Is there in death no beauty?

The other day, in a fit of geek pique, I made some tart comments on my Facebook page about the state of zombie entertainment in 2011. Having scanned certain remarks posted online about the AMC series THE WALKING DEAD, it depressed me that so many of the show’s viewers seemed disinterested in and distanced from the plight of the human characters, that they were drawn in by the prospect of gnarly zombie kills and by the role playing vicariousness of cutting off heads and blowing out brains. One commentator posted that her survival strategy would be to cut up THE WALKING DEAD‘s 10 year-old boy protagonist Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) and throw his parts to the zombie horde, guaranteeing her an escape. “Yes, I am heartless,” she allowed in a follow-up. “Yes, I would survive.” My first thought was “Survive for what?”

Granted, the comment may have been ironic. You can’t get away from sarcasm online, particularly in the hit-and-run metier of social networking. Yet as much I can imagine that making a case for cutting up poor Carl and using his gizzards as zombie chum was meant facetiously, I can imagine that it wasn’t. A significant percentage of THE WALKING DEAD‘s viewing audience is bored and bored people turn mean. They’re bored with the soap opera slowness of the series, bored with an infidelity subplot that has overstayed its welcome, bored with another subplot involving the disappearance of another 10 year-old kid that nobody even knew was in the show until she went missing, bored with the endless searching-in-the-woods scenes week after week and so on. While the series started off well last year with a corking six-episode arc, Season Two has hit the doldrums. What promised to be unique television — intense human drama set against a backdrop of unremitting horror — has grown a bit stale. Not even pulling a fat zombie apart like taffy can relieve the tedium. So… what happened? I have some ideas but I’m only going to talk about one.

Look at the picture at top — an iconic production photo from George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), the Patient Zero of modern zombie movies. Back when Romero and Company were making this on their own time and their own dime, there was no money for special effects make-up. Sure, mortician’s wax was used on a few of the zombie extras, but mostly this was done to disguise the fact that some of the ghouls were being played by the same actors who appeared as humans elsewhere in the film. The rank and file of the living dead in Romero’s original film were merely pallid, freshly dead. Many of the men wore suits, and the women house or cocktail dresses. One extra (by all reports, an artist’s model) even appears naked, a mortuary tag affixed to her wrist (see right). Nudity was at that time unusual in feature films from the United States but it was exceedingly rare indeed for an actress to go nude and show nary a care in the world about it, as this zombie does. Seen from a distance, the undead in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD seem not so very different from the rest of us. Initially, the predations of the ghouls are reported as psychotic human behavior, that’s how thin the line is between the living and the living dead. Even as the ghouls lay siege to the film’s farmhouse setting, they don’t seem like monsters. Just folks. Hungry, hungry folks.

In Romero’s sequel, DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), there was more money thrown around but the extra cash was put to expansive use of locations and state-of-the-art gore effects — exploding heads and spilled innards and all kinds of monstery mishegoss. Though the odd walking dead’n was issued a dedicated trauma effect (a displaced eye, a gunshot wound, more liberal application of cosmetic blood), most were merely dead-ish… cyanotic blue instead of ghostly white. However the candied palette of DAWN distanced itself from the chiaroscuro of NIGHT to turn itself into a comic book thrill ride, attention was paid to the eerie beauty of the dead. Romero stages an oddly tender moment in which the character Fran (Gaylen Ross) shares a lingering look through a reinforced glass window with a zombie boy in a softball uniform. This brief bit of business carries the koo-koo-ker-chew eroticism of Dustin Hoffman’s dalliance with Anne Bancroft in THE GRADUATE (1967) and for a weird and wonderful couple of seconds you’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen.

George Romero wasn’t being glib when he fed the character Peter (Ken Foree) the line “They’re us, that’s all.” For all its splatter, for all the momentum of its gleefully gross assault on good taste, there was genuine heartbreak attached to DAWN OF THE DEAD. That vibe is easily missed if you just leapfrog or chapter skip from one big setpiece to another but there’s a mournfulness encoded in even the film’s second unit work… those sad, empty spaces, smudged windows and hand prints left behind as artifacts of a society that ate itself.

