Out of the box
Halloween hits us in a week’s time and zombie season is officially open. We’re talking television, of course.
Season 3 of AMC’s The Walking Dead has just kicked off and the cyber waves are alive with memes related to the previous season’s cliff-hangers.
When I saw the pilot episode back in 2010, I never imagined that the show would become the pop culture hit that it did. After all, let’s be honest – the opening is pretty much a rip-off from 28 Days Later.
In the latter, we have Cillian Murphy (those eyes! Swoon...) waking up in hospital from a coma to a scene of devastation and a zombie-infested London.
The Walking Dead opens to pretty much the same scene; only it features Andrew Lincoln and it’s set in the US.
I watched it with a growing sense of disbelief and repetitions of “Oh no they didn’t”. Based on a ripped-off intro, I fully expected the show to be weak. As happens only too often, I was wrong. The characters might be as annoying as hell, but in compensation the action cannot be faulted and the show is reasonably realistic. Well, as realistic as it can get when we’re talking brain-eating creatures, of course.
The series went on to become one of AMC’s biggest hits. Nowadays, you can gauge the success of a show by the amount of memes it generates online. And The Walking Dead has generated a tonne of them, so I’m guessing that the revenue is coming in nicely.
However, no matter how amazing the series is, it can never compete with the movie classics. There’s always the Malta-filmed World War Z, of course, to look forward to. But since it’s nowhere near screening any time soon, let’s start with the afore-mentioned 28 Days Later.
I always prefer movies set in London to New York/any other US city. The romance factor tends to be much higher somehow. Who cares about the Empire State Building, when you have the London Bridge falling prey to the forces of darkness? Each of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days production is near-perfect – a third offering has not been ruled out, but if it happens, let’s hope it doesn’t ruin the track record.
On the other end of the spectrum – more darkly humorous than frightening – we find another classic franchise: Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Be warned that this is not for those with a weak stomach. However, the visuals are so intentionally over-the-top that it really is impossible to be genuinely affected by it. My favourite is probably the very final instalment in the ‘series’ Army of Darkness.
By then, Raimi has totally given up all pretence at scaring us and the whole movie is a series of scenes that get more and more unbelievable – and ergo, funny – by the minute. Plotlines do not get any weirder than this, moving from the previously introduced zombies to time travel through a portal and on to evil clones during the reign of one Lord Arthur. Confusing? Very. But then again, that’s the whole point.
Onto other zombie classics: Dawn of the Dead – whether you go for the George Romero 1978 original, or Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, you really can’t go wrong. I saw the latter in its full glory at the cinema and it’s pretty impressive. It’s a bleak story, nothing to do whatsoever with Raimi’s take on zombies. Like the 28 Days franchise, you will be taken on an emotional roller-coaster only to have the rug pulled from under your feet towards the end.
Even more depressing is Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend although, strictly speaking, we’re not talking pure zombies here, but rather a cross between zombies and vampires. That’s right, because the apocalypse is that much more fun when you combine both.
What makes this one so effective is the intense sense of loneliness created by the plotline. Make sure you have plenty of comforting items at hand – chocolate, wine and the like. A side-effect of watching this is likely to be that you will discover the need to inflict endless brainless chatter on the first human you cross paths with.
If, after all this, you feel a tad too depressed about the potential future of humankind, don’t. Get your revenge on the zombies by following it with Shaun of the Dead or even Zombieland. They’re both silly.
They wouldn’t recognise wit if it hacked at them with zombie teeth. But they sure work.