Quarantine and the zombie narrative

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I watched Quarantine last night (I know, I know, I should have watched [REC] instead, sue me). I have a soft spot in my heart for zombie movies, and I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately for some reason. New Moon is a smash hit, through the roof, with its vampires and werewolves. Is it possible, I wonder, that one day there will be a supernatural romance between a teenage girl and a zombie? It seems implausible, but then let’s step back and think about this for a moment.

Frankenstein was published in 1818, nearly 200 years ago. Dracula was published in 1897. These books were considered super scary for their times, and account for two main themes running through contemporary horror: science gone mad, and the dangers of sleeping around. If you told Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker that their creations would one day morph into Frankenberry and Count Chocula, they’d be appalled. If you told one of the original readers of Dracula that one day, teenage girls would be sent into fits of swooning and mooning over a cute, sparkly vampire, they’d be sickened at the depths to which our decadent society has sunk. There was nothing cute or endearing about Dracula or Frankenstein’s creature, they were straight-up nauseating and horrifying. (Dracula was, of course, darkly alluring and sexy, that was part of his thing — he seduces women.) They weren’t entertainments, they were the stuff of nightmares.

Over Halloween weekend, I had friends over to watch The Bride of Frankenstein. Everyone laughed and made jokes through it, it was silly and campy and way over the top. I don’t think that same group of people would have laughed and made jokes through Quarantine, it’s a nerve-jangling, claustrophobic, relentless horror machine.

(The movie, for those interested, is The Blair Witch Project meets Night of the Living Dead.)

Is it possible that, one day, people will watch Quarantine and hoot at the screen and make snarky remarks about the silly performances? Will it seem as silly and harmless as The Bride of Frankenstein seems to us now? Now that Zombieland has made the zombie-comedy mainstream, is it possible that one day there will be a zombie-inspired breakfast cereal? Will there one day be zombie romances that make all the teen girls swoon? Can you imagine a zombie being a member of the Munster family?

Because it seems to me that the zombie narrative is the one place left in horror movies where you can still be flat-out unpleasant. A zombie movie isn’t there to give you hope or provide thrills, it’s there to horrify you. I remember seeing Dawn of the Dead in 1981 or so at a midnight show, ten minutes into it I felt like I’d been plunged into a nightmare. It went past being entertaining, it was a genuinely unpleasant experience, and yet it never occurred to me that I could get up and leave, I was absolutely transfixed by the relentless horror playing out on the screen. I was pleased that Zack Snyder’s remake retained that edge of unpleasantness, that complete sense of hopelessness, the characters all losing their shit and fighting with each other, that utterly bleak view of humanity heading down the tubes in a hurry, of society falling apart. I got the same feeling watching Quarantine last night — the moment I realized that everyone is trapped and we’re going to watch them all tear each other apart, I thought "Wait, this is isn’t ‘a good time at the movies,’ this is freaking unpleasant! Why can’t I stop watching this?!" Because I couldn’t — some part of me wanted to see that, wanted to be put through that horror, wanted to plumb the depths of human depravity.

Zombie movies are, for some reason, the one place left in cinematic narrative where it’s okay, even desirable, to have a deeply pessimistic ending, to be sick and depraved and be unapologetic about it. No funny, charismatic zombie has stepped forward to make zombies cuddly. Zombie comedies have been very funny, but the zombies themselves remain horrifying. The comedy is not in the zombies but in the way people react to them. Partly because, I think, the whole point of zombies is that they don’t have characters. There’s a character on screen, and we like him, and then he turns into a zombie, and then we need him to be dead, immediately. And then they join the horde, the relentless hoard of zombies that are forever crashing through walls and beating down doors, coming for we, the living. Zombies are the horde, you couldn’t have a character-based zombie movie, zombies are, by definition, all alike.


60 Responses to “Quarantine and the zombie narrative”
  1. swan_tower says:

    Yeah, the two things standing in the way of zombies being mainstreamed, much less sparklified, is that a) they’re mindless and b) they’re rotting.