By the time Romero added a second sequel to the canon, an obvious disaffection had set in, a palpable gap that precluded any hope of rapprochement. In DAY OF THE DEAD (1985), the prosthetic makeups are more elaborate and the living dead are put at a greater distance from us by dint of their galloping decomp. The success of DAWN OF THE DEAD, whose zombie throng was punctuated with types (Hare Krishna Zombie, Sweater Zombie, Helicopter Zombie), demanded that DAY OF THE DEAD follow suit: in addition to Cheerleader Zombie and Clown Zombie, DAY is rife with single trait ghouls whose job is to stand out in the manner of shooting gallery targets. It seems a playful gesture yet DAY finds Romero at his most bullying, disinterested in the dialogue between the film’s protagonists and antagonists (all members of a military research unit) and relishing in hitting the audience over the head with a sock full of polemic.

DAY OF THE DEAD is an excessively profane movie. The ugliness of the language is more than matched by the film’s ultra-violence, which is not so much in the manner of a comic book this time out but a menu from a charnel house. The predominant hue of the film’s undead characters is gray-green, the color of pus. Not pretty. Not surprisingly, there are no tender moments between the living and the dead, though Romero hints that this might be otherwise when he has the soldier lover (Anthony Dileo) of female lead Lori Cardille offer himself to the zombie hoard — with his suicide inviting for all intents and purposes the ghouls into the secure government bunker that is the film’s setting. You half expect the dead boyfriend to come looking for his old girlfriend but that never happens — we are led to assume he has been consumed or ripped into wet confetti. At the box office, DAY OF THE DEAD got its khaki ass handed to it by Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985), in which morbid punkette Linnea Quigley not only fantasizes about being devoured alive by the living dead but falls prey to them and rises postmortem looking, to quote Dolly Parton, better than a body has a right to.

A sequel, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (1988), goosed the slapstick factor above necroeroticism and stiffed at the box office. In a second sequel, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III (1993), the son (J. Trevor Edmond) of an Army colonel (ADAM-12‘s Kent McCord) studying the combat potential of zombies brings his dead girlfriend (Mindy Clarke) back to life; horror fans were interested again. For my taste, though, the LIVING DEAD movies push the sexy a little too hard, making their erotic zombies too much like strippers. The tension is there (Grotesque! Beguiling!) but I prefer my living dead girls more old school…

… as in this dark-haired pulseless beauty, whose real name was and remains, as I understand it, Paula Richards. There’s something fairytale about her, something haunting in a whiter shade of pale sort of way. She’s part Vampira, part Sleeping Beauty. She steps that razor’s edge between loathsome and lovely, like the Dead Girl in Nikoloai Gogol’s Viy or the vampirized Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She also brings to mind the resurrected wives in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, who return from beyond for a final cold embrace. The first film adaptation of the Matheson novel, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1963), did a pretty good job of recreating this chilling setpiece (“Can a zombie woman’s hunger for love repopulate the Earth?” asked the film’s trailer) but in Mary Lambert’s PET SEMATARY (1989), leading lady Denise Crosby shambled home with a goopy, destroyed eye leaking yellow ichor — not sexy. In the Italian ZEDER (1983), director Pupi Avati staged a better example of l’amour froid, with less sensational and more satisfying results. Well, satisfying if you like this kind of thing. Which, clearly, I do.

Though it was considered at the time of its release a failure, DAY OF THE DEAD has proved the most influential of George Romero’s original DEAD trilogy in terms of zombie style. No one seems interested in the undead as perverse reflections or distortions of our collective conception of beauty; nobody wants to be haunted. The feedback indicates that audiences just want to kill zombies and the more revolting the zombie the sweeter the kill. A survivalist mythology has arisen, with handbooks available at our finer bookstores that discuss the possible biological scenarios responsible for the return of the deceased and how best to dispatch them. The RESIDENT EVIL video games and movies (which, at one point, George Romero was attached to direct) convinced horror fans that the best defense is a good offense and spawned a generation of fearless zombie killer wannabes. Armed (if only on the plane of fantasy baseball) with machetes, chainsaws, crossbows and pump action shotguns, amateur zombie smashers lard the Internet with their what-if scenarios and beneath all the make-believe are some disturbing character traits. THE WALKING DEAD‘s detractors know what they’d do to survive, believing that somehow their deficiencies of character would be transformed into assets in a world turned upside down. The fetish for zombie apocalypse scenarios strikes me as another version of Lotto — an imagined deus ex machina capable of changing the unremarkable into the extraordinary. In a world in which iPhones and tablets and plasma televisions have been rendered useless, survival is the ultimate acquisition.

