Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Undead, the Infected and Everyone Else

"It's just not something you ever expect to have to say on air: removing the head or destroying the brain. Extraordinary."
- Jeremy Thompson, Shaun of the Dead

It's official: gone are the days of Romero's slow, plodding undead.

Tom Savini's remake of Night of the Living Dead was the first zombie film I ever watched, and it has been my yardstick for films of the genre ever since. There was something engaging about it despite its simplicity (and age at the time I watched it). Perhaps Barbara, the film's protagonist, says it best at the film's conclusion:

"They're us. We're them and they're us."

Debra, from another one of Romero's films (and my second favorite) - Diary of the Dead, expounds on the notion seventeen years later:

"Are we worth saving? You tell me."

I've always thought that the best zombie (and I use the term very loosely) media are social commentaries and should give the viewer something to ponder on about humanity once the horror fades away. Then again, all good stories have that.

Anyway, these days people have gotten smarter. It's no longer believable for a shambling corpse to catch up to a perfectly healthy (or even slightly unfit) person, much less someone who has the benefit of plot armor in a film or video game or book. I guess it all began with 28 Days Later, whose Infected distinguished themselves from the rest of the genre by being portrayed as fast, violent and relentless - something that matched the extreme virulence of the films' Rage virus. It was a huge hit and the concept of the more agile Infected (as opposed to the zombie) quickly spread across all forms of media from video games (like Dead Island and The Last of Us) to comics (The Walking Dead) to films (such as the sequel 28 Weeks Later).

The film adaptation for World War Z veers away from Max Brook's book in the same manner - probably to appeal more to the modern audience. The virus was nothing like Solanum as described from his works but appeared to be a more potent version of Rage. It's interesting to note that they concluded the film by using deus ex machina (which I won't spoil) rather than the Redeker Plan or the Road to New York.

And I still want my Battle of Yonkers. I can't believe they took that out.

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