Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Zombie Jamboree!, pt.1

My first ‘encounter’ with zombies was probably watching either “I Walked With a Zombie” (with Tom Conway) or “White Zombie” (starring Bela Lugosi as ‘Murder’ Legendre) on CHILLER THEATER as a kid. Of course, my favorite magazine back then was FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, so it wouldn’t have been unusual to read about other zombie movies or zombie lore there. Good ol’ Forrie Ackerman loved to toss in a bit of myth and legend along with the black & white stills from the movies he discussed. By the mid-‘60s Warren Publishing was producing CREEPY & EERIE where they could put in a zombie tale or two, something the mainstream comics couldn't due to the old Comics Code.

When “Night of the Living Dead” by George Romero appeared in theaters in 1968, it opened up the floodgates for the walking dead. Each filmmaker and each entry into the field seemed to up the stakes from that point. By the time Lucio Fulci released his ‘Zombi 2’ in 1979, there was nothing to hold things back.

Next to vampires, it seems that zombies are the most prevalent of movie monsters, if not quite as romanticized. While both are beings returned from the dead they seem to have their own rules when it comes to walking amongst us. Vampires, as they are portrayed for the most part, look like ‘normal’ folks and can easily pass for your next-door neighbor or co-worker (which they seem to do in many contemporary vampire flicks). If it wasn’t for the fact that the vampire might decide you have a tasty blood type, it probably wouldn’t be impossible to have a decent conversation with one. Of course, having a wooden stake, or crucifix on hand might not be such a bad idea.

(Aside: The vampires in ’30 Days of Night’ and the “Blood Trails” prequel, really aren’t the good looking kind of blood-suckers you’d want to hang with. While not zombie creepy, they still might get a sideways glance even in Greenwich Village. Hmm..then again, maybe not!)

On the other hand, zombies look more like the folks you run into at Denny’s at 3:00 in the morning. You really want to sit a few tables away when their order comes.

The original Romero zombies were creepy enough, with their pasty appearance and head tilt. The undead we see nowadays generally looks like they were the non-survivors of a recent head-on collision or had been dug up a few weeks after they had gone ripe. These guys make the banjo playing kid in DELIVERANCE look like Brad Pitt, if you know what I mean? You can tell these are dead folks even before they knock on the door asking to chew on your skull for a bit. Also, a wooden cross or Holy Water really aren’t going to do much to keep them at bay. You’d probably want an AK-47 or something of that order on hand when they come around. (I’m going to hold off on jokes about Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amway sales persons, as easy as that would be.)

Next time out I’ll explain the point of all this zombie stuff.
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