Scarier still is that there doesn’t seem to be a higher goal attached to this fantasia… just a vague entitlement by which these people imagine killing without conscience. My friend Kim Newman, an acclaimed novelist and film critic, said of this phenomena: “The political arc from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD til now is fascinating and depressing. Who knew the kill-happy posse were the identification figures? Deep down, what the fans seem to be saying is ‘come the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to enjoy shooting a black man in the head’.” The core emotion attached to contemporary zombie movies (from Tom Savini’s 1990 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake to additional sequels to RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and reboots of DAWN… and DAY OF THE DEAD to THE WALKING DEAD) is one of revulsion. Of disgust. (The trait extends even to Breck Eisner’s remake of Romero’s THE CRAZIES, in which the expected lunacy of the afflicted was augmented with zombie eyes and galloping spider veins; in Romero’s original, the death of even the craziest was depicted as tragedy but in Eisner’s reboot it’s justifiable homicide.) On the plane of fantasy, I suppose disgust as just cause is harmless enough but in the real world these same emotions fuel the fires of intolerance, racism, homophobia and prejudice against the handicapped and the deformed. I wonder what would become of someone who has lost his mandible to osteosarcoma when he strays into the gun site of a self-appointed zombie killer.

Now here’s where I tie it all together. It’s time to retire the shambling, decomposing zombie to the attic of beloved monster archetypes, alongside Tuxedo Dracula and Flattop Frankenstein. We had fun with him, we had a good scare or two, we will always cherish our memories, but what more can we do moving forward but embarrass ourselves? We’re not scaring ourselves anymore, we’re ennobling heartlessness, callowness and cruelty. If we want our horror to be transgressive and troubling, we have to ask ourselves harder questions about what constitutes life and what distinguishes it from the perceived opposite. If our heroes are merely surviving on instinct, as an excuse to whomp and stomp, then there is no difference and the living and the dead belong together in Hell.

I think THE WALKING DEAD would do well to toss out its source material (the graphic novel series of the same name failed to impress me as anything beyond a frat boy fantasia of rape and misogynistic acting out) and refigure the life/death dynamic, even if that existential tussle occurs only on the level of the dreams or fantasies of the series’ dramatis personae. In other words, THE WALKING DEAD needs to bring the sexy back, the poetic, the haunting and the heartbreak. It needs to evoke wonder rather than disgust and churlishness. I’m not saying that our culture needs to embrace necrophilia or go the other way towards TWILIGHT (2008) treacle but I feel that there’s fertile ground (unhallowed, of course) to be tilled in the uncomfortable attraction of the living to the dead. How many reality TV shows are there now in which paranormal investigators set up shop each week in some disused insane asylum, TB hospital or alpine schloss to pepper the spirit plane with stupid questions? (Answer: too many.) Clearly, there’s interest on our part as to how the other half lives and I think zombies are as apt to give us those answers as ghosts. Zombie storytellers need to stop sucking off the Romero teat and come up with original ideas. We need Zombie Reform and we need it now. We need to look to our hearts and aim for the brain

25 Responses Is there in death no beauty?
Posted By Fantomex : November 11, 2011 4:50 am

Sorry, but if you don’t like the show, then you shouldn’t be watching it or even talking about it; it’s that simple. This whole article is like me bitching about the whining of the main character on Smallville and how the show doesn’t have enough of what makes Superman Superman. I simply don’t watch the show, and I don’t make comments on it, either.

