Really, are the zombies in ZOMBIELAND metaphors?
Stephen King said horror is around to " to exorcise the emotions which society demands we keep closely in hand." Getting scared in a controlled environment is an essential coping mechanism to "process" the stresses of civilization. Books have a certain length and they can be put down in a flash. Movies last roughly 90 minutes.Â That is a controlled environment.Â In each of the great stress periods in our recent history, horror has emerged as a popular form of entertainment. The 30s had huge economic & social upheavals. The popular horror movies were Dracula & Frankenstein. Each of those films addresses a fear - fear of foreigners, fear of science gone mad, fear of industrialization, fear of sexuality. In the 50s atomic annihilation and losing ones identity were the fears reflected in movies like THEM! and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. And since 1968 with rapid technological advances and complete redefining of society,Â zombies and violent horror have gained ascendancy. The zombies in ZOMBIELAND are indeed metaphors for our world turned upside down.
Horror films explain the unexplainable. They give reality to a culture's unspoken fears. Psychologists assert this process will, hopefully, allay those fears. Looking at older horror films, the locations were set in foreign countries, the monsters were not human and the difference between good & evil was distinct. Things changed in 1968, a watershed year for the American.Â There was Vietnam, civil rights, women's rights, riots, assassinations and a changing culture. George Romero tapped into that zeitgeist and created the modern zombie film, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The location was middle America, the monsters were neighbors and moral ambiguity was rampant. Since then zombie movies have further defined themselves by reflecting the fears of the modern world, especially since 9/11.Â ZOMBIELAND takes those fears, amplifies them and twists them for amusement.
The millennial world has food chain corrupted with mad cows & deadly e.coli outbreaks. AIDs, MSRA infections and super TB viruses attack indiscriminately and unchecked. Religious fanatics of all stripes are killing innocents. The environment is on the run from decades of abuse and the future of the Earth is uncertain. On personal a level, there is no job security. Many jobs are in maze like warrens of cubicles and anonymity. Families are no longer the traditional, and if the exist at all, they are "blended". Strangers come to live with one another and call themselves a family.
It is in this world where zombies and now, ZOMBIELAND, have come to represent our fears. Unseen, microscopic diseases can change you. Eating food at a restaurant or from a supermarket can kill you. A bomb could blow up any time, anywhere, for reasons obscured by ignorance and hate. The water we drink, or the air we breath could contain deadly chemicals which will alter us. And anyone working in the next cubicle or sleeping in the room down the hall could suddenly 'go postal'.
In the world of zombies, they could be anyone. Zombies are the ultimate terrorists.Â How they became zombies is one fear. What they do after they become zombies is another. Traditional bonds or allegiances are no longer valid. Usually there are more zombies than people like ourselves. The collective society has been upended. The majority has become the minority and the majority is literally out to suck your brains dry.
Horror film director Guillermo del Toro remarked, "Horror shows us the humanity that lies within, that 'otherness', and helps us make peace with the hidden monstrous side of ourselves."Â We love zombie films like ZOMBIELAND, not only because they expresses our deepest fears in a millennial world of uncertainty, but deep down we know, that any given moment,Â we could become zombies - if we aren't already.
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Garen has been in the dark for years. As a film exhibitor, programmer and reviewer, he has seen thousands of films.Â A regular on NE Cable News & NH Public Radio, he produces the Horror 'Thon '09 a 12 hour vampire film festival showing this October 24. Besides film, he has a passion for being a Frugal Yankee.
Next artilce: VAMPIRES ARE Sooooo...SEXY, publishing date 0ct0ber 14