Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: Are fast or slow zombies scarier?

The recent remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) surprised many fans of the horror genre—myself included—by tweaking one of its oldest conventions: That of the slow moving zombie. The shuffling, shambling hordes of George Romero were suddenly yesterday’s news, replaced by flesh-eating sprinters courtesy of Zach Snyder, director of the remake of Dawn.

This surprising twist was more than many horror fans bargained for. Suddenly, hard-core zombie survivalists who prided themselves on their (theoretical) ability to run rings around slow-moving corpses in order to grab guns and food found their odds of survival (ahem) eaten away.

Snyder certainly deserves credit for attempting something new in his remake of Dawn. Although I’m a purist in some respects, I’ve never understood the purpose of frame-by-frame remakes of films (see Gus Van Sant’s 1998 soulless photocopy of Psycho). Refreshingly, Dawn of the Dead 2004 was not afraid to embrace change. Zombies are fast in Snyder’s universe, at least as fast as their fleeing prey (and what’s worse is that the pursuers presumably never get tired). It’s a pretty scary thought, and I was admittedly shocked at the high-speed carnage shortly after the credits of the new Dawn of the Dead began to roll. In fact, I think the opening 10-minute sequence of that film is an improvement on the original, which is high praise, given the esteem in which I hold Romero’s masterwork. The new Dawn also has a pretty great soundtrack going for it as well.

But after the initial shock of watching zombies chasing prey into their homes and launching themselves onto screaming victims, the effect became progressively less scary. Ultimately, I discovered that I prefer the creeping death of Romero’s shamblers over the high-speed cannibals of Snyder’s new Dawn. Here’s why.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


JimLotFP said...

If we say that 28 Days Later is not a "zombie" movie, we can still look at 1984's Return of the Living Dead for running zombies.

Mr Baron said...

Excellent analysis. I like the analogy of the slow moving zombie as our trudge through life and that we can not escape what waits for us at the end. We can only hide for so long in our guilded cage.


Brian Murphy said...

Jim: You're right, and Return of the Living Dead is a great zombie flick (I'd also recommend Return of the Living Dead part 3, which is very underrated). I think what I was getting at here is that Snyder's fast zombies broke from Romero's tradition, which dates back to the late 60's when he released Night of the Living Dead.

Mr. Baron: Thanks. I hope I didn't sound too pretentious in this essay but I sincerely believe that there's a lot more going on in Dawn of the Dead than just zombie mayhem. There's a reason why many critics consider it one of the finest horror films of all time. It's also a lot of fun, too (what red-blooded horror fan doesn't watch the biker-zombie conflict at the end with glee?)