There is an underlying symbolism to zombie movies that took me until recently to understand the attraction audiences have with them. The zombies, the undead, are the personification of death itself: mindless, driven, eventually overpowering, lusting to devour life for no understandable reason. Zombie movies play out of the life cycle as the living do their best to not only survive but overcome coming doom. Yet, the odds are always against the living. Life is fragile, limited, and when faced with destruction, secluded. Life clings to life when death approaches.
But the numbers keep growing against our protagonists, emblematic of the aging process. These undead multiply one by one almost imperceptibly until they overtake us like each day of our lives, the future maturing into the present until it rots into the past as we progress from youth to old age. We wonder how much time passes us by surrounding us with memories of lost days much as our protagonists wonder how all these creatures came to be. Those days threaten to suffocate us, smother us beneath their legion of numbers. The past is merely the present trying to bury us.
We are drawn to these tales not simply because of man’s attraction to violence and destruction but also to perceive an attempt at immortality. We fear the dead for we know that is our future destiny. We love to flirt with the inevitable, with oblivion, for it makes life taste so much sweeter. We realize what we have when we are threatened with losing all that we possess. In these tales are lessons deeper than any pulp plot.
Seeing zombie flicks from this perspective, it makes them all the more enoyable; when done right. Certain masters understand how these stories can reach into our souls. Gore, blood, and death for their own sake is worthless. We don’t need heroes blasting away comcially with machine guns with man overcoming all with ease. We don’t want to see death rendered blasted meat. Deep down, we know such is impossible. As valiantly as we all struggle, eventually death shall overcome us. Grim tales, of desperation and hope against the hopeless, are what make these tales entertaining, moving, and blessed in the realm of horror movies.