Sunday, April 10, 2011

Zombies Then and Now

Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the Night of the Living Dead. It was scary enough to keep me on edge but its outdated visual effects and humorous dialogue diffused my fears so that I could enjoy it more. One thing that I found interesting was the similarities between the 1950s zombies in the Night of the Living Dead and the modern zombies featured in works today. The zombies in the Night of the Living Dead walked slowly, wore disheveled clothing, appeared to be decaying or injured and were in somewhat of a trance. These zombies had limited cognitive abilities and were fixated on seeking out humans or non-zombies to kill them and to feed on their flesh. They also had the ability to turn humans into zombies.

Recently I watched 6 episodes or so of the AMC tv series the Walking Dead (with my esteemed classmate Kristen). The zombies are nearly identical to the 1950s zombies featured in the Night of the Living Dead. Although they are more grotesque looking than the 1950s zombies (thanks to modern makeup and special effects), they demonstrate similar motivations, movements and abilities. These zombies also feed on human flesh and can also turn humans into zombies. The human protagonists in this series, though, demonstrate more intelligence and bravery as they attempt (successfully in most cases) to kill off the zombies and survive.

Another modern example of zombies that I found to be much different from the zombies in the Night of the Living Dead are in the film I Am Legend. In this film, we have a more developed explanation for the zombie phenomenon: a disease that turns humans into zombies. I guess these mutated humans are not technically zombies, but they demonstrate many characteristics that we consider to be zombie-like such as cannibalism, an insatiable desire to kill humans, and the ability to infect others. Not able to go into the sunlight, these zombie-like beings must stay in the darkness in order to survive. These zombies are far more frightening than the zombies in the two works above because of their human-like intelligence and their ability to organize and plot to capture the remaining humans. Also, these zombies experience increased aggression, speed and strength which make them a more formidable opponent for the human survivors.

1 comment:

  1. Although there are similarities between the zombies mentioned in the first two works and those of I Am Legend, I am not sure that I would consider the latter to be true zombies. The infected humans in I Am Legend appear to be zombie-like but they are not actually dead humans. I believe that that is an essential part of what defines a zombie. An intellect that resembles too much of a living human being makes the zombies more human-like than what I would define as a zombie. There is also the indication that the humans in I Am Legend can (spolier) be turned back into normal human beings. I am not sure that this is alright for a zombie either.