Quickies: Zombie Shorts
Horror, and the various creatures that occupy it, are often a direct reflection of society's current fears. Our earliest oral tales are of beasts, darkness and strangers that interlop our small villages and clans. The Victorian era, obsessed with lust and sin, are marked by the romantic vampire; The nuclear era, science out of control. With George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, a default creature for the collapse for the many collapses civilization may face was born. Romero was the frequent master, exploring race, class, the military, the media and many other ways that a horde of dead could rise and humanity be ineffective against it. In the post 9/11 world, zombies have come to represent international isolation policies (The Walking Dead), immigration (Juan Of The Dead) and governmental failure (The Dead Rising video game series).
The Resident Evil movies are one of the longest running zombie based properties in this era, representing the evils of corporate greed and the dangers of bioterrorism, while being a ridiculously fun trip to the movies on almost every outing. With the release of The Final Chapter, I wanted to reflect on some of my favorite zombie based shorts from this era, and reflect on where the genre goes in the future.
Resident Evil is undoubtedly one of the most successful films from the video game genre. While it’s illusions to the game series puzzle solving aspects have been spotty, the first person shooter and action aspects have never been in doubt. Isolated, a CGI cartoon short, is able to take advantage of shifts in perspective that would be impossible to impractical in a live action film. It captures the terror of the true innovation of zombies in the new millennium, the Fast Zombie. While this can all come across like some kind of video game cutscene, CGI’s ability to stretch the human body's limits make the scares pop and keep the danger close by, no matter how far in the distance it may be.
Moving into the real world, 2013’s Cargo is a story about a father saving his child from the zombie outbreak, when he becomes infected. The lengths of a parent’s love and ability to provide are tested as the father works against the clock to insure safe passage. Cargo is currently in production on a full length feature, but the original version is a perfect distillation of execution on a concept.
Verging more political, 2008’s Le Quelone (The Clown) is the kind of horror that drips in subtext, especially as time moves on. A clown is awaken from his grave, and in a newly zombified state, he sets forth for a bit of new normalcy. With the growing political climate in France, and the ‘danger in our backyard’ aesthetic in place here, Le Quelone becomes a metaphor for the European migrant crisis and the fears of natives being replaced by the ‘swarming hordes’.
Finally, let’s take a view of the world from the zombies side. 2011’s Zombie In A Penguin Suit is a funny title that distracts you from a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of the many well worn tropes of zombies. One zombie takes you through the many different epochs of zombie movies, from outbreak, to infestation, to survival and renewal. It’s done with virtually no plot or the usual markers of the passage of time, save the Zombie’s own deterioration. It’s a successful journey not for it’s pleasure in the moments of carnage, but for a bit of sympathy you feel for our heroes unexpected quest that we never really know the cause of.
What the future of the zombie genre holds depends on the audience. It’s an evergreen genre, and feels ripe for various societal anxieties, including a corporate friendly Trump administration and increasing anxieties over immigration. But there’s a lot of saturation in the pop culture market for zombies, including two The Walking Dead series and an upcoming World War Z sequel. Viewers getting their regular doses of gore and zombie trope telling means that creators in the genre have to be innovative as well as finding a message that connects with viewers. While the horror genre is always ripe for innovation, it’s most important task is to connect us to those fears that are most imminent.
Luckily, there’s a lot out there to fear.