Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Fast Zombies?

I have been thinking about this question for a while now; pretty much since the birth of the Fast Zombie and the debate about them first sprung up. I think I have come up with both a justification for the Fast Zombie as well as the reasoning behind their creation.

First, the justification: Zombies are generally thought of as slow moving and stupid. This is mainly due to the deterioration of the organs, the setting in of Gangrene and the stiffening of the muscles that occurs with death: but what of the newly dead? It takes a period of time for those post-death conditions to set in and it is usually a much longer time than it takes the average person to succumb to a bite from a Zombie.

Logically speaking, for the first few hours of zombification, the person infected should be an undead version of themselves. They should be able to speak, recognize people and objects, retain motor skills, and would therefore be just as they were when alive. They could even be theoretically faster since fatigue would not be a factor. It would be over the course of several hours that they would lose these human traits and devolve into the Zombie of the 60's.

Now that (I hope) I have justified the Fast Zombie in your mind, why did they even bother screwing with the Zombie Formula in the first place?

When Night of the Living Dead first came out and Survival Horror was born, the scares came from the fact that monsters were us. The horror for Barbara solidified itself when her Zombie Brother came after her later in the film. It was not that it was zombie, but that it had been someone she loved who was now trying to kill her. I think that aspect is lost on modern audiences.

For people of my generation who grew up watching Mad Max films and playing video games, we saw the Zombie movie as some perverse fantasy world: it was just another apocalypse where we could fantasize about being bad-ass heroes. We watched the movies for the thrill of "what would I do" and mostly forgot the zombies were us.

As my generation grew up and started making our own zombie movies, we took the Romero-mystery out of Zombies and turned it from a "mysterious curse" to a disease; usually made by us. We lost sympathy for the zombie and therefore lost our fear of them, but Hollywood remembered that they used to scare us, not thrill us.

Enter the Fast Zombie!

We watched Night of the Living Dead and we all thought the same thing: I would live because the Zombies are so slow and stupid! No fear. No worry. We knew we could take our time to line up a head shot or even "Bruce Campbell" them with a chainsaw if need be. That all changed with films like 28 Days Later. Suddenly, the zombies were faster than we were; they were stronger; more cunning.

The Fast Zomibe took our fantasy where we were the bad-ass hero and turned us into prey. Zombie survival now required training and was not something anyone could do. Once again, we feared a world overrun by zombies.

Curse the Fast Zombie if you must, but realize that they, in their quick undead state of being, gave life to the Zombie Movie and brought horror back to us.

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