As a children’s librarian there are certain aspects of my personality that may initially seem atypical to my profession, these traits include–but are not limited to–
1. I name Stephen King as my absolute favorite author.
2. I adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in actuality this is typical for most of the youth librarians I know).
3. I LOVE ZOMBIES!!
For the remainder of this blog I will be focusing on the questions and concerns surrounding #3.
You may be asking yourself–why zombies? These are gross, mindless, flesh-eating corpses. I mean, they’re undead, for crying out loud! They don’t even have the dangerous sex appeal of vampires. However, if you take a closer look (especially at the Romero zombies) you will see that they provide a social commentary that magnifies the flaws of society through a supernatural lens.
George A. Romero is the man responsible for what most of us think of, when we think of zombies. He directed Night of the Living Dead in 1968. This black & white, independent, horror classic introduced the world to the Romero zombie–a slow moving, mindless, cannibal. Romero employed noir lighting with images that recalled 1950’s monster movies; when describing the mood he wished to establish Romero explained that, “the film opens with a situation that has already disintegrated to the point of little hope, and it moves progressively toward absolute despair and ultimate tragedy.” The tragedy he speaks of provides one of the most haunting endings in American film history.
Now that we’ve established that Romero is the zombie guru, let’s move on to some additional zombie fare.
Dawn of the Dead (the 2004 remake): This movie deals more with the post-apocalyptic effects of a zombie epidemic than it does with the initial outbreak (although that is also included). It may be sacrilege, but I strongly prefer the remake to the original Romero sequel. The remake is tense, fast paced, wildly entertaining and includes all of the social commentary, but in a more subtle way. The American ideals of capitalism and consumerism are satirized well in both versions of the film. [SIDE NOTE: Land of the Dead (the most recent film in the series) provides the most astute and dramatic satire yet and has the viewer asking themselves who the actual victims are: humans or zombies?]
If you’re looking for some lighter fare, the horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead is fantastic! This movie takes the Romero archetypes and puts them into a hilarious film with a lot of heart.
28 Days Later turns the typical zombie movie on its head. The humans in this film “zombify” when they are exposed to a virus known as the “Rage” which renders them mindlessly violent and fast. This post-apocalyptic masterpiece was shot almost entirely on digital video and was written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle.
Cell is Stephen King at his best. The characters are strong and the post-apocalyptic journey is fascinating. In this scenario, a “pulse” is sent out over cell phones, so everyone on their phone at a particular moment becomes a zombie! I literally could not put this book down (although I am heavily biased as my love for Stephen King and my love for zombies collided with the release of this book).
Max Brooks’ World War Z is written as a journalistic account of the world’s war against a zombie epidemic. In his novel, Brooks’ extrapolates how countries and individuals would deal with a zombie crisis based on contemporary politics and society.
WARNING: Although I highly recommend all of these zombie items to fans of horror and people who like the occasional good scare, I must say that they are rather gory and contain violence. However, whether or not you ever watch a zombie movie or read a zombie book, I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the societal relevance of this misunderstood monster. Happy Halloween!
~Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and loves horror movies/novels, trick-or-treating, and everything that has to do with Halloween. Have fun and be safe!