As for ‘seeing how the other half lives’ with relation to zombies-sorry, but I think that this recent approach to zombies is more realistic and true than what you want to see. A zombie is a zombie; it has little to no consciousness of the original person for a reason-namely, it’s spirit has left its body. As for a higher goal to a zombie movie, to paraphrase Michael Caine in The Dark Knight, sometimes there is no reasoning with a being who doesn’t want to reason or is beyond reason-some beings just want to inflict pain. And that is what zombies do. I’ll agree with this about ghosts (up to a point-I love how the Ghostbusters franchise just treats ghosts as a thing to be got rid of, like pests) but for zombies, I don’t think that it will work.

Secondly, with regards to Twilight, I think that the hate for this franchise from older people, much like the hate for Justin Bieber, is getting tiresome and wearisome by the day, and is also disingenuous considering that older works of fiction also helped by romanticizing the vampire and making it an object of desire and potency-exactly why Joss Whedon made vampires looks the way they did on his two TV shows, to nip this in the bud. This is the world that was made, so to speak, and people are just exploring an aspect of it (strange how nobody blasted Anne Rice for having an eternally youthful child in Interview With A Vampire, but are blasting Stephanie Meyer for exploring the same thing from a different angle!) I hope that you realize how persecuted things in entertainment sometimes become respected and revered when the generation of young people grow up and become adults (kind of like what happed to two cartoons from the 1980′s that became two popular movie franchises!) You don’t like the implications of Twilight, that’s fine, but you should realize that what Twilight is came about precisely because of the way vampires are shown and depicted by previous generations-so you and other adults shouldn’t be shocked by what goes on in Twilight.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 11, 2011 10:40 am

Couldn’t agree more. I don’t watch The Walking Dead and haven’t felt a desire to see many zombie movies of any kind of late. The principal reason is that it’s the same old, same old – zombies get pussier and the ways to kill them gets riper. Surely we can do better. So much has been done with ghost stories, I have to believe someone can do something more with zombie movies relating to their recent death and what that means. Here’s hoping against hope.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 11, 2011 1:10 pm

Fantomex, firstly, thank you for the generosity of your reply. I’d like to point out that never in my essay did I say I didn’t like The Walking Dead. To identify what I think are failings in the show’s execution is not to say I don’t like it overall or that I don’t wish it continued success. Have you never heard sports fans bitch and moan about their beloved teams – even in their complaining there is value, love and respect. But sometimes you’ve got to bitch, you know?

But even if I didn’t like The Walking Dead, I’d still ask you to respect my right to say so and to break my dislike down to cases. That’s the nature of criticism. There is no art form known to man that benefits from the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” policy. We grow and evolve as humans, as artists and as storytellers precisely because of this dialogue, however wearisome it may be to hear. I care deeply about the horror genre as a medium for the exchange of ideas about life, about humanity, and about the fragile composition of human identity in the face of the horrific and the inexplicable. When storytellers ease off the obligation to ask hard questions because of fashion or laziness or box office, I reserve the right to call bullshit.

As for ‘seeing how the other half lives’ with relation to zombies-sorry, but I think that this recent approach to zombies is more realistic and true than what you want to see.

Zombies aren’t real. They are imaginary constructs. A human corpse without blood flow or circulation or brain activity cannot get up and walk, much less employ strength, bite, chew, etc. I don’t think realism is really the calling here, is it?

A zombie is a zombie; it has little to no consciousness of the original person for a reason-namely, it’s spirit has left its body. As for a higher goal to a zombie movie, to paraphrase Michael Caine in The Dark Knight, sometimes there is no reasoning with a being who doesn’t want to reason or is beyond reason-some beings just want to inflict pain. And that is what zombies do.

And that’s fine in terms of what those characters want – but what we as audience members want from them and what we might learn from stories about them isn’t fixed, nor should it be. There are no hard rules beyond the lack of imagination. Is there any other monster in our collective consciousness that exists purely because we imagine we’d like to have a crack at killing it?

Finally, I don’t hate Twilight but its teachings are not for me. I didn’t call the franchise shit, I called it treacle. It is a confection. It offers no nutrient value. If you like it, if you find the taste appealing, knock yourself out.

