The zombies are coming..
Horror films evoke supernatural excursions where ghosts, demons, vampires and zombies call forth terrors from legendary other world inhabitants.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has personified these beings caught between life and death, but they have origins in Haitian folklore where the resurrected dead are brought back to a mindless life through magic. Voodoo spells often accompany the ‘magic’ witch doctor inspired undead being introduced in films such as Bela Lugosi’s “White Zombie” (1932) and “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943).
Their cult debut as flesh eating ghouls came in the black and white cult favorite, “Night of the Living Dead,” a low budget Pittsburgh production from George Romero. The 1968 film, rumored to have been shot using equipment borrowed from a television station, helped set in motion the idea of cannibalistic walkers spreading an unknown ‘virus’ through their bite.
Romero adapted a 50s science-fiction post-doomsday Richard Matheson novel, “I Am Legend” into “The Last Man on Earth,” which would be remade in the 70s starring Charlton Heston as “The Omega Man,” followed in 2007 by Warner Brothers big budget , “I Am Legend,” starring Will Smith.
Although these post nuclear war mutants had vampire traits, they were referred to as zombies, having more intelligence than Romero’s “Living Dead” who just swarmed in packs for fresh blood.
“Day of the Dead” had Romero’s creations munching their way across a quickly depopulated planet. Originally rated X for blood and gore, the signature scenes occur in a shopping mall where escapees first find shelter before barricading themselves in the fully stocked shopping center.
A nod to “Day of the Dead” comes in the recent “Maze Runner” adventure sequel, “The Scorch Trials”. The string of dark lost in ruins sets includes mostly abandoned factories, but one venue is an abandoned shopping mall. The location appears to have been the scene of prior survivor battles, as the merchandise isn’t perfectly displayed like in “Day of the Dead.” No, the stores, escalators and ornaments have been scavenged. Through the darkness, the sextet do find warm garments, supplies and for the just-rescued Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) a pair of heavy boots to cover her previously bare footsies. She’ll need them as the trails become increasingly mountainous and shrapnel littered, yet paradoxically battered by sand storms evoking thoughts of a “Mad Max,” on foot, not bikes.
One zombie ‘virus’ infection that won scares and featured fresh disturbing imagery came when “28 Days Later” emerged in 2003 during the SARS outbreak during the Iran War.
A popular video game, “Resident Evil” spawned more sub-categories of zombie universes. The Center for Disease Control took a bite from pop culture and adapted their flood, earthquake, hurricanes, fires and natural disaster preparations to a zombie apocalypse. The tongue-in-cheek stunt led to their website crashing.
The agency noted: “…If zombies start appearing outside your doorstep, you can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake or other emergency.” Noting the need for evacuation plans and multiple escape routes, the CDC warned “when zombies get hungry , they won’t stop until they get food (i.e. brains).”
The site flipped the ahead of time planning against flesh eaters into “this is also helpful when natural disasters strike and you have to take shelter.”
Blogging zombies led to a contest asking the public to submit videos for both disaster and zombie apocalypse circumstances. Tax funds were not used for the unusual campaign. However, the ‘hits’ prompted a study to see whether zombie tips led to meaningful follow through for disaster preparation.
Awaiting moviegoers come Halloween is a partly humorous throw-back to chasing and munching in the time before CGI animation.
A few journalists received a sneak peak of the Halloween screamer “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” during the summer. “Arrow in the Head” writer Cody Hamman gushed, “we’re in for one gorily delectable treat this Halloween.”
Christopher Landon directs (and he was the writer of four “Paranormal Activity” sequels as well as “Disturbia”) this splatter comedy as a trio of intrepid high school scouts competing for the lips of the hottie (Halston Sage) at a school pool party must dispatch a hungry horde with a weed-whacker!
Prefer more traditional supernatural thrills? Guillermo del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” (which has a period “Dark Shadows”-styled mansion) stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver. It’s slated for October 16.
“Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension” and ” The Last Witch Hunter” follow October 23.
It’s going to be (hopefully) a chilling scare-fest line up. Enjoy.