    I discussed this with some urban fantasy authors on a convention panel once, actually, and we pretty much agreed that zombie romance is out of the question so long as those factors remain. But if you get rid of them, you kind of don’t have a zombie anymore. You just have a dead guy who doesn’t have to drink blood to stay functioning.

    • Todd says:

      Well, Twilight gets around a lot of its problems by simply ignoring over 100 years of vampire mythology and making up new rules about what vampires are and what they do.

      • braincraft says:

        Well, it wasn’t actually creative or anything. Anne Rice already did most of the work.

      • swan_tower says:

        It does indeed, and the result is something that is only verrrrry barely vampirism. (They drink blood. And don’t age. And sunlight, er, does something.)

        But vampires were made sexy long before Meyer completed their de-fanging; in fact, some of their core characteristics (specifically the whole blood-drinking thing) are erotically charged concepts anyway. I don’t particularly want to hear from the people who find the core characteristics of zombies erotic.

  2. popebuck1 says:

    I’ve always thought the central zombie metaphor was the thinking/feeling individual person, trying to stay alive and sane in the face of an all-consuming corporate culture. The one thing zombies do really well, after all, is consume. (“Braaaaaaains!”) The zombie-as-mindless-consumer metaphor is most explicit in Dawn of the Dead, of course. But I think it informs all the various retellings on one level or another.

  3. jwz says:

    What about Return of the Living Dead 3? It wasn’t really a comedy, it was a zombie romance between a recently-zombified girl and her swooning boyfriend. Ok, she wasn’t a traditional zombie because for some reason she retained her mind for longer than most (and did her best not to eat him) but still…. Hot Zombie.

    While Fido was a comedy, the title character wasn’t particularly horrifying. The zombies had fairly traditional zombie mechanics, but they were portrayed as sad and pathetic.

    • Todd says:

      I haven’t seen either of those movies, but I’ll take your word for their content. It sounds like Return 3 found a way to make a romance, next step would be mainstreaming it.

      • therrin says:

        I was about to comment about Fido.

        You really need to see Fido. It is less a zombie movie, and more a satire of 50s culture using zombies, but it’s both hilarious and personifying of the zombies. The movie has two kinds of zombies, zombies with some sort of character to them, and the random zombie horde.

        Plus it uses a soundtrack of relentlessly upbeat swing music (unless you think about it too much) to good effect.

    • rattsu says:

      I was thinking the same thing, Return of the Living Dead 3 managed to be both romantic, and gruesome at the same time.

      Dellamorte, Dellamore might also count in this.

      And then of course there are the Necromantic movies, but Jörg Buttgereit have never been anything close to mainstream.

  4. leonardpart6 says:

    There’s also 1993’s My Boyfriend’s Back, which reworks the zombie film as a teen romcom. (Granted, it was made too early for the zombie renaissance and too late for the teen comedy; not sure how it would play if made today.)

  5. yesdrizella says:

    Is it possible, I wonder, that one day there will be a supernatural romance between a teenage girl and a zombie?

    There is a romance between a woman and a zombie in Fido, though Fido is a satire, so I’m not sure if that counts.

    As for character-driven zombie movies, Colin is told from the zombie’s POV. It cost $80 to make and has been getting good press since its showing at Cannes.

    *sorry for all the edits!

  6. malsperanza says:

    Zombie movies don’t cross over into romance, but they do cross over in the other direction: into grossout humor–farts and poop and embarrassing fucking noises.
    There was nothing cute or endearing about Dracula or Frankenstein’s creature, they were straight-up nauseating and horrifying. (Dracula was, of course, darkly alluring and sexy, that was part of his thing — he seduces women.) They weren’t entertainments, they were the stuff of nightmares.

    I think the differences between Frankenstein and Dracula are greater than this. Dracula *is* a romance, in which Mina must choose between Good boyfriend and Bad boyfriend. Dracula is described as not only virile and attractive, but a man who, when alive, had been the progenitor of a line of noble and illustrious men and women–not too different from the standard wicked noblemen in The Castle of Otranto and Clarissa. So Dracula is in some sense always a drama about bad choices in romance–and very much in the mainstream of entertainment. If it also flirts with the question of religious faith vs. science, it does so only in order to be a bit risqué, since the one scientific figure in the story, van Helsing, is not an unbeliever who threatens the universal moral order (like Dr. Frankenstein).