Posted By Jenni : November 11, 2011 4:26 pm

I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it’s premier. I tivoed it to watch that first episode late on Halloween 2010 & was greatly surprised at how good the show was. But season 2 has been disappointing. It is going off the rails due to a lack of logic on the writers part. Why are the characters still driving around in an old RV that keeps breaking down? They were recently on a highway with tons of abandoned cars, surely the RV could’ve been abandoned and the faster, better cars glommed onto! The whole business about who can and can’t have their guns. C’mon people! If zombie hoards are threatening to destroy your group those in your group should be allowed to use their own guns for saving lives! You mentioned a Facebook post that suggested the Sherriff’s son Carl be sacrificed to the zombies. I know you didn’t write that and it’s awful to suggest it, sarcasm or not, but a major character did that last week to an older, heavy hunter guy. That seemed like a weak plot shock to just show the gore of zombies eating some poor soul alive. My 15 year old has wondered aloud why the wild animals haven’t turned up to eat these zombies. The zombies would be such easy prey for wolves, coyotes, cougars, bears. WellI am done with my vent. Thanks for your interesting post.

Posted By Neil : November 11, 2011 4:30 pm

I also agree. I had a long argument I offered regarding one of the earlier conversations someone had with me about the “fast zombie” vs. “slow zombie” argument and this was essentially what it came down to.

I think you may have come up with a better tent to put it under, though, as I think examples such as Return of the Living Dead that have fast moving zombies but still manage to maintain that humanity that manages to accuse and mock the living.

It probably is a generational/personality-type issue, but Night of the Living Dead is one of my favorite movies and one of very few that continues to terrify and haunt me and I think that quality is what does it.

I just tried watching the first episode of “The Walking Dead”… There was an opening scene that ripped off the gas station scene from Dawn of the Dead, then a forgettable scene with cops talking in an attempt to be very witty and character building, and then a scene that ripped off the opening of 28 Days Later – I remember that at least that one is from the comic – and I was done.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 11, 2011 4:33 pm

I’d like to clarify that my opening “couldn’t agree more” is directed at RHS’ post, not the first comment. That is all. Everyone go about your business.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 11, 2011 4:35 pm

You mentioned a Facebook post that suggested the Sherriff’s son Carl be sacrificed to the zombies. I know you didn’t write that and it’s awful to suggest it, sarcasm or not, but a major character did that last week to an older, heavy hunter guy. That seemed like a weak plot shock to just show the gore of zombies eating some poor soul alive.

Jenni, I actually thought that was a bold and unexpected move. Not only did they take out a fairly estimable and likeable actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) early on in his tenure on the show but the act did make a certain cruel sense. Otis’ death on the series is at least memorable – I can’t even remember how the character dies in the graphic novel, except maybe we just hear about it afterwards – so I give the writers props for that upsetting bit.

As to the question of the old RV versus all the other available vehicles – my take is that the RV holds the lot of them better and with its windows up somewhat high it is more defensible. This is the kind of question, though, that will drive you crazy from a logistical standpoint because you could obsess about it forever without ever finding an answer. Pick your battles, Jenni, because on this show you really need to conserve your energy!

Posted By Jenni : November 11, 2011 4:50 pm

Wisely said, RHS! I think my reaction to the horror of Otis’s death is also due to the fact that I liked his character,he was trying to do a good thing, to get the needed medical equipment so life-saving surgery could be had for Carl’s son, and he had come up with a pretty good diversion plan already, to getting he and Shane out of the highschool gym. My husband just pointed out to me that the writers had to have a way to show Shane’s slow descent into madness, so the disabling shot to Otis, etc.

As to the RV, it is Dale’s, and I do find his character whiny and annoying, so I’d leave him to his RV and get me a corvette!!

Posted By Fantomex : November 12, 2011 3:03 am

Sorry Richard, but what you want still doesn’t work for me as far as zombies are concerned, and is in fact rather kind of pointless considering the nature of said being. Also, it would be the height of folly to delve into such a thing as well.

And that’s fine in terms of what those characters want – but what we as audience members want from them and what we might learn from stories about them isn’t fixed, nor should it be. There are no hard rules beyond the lack of imagination. Is there any other monster in our collective consciousness that exists purely because we imagine we’d like to have a crack at killing it?

