As we talked about earlier, Zombies have spent much of their time in popular culture acting as metaphors for stories that are just better told through hordes of brain-eating miscreants. I wanted to let you in on some of the subtext found in Zombie films.
To start, take a look at IFC’s incomplete guide to Zombie metaphors in films. You’ll learn a lot about the place that the undead have in our history, like this little gem,
Dead of Night (1974)
Directed by Bob Clark
Almost a decade before Clark made a mainstream name for himself with “Porky’s” and “A Christmas Story,” he turned out this rough but wickedly effective indie horror film equating zombism with Vietnam vet trauma. The Brooks family hasn’t heard from soldier son Andy for long enough that his father and sister suspect the worst; it’s only his devoted mother who keeps the faith with a fervor that borders on madness. Her conviction that her son is alive seems to actually pull him from the grave — he arrives in the dead of night, having hitchhiked to the house, and, given that we witnessed Andy’s death in the jungle before the opening credits, it’s clear nothing good is in store. Andy’s changed — he’s monotone, unresponsive and spends most of his time staring at nothing from a rocking chair on the porch. Oh, and he’s picked up an addiction — he needs injections of fresh blood to keep himself from rotting. Dread builds over the course of the film, but so does a sense of tragedy; everyone is unable to understand that Andy has been (literally, in his case) to hell, and can only respond with frustration that he’s not the same.
There are about 6 more just like this for you to ruminate on. Next, let’s turn our attention to Scene-Stealer and their mediation on the role that Zombies have in our lives,
Zombies are the lowest examples of the lower class. They shuffle forward in a hideous lurch; their brains are turned to mush; they moan and groan, producing no intelligible speech; and are driven by one simple, base desire—to eat human flesh. Nevertheless, they seem to overpower their faster, supposedly smarter foes in the human race due to their sheer numbers alone.
There is a truth to all of this. It seems amazing that in almost every scenario that involves Zombie’s loosing their cages, these slow, staggering piles of half-rotted flesh manage to consume and overpower the supposedly more intelligent humans around them. This is because humanity tends to run flailing in every direction during the start of the plague.
I normally save the lessons for when we look at Zombie films, but this time I’ll throw in a bonus: don’t panic. Sure, there might be an army of flesh-gobbling sociopaths knocking at your door, but in the beginning, there are only a couple of them. The trick to surviving the Zombie Apocalypse is to stop it before it starts and to keep as many living, breathing human beings alive as you can manage. A little bit of self-control will go a long way towards the preservation of humanity.