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Why I Think the Zombie Film Genre is no Longer Undead

Love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve probably noticed a lot of zombie movies lately. The genre is glutted with product. If the genre was a zombie, it would be too fat to catch a victim. If the genre could speak it might say something like “No more, please, no more! For god’s sake blow my head off!” Zombies can’t speak of course, so they need someone to speak for them. Having once played a cadaver in a theater production, I feel I’m uniquely qualified for this role.

I doubt I’m the only one thinking there are too many zombie films, and people are making them for the wrong reasons. Wanting to make a film is not the wrong reason of course, and I applaud all film-making efforts. But I don’t appreciate the low-hanging fruit that’s been sent to market lately.

A zombie film must depend on zombies to fill a supporting role or integral theme. If you remove the zombies and the movie still works then what you probably have is a drama, or a survival-drama. These movies are closer to thrillers than horror. Some are romantic dramas or rom-coms in zombieland, and might as well be dragonland, or rabid-babboon land.

While I like The Walking Dead, I’m bored with it. It has become an apocalypse survival tale, high on interpersonal drama, cheap thrills, and low in real horror not delivered through the engine of drama. It no longer needs “walkers.” George Romero, patron saint of the zombie film genre, was asked to helm a couple episodes of TWD and refused, stating in part, “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally.” In my humble opinion, he couldn’t be more accurate. (See more on Mr. Romero’s thoughts on TWD at http://www.slashfilm.com/george-a-romero-explains-why-he-wont-do-the-walking-dead/).

Now I like TWD because most episodes are thrilling and make for fine drama. But I no longer consider it a zombie series. And I blame TWD for bringing us where we are today with the zombie film category. More is not better.

Very few of the latest zombie films are really horror. They’re dramas. There are some wonderful exceptions, like The Girl With all the Gifts, for example. So there is clearly something to the format for clever and creative writers. But then take the Schwarzenegger- loaded Maggie, a maudlin drama with a zombie backdrop. Remove zombies, substitute a nasty disease, and the film doesn’t lose a thing. Filmmakers have been cranking out hundreds of these every year. For every The Girl With all the Gifts we get fifty Maggies.

Zombie FX can be cheap and easy compared to other FX needed for other kinds of sci-fi and horror (except for the “found film” category). Sets must be cheap too. Any unused factory, forest, or industrial park is perfect for filming. The popularity of the zombie genre at the moment plus an undiscerning public guarantees viewers. And it is the viewer the joke is too often upon.

So I’m tired of being joked on, goofed on, call it what you will, by filmmakers who just want to crank out product. Now I’m repulsed by zombie films, and the only reason I watched The Girl With all the Gifts is because I didn’t know it was zombie film. I can’t be the only one feeling this way. And this is why I think the genre is done for, it has decayed to the point of uselessnes. It smells. It needs to be buried. It’s going to be a while until I decide to watch another zombie film. I’m tired of rotten fruit.

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