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The Underlying Undead Dilemma

image by Veronica V. Jones

Trusting The Undead: A Zombie Omnibus

Leading men from The Walking Dead and Zombieland.
Timothy Oliphant and Radha Mitchell from The Crazies
A. J. Bowen and Scott Poythress in The Signal

The horror genre is as old as literature itself, and some of the first movies ever put to film featured the undead. By some counts, there are twice as many zombie films as vampire films. Armchair shrinks will tell us bloodsuckers fulfill our psychosexual needs, but why are we so fascinated by the ambulatory deceased? It comes down to a simple matter of trust.

Last year two hot properties emerged to take zombies in interesting directions.
Zombieland added a new dimension of undead humor, building on the success of Shaun of the Dead, while The Walking Dead made the zombie apocalypse an incredibly personal experience. They both share the same moral: placing your trust in others, even complete strangers — and in turn being worthy of trust — is critical for survival. This simple truth is at the core of every zombie story ever told, but there are a few… refinements.

The shambling infected citizenry are the initial antagonists in The Crazies, but the true villains of the film are the military and government agents who not only unleash the mind-destroying plague, but are also willing to incinerate an entire town to hide their ineptitude. Man-made biological weapons are a common prologue to zombie films, but the military industrial complex was never a more eager villain than portrayed in Crazies.

The most frightening monster of all is the creature that lurks beneath your very own consciousness, as revealed in The Signal. The city of Terminus awakes to an odd television broadcast, that slowly turns its viewers into delusional, paranoid killing machines. As a small group flees to safety, they begin to doubt everything they see and hear, including each other.

Zombies present the ultimate cautionary tale, a thoroughly modern end-of-days. Their horrible moans and piercing screams remind us that without a healthy community, without an honorable government, or without coming to terms with our own dark natures, civilization is well and truly doomed.

Written by in March of 2011. Last edited March 2019.

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