    Also, Stoker was a theatrical author, literally and figuratively; I think he wrote Dracula very much as a titillating entertainment. He took Wilkie Collins’s Carmilla and sexed it up as much as he could get away with. Half of what makes Dracula romantic is that he’s from eastern Europe, western culture’s favorite version of the Exotic Other. (Other versions being Red Indians and Arab sheiks).

    Twilight and Buffy and True Blood and the Anne Rice novels shift the emphasis a bit to strengthen the Pretteh and tone down the gore. (OK, in the case of Twilight, the shift is egregious and embarrassing.) But they are basically following the line set down by Collins and then Stoker.

    Frankenstein is a philosophical discourse, an exploration of the challenges of Enlightenment values. The “creature” is not the protagonist; Dr. F is. Shelley resolutely avoids giving Dr. F much of a romantic life or love interest (a fact that Young Frankenstein picked up on and lampooned mercilessly).

    So I think the gap between Movie!Dracula and Book!Dracula is smaller than the gap between Movie!Frankenstein and Book!Frankenstein.

    All of that aside, you could do a Zombie Romance if you went in the direction of Baron Samedi, the zombie maker, and the exoticism of Voudon. Set it in New Orleans or Port au Prince, and do a Wade Davis Serpent-and-Rainbow riff. I bet it could work. You’d just have to lose the drool and rotting fingers, which is no greater challenge than defanging a vampire and making him all sparkelicious.

    • medeaspes says:

      A key element as well of book Dracula, was the sheer mundanity of being undead-how to upkeep where you reside, how to transport yourself, how and where you can feed, banking, etc. While I wouldn’t say the saddest part of the book was when Harker sees Dracula making Harker’s bed, I can say the most pathetic is Dracula having to flee his new residence, and his pursuers finding a tub full of bloodied washing.

      And yep, agree with you about Frankenstein being a discourse, as opposed to a rousing tale to titillate. I’ve always liked the sub-title of the book: A Modern Prometheus, as it turns the entire story into an epic tale of man’s hubris.

      • malsperanza says:

        Goodness, I don’t remember the bed-making. Housemaid!Dracula is certainly a comedown; I’ll have to reread it.

        It also occurs to me that Zombies are purely a creation of the movies. There’s no great work of literature on which Romero based Dawn of the Dead, unless you count The Monkey’s Paw.

        The challenge of a zombie romance movie would be not only to deal with the smell of decay and the green ooze, but also the fact that zombies are stupid, dull automatons who shuffle through the world with glazed eyes, looking for brains to eat. Oh! I’ve just thought of a romantic zombie movie: Ghost!


      • Thirding the Frankenstein comments. The scariness wasn’t really the monster (or at least, wasn’t just). It was about abuse of science, and the horrible outcomes of doing something just because you can without considering the question of whether you should. I was always firmly in the camp that reads Doc F as being the antagonist in the book.

    • woodandiron says:

      If I may nitpick, Carmilla was written by Sheridan Le Fanu not Collins.

  7. coyotegoth says:

    Because it seems to me that the zombie narrative is the one place left in horror movies where you can still be flat-out unpleasant. A zombie movie isn’t there to give you hope or provide thrills, it’s there to horrify you.

    What about torture films such as Hostel or Saw?

    • Todd says:

      I consider those suspense thrillers. Very gory suspense thrillers, but still suspense thrillers. Silence of the Lambs devolved into Seven, and Seven devolved into Saw. They’re all effective, but they keep boiling down the same premise.

  8. perich says:

    I think the distinction is that Frankenstein and Dracula were very human monsters. Half of Frankenstein is written from the monster’s point of view, and most of the characters in Dracula have conversations with the titular vampire. So once Shelley and Stoker established that their monsters could think, it was only a matter of time before someone put us in their heads.

