Saturday, April 26, 2014

Zombies have taken over pop culture, but has the trend been played out?

Zombies aren’t the first supernatural entity to take over our imaginations. Not that long ago it was vampires. There were vampire TV shows, vampire movies, vampire books, and vampire video games. Now no one wants to see or hear about another vampire anything. Ironically, the highly contagious virus that spreads the zombie epidemic in all the books and movies, is eerily similar to the way the zombie craze has spread through pop culture. With AMC working on a spinoff to their highly popular zombie show, The Walking Dead (based on a graphic novel series), it doesn’t seem like the zombie apocalypse genre will be going anywhere any time soon. So, will we ever get sick of watching people fight off the undead? Probably. But for now, here are the best ways zombies are still alive and well.

In Print
Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, wrote one of the first stories of life after a plague that destroyed all human life. At first it seems like the narrator is the only living thing left, until the creatures come out. They are part vampire-part zombie. I Am Legend was the beginning of many more zombie apocalypse books, including World War ZPatient Zero, and The Zombie Survival Guide.

Not even existing stories are immune. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel became a best seller in 2009. There are pure horror and gore versions, there are light-hearted coming of age versions, and there are cultural commentary versions. Writers have explored every angle in the zombie apocalypse genre, even the possibility of falling in love with one of the half-rotted undead (Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies). But the popularThe Walking Dead graphic novel series is still going strong, and there are even zombie books for kids (My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish), so there are still stories to be told.

On The Small Screen
AMC’s The Walking Dead is obviously the most popular zombie show on TV right now, and for good reason. The show is on its fourth season, and it never fails to shock with gory violence, and unexpected twists. AMC and Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead books) have confirmed that they are working on a companion series to the original. The still unnamed show is not a spinoff, though, because it will feature all new characters and be capable of standing on its own. It will simply exist in the same world as the original Walking Dead series. We can’t help but wonder how different another show based on the exact same premise will really be.

SyFy has just ordered their own zombie show called Z Nation, that is reported to take place three years after a zombie apocalypse, with only one known survivor still around. Also, the Zombieland TV series, based on the 2009 zombie action-comedy film, Zombieland just premiered on Amazon Prime, adding a more light-hearted option to your weekly zombie genre quota.

On The Big Screen
There are so many zombie movies, it is difficult to keep them all straight. We have the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), which introduced the disturbing image of ravenous rotting corpses chasing after their next meal. Then there was 28 Days Later (2002), which depicted the horror of waking up only to find out that the human race has been wiped out by a virus and you are one of very few survivors. Shaun of the Dead (2004) found the humorous aspects of zombies taking over the world (slow, dumb creatures with no common sense? We’ll be fine). The Brad Pitt film, World War Z, based on the bestselling novel by Max Brooks, gave us the zombie apocalypse from a military standpoint. Then there is the adaptation of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies that reminds us that zombies used to be human, and maybe the cure for their affliction is just a little bit of love.

There have been big budget zombie movies and small indie versions (Dead Snow, anyone?), but the novelty hasn’t worn off yet. The adaptation of The Zombie Survival Guide is set to be released later this year, proving that zombies are a genre all their own.

Virtual Reality
Resident Evil may be known as a film franchise now, but it started out as a video game. Released in 1996 in Japan with the original name Bio Hazard, it is a survival style game, created for PlayStation. It was so well received that it spawned numerous spinoffs and sequels as well as a few films.
The Walking Dead also has its own video game, which focuses more on plot and characterization than puzzle solving. The story can change based on the decisions you make as a player, making the game slightly different every time you play.

The Last of Us is the biggest zombie action-adventure video game right now. In this third-person game, you follow Joel and 14-year-old Ellie through a post-apocalyptic world, fighting off undead on your way to a resistance group who believe Ellie may be the key to a cure. The game is widely considered the best video game of 2013, and continues to sell millions of copies.

The popularity of zombie survival video games reveal that we aren’t satisfied with watching or reading about people fighting the undead, we actually want to be part of the action.

In Our Minds
So, maybe it was the romance and the immortality that made vampires so appealing, but zombies touch on something else entirely. The idea that a deadly virus could sweep through the world, and render the majority of us flesh-eating monsters, doesn’t seem so far fetched when we really think about it. What would happen if you looked out the window one morning to find a mob of zombies? Would you know how to survive? Cutting off your zombie neighbours’ head should be a piece of cake, at this point. Just take Zombieland’s advice: “don’t be a hero” and “limber up”, you don’t want to pull a muscle and be the first one to die.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still loving the whole zombie craze, especially the books :) Right now I'm reading Wanted: Dead or Undead, by Angela Scott, which is a zombie themed Western. Loving it!