switched to daily, I left off the poetry – more or less. I still try and post my monthly books lists. But as to Friday, and what I’ve been spending time with…

What I’m reading: Draft No. 4 by John McPhee. I purchased this sometime in the past six months. Not sure it was included on a monthly list. Trying to focus more on getting books read, posts published, decluttering, organizing, etc. I’m liking this book so far. It’s giving me a little insight into forming story, at least from McPhee’s perspective. You can learn more about McPhee and read some of his writing over at the New Yorker website. Coincidently, I was subscribed to the New Yorker around 2013-2015. I may have read some of his writing before and not even known it.

What I’m listening to: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. Something Wicked has led me down a deep dive of sorts, including checking out From the Dust Returned from the library, and watching a bit of The Ray Bradbury Theater on Prime Video. Halloween Tree, read by Bronson Pinchot, is a history of Samhain, just in time for the Halloween season.

What I’m spending time with: Halloween Horror Nights. I’ve gone nearly every year for the past 26 years. My mother took me when I was a child, and I have fond memories of it. I still enjoy the spectacle and design of Horror Nights, though I no longer feel frightened in their scary attractions. This year includes houses on Universal Monsters, House of a Thousand CorpsesStranger Things, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Ghostbusters, as well as non-licensed houses. I know some of the actors as well from working around the area.

◊ Also on Universal’s monster franchise, I received this article from Hollywood Reporter  this week, speculating how Invisible Man and Dark Army will usher in a potential new wave of horror genre goodness.
◊ This old Thrillist article on why Netflix sometimes has terrible movies in your suggestions. (I’m cleaning out my reading list – finally – and this has been in there since 2016.)
◊ YouTube video of Tao Chi Kai massage on busy street in UK. I like massage and chiropractic videos, and routinely do adjustments to myself. There’s also a link in the video notes for Tiger Balm.
◊ One more YouTube channel to check out: And You Films. Their most popular videos are Diary of a Wimpy Alien and you can start with episode 1. I’ve been friends with this group for fifteen years, and they are nearing 100K subscribers. Follow them if you’re interested in updates.