    Zombies, on the other hand, are not very human at all. In fact, that’s part of what makes zombies so horrifying – they look human but they’re not even as smart as animals. The most nullifying part of any zombie movie (for me) is the human vs. a zombified love one, like a zombie mom chasing her screaming daughter. It’s … ugh. It’s unpleasant to even think about.

    … and now I see you touched on that very subject in your last ‘graf, so I suppose I’m just agreeing with you.

  9. dougo says:

    I came up with a theory while watching the trailer for The Crazies today: I think zombies are currently popular because they’re a metaphor for the red-state/blue-state divide. People on both sides think that the other side used to be like them but has inexplicably been turned into mindless zombies who must be killed before they kill you and/or convert you to a zombie too.

  10. pirateman says:

    One of the main differences I think in the zombie genre is that it always goes hand in hand with the apocalypse. You can have a Frankenstein or a Vampire (or a bunch of vampires) around and still have life as we know it continue normally.

    For zombies to happen, however, the WORLD has to be transformed and society as a whole has to change, right? It’s harder to have a traditional romance when everything around you is falling apart. Like you said, it’s the nature of the beast – the fact that zombies happen in hordes, not one at at time – that separate zombies from other traditional monsters and horror movies.

    • Todd says:

      I agree. The rule of zombie narratives would have to change — it would have to not be the end of the world, a total breakdown of society. But it could be a partial breakdown of society, we see romances about that all the time. Casablanca comes to mind, or Gone With The Wind. Maybe the zombie threat has been contained or neutralized, with our cute zombie boy stuck in a zombie camp, separated from his love by cruel electrified wire.

      • malsperanza says:

        But that’s just the zombie story as told by Night of the Living Dead, which was original and radical and exciting precisely because it imagined a mass uprising of corpses.

        There are lots of zombie stories that are not about herds of Undead but are just as you say: romances in which one of the partners is, well, a little dead around the edges–like the old Bela Lugosi “White Zombie” and all the succubus/lamia/female Undead stories like Vincent Price’s Ligeia.

        • jvowles says:

          The ending of Shaun of the Dead has the zombies more or less mainstreamed — reduced to their base instincts, their most primal urges. Eat. Work. Play video games. And one of the bits has a woman on a talk show defending her refusal to divorce her husband.

          Zombies carry the fear that you’ll become like them, lose what makes you human.

          Whereas there is a significant string of the werewolf genre that is about embracing your animal instincts; there is also the allure of the power and the sex and the strength. Witness the current fawning on the wolf boy in the NEW MOON movie — though honestly if I were in that kind of shape you couldn’t convince me to keep a shirt on either. 🙂

          • malsperanza says:

            So Zombies = Pod People, more or less?

            In “White Zombie” the idea is that the zombification process will make the young woman a quiescent, cooperative sex slave. That’s more or less the theme in “The Serpent and the Rainbow” too, only with a modern political spin. I haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead. Are the zombies physically gross? Because that’s the only bar to a screenplay on the order of Joss Whedon’s creepy “Dollhouse” concept.

            As for Wolfboy, he lends new meaning to the lyric, “I’m too sexy for my shirt.” There is nothing about those movies that doesn’t make me laugh, but the sheer power of the romantic urge is not easily dismissed. So yeah: Sexeh ripped zombieboys. Sounds good to me.

            • Pod people are more insidious because they could be anyone, even the person right next to you – a concept present in the ’50s film but brought to the forefront of the ’70s film. The idea that not only could it happen to anyone, but also that you wouldn’t be able to tell – it’s a trust issue on top of everything else.

              Also, the pod people are obviously not physically repellent to the naked eye, because they look just like regular people. And they have all their motor functions and the capacity for speech, all of which help them fit in with the masses they’re slowly replacing.

      • voiceofisaac says:


        Well, there are Jewish prophecies/folklore/myths about the coming of the Mashiach (Messiah) that include the rising of the dead. Some have theorized that this is a wondrous happy thing, reuniting with old loves and so on. Others suspect that this is closer to a Zombie Apocalypse, and that there’s scripture to indicate that the dead will come back in the state they were as they died (i.e. possibly dismembered or full of holes or other ick).