The main point you’re missing about these movies (and novels) is that they are not about the answers we can learn from the after life or any other deeper meanings, but how humans would survive and endure in such a catastrophe; who would be brave, who would be weak, who would rise to the occasion, who would shrink from it, and what would they do to survive in the meantime. Getting into what the zombies are might be a pointless diversion and may even take away from the novelty of the mystery behind the zombies that the creators/writer want to preserve. As Freud is supposed to have said, ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ Getting into the aspects you want would probably bog the story down.

Zombies aren’t real. They are imaginary constructs. A human corpse without blood flow or circulation or brain activity cannot get up and walk, much less employ strength, bite, chew, etc. I don’t think realism is really the calling here, is it?</blockquote

I’d guess (to use the scientific explanation in the Resident Evil movies/games) that these beings have been brought alive by a virus or mitochondrial entity that has reanimated them, but minus what made them human when they were alive-these same things are why they are up and around, and are able to feed on human flesh and brain tissue. Richard Matheson gave a similar explanation in I Am Legend for his race of vampires.

Finally, I don’t hate Twilight but its teachings are not for me. I didn’t call the franchise shit, I called it treacle. It is a confection. It offers no nutrient value. If you like it, if you find the taste appealing, knock yourself out.

I don’t like Twilight that much either (thing is, I’ve never read the books or seen the movies, yet I feel as if I must prove to others that I’m smart by hating it-curious thing, no?) but all the same, the massive amount of hatred of it just screams to me ‘Die Teenagers Die, and take your shitty stuff with you!’ (much like the hatred of disco and the GLBT population that loved it), for some reason. I think that with a lot of things going on in the world today that should be demanding attention, the story of eternal love between two people, treacly or not doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. And as I said before, the people that loved it might grow up to be the people who will be nostalgic for it, much like the people who were nostalgic for the schlock of the past (and who consider that better than things of the present.) The thing is, schlock of the past is still schlock, and shouldn’t be celebrated-but it is (and by a lot of people who comment and write for this blog, too), so those who hate Twilight but love and celebrate schlocky movies/books/TV aren’t any better than those who love schlocky things now, and can’t claim any moral superiority.

Posted By Bob Meyer : November 12, 2011 2:26 am

When it comes to new ideas for Zombie films, I wonder what could be done with a scenario in which the recently deceased come back as mindless, decomposing friends, relatives, and countrymen who don’t eat flesh and don’t attack the living. They just…hang around. Scaring the kids and leaving an ever-increasing mess behind. I’ve read about a fairly recent French film that uses that basic idea, although I haven’t seen it. Seems to me you could mine a fair amount of character drama and social commentary from that idea.

The problem, of course, would be how to make this situation genuinely scary instead of just creepy and perhaps enlightening. Not sure how that could be done.

For the tried-and-true Zombie movie format, SHAUN OF THE DEAD managed to perfectly mix drama, pathos, romance, social commentary, gore, and comedy. The BBC TV miniseries DEAD SET made a pretty good stab all of the above too.

One very interesting right-turn from the standard Zombie tale is PONTYPOOL. The dead aren’t so much carriers of a plague as much as they are the plague’s results. And it has a great line of dialogue that doesn’t even need to be shown on-screen: “We’re getting reports that a herd of people – that the word they’re using…a herd…is moving through the woods.”

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 12, 2011 2:40 am

Bob, the French movie you’re talking about is LES REVENANTS/THEY CAME BACK (2004). Very thought-provoking, very eerie but zombie fans will probably be left gnashing their teeth. David Kalat wrote a bit about it here.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 12, 2011 2:55 am

The second season of The Walking Dead has not been as good as the first. The departure of Frank Darabont may have something to do with that, but I’m not sure which episodes he worked on and which ones he didn’t work on.

There were so many moments in the first season that were haunting and were extremely emotional to watch: One character seeing his wife, now a zombie, coming back to their house out of habit, on a daily basis. Him watching her through the window, teary-eyed, essentially making it a date because she shows up at about the same time everyday. That scene was wrenching and terribly sad. There was a scene where Rick tells a legless zombie woman how sorry he is that this happened to her before he shoots her. Sympathy for a zombie? What? Another character’s sister slowly dies and begins to turn into a zombie in her arms. She kills her as she cradles her head. Those scenes were so well done, and done better than everything so far this season, but I’m still a fan and I still watch.

