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The Zombies Are Back

July 13, 2010

This week is a free topic week here at Wicked Writers. Originally, I was going to do a thinly-veiled parody of Vampire Vacation. But, common sense finally prevailed so decided to welcome aboard the newcomers to Wicked Writers. Especially, Anna Pergakis (aka Harley Palmer), who will co-blog with me on Tuesdays (meaning I will only have to write blogs at 11:59 p.m. on Mondays 2-3 times a month.

Actually, I decided to write about a subject I’ve generally shunned in my horror writing career – zombies.

When I was growing up and watching Creature Double Feature, zombies were slow-moving black guys who had either been drugged or had been forcefully brought back from the dead to be slave labor (can’t a brother catch a break?).

The zombies weren’t all that menacing. Mantan Moreland’s “Step-n-Fetchit” acting in King of the Zombies was far more horrifying. The real horror, though, came in trying to avoid being turned into one like Madge Bellamy in White Zombie. The zombies of the 30s and 40s didn’t eat human flesh. They seemed to eat soup and, if someone was careless enough to put salt in it, they would return to the grave.

Excitement finally hit the genre in the 50s, first with Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 classic Puppet Masters, followed by Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1954) and the 1958 B-movie staple The Brain Eaters (look fast for a young Leonard Nimoy), Roger Corman’s unauthorized adaption of Heinlein’s classic. Readers also need to check out Richard Matheson’s 1954 classic I Am Legend in print and not from the four movie adaptions, all of which deviated substantially from the novella.

Zombie-dom was forever changed in 1968 when a young filmmaker named George Romero created Night of the Living Dead. These zombies moved a lot quicker and they ate flesh. A black guy was the hero and the white girl was neither pure as snow nor did she get saved. The only similarity between Romero’s smash hit and the old zombie flicks was that the brother still got the short end of the stick at the end of the film. At least he wasn’t the comic relief.

Zombies survived the 70s, the god-awful 80s era of the walking dead, the revivalist 90s and into the 21st century. On the downside, however, they’re all still apocalyptic. They give no hope. Loved ones die and the survivors somehow walk away at the end with little sign of loss. They just have people killing each other with as much blood as possible.

They Came from Within aka Shivers

Apparently, freshness went out with David Cronenberg’s Shivers and Larry Cohen’s The Stuff.

(Well, okay, I will admit Shaun of the Dead was fun).

Let’s face it. Zombie stories need some new blood (no pun intended). They need a fresh new look and help might just be on the way, thanks to the writing side. While everyone anxiously awaits the film adaption of World War Z, they might want to read J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon and its sequel Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile.

Best-selling author Brad Thor (Lions of Lucerne, The Last Patriot) called Day by Day Armageddon the best zombie book he’d ever read. While I still give props to I Am Legend, I do agree that DbDA is an excellent zombie book.

The original book concerns how a naval aviator survives against a disease that turns people into zombies through biting. I liked the book because it took the viewpoint of the man’s attempt at survival which he details through a journal. You can sympathize and empathize with him as he meets new allies and fights zombies, while trying not to fall apart emotionally. The characters experience fear and love and do smart and stupid things. And, yeah, the ending was bleak but provided just enough hope (and was far more believable than Will Smith’s version of I Am Legend).

I might actually stay in the zombie vein a little longer. While I might not copy the apocalyptic view, I want to thank J.L. Bourne (a fellow Navy officer, by the way, out fighting the real-life zombies – aka suicide bombers) for making me want to read more on zombies. He made me remember the flash fiction I’d written, but already forgotten.

Now, if we can only keep Stephenie Meyer out of the zombie genre.

Oh, great. I think I just let the corpse out of the grave.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2010 10:03 am

    I can’t believe you haven’t seen Zombieland yet! Got to check that one out too. Although Harrelson’s character reminds me at times of the nut job he played in Natural Born Killers, it was still a fun flick.

    And I recently read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and while I can’t claim to have ever had a desire to read the original, adding zombies was just the touch it needed to make me want to keep reading.

  2. July 18, 2010 3:40 pm

    This is great tour round Zombie land for me – I think I did take in a few of the oldies (black and white Hammer Horror types…) and of course Shaun of the Dead (which was fun!). But this has filled a hole in my education. 🙂

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