Do you remember your first zombie movie? If you don’t, then non-memory may be your ally, and you can stop reading here. I’ll understand. Really.
What scares one may not scare another. I’m not frightened of zombies at all; in fact, I’m utterly fascinated with them. I’ll never forget the first zombie movie I ever saw. I was very young. It was the original Dawn of the Dead, I believe, where the survivors become trapped in a mall. Pretty cool zombie plot development. (You should watch the modernized Dawn of the Dead; if you haven’t seen it, and you’re a zombie fan, you’re really missing out). But aren’t we all trapped in a mall? We’re all in a prison of one form or another. It’s just that some people’s prisons are bigger than others.
But why are zombie movies so haunting? So addictive? So popular? The Walking Dead series, a huge hit, is no more than another modern twist on the “Zombie Effect.” Yes, it is always the same. The world has gone to the shitter, as Morgan in my novel, Pelican Bay would say. Yes, to the shitter. And there are a varying number of lugubrious survivors who will ultimately succumb to the incomprehensible wrath of zombie mathematics. So why should we care about them? What’s the big deal, after all?
Because we’re all ultimately doomed.
Zombies are just grim reapers with paper machete flesh and post-apocalyptic appetites instead of dark hoods and creepy scythes. Each zombie dystopia is no more than a reflection of our real feelings about the so-called “real” world around us. Think of your favorite zombie as the poet Virgil leading you, Dante, through the circles of hell. Each zombie you encounter rips at the underbelly of the real ugliness around you, exposing its intestines for you to devour. And we need to devour those innards. Yes! Don’t be afraid! We need to eat all the ugliness around us. We’re all in an apocalypse. After all. Yes.
Is it really all that bad, you ask? No, no, no. Get your zombie on and get it all out why don’t you. Nietzsche believed that once we shatter the illusions all around us, we can get on to the real living. Real living is in the scream, the jolt, not in the zombie’s leaking brains. Real living is in our willingness to open up the flesh and laugh at our own intestines. Real living is in watching zombies eat up the weak and the fearful so we can do the same to ourselves. And once we leave the zombie theater, we can walk into daylight and chuckle to ourselves, realizing that we can’t beat the mass of zombies, that they’re eventually going to get all of us, but that we can still give them a hell of a run for the money before its all over.