Zombie movies get a bad rap. The main reason for this is because there are so many of them. I am a little sick of the genre in all honesty, quite happy to limit my zombie consumption to AMC’s The Walking Dead and the occasional X-Box game (Plants Vs. Zombies is also welcome!) Another reason that zombie movies are often criticised is that a lot of people already have their own zombie movie written out in their heads. There are people out there, who are totally ready for that apocalypse and have a step-by-step plan for that time. Any movie that drastically deviates from that plan with a stupid, cliché-ridden decision has no idea how ‘normal’ people would react.
I think the Walking Dead Game by Telltale Games has helped a little to show people what it is actually like to live in a zombie apocalypse. Not everything goes into your little plan and somewhere along the way you will have to make some tough choices. Believe it or not, the option to ‘abandon your best friend’ or ‘kill your bitten brother’ isn’t as easy as it sounds on paper. And it doesn’t even really sound easy on paper. Below are three clichés that people often complain about, but make perfect sense in a zombie drama in my books.
3 – THE TERRIBLE ‘DEFEND THIS BUILDING’ PLAN
How come every time a group of people find themselves in a zombie apocalypse, they always seem to pick a safe place and then try to defend it? It never works. Zombies will always find them. Unless you have a prison like off of ‘The Walking Dead’ (which had problems of its own), it is common knowledge that the best thing to do is keep on the move. It’s what all the hardest zombie characters do (Alice, Michonne). Yet you still get people trying to set up hopeless defences. Hell, that was one of the jokes behind zombie spoof, ‘Shaun of the Dead’.
This is mainly people putting stock in the leader figure in the zombie movies. That one guy who takes control of the situation and leads most of the group to safety. He always knows what is best. Look at Rick Grimes. However, who would be that in real life? No one is training to be that team leader in a zombie resistance group. Imagine you were thrust into the role of leader of a group of snivelling, distraught people. They are looking to you for answers. What do you say?
Do you keep on the move telling them that this is their life from now on? Or do you keep them going with that ray of hope? There is a safe place where you can defend yourself. The idea of a home, especially when everything you know has just been destroyed, is a welcoming one. I would be tempted to try lying to myself that it is a good plan. My sanity might just need that if it stands a chance of holding itself together.
2 – THE GOVERNMENT TURNING ON US
I think this idea was started with Resident Evil. The zombie infection breaks out and everyone turns to the military for help. However, someone from above gives the order and the military start abandoning, or even slaughtering, the survivors. It is a foolish concept. At the first sign of trouble, do you really think that the government would just leave the people to their fate? Surely, they would do something, anything, to protect us from the incoming zombie hordes.
’28 Weeks Later’ tackled this quite well. Sometimes saving the survivors of an infected area is a good way of continuing the infection in a place you are trying to save. No one really understands the virus. Who knows how it works? Who knows how it spreads? Someone created the zombie and over time, movies just followed that image. If a zombie apocalypse does happen, who says that it will be an exact replication of cinema? If I am attacked by zombies, I hope I am smart enough not to base my plan of survival on ‘this is what movies taught me’.
This is actually the one stock zombie character that hasn’t been specifically explored. The guy who makes the call to abandon the population of an infected town is always a shadowy suit. The politician who doesn’t care about the man. It’s much more fun a movie if there is a human nemesis to focus on, alongside the undead. However, I want to see a movie that explores a man making that call to abandon a town. He knows they are doomed and saving them risks the rest of the world. He has to abandon them, but how does he live with himself? I was hoping World War Z would handle that issue, but sadly not.
1 – HELPING THE FRIEND WHO WILL OBVIOUSLY TURN
Even if you are the kind of person who doesn’t mind shooting an innocent person, who could be a friend or family member, doesn’t seem daunting to you, it is also a little more complicated than that.
Imagine a friend of yours is bitten. Your best friend. He is bitten in a fight, survives, but it is clear he will turn. Do you kill him there and then? As movies have constantly taught us, bringing him along will ruin your chances at escape. He is likely to turn at the wrong moment and take more of your team, possibly you. However, do you have the strength to kill him in cold-blood? The thing that gets me is the utter trauma that person would be going through in that moment. It is like being told you have fatal cancer and having to make a life-changing (or ending) decision right there and then. While processing this news, your last memories could very well be your friends and family suddenly turning on you, smashing your head in with a shovel before you can kill them.
I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let a man’s life fade away like that. I would take him as far as I could before he passed and then try and dispose of the corpse before it turned. Yes, I know that’s risky. People try that in Resident Evil, Walking Dead, blah blah blah… and it never works. But that is much better than the equivalent in my books.