Can only TV make zombies cool again?
Halloween night saw the debut of Frank Darabont's THE WALKING DEAD, an hour and a half pilot for a new series on AMC based on the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. In this one episode, a prelude of more episodes to come, there was more depth, more emotion, more genuine scares, and more flippin' cool zombies than anything we've seen theatrically since SHAUN OF THE DEAD--and that was a spoof (of sorts)! This revelation got me drinking, and the drinking got me thinking, and the thinking got me asking questions, like are we at a point where only TV can make zombies cool again?
DAWN OF THE DEAD started the recent zombie craze in 2004, freaking audiences out with it's sheer awesome zombiness.
Zombies hit the biggest (recent) resurgence in pop culture in 2004 when director Zack Snyder remade George A. Romero's classic DAWN OF THE DEAD. First it was blasphemous rage when people caught wind of the idea, but then we saw it for what it was and realized that Snyder single-handedly kick-started a new craze of all things zombie. Little did we know that meant a lot of copy cats, rip-offs, and half-assed zombie movies for the next five years, with the exception of a few gems (of course), both of which being horror comedies and not straight-up horror flicks: SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD continued the zombie craze with laughs and scares, and even a little romance sprinkled on top.
But in terms of the hardcore zombie horror flick, we've seen shit like Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and (worse of all, if that's even possible) SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. And this is the guy who straight-up created the zombie genre as we know it. Yet now he's out there making steaming piles of garbage, movies that are so bad they’re literally unwatchable What kind of sick and effed up time in movies do we live in when a Romero zombie movie equals utter shittiness?
George A. Romero's SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is one of the most unwatchable piles of poop ever made.
Beyond that there's been zombie-like knock-offs (THE CRAZIES or even 28 WEEKS LATER) that aren't horrendous, video game adaptations that feature zombie-like creatures (RESIDENT EVIL franchise), different twists on the usual zombie setting that hasn't been too bad (DEAD SNOW), the Troma version featuring resurrected zombie chickens (POULTRYGEIST), and then there's the burst zom-coms like DANCE OF THE DEAD. All of these flicks aren't horrible movies, but I can't honestly say that any have really contributed to the zombie genre, nor are they all that memorable or have done anything to make zombies cool. They're simply punch lines and excuses for body counts these days: nothing more, nothing less.
THE CRAZIES was a decent good time, but they weren't REALLY zombies now, were they? They were just crazy. Big difference.
That is, until Halloween. Director Frank Darabont wrote and directed the pilot episode for THE WALKING DEAD and blew all of the conceived notions of what zombie movies have been away and replaced them with what a zombie movie should be. Instead of making the focus "find zombies and kill them," the show has focused on the human drama of the survivors of the zombie holocaust, the emotional drain it is to have to kill the people you love now that they're zombified, and the horror of what happens when a horde of zombies comes your way after days (or even weeks) without seeing another person, living or dead. Darabont didn't go for laughs but instead went for the jugular, went to make zombies scary and, most of all, cool again. Because, let's face it, even though it focused on other stuff, THE WALKING DEAD also featured awesome zombie gore and, even for television, it was a lot gnarlier than what we've seen on the big screen.
AMC's THE WALKING DEAD. Now THIS is what I'm talkin' about!
Maybe it's the booze talkin', but it seems to me that TV is the zombie genre's last chance from being played out and lame-o to being awesome again, to being able to excite and scare viewers, and captivate its audience with stunning visuals and situations (not to mention the gore and all the graphic violence). In one way, that's a f*cked up thought, that television is gonna be better for zombies than movies, but goddamnit, it's already the truth, and THE WALKING DEAD is only a few episodes deep. So what's the f*cking point to all of this? If you haven’t already, tune in to AMC, keep watching THE WALKING DEAD, and stop watching every shitty zombie movie that comes out! Maybe that will get studios thinking that maybe they should invest on story and people over investing strictly on the gore. Zombies are awesome and its taken a TV show to remind me just how awesome they can be.
See THE WALKING DEAD or end up like this crawling corpse!