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Zombies and Horror

by on November 10, 2012

After yesterday’s session there are a number of things that I want to pick up on whether to explain or to just add evidence to. Zombies were mentioned during the session. Let’s start there. I can’t remember who but someone made the comment that a reanimation must be one of the most horrible things to witness. I agree and to add some cinematic magic to the point, here’s a scene from George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978):

Start at 6:55 and stop at 10:40

It has to be said that the white actor’s acting is a bit much and when I watched this for the first time, the goofy face he pulls when he’s a zombie made me chuckle. A sudden uncanny weight is dropped though when the newly reanimated zombie looks down the camera at us.  We know rationally that it’s just an actor in bad grey make up, but we still get an eerie feeling from it. If I’m making this up then ignore me but I believe the question “is fear rational or emotional” was asked and I didn’t want to answer at that moment as it would have sounded a little condescending. It is not a question of whether it is one or the other but both in opposition that can give some of the greatest fear. It’s that moment where you know everything is fine but things seem too quiet that is often the scariest.

In the background of the scene we here an interesting argument between a journalist and a self-professed zombie expert. The zombie expert is proposing very cold rational solutions to end the zombie epidemic which upsets the desperate, panicked reporter and crew. The clash between the heart and the mind and the need for both in a human being seems to be something I keep coming back to in this course.

There are two important uses of eyes in this scene. With a few exceptions, the expert’s remaining eye is either concealed by the rim of his glasses or the angle of his face in relation to the camera. Depriving this character from having eyes may speak of his rational and soulless approach to dealing with the undead. When juxtaposed with the footage of the zombie with two perfectly visible human eyes it suggests that the zombie may in fact be just as human or more so than the expert. This thought is echoed later on in the film when the expert proposes that after killing zombies, people should eat their corpses in an attempt to generate more food for the population. Romero is telling us that a cold rational approach to dealing with the undead is to stoop to their level, to lose our humanity and become them.

Zombies are often depicted with completely white eyes which is an attempt to mark them out clearly as inhuman. These are the films that often sport the better make up that is trying to achieve a realistic depiction of the undead which would make it difficult to distinguish between zombies and severely wounded human without this change to the eyes. The grey, stylistic corpse make up used by Tom Savini in this film makes it abundantly clear who is and who isn’t a zombie with a single glance. For this reason it was unnecessary, as it is in modern zombie films, to alter the eyes and this offers us two very uncanny things. Giving the zombie human eyes creates a sense of doubt into its inhumanity. It’s the reverse of other uncanny situations we have thought up, where the mind says all is well but we instinctually feel uneasy, here we know that it’s a zombie but because it looks around and then looks into our eyes, we project life and thought into it. We don’t fear killing a faceless zombie but we do take issue with killing a friend. The context of the scene plays a big role here with the white actor’s dying breaths stating that he was going to try to not reanimate. Had he somehow succeeded in nullifying the flesh eating part of reanimation? We’ll never know as Peter quickly shoots his friend. We think a zombie just got shot but we still leave that scene with a bad taste in our mouths.

One last little thing on that scene, did you notice the T.V. showing the interview was on top of a box with arrows pointing up saying “fragile”. Such is the human condition.

“Slow zombies aren’t scary; I can just run away from them”. I won’t repeat what I said yesterday but I will add this: sometimes in a zombie film it’s not even the threat of being physically attacked that is the scary part. It’s witnessing the human form, the image of god, our own being abused in a horrible parody of life.

Zombies can do more to us than simply bite us. They kill our identity as individuals and scar our humanity by making us into killers.

On that morbid note here’s Brad Pitt’s rape of everything a zombie film should be:

BOOM. CRASH. Family interest. You better run cus’ they can too. Only America actually exists remember? It looks like 2012 or War of the Worlds with zombies. To add insult to injury this is based on one of my favourite books and judging by the trailer its been Hollywood-ised. I might go into detail about the unfaithfulness to the source material this trailer demonstrates in a further blog post.

To end on a high note I recommend everyone try their hand and their bladder at a game called slender. The tall, faceless Slenderman is quite the uncanny figure.





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One Comment
  1. mr353 permalink

    Just discovered the less scary Splendorman:

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