Aug 5, 2011
Zombies, am I right? It's kind of amazing to me how resilient the subgenre has proven in recent years, considering its heyday, if you ask me, was in the late 1970s/early 80s...but then, I suppose, fads are supposed to be cyclical. At least, I hope they are; at long last, I've mastered the Macarena and I'm dying to bust it out somewhere.
But really, did any horror fan expect zombies to make such a hardy comeback? I didn't. Sure, they never went away completely, but for a while they were quiet, shuffling around in the background while other monsters had their moments. You know, monsters like Freddy, Michael, and Jason, who starred in some of the worst sequels in the history of...sequels. Or those monsters from TV shows on the WB, whose faces filled the dull posters for tepid slasher-style flicks and remakes. George Romero was making movies without a zombie in sight, while a DVD rerelease of his seminal film Dawn of the Dead was something to celebrate.
Oh, my friends, how the times have changed. Was it 28 Days Later that ushered in the new zombie era? Perhaps. Whether the opening of the floodgates can be traced back to one particular movie or book is irrelevant; the fact is, zombies have infiltrated film, videogames, literature, television, and even everyday life ("zombie walks", anyone?) like no one could have anticipated. Nothing else in horror (or fantasy, or...you know, genre-stuff) comes close- not vampires, despite the popularity of Twilight. Not witchcraft and wizardry. Nothing! Zombies are everywhere, and it seems they're not going ANYWHERE.
In Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead, writer/film director Jovanka Vuckovic explores...well, the book's title says it all, doesn't it? From the origins of the zombie in Haitian history to the current craze for the genre, this slim volume provides a broad look at the walking dead in all forms of pop culture.
For me, the book's earliest chapters are the most informative, as I am but a humble ignoramus regarding Haitian voodoo rituals and religious rites. Vuckovic spends some time doling out the history before segueing into the earliest days of the zombie genre in film and literature. I'm not terribly well-versed in 1930s and 40s horror, say, so I found myself LEARNING. This is good. I like learning.
In later chapters, such as "Back from the Dead: Zombies in the New Millenium", the book becomes a bit more "Vuckovic on Zombies" than "History" as the author provides her opinion on films and other media. There's no denying that she's an authority on horror, and her opinion is certainly an educated one- her tenure at Rue Morgue Magazine is proof of that- but I found myself getting all defensive about a few topics at hand. She calls Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead an "unnecessary remake", which...I don't know, maybe it is. But I can't help but think it's got merits of its own, completely independent from what George Romero did in the original 30 years prior. Vuckovic rips much more harshly into Paul WS Anderson's Resident Evil, and again, I found myself, you know, defending my own opinions to a book. Resident Evil is probably crap- in fact, you can probably take away the "probably"- but sometimes crap is fun. Sometimes crap is good! Obviously Vuckovic is entitled to her own opinions and NO book is completely objective, but there were times throughout that I simply wanted more "facts" and not to be made to feel like a brainless, drooling dolt because I like a certain movie or two. I may be a brainless, drooling dolt, sure, but a history book shouldn't necessarily remind me of it.
Or maybe I'm just too much of an opinionated horror fan myself. After all, I do have a blog.
Zombies! works best, perhaps, as a resource. With sizable lists of films and books featuring the undead- not to mention all of the titles Vuckovic discusses in the chapters proper- there is plenty of gut-munching media out there for readers to check out. Throw in the hundreds of photos and illustrations, and the book becomes all but indispensable for zombie fanatics everywhere. Romero fans in particular will be pleased; the genre's most famous figure provides a foreword and, not surprisingly, is featured heavily throughout the book. I was happy to see two of my loves- comics and videogames- get plenty of attention.
I have a few nerdy gripes (beyond my already established, whiny "But I LIKE Resident Evil!" complaint)- where's the bibliography? Zombies Ate My Neighbors is not a first-person shooter! and so on- but overall, Zombies! is a terrific addition to any genre lover's bookshelf. It's brought ample movies and books to my attention, likely giving me undead fodder for years to come (The Chilling? What's that? I have no idea, but I'm gonna check it out)...proving yet again that zombies will never die.
Unless you shoot 'em in the head, I guess.