I watched part of the movie Quarantine again last night. I’ve seen the whole thing, and it’s a pretty good movie right up till the last five minutes, which is so unbelievably stupid that it ruins the rest (not to spoil it, but, keep the damn camera on the crazy guy, not the sobbing reporter who is not a threat). But it sparked a discussion with my wife and youngest daughter – is it really a zombie movie?
I stopped and thought about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while many movies today are, in essence, about zombies, they don’t actually have zombies in them. I’m looking at you, Quarantine, 28 Days/Weeks Later, even Zombieland, which I dearly love. What do these movies all have in common? Their zombies aren’t actually zombies.
I define a zombie as an undead creature, a reanimated corpse which hungers for human flesh (or, alternatively, BRRRRRAAAAAIIIIIINNNNNSSSSSS!). All of the movies above, and several other recent “zombie” movies, do not feature animated corpses, but instead have people infected by a disease that produces similar symptoms. As an example, in Zombieland, the disease is described as being “Mad Cow Disease” and it makes people into raging psychos with a bad case of the munchies. But they aren’t dead. In Quarantine it’s rabies. Same idea, the people are driven mad and have a taste for human flesh, but they never died. The “28 X After” movies feature the Rage virus, same idea. In all of these cases, the people are Infected, but not Zombies. Where did the love of the undead go?
The Infected share many of the same traits – the hunger, the mindlessness, the ability to ignore pain and some wounds that would incapacitate an uninfected person. But they are still just people, people infected with a disease of some kind. You don’t even have to shoot them in the head! These Infected are actually what gives rise to the “fast zombie” that some zombie fans dislike. The fact that this crossed over in the remake of Dawn of the Dead has been often lamented by fans of the original.
Where have all the true zombies gone? I recently re-watched the classic Return of the Living Dead. Such a great movie, with zombies that were basically unstoppable. And they were both smart AND dead. Maybe modern “zombie” filmmakers could take a lesson from this classic movie – while it may be neat to make a movie about people who are infected with some disease, and you may feel it’s more “realistic,” there’s nothing wrong with some good old undead feasting on brains.