To say that I am late to the zombie party is an understatement. I didn’t watch my first zombie movie, Shaun of the Dead, until a couple months ago (it came out in 2004). And just this week, in honour of Halloween, my husband and I started watching The Walking Dead (season 4 started up earlier this month), an AMC series that pits human survivors against a lot of zombies.
Now that I’ve entered the weird world of zombies, I am hooked. Yes, it’s a bit of a mental stretch to watch a show about zombies — we all know that zombies aren’t real and it boggles to think that the military and police wouldn’t be able to bring down the zombies with all that ammo — and you’d think it would be cheesy. I mean, zombies? Seriously? But I will say this: The Walking Dead is compelling.
After trying to get into acclaimed series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black (neither of which had me caring much about what happened next), it’s so nice to watch a show where you really want to find out who lives, who gets gobbled up in a surprise attack, or whether redneck Merle cuts off his own hand-cuffed hand before the zombies break down the door.
After every episode Blake and I have conversations like this:
Me: I don’t see how those zombies could’ve snuck up on camp without everyone hearing them. They shuffle loudly and they’re always kind of moaning.
Blake: I know, and they’re uncoordinated and bump into things. But at least they’re easy to kill.
We haven’t talked this much about a TV show since trying to guess what would happen next on Lost. We discuss zombie theory, and marvel that all zombie shows seem to follow certain zombie rules:
- There’s always some virus that infects and kills humans on an apocalyptic scale;
- The dead then come back to life as zombies;
- Zombies walk slowly and incoherently as if in a stupor;
- The zombies feed on humans, thus making more zombies from the carcasses (zombies can also feed on animals like horses, but evidently the infection doesn’t cross over to other species, e.g., there are no zombie horses);
- Surviving humans can only kill a zombie by bashing its head in or burning it.
Blake: Wouldn’t a zombie eventually starve to death if it couldn’t find food?
Me: I think they just go into some kind of quasi-hibernation until they smell fresh meat.
Some argue the recent spate of zombie shows reflects societal fears of contagion, weaponized viruses and civil collapse. Perhaps. But I think we continue watching because despite all their failings and grotesque, decaying appearance, zombies are more likeable than other monsters of the imagination. They’re slower, stupider versions of humans. They’re not sneaky like werewolves or cunning like vampires. And should you find yourself in a crowd of them, all you have to do is stagger around like a drunk to blend in. As an apocalypse survivor, you might just stand a chance against a zombie.