Karl getting shot was shocking. It was just so out of the blue. And I think, in a narrative sense, one of the kids should die. To have both children in extreme peril and to have both survive feels too convenient and treacly to me. They could do some powerful storytelling regarding whether they should kill their own zombie child or not kill their own zombie child. It’s just a thought I’ve had. It probably won’t happen though. Kids don’t die on TV shows. Not even on AMC.

Oh! And the RV is the last thing that Dale has to remind him of his wife. That is why he won’t part with it.

Say, Richard- What is your opinion of Zombieland? I loved it.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 12, 2011 3:07 am

Sorry Richard, but what you want still doesn’t work for me

Happily, I’m not here to please you!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 12, 2011 11:45 am

Say, Richard- What is your opinion of Zombieland? I loved it.

Zombieland is a very amiable comedy that I can’t say I loved. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I actually think it rewatches better than it watches – it improves with lowered expectations – but, eh, it’s just okay. If I want a comedy, I know funnier movies; if I want a zombie movies, I know scarier movies.

Posted By Bob Meyer : November 12, 2011 7:46 pm

“Bob, the French movie you’re talking about is LES REVENANTS/THEY CAME BACK (2004).”

Thanks, Richard – I couldn’t remember the title!

Posted By Fred : November 15, 2011 5:06 pm

Great article RHS. I’m still a fan of The Walking Dead and may be in the minority who enjoys the slow pacing and character develop in Season Two to the more faster paced Season One. The shooting of Otis actually made cruel logic; there is an old joke that if you are with a group people running from a grizzly bear, you don’t have to be the fastest as long as you aren’t the slowest. If Shane didn’t shoot Otis, then they would have both died, as well as Carl (since he wouldn’t have gotten his medical supplies). Also, Otis shot Carl so in Shane’s (twisted) mind, it probably made sense to blame Otis for getting into this mess. This even came out in the last episode, when Shane and Rick argued over searching for Sophia (the other little girl whom nobody can remember) and how it was leading to the disintegration of the group.

There is also something tribal which the new season deals with (after only being touched on briefly in the First Season episode “Vatos”). Herschel is more than happy to assist Rick’s group, but only briefly, and he bristles at their intrusion on his group’s space (when Daryl is brought in wounded, Herschel mutters about running out of anti-biotics). This tribalism is even shown in the last episode’s prologue where serial wife abuser Ed Peletier threatens his wife for revealing they have a stash of MREs. As much as we want to think we will not give into our baser instincts in a time of crisis, just think back to last August, when on the eve of Hurricane Irene, folks were mobbing the local supermarkets and hardware stores hoarding any and all batteries, flashlights, bottled water and other supplies they could find. And this was just a hurricane, not an apocalypse of the living dead!

I think that folks looking for a Resident Evil zombie shoot-em-up will be disappointed by this series. But I think that is the point. Those type of films become stupid and dull fast. I think that was the point of having Andrea almost cap Daryl in the last episode when everyone in the group mistook him for a walker. She was hooting and hollering, until she realized she had almost blown the head off someone who was still alive. You would never see this in your typical modern zombie flick.

Someone also pointed out that Dale keeps the RV because it reminds him of his late wife. And in the first episode, Rick knows that Laurie and Carl are still alive because the pictures in the house are gone. Morgan Jones replies that his wife did the same thing. If you have ever been in a natural disaster or a house fire, then you know that folks will try to take things of sentimental value on their way out the door, even if they would be of little or no use in a survival situation. This adds realism to the show.

