Sunday, March 29, 2009

Welcome to the club...

This should be fairly short.

Today, on the Dead Pixels podcast--which I listen to while I work--the guys pointed out how zombies are becoming mainstream. Although the thought had crossed my mind, I'd never really, I mean REALLY, thought about it before.

See, those of you who know me also know that I've been watching horror movies since around the time I started walking. I grew up on things like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. Why? Because my mom enjoyed those movies. Once I started to get older, when we'd go to rent movies, I'd start picking other things out. Child's Play, Children of the Corn, Pumpkinhead, The Thing, the list goes on and on. So, somewhere between the age of 5 and 10, I eventually discovered Dawn of the Dead. Even though I enjoyed it, I was still too young to fully appreciate it. Regardless, after that, zombie films invaded our VCR.

Then, in early 1998, I decided to sell my Nintendo and my SNES in order to buy a PlayStation. After a successful transaction, the first game I picked up was the recently released Resident Evil 2. Boom, I was down for the count. From that moment on, zombies were cemented in my mind; they became my favorite type of "monster".

You see, for a lot of people, zombies mean nothing. "They're just people. They don't have fangs or claws, they're not fast. What's so scary about 'em?" That! Right there! Everything you just mentioned! (or rather everything I just mentioned playing the role of you) Place yourself in the survivors' situation. The world has gone to hell and only a few small pockets of humanity have survived--and they're dwindling fast. Your enemy? Your mom. Or your dad. Or your brother or sister, your neighbor, your teacher, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, the guy that flips burgers down at Micky D's, the mail man... Or, if the enemy succeeds, the enemy is now YOU. It's an infection. The survivors are outnumbered by the people that no longer are. They're surrounded by these...these "things" that USED to be family, friends, etc. If you were fighting to survive and a zombie was coming at you, could YOU pull the trigger? Yes? What if it was your husband or wife? Could you do it then? The survivors have a choice to make: kill indiscriminately or be eaten alive.

All of that, well, that's my love for zombies and zombie movies talking; a glimpse into my mind. It's scary because it's personal. Because unlike other movies with only one monster to escape from, there is no escape in zombie movies; they're everywhere.

Beginning in the late '60s and continuing through the '70s and '80s, zombie movies were going pretty strong. We had Romero's Dead Trilogy (Night, Dawn & Day), we had films like Re-Animator, Zombi, The Beyond, and more. Then, in the '90s they pretty much dropped off. Sure we still had Resident Evil games, but I think those are what might have caused the genre's revival.

See, for awhile there I was the geeky kid who liked the weird shit. Not that anyone gave me a hard time with it; thankfully, the people at Greenway, my friends, we didn't have to be exactly alike to BE friends. I was a geek (still am) and it didn't matter. But now... Now, it seems the thing that I was a fanatic over is now becoming popular on a wider level.

In 2002, Danny Boyle directed 28 Days Later--not a "classic" zombie movie but, IMO, a zombie movie none the less. The same year we also saw Resident Evil hit the big screen. Two years later, the master himself, George Romero, went back to his roots and made his fourth Dead movie. 2004 also had the release of Zack Snyder's (300, the upcoming Watchmen) remake of Romero's classic, Dawn of the Dead. Since then we've had more Resident Evils (movies and games), a Day of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, the Dead Rising video game, the Left 4 Dead video game, Diary of the Dead, the as-yet-unnamed sequel to Diary of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later, and on, and on, and on.

If you understand media then you know that hardly anything is made unless a predecessor succeeded at it first. That means that, since we keep getting more and more zombies, people are making zombies a success. What happened? Zombies have been around forever. They've been a pretty strong presence since 1968 when Romero started his series with Night of the Living Dead. So why now? What has changed? What made the things that added to my geeky image move into the popular mainstream? Once, it was a minority thing. Now, it seems it's cool to love zombies.

And although this was mainly about zombies, the Dead Pixels guys had one other point: Watchmen. Watchmen has been around since the mid 1980's. Now, I'll admit that I only read Watchmen for the first time around a year ago. But the thing is, I read fairly regularly and I've heard plenty of good things about Watchmen. The reason it took so long for me to actually pick it up was no more than the simple fact that no bookstore around me ever had it and when I did get to a bookstore that DID have it, I wasn't thinking about getting it and so it completely slipped my mind. Now, does that mean had that not been the case I would have read it in 1992? No. I first appeared on my radar in the early 2000s, so I may have gotten to it around then. But I digress.

The point is, I finally read it. It's fantastic. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. And to top it off, not long after I finished it, I found out Zack Snyder (mentioned above) was making it into a film. Joy! When I saw the trailer before the Dark Night over the summer, well, ask my girlfriend; I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. It. Was. Amazing.

And now the film has been gaining momentum. The hype is unreal. People saw the trailer, many with no idea what it was, and thought it was cool looking. Then there's been all the controversy about which production studio has the rights. The media has been in a frenzy over this film. The public, well, it seems the vast majority think of it only in terms of the movie. As they said in the DP podcast: "Rorschach is the next Joker." People are gonna go nuts over this movie but only because it's a movie. Many are going to completely miss that this was a graphic novel, a highly celebrated graphic novel, long before it was a film.

This has gone on for far, far too long. I'm sorry, I lied. I thought I'd be able to keep it short but, alas, we see how that's worked out. I'm not even sure what exactly my point to all this is. I THINK that it was something along the lines of: "People are jumping on the bandwagon (not necessarily bad), and they're going to enjoy things like zombies and Watchmen. But you have to ask yourself, can a person really appreciate what something is without knowing where it came from?" I guess I'm just wondering if people are looking at things as the new fad. Are they "cool" or "popular" because they're really cool or popular? Or is it because it seems to be cool to think that these things are cool? Will they eventually just fade into the background again, loved only by the die-hards who were there before, only to remain there after?

Did that make sense? Yeah, it probably could've been worded better. Oh well. Deal.

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