        Take this concept, remove the “rotting” part (the most blatantly unsexy aspect) but still have the character recognizably dead in some way, add an amusing or ironic (or Woody Allen Neurotic) dash of Judaism and/or Jewish guilt, and maybe you could have a Zombie Romance out of it.

        “Nu, I came back from Olam Habah, the world to come, only to find you getting schtupped by Harris Moskovitz? Oy gavalt.”

        • notthebuddha says:

          Take this concept, remove the “rotting” part (the most blatantly unsexy aspect) but still have the character recognizably dead in some way, add an amusing or ironic (or Woody Allen Neurotic) dash of Judaism and/or Jewish guilt, and maybe you could have a Zombie Romance out of it.

          This is sort of the concept of CORPSE BRIDE.

      • blake_reitz says:

        The setting of Max Brooks World War Z would be idea for that kind of story.

    • therrin says:

      It’s not a traditional romance in any sense of the word, but I Am Legend does have the romantic angle with the undead going.

      There is a lot going on in there, but one of the subplots is a man learning to love a woman who he realizes is actually a vampire.

      The Will Smith movie took the vampires to semi-zombie things, and completely wussed out on it’s own intended love and society between zombies ending, but again, people have already started to break down that divide while maintaining an end of the world scenario.

  11. schwa242 says:

    I saw this in the theater, as my wife lo-o-oves to see the scary ones on the big screen. I really enjoyed this in an I-want-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin sorta way. It played on fears of mine rather well. A good film for hypochondriacs who worry about scary government measures against individuals for the greater good.

    I believe this and Cloverfield are the only two shaky-cam POV movies I’ve really enjoyed. I didn’t get into The Blair Witch Project, though that could be more because the only time I saw it, an acquaintance of mine who was on too much coffee (or perhaps something stronger) narrated the whole film’s subtext to me and wouldn’t shut up. And I found Paranormal Activity more comedic than terrifying.

  12. xnbach says:

    Mark Henry’s Amanda Feral series of books are Zombie Paranormal Romance, so it shouldn’t be too long before we get Zombie Teen Romance. I doubt that there will be as much bar crawling in them as in the Amanda Feral books, but you never know.

    Now that I think about, S.G. Brown’s Breathers is also zombie romance. Specifically, a Zombie Romantic Comedy (or ZomRomCom)

  13. seriousfic says:

    Actually, a zombie romance would be pretty easy to do, as long as you’re willing to let go of the mindlessness aspect. Our hero is dead and rotting… thus he can’t be with the heroine sexually. Hello abstinence fable and hello UST. Plus, a zombie would be the ultimate woobie, constantly decaying as he is. Love means having to sow your boyfriend’s finger back on, let’s say.

    • Excellent point! The Sun Also Rises, zombie style. In fact, you could even keep the mindlessness, if it was a condition that happened over the course of the story, with the zombie character infected with a disease that slowly turns his brain to mush (and his body, as well), with the doom of the understanding that he will soon be all-zombie. If the zombie condition is one that happens gradually instead of within minutes of being bitten or whatever, you have a ticking clock and a deteriorating condition. Metaphors for illnesses anywhere from cancer to Alzheimer’s, and mortality in general.

      • seriousfic says:

        The hard part of a “deterioration” story would be differentiating it from a werewolf story, since it would be pretty much the same theme of “doomed lover slowly succumbs to disease which puts his loved ones at risk.”

        • jvowles says:

          But werewolf stories tend to be about embracing — or denying — one’s animal side. Physical danger has its appeal — and that’s long before you even get close to that whole furry thing.

          Zombies don’t even have THAT left — it’s total physical and mental breakdown, which should always be too terrifying to embrace.

          • Maybe it’s “I love you in spite of you being a zombie” rather than “because of.” Not the erotic allure of a vampire or the primal draw of a werewolf, but a dangerous, stubborn refusal to let go of a dead loved one. (Which might be tough to pull off, but certainly doesn’t sound any dumber than the idea of a girl who’s in love with a vampire AND a werewolf in the same goddamn movie, haha.)

