Friday, May 29, 2015

Humanizing the Undead: Are Murderous Zombies Passé?

This weekend Maggie, a film about a father who stays by his daughter’s side after she becomes infected by a zombie virus, received a limited theatrical release. It has received mostly positive reviews, with many of the positives pointing out the unique take on the zombie genre. This is mostly a true statement, but it’s not the first film (or television show, for that matter) to take one of its zombie characters and put them at the forefront of the narrative. With films like Warm Bodies and Life After Beth, and TV series like the CW’s iZombie (which just scored a second season), the humanization of zombies has become the new trend. Are the murderous zombies of some of the best horror classics a thing of the past?
Ever since George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, zombies became synonymous with undead flesh-eating cannibals. Though it was hardly the first zombie movie ever made (that would be 1932’s White Zombie), it redefined the term “zombie” in the horror genre.
Nearly 50 years later, Romero’s undead zombies have arguably lost a bit of their luster. We saw a resurgence in the genre back in 2004 with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake (running zombies!), and AMC’s The Walking Dead is the most-watched show on cable television. Other than 2013’s World War Z, which grossed $540 million worldwide, zombies in film haven’t made much of a splash.
What we have seen recently is a trend in making a zombie the main characters of their own vehicles. In Warm Bodies, we actually get to hear R’s very human thoughts. He’s just incapable of vocalizing them. This was taken one step further in Life After Beth, as we were able to slowly witness one girl devolve from a human being to a full blown zombie (very much like Maggie, but from a comedic point of view). Now, with iZombie, we have a “living,” breathing, talking zombie (named Liv, no less) who is the heroine of the show!
It’s an interesting trend, to be sure. After decades of watching countless imitations of Night of the Living Dead, something new had to come along at some point. My question to you is this: do you think the zombies of old have run their course? Sure, all of the movies I have mentioned have also had murderous zombies, but as time goes by, the level of “goodness” in the zombies has increased. The zombie sub-genre has always been one of my least favorite (don’t hate me!), so I actually appreciate this change of direction.
My reason for writing this is not to say that the classic zombie narrative has no originality left in it; but seeing as how more and more films are being released embodying this new trend, it doesn’t seem like Hollywood wants to backtrack. Do you even want to see anything “old school?” Or are you enjoying this new trend in the zombie sub-genre? 

Maggie is currently in a limited theatrical release but also available to rent on iTunes and select VOD services.

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