By Yarleen Hernandez ‘14–
Picture this. You’ve just woken up and you’re attached to monitors in a hospital. You look around the room and notice withered flowers on the bed side table. You try calling for the nurse but no one shows. Finally, you gather the strength to get up and go outside. Dead bodies are all you see. This scene comes straight out of the first episode of AMC’s highly-acclaimed zombie show, ‘The Walking Dead’.
With an enormous following by zombie enthusiasts, ‘The Walking Dead’ has become one of the most successful zombie shows of all time. So, is this ‘zombie trend’ just a passing fad or is it here to stay?
Kevin, owner of A&S Comics in North Bergen, NJ feels that zombies have always and will always be around.
“I don’t think it’s ever gone away,” said Kevin who did not want to reveal his last name.
“I mean it’s stronger at certain points but it’s never actually been completely gone and then all of a sudden it’s there again. “The Walking Dead” has definitely helped it but the zombie thing is like vampires. Vampires will go away for a while but it’s never completely gone.”
Dr. Barna Donovan, head of the Communications Department at St. Peter’s, agrees with Kevin when discussing the trend of zombies.
“Well, zombies have been very big for a couple of years now, so they’re definitely not a passing fad,” he said. “Aside from ‘Warm Bodies’, ‘World War Z’ with Brad Pitt will be coming out soon as well. So zombies are a hot property for film makers to deal with. There are also scores of zombie novels out and many of them are extremely successful. In books you have all kinds of interesting twists on zombie stories, like author Chuck Wendig’s ‘Double Dead’ about a vampire in a world overrun by zombies. A new author at the start of his career like John Hornor Jacobs, author of the zombie novel “This Dark Earth,” quickly got established as a major star in horror fiction based on the success of his book.”
‘The Walking Dead’ seems to be fascinating and captivating zombie fans all over the world, one hungry zombie at a time, but what is it about the show that has been able to keep audiences hooked?
“[Zombies] are singularly focused,” said Kevin. “Eat you, eat your brains, that’s all they want. Nothing else going on. I think because with a lot of other monsters, it’s one. Like with vampires. But with zombies, I think it’s just that there’s so many of them it’s a great adventure of how are you going to defeat all of them. I think that’s the main difference.”
“I’m a big fan of ‘The Walking Dead’,” said Dr. Donovan.
“I’m definitely impressed by how intense and explicit they made it for television. It has all the blood and gore and violence and suspense a zombie fan would expect. They’re not afraid to make the entire mood of the show very dark, despite the fact that it was produced for TV. Maintaining this intensity and tone and violence from week to week on TV is not easy, but the producers pull it off perfectly. I also like the fact that the show is a horror show throughout. It never becomes campy or funny the way a horror TV show like American Horror Story often does. I think Walking Dead is one of the best shows on TV right now.”
One appealing aspect of the show is its focus on the survivors’ conflicts with each other.
“The Walking Dead works for me because even though it’s set in a horror world and zombies attacking everybody, it’s really about the characters,” said Kevin. “It’s that the humans actually are worse than the zombies in a lot of cases and it’s because the people can’t work together they can’t overcome the zombies. So it’s really about the characters not about the horror element.”
Some zombie fans say the zombie trend began with video games and not with the TV show.
“As a nerd, I feel as though the whole zombie interest started around the same time that video games like ‘Left 4 Dead’ and ‘Dead Rising’ started coming out and around the same time that video games like ‘Call of Duty: Black ops’ had a zombie mode to it,” said St. Peter’s student, Nicholas Mederos.
‘Left 4 Dead’, ‘Dead Rising’ and ‘Resident Evil’ are all zombie video games that have been extremely profitable. ‘Resident Evil’ in particular, has spanned a successful film franchise which originated from the video game. The franchise’s production team has added many new characters that weren’t originally in the video game.
“Video games, just like comics and novels, make good business sense when it comes to the development of TV shows and movies,” said Dr. Donovan.
“There is already an existing audience and an awareness of the property. When it comes to creative issues, video games could be harder to deal with than comics and novels, though. In video games, you don’t have the sort of pre-existing characterization you have in comics and books.”
“When developing a game-based movie, the screenwriter will need to create completely original characters. In the building of the characters they might find themselves in the position where the plot requirements of a movie might make the film significantly different from the game. Loyal gamers might not be happy if the film is too different from the games they played on their computers. Game-based films have also had mixed box office success. Some of them like the Resident Evil films have been very successful. Silent Hill also made for a successful film and will soon have a sequel coming out. Angelina Jolie’s first Lara Kroft film was successful, but its sequel was a major flop. Not only was the Mario Brothers film in the 90s a notorious flop, but considered one of the worst movies on the resumes of its stars.”
The concept of zombie films have been successful throughout the years with films like ‘Night of the Living Dead’, ’28 Days’, its sequel ’28 Days Later’, the ‘Resident Evil’ films, among others. Most of these movies have been based off of books, comics or video games.
“The comic is basically a film that’s not moving,” said Kevin. “It’s words and pictures which is exactly what a movie is but with moving pictures so if it can work in a comic, it can work in a film, absolutely. It’s a good foundation. It’s also good for the studios because they have approving ground. They can see if the thing works as a comic, they have a built-in audience, they can expand on it in the films.”
“Zombies are definitely good material for movies,” said Dr. Donovan. “The idea of a rotting walking corpse just has an instant dread and gross-out quality that makes it fascinating for audiences who want to be frightened when watching a movie. Zombie films usually involve whole plagues of zombies taking over the world, so these stories appeal to all of the fixation and fascination we seem to have with the end of the world and global calamities.”
When comparing zombies to other similar popular genres, it’s easy to see how the public can become addicted.
“I think there is a market for it,” said Professor Fatima Shaik of the Communications Department. “It’s obviously a genre like vampires, chick lit; all of those things are lucrative genres.”
“It just makes sense that anything that is popular in one media is going to be moved over to another media,” she added. “It doesn’t surprise me if there are zombie video games or vampire radio stations. Any sort of medium that exists is going to move over into another medium if it’s popular in one.”
Meanwhile, some die-hard zombie aficionados, like The Zombie Research Society, an online website dedicated to the research and understanding of the impending zombie apocalypse, believe the zombie apocalypse is coming soon.
The Zombie Research Society webpage gives information on the research that is taking place to confirm that the zombie apocalypse is definitely coming and we’d better be prepared.
In their website, they write: “ZRS members are known as One Percenters (1%ers), because we are committed to being among the one percent of people likely to survive a global zombie outbreak. Though we represent diverse backgrounds, interests and theories, we are unified in our support of the Zombie Research Society’s three foundational principles:
1. A zombie is a relentlessly aggressive human or reanimated human corpse driven by a biological infection.
2. The zombie pandemic is coming. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
3. Enthusiastic debate about zombies is essential to the survival of the human race.”
So why are there so many zombie fanatics out there? Student, Garvey Potter, believes he understands. Coincidentally, Garvey recently played a zombie for St. Peter’s ‘Zombie Show’ this past Fall.
“I believe we are living in a society that is currently obsessed with its own mortality and eventual end,” he said.
“Along with zombies, we constantly make predictions about the end of the world (Mayan 2012, religious groups, etc.) and [we are] always fascinated with how our species as the human race will meet its demise. Plus, I think we are in a society that is constantly fearing and suspecting their neighbors in a culture that is full of espionage and government suspicion. The zombie is a symbol for the hideous sides of the human race that can all of a sudden come out and attack.”
“I feel like the zombie trend still has some legs and still has a few more years, but I feel like it will ultimately pass and hopefully the vampire trend with it,” he added.