As I write this Halloween is just a few days away; the air has turned cold, pumpkins decorate front yards, and everyone I know is discussing their costumes. And while I love Halloween more than any other celebration, I’ve suddenly found myself feeling a little wistful as I realize there is nothing out there to scare me right now. The torture horror genre that’s suddenly re-emerged with the Saw series and movies like Hostel doesn’t do anything for me, and while the j-horror remakes can be fun, the ones currently available aren’t setting my pulse pounding. This got me to thinking about the last time I was truly scared at the movies.
I’ve always been afraid of zombies, ever since I saw Night of the Living Dead. While there are a handful of non-zombie movies that have scared me to some degree—Silence of the Lambs, The Others, Alien—and plenty of movies that have had scares in them, the ones that literally keep me awake at night are almost all zombie flicks. And the last one to haunt my dreams was the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I wasn’t just scared… I was terrified. I watched it in the theater when it came out and it scared me badly enough to make me wonder why I was putting myself through the experience. I’ve been afraid to rewatch it alone. It was fantastic.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you probably already know: zombies are massive. Everywhere you look, there they are. The videogame industry seemed to be the first to embrace this new wave with the Resident Evil series, quickly followed by a slew of others. In film, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Land of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead were all big-budget flicks in a genre that used to be decidedly B. Not that the indie and direct-to-DVD shelves aren’t well stocked with the undead as well. In comics, several titles including The Walking Dead and the disturbing and occasionally hilarious Marvel Zombies have recently graced the shelves. And last month marked the release of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Wars from the creator of The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks.
And now they’ve managed to break the fourth wall. In the past few years over a dozen cities including Calgary, DC, Pittsburgh and even our own beloved San Francisco have been host to Zombie Walks (or Shambles) where hordes of the undead infest the streets and infect passersby.
But shambling decaying hordes aren’t the only face of zombiedom. Although for centuries vampires have cornered the market on undead glamour, in recent years zombies have begun to reclaim their place on the stage, thanks to people like San Francisco’s own Monique Motil who until 2005 hosted Zombie Pinups; simply the best place for hot zombie flesh. Although Motil has moved on from flesh to bone creating Sartorial Creatures, the site carries on under new management. And if you prefer your sexy undead “live,” San Francisco will not let you down even there. Creepshow Peepshow has put on a couple of shows where the acts included more zombie burlesque than any one person ought to see in a lifetime, and we even have our own all-dead burlesque troupe: The Living Dead Girlz, who will steal your heart, and brain and other organs, if you venture too close to the stage.
SF/SF Issue 33, November 2006