Why Movies are Better With Zombies

by Jonathan Moxness


There are a few things that just make life better. The most universally accepted thing is ‘bacon’ but some will say “nudity” or “music” or “hugging it out.” I would argue that one of the things that makes movies better is zombies. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Zombies are the Ultimate Monster

If we think of the positive attributes of a zombie, the short list of resumé toppers include:

Indestructible, unless the blow is to the brain – a modified form of the Achilles Complex
Mind control – Zombies erase an enemy’s thoughts and convert them to Team Zombie
Swarm technology – much like piranha (piranhas? piranhae?) zombies are pack animals, achieving much greater success in numbers than by themselves.

And the biggest drawback is the single minded purpose to consume brains? That sounds like a fair tradeoff to me!

2. The Zombie Horror Trope is the Most Suspenseful Kind

With zombies it’s always quantity over quality. Although it’s entertaining to see our protagonist dispatch zombies with his crowbar/baseball bat/crossbow, there is always the knowledge that more zombies are coming. We don’t know when they will arrive or how many will be there, but where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is zombies… there is MORE zombies. The suspense of wondering which corner they’re lurking around is positively thrilling to watch. And the suspense of seeing the herd converge on their human prey from across the field and waiting for the shambling dead to arrive at the destination? Palpable.

3. Zombies Highlight the Human Condition

Here is a little known secret about zombie movies: They are actually human movies. By turning the majority of the planet into brainless brain-seekers, everyone else is now highlighted by their humanity. We see the minority in greater contrast when we also strip away the conveniences of the world and are left with the essential elements to the character: what they believe in, what’s important to them, and why they behave the way they do. In a world where the majority of bipedal creatures are undead we create a microcosm of humanity and can really focus on character.

4. Zombie Movies Tap into our Primal Urges

How often have you been watching a zombie movie and thought “Stop snivelling, just pick up the shovel and swing!” or “I would have no problem taking a baseball bat to an undead family member if I could bring them peace.” When we watch a zombie film we experience a visceral reaction to the primitive and myriad of ways in which a brain can be destroyed. But our core empathy comes from seeing a character kill a reanimated loved one, or the child zombie who was robbed of the chance to live a full life. Zombie tap into those primal urges “How do I protect my family? How do we survive undeath?”

5. Zombie Stories are Timeless

“In the beginning there were people, and then the people got sick and died, and lo, they did come back as undead. Verily as long as there will be people to die, there shall be undead to be reborn.” This completely fictitious quote illustrates what I mean: With zombies there is no ‘The End.’ They cannot be defeated until there is no living humans on the planet, because every human is a potential zombie. Unlike Dracula or the Wolfman, zombies are not an enemy that can be eliminated. There are two things that survive the apocalypse: cockroaches and zombies.

So whether you are watching Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, or the World War Z trailer in preparation for the summer, you can rest assured that the common awesome factor tying them all together is the brain hungering ghoul that used to be one of us!

Jonathan Moxness

Leave a Reply