          • malsperanza says:

            Isn’t a sort of Dorian Grey in reverse? His corruption is in his body, but his heart and mind remain pure. The more our Zombie hero decays, the more our lovely and dimwitted heroine yearns to heal him, salves, dangerous nighttime visits to witch doctors. Can she rescue him before he eats her? The only challenge would be not to make his decay too squicky. It has an almost Philip K. Dick quality: the hero’s cri de coeur is “Alas, I am falling apart!”

    • black13 says:

      It could also be the ultimate STD parable.

  14. malsperanza stated the Dracula/Frankenstein differences quite well.

    Zombies are usually presented more as a force of nature than a specific character archetype. Like the bodysnatcher movies. Would a Frankenstein-monster-type zombie still be a zombie? A zombie who begins without much of a mind, but can learn and grow a little? Maybe being a zombie is like being an infant – motor functions and speech are learned over time.

    If your zombie can either change or think, you could do an icky romance. Or even without those qualities, if you want an unrequited love kinda deal. Maybe the zombie is the recently-deceased lover of someone who can’t let them go and is still in love with them. Metaphors for grieving, etc. The old romantic comedy question “what keeps them apart?” is answered with “one of them has died and is a zombie.” A happy ending might have the living one make peace with the death of their lover and blow the zombie’s head off. If you keep the decay mostly on the inside, without pieces of flesh falling off the dead lover, it might even work as a mainstream movie.

    Obviously, you could have a love story set in the center of a zombie movie, just as there are romances in the midst of other disaster movies.

    Parenthetically, I saw Bride of Frankenstein for the first time just a few years ago, and as dated as it was it still worked for me. This was due primarily to Karloff’s performance, which was excellent in the previous film but here had even more opportunity for greatness. The moment when he first steps into that shaft of sunlight – sublime acting there. Incredibly affecting and full of humanity. I believed Karloff completely, and by proxy the rest of the film.

  15. curt_holman says:

    “Quarantine, it’s a nerve-jangling, claustrophobic, relentless horror machine.”

    So, it’s good, then?

    Speaking of films influenced by ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ did you see ‘Paranormal Activity?’

  16. Anonymous says:

    There is the Italian movie “Dellamorte Dellamore” (also called Cemetery Man) starring Rupert Everett.
    It, again, is not straight forward man/woman-loves-zombie, but is more like La Dolce Vita meets Evil Dead.

    Zombies are an incredibly underrated narrative device. People have already mentioned the themes of consumerism and mob-mentality, but there are so many more uses. They represent man’s-inhumanity-to-man, they’re a perfect manifestation of the influence of the id, etc.

    My favorite usage of zombies is for their representation of inevitability. A zombie (even a group of them) is incredibly unthreatening. Zombies are typically slow as all hell, and are incapable of strategy or any personality/identity. They’re just a faceless force of nature. They’re something that happens, not something that acts. Once an outbreak starts, it means there’s (depending on the canon) no real way of suppressing it. They are a sure thing. You know they’re out there, and they’re coming. You can hold them off or run away, but you can’t make the threat go away. You just have to wait for the end.
    It’s a perfect pressure cooker for a character study. It’s a way of taking away a character’s hopes and pushing them to their psychological breaking points. It can also be used to reflect personal or cultural fears of the future, as a slow-crawling yet totally inevitable doom.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I also vaguely recall an episode of the X-Files with zombies where Agent Mulder hypothesizes that zombies seek to sate their hunger because they feel a need to catch up on the time they missed.
    He then suggested that zombies, once they have eaten their fill, would move on to other cravings like those for love. The show ended with corpses slowdancing in a graveyard.

  18. frankenchris says:

    There’s a little Scottish film called Boy Eats Girl. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0415679/ It’s a bit like Twilight in that he has “zombie powers” and retains his consciousness, but he does manage to cause a plague of mindless undead and I’d still recommend it.