Finally, I think that when folks start talking about reality in horror films, they lose me. It is one thing to have an internal logic in a film (ie, once a film/television series establishes its “ground rules” it needs to stick to them). But if you are going to talk about “reality”, then even if the dead could come back to life, they would be walking food for most predators, and would eventually rot away until they were nothing but a bunch of unattached bones. So when watching a horror film, there needs to be a necessary suspension of disbelief. And with respect to The Walking Dead, I think it stays true to its ground rules and adds a fresh approach to what is otherwise some tired material.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 15, 2011 9:38 pm

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Shane had no other choice than to kill Otis. Why couldn’t he have just shot him in the head? The zombies would have swarmed on his still warm body. Shooting him in the head would have spared Otis the torturous agony of being eaten alive. I’ll tell you why Shane had to shoot him in the leg instead of the head: He’s a–hole. That’s why.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 15, 2011 9:39 pm

He’s “an” a–hole, is what that should say.

Posted By Jenni : November 15, 2011 10:16 pm

Duke, that is what our family thought, if Otis had to die, than why put him through the agonies of being eaten alive, just shoot him in the head? And now Herschel has a locked barn full of zombies??? What the mess?? (That’s what my teens said when we saw the ending of Sunday night’s episode.)

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 15, 2011 10:27 pm

I think Shane’s way of thinking was that a wounded, wiggling human would be a more time-consuming (heh) victim for the zombies than a lifeless body – his screams would buy Shane some cover. Of course, Shane intended on making a clean break but we know how that went.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 15, 2011 10:27 pm

I think Shane’s way of thinking was that a wounded, wiggling human would be a more time-consuming (heh) victim for the zombies than a lifeless body – his screams would buy Shane some cover. Of course, Shane intended on making a clean break but we know how that went.

Posted By Fred : November 16, 2011 1:04 pm

I don’t know if the zombies only eat live bait. There actually might be a bit of a paradox here. As shown in a season one episode, a walker ate a deer which had been freshly killed by Daryl, but the bloated well walker wasn’t the least bit interested in a Polish ham (maybe he was keeping Kosher?).

Since the creators of The Walking Dead have stated that in the universe of the show, there was no Night of the Living Dead and its sequals, ripoffs, etc., the protagonists have no inate knowledge of how to deal with zombies, and they have to learn as they go along (live and learn, or die). In this case, Shane may have thought that a dead Otis wouldn’t catch flies…um…I mean walkers. Or it could just be that Shane is a selfish, heartless prick.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 16, 2011 8:37 pm

I agree with the latter, Fred. Shane is a selfish opportunist. If there was no zombie apocalypse nigh Shane would still behave in a questionable manner.

Posted By Fred : November 17, 2011 11:28 am

Well, I guess in Shane’s defense, he did bring Rick flowers when he was in a coma, and also took some steps to protect Rick from the soldiers who were shooting random doctors, nurses and patients during the outbreak (not to mention the walkers who seemed to have a run of the hospital).

Posted By cgeye : November 19, 2011 4:12 pm

“Sorry, but if you don’t like the show, then you shouldn’t be watching it or even talking about it; it’s that simple. This whole article is like me bitching about the whining of the main character on Smallville and how the show doesn’t have enough of what makes Superman Superman. I simply don’t watch the show, and I don’t make comments on it, either.”

Although RHS has said it plain, still, ’tis a rare hole-in-one foot-in-mouth that requires invocation of Moff’s Law, on the first comment:

http://www.racialicious.com/2009/12/21/and-we-shall-call-this-moffs-law/

I’m even going to quote the non-zinger part of it:

“Now, that doesn’t mean you have to think about a work of art. I don’t know anyone who thinks every work they encounter ought to only be enjoyed through conscious, active analysis — or if I do, they’re pretty annoying themselves. And I know many people who prefer not to think about much of what they consume, and with them I have no argument. I also have no argument with people who disagree with another person’s thoughts about a work of art. That should go without saying. Finally, this should also go without saying, but since it apparently doesn’t: Believe me, the person who is annoying you so much by thinking about the art? They have already considered your revolutionary “just enjoy it” strategy, because it is not actually revolutionary at all. It is the default state for most of humanity.

So when you go out of your way to suggest that people should be thinking less — that not using one’s capacity for reason is an admirable position to take, and one that should be actively advocated — you are not saying anything particularly intelligent. And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.”

In short, loud, mean (and, with the gender-revanchist Twilight defense, shallow) is no way to go though life, son….

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