On this week’s episode, Ginny Tonic and I have a solid little discussion focused on zombies, zombie culture, zombie theory and zombie fandom. I’m not going to spoil that chat here, but I will say that I have a “guilty pleasure” level connection to these fine, feral, femur filleting, fiends of fatality. In that light I thought it might be fun to post my personal top five zombie related properties (as usual, in no particular order).
Many would vote for Shaun of the Dead to take top honors when it comes to the road of half-serious, half-humor zombie focused films. For me though, Zombieland and its rules of engagement is not just a genera film but one that had wit, humor and dare I say it… a bit of heart (that didn’t get chewed out by the story). To me it was more of a fun standout and instantly more accessible to the wider audience. In watching it with friends, I’ve found that this film (though still garnering its share of zombie-rific mini-gore moments) tends to appeal to the more zombie-phobic members of geek culture right along with the seasoned veteran. It scores for me personally as it meets my taste for properties that are more about the characters and the adventure of surviving in a post-civilization than leaning on shock and horror.
2) Night of the Living Dead
You can’t have a list without George A. Romero‘s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead that, for the most part, started this cultural ball of nom, nom, nom rolling. This film was my first exposure to zombie culture and I saw it at a very young age. I think I was actually only 8-9 years old when I stumbled across the shambling horde breaking in windows and doors. I can still remember being utterly shocked by the ending and having that plant a seed of questions about human motives. Something about that early influence cemented the concept that this was interesting to me. Even looking back now, this film holds up well.
3) Dawn of the Dead
You may know Zack Snyder‘s name from films like 300 and Watchmen but it was his feature film debut remaking Dawn of the Dead in 2004 that goes down as my favorite zombie film of all time. Not a lot of punches were pulled with this one and the film, set in an urban setting, hit home for me. There is something in the opening scenes where civilization is breaking down that has a mile-a-minute momentum yet remains well paced and utterly chilling all at once. The sense of immediacy to the cultural decline and the eventual tossing together of unlikely allies in a mall setting made this a perfect match of story and horror and surpassed the original which I considered a great film. Also, Ving Rhames, how can you go wrong here? As an aside, this is the film I was watching when I discussed being utterly scared by a chance encounter with a friend during the podcast discussion.
4) Walking Dead
I’m only caught season one of the television series, but I loved it (and own it). That said, I think the comic series upon which it’s based easily goes down as my example of near perfect zombie storytelling. In the series, no one is safe and zombies are there more there to advance the plot as a subtext than drive the story directly. It’s all about the characterization which Robert Kirkman does so utterly well. This series has at times chilled me to my bone (Michonne’s revenge on the Governor), made me utterly sad (the death of, well, I’ll avoid spoilers and simply say more than one major character) and made me think about culture and how we interact as people more than once. Throughout the slower story lines to the more frantic narratives, this a series I’ve never been able to put down and 90+ issues later it’s still one of the first comics I read each month.
5) Kitty Zom
I couldn’t end this article without tipping my hat to a friend and one of the most creatively interesting zombie-based characters out there. I met Kitty Zom (a live actor character who appears a cons and shows) at Dan Con in 2011. To say Kitty is unique in his take on zombie-dom would be a understatement. Here we have what has been described as the Herman Munster of zombies. His origin is that of a zombie that has had its brain replaced by that of a puppy. At shows, Kitty Zom wanders the show floor and doesn’t really talk but more mumbles, claps, hops and celebrates those in attendance much like a young child would approach the event. It is both immediately off putting yet heart warming in a way that is striking and interesting. You can’t help but laugh and smile as you watch him interact and gain new fans. Knowing the man behind the mask (no fear, I’m not going to reveal too much), I feel the individual driving this caricature deserves celebration.