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These Aren't Your Fathers Undead Horrors

image by Veronica V. Jones

The Mysterious Zombie Movie Mutation

Word War Z - zombies as the flu. Cockneys Vs. Zombies - zombies as the generation gap. Warm Bodies - Zombies as teen angst.

Since their introduction in the late sixties, zombie films had been almost exclusively exploiting our fears of a disintegrating civilization and our collective loss of trust in each other. Very recently, however, a new strain of these shambling masses have lurched, sprinted and crawled across the silver screen: Zombies are now being used to illuminate much more nuanced internal conflicts within our collective societal psyches.

On its highly-polished surface, World War Z is a traditional zombie movie, but the enemy here is ultimately a modern day plague, and the heroes little more than rugged epidemiologists. Brad Pit’s protagonist quickly finds that he can’t fight his fungal fright, so he travels the globe in search of patient zero… and a cure to the world’s new ills.

The much less polished, but much more enjoyable Cockneys vs Zombies reveals a generational divide between young slackers and feisty retirees. Each group’s response to the shambling horde of rotters is shaped by their wildly differing experiences, but they manage to find some common ground while escaping the undead.

A recently deceased heartthrob’s inner monolog provides a witty insight into life after death in Warm Bodies, and proves that angsty teen love can transcend — and even possibly reverse — the zombie uprising. This film reimagines the undead in a similar vein as those interesting Twilight films, while taking itself far less seriously. The world needed more Zom Rom Com, and this flick delivers.

In these mutated genre pieces, the fear of societal collapse is replaced with a computer-generated superbug, generational ambivalence, and frustrated hormones respectively. While each is frightful in their own way, it’s fascinating to see the zombie menace standing in for such a wide variety of much more personal fears. We surely must anxiously await future reincarnations of this most malleable of malevolent monsters: the humble zombie.

Written by in November of 2013. Last edited August 2015.

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