Zombies might be mostly dead, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t kept pace with the times. Today’s mindless munching monsters aren’t the same stiff, shuffling figures from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. In the last ten years, zombies have popped up in many of our favorite new horror movies. Whether they’re creeping us out or making us cry from laughing so hard, zombie hoards never fail to hold an audience’s attention.
By adding a touch of comedy to the “horror” of a zombie invasion, directors discovered a new approach to the genre. Satisfying punchlines abound in Zombieland, a 2009 film starring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone. Eisenberg plays a nervous, weak-kneed video gamer who must fend for himself across the zombie-infested landscape with the help of a Twinkie-obsessed redneck (Woody Harrelson) and two conniving sisters (Stone and Abigail Breslin). There’s plenty of guts and gore in Zombieland, but the real entertainment is watching this motley crew help one another survive in a brave, brainless world.
When other creatures in the animal kingdom become zombies, hilarity naturally ensues. In the “real world,” the results could be terrifying, but here on harmless celluloid, they’re nothing but silly. In the 2014 film Zombeavers, a group of sex-crazed young people head out for a relaxing vacation on the lake, but soon discover they’ve fallen prey to vicious zombie-fied beavers who crave their flesh. There are few scares to be had in this one (since the monsters are rodents and the gore is outrageously fake), but there’s a lot to be said for a zombie film that thinks outside the
box beaver dam.
The 2007 film Fido tells of what might happen if zombies were controlled by humans and turned into domestic helpers. It’s hard to take moaning, flesh-hungry zombies seriously when they’re literally on a leash, but it gives the situation a very “realistic” human face. Humans are always ones to capitalize on disaster, so it’s not impossible to imagine us converting mindless zombies into slaves. Of course, once the contained creatures finally escape, Fido reverts back into the zombie survival horror genre.
One of the most chilling, innovative zombie films from the past ten years is 2007’s [REC], a Spanish-language found-footage film about a young reporter and her cameraman who find themselves quarantined in an apartment building after a deadly virus breaks out among the tenants. This movie’s new view of zombies still manages to give audiences a shock years after it was made — even getting an English-language remake in 2008’s Quarantine.
Another way to freshen up the zombie genre without using tired tropes is by hardly showing the monsters themselves, and simply focus on the fear of the survivors. The 2008 film Pontypool ratchets up the psychological tension and claustrophobic fear by keeping the zombies hidden, felt but hardly ever seen. This reveals another side of the zombie genre — one that can creep up slowly instead of biting hard right off the bat.
No matter how many zombie films hit the screen every year, there are always new ways to keep them creepy. All of these innovative zombie films, plus many more, can be streamed online through U-Verse, FiOS, or Xfinity. Just remember to watch with the lights on.
Article by contributor Beth Kelly.