    There’s a more interesting film called Dance of the Dead http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0926063/ with a subplot involving a love relationship between two teens, one of them newly bitten, that works well as a metaphor for the intensity of adolescent love, and how it can be all-consuming.

  19. black13 says:

    “No funny, charismatic zombie has stepped forward to make zombies cuddly.”

    Oh, I don’t know.


  20. A Zombie Romance?

    Hmm. What does the antagonist (the zombie) represent?

    I’d go with Romero’s interpretation — mindless consumerism and middle class conformity (what we colloquially refer to as “becoming a zombie”).

    The overarching metaphor for a zombie romance would be the fear of “becoming like everybody else” — a rebel or otherwise exceptional kind of person (like a manic pixie dream girl, a talented but struggling artist, or future rock star) tempted to give up his/her individuality and dreams to settle down with their love interest into suburbia and its cookie-cutter doldrums.

    Curiously, this would be a romance that might have the audience rooting for the couple to break up . . .

  21. Anonymous says:

    Zombies scare the hell out of me, and when something does that, I try to find a way to make myself sympathize with it — to make it something I can laugh at or feel for.

    I had an idea for a zombie comedy from the zombies’ point of view, in which we find out that they’re not necessarily mindless — they can talk to each other, but can no longer understand the living. And they don’t necessarily crave human flesh; it’s just that years of watching zombie movies have convinced the majority of the zombified that, hey, this is what zombies do, so why shouldn’t we?

    And, eerily, the scenario Mr. Alcott envisions about one of a pair of lovers trapped in a zombie camp is a part of the story I’d thought up. Clearly, it’s time for me to invest in a good, sturdy tinfoil hat. (: (And write that script already.)

    — N.A.

  22. marcochacon says:

    I think that there are some different elements involved in each case.

    1. Vampires: having your neck bitten/sucked is at least semi-erotic (it’s like being given a hickey, eh?). According to a college instructor (who specialized in horror movies–that was a cool class) Vampire fiction in the Victorian era was about the girl being able to ‘give it up’ but still be pure since she was seduced (it was rape and she wasn’t responsible, even if she went back night after night).

    Was it scary? Well, yes–but it was also erotic–or so he said. Interestingly Nosferatu was one of the very, very few non-erotic vampires in fiction anywhere (modern vampires, I will note, often have fairly compelling or charismatic ‘master’ vampires with more mindless and less attractive slave-vampires … more like zombies).

    2. Frankenstein’s science gone mad element was destined to get a lot less scary for us as it progresses (as you know, I’m sure). Electricity was mysterious … then radiation … today maybe nano-tech or the singularity or whatever. We may have hit the limit on science-scares since I can’t think of any nano-tech monsters (The remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still was more of a cool special effect than a scary thing).

    3. Zombies are, I submit, hard to romanticize because they don’t have character. One zombie would be plenty scary in real life–but in a movie, once you head-shot it, if that was it, it’d be a curiosity (“Look! Walking corpse!”)

    Secondly, they are the only monster of the three to evidence actual decay which, I think, is not insignificant. A Zombie Breakfast cereal would have to be extremely ironic to function: you’d be eating zombie hordes which is a very gross idea but might appeal to some people (I’m thinking 9 year old boys and stoned college students). ‘Mom’ probably wouldn’t buy it given the choice.


  23. marcochacon says:

    Oh, and on the topic of Quarantine: There are very few movies I can think of where the poster gives away not just the ending but the very last scene of the movie–and does it to such an extent that, 10 minutes in, it’s clear how it must end.

    I have not seen Paranormal Events–but I understand that the trailer shows what is almost the last scene as well (the guy being hurtled towards the camera).


    • Todd says:

      I know there are a few other movies that put the last scene on the poster, but I’m hard-pressed to think of them now. In any case, I found Quarantine sufficiently terrifying that I forgot about the DVD box while I was watching it.

  24. Anonymous says:


    Zombieland is pretty clearly the anti-zombie movie, what with having a narrative arc that’s the reverse of the zombie movie. Instead of having a group of survivors fall apart and become desperate individuals, a handful of desperate individuals band together into a erzatz family.