Sometimes I watch Real Time With Bill Maher, and often times I am even entertained by it. Bill is funny, and he does have some interesting and strong points to make, but he does a lot of shouting and is sometimes a little too over the top for me. Still, I would have to say that I am entertained for at least some of every show, which to me proves that Mr. Maher knows what he’s doing since his biggest purpose is to entertain and earn money, which he does.
At the end of every show he has a segment called New Rule in which he bitches and makes jokes about the trivial (fast v slow zombies) and the not so trivial (politics and how they are played). On Friday’s show (October 29, for those of you REALLY interested) Bill flashed the rule addressing fast zombies vs. slow zombies, saying something like zombies in zombie movies have to be fast so that he can’t just walk past them and go about his day. I understand the visceral fear induced by a fast zombie–they’re faster so they’ll catch you easier–they strike quick like the flash–these are scary thoughts, but are they really any more frightening than having a horde of relentless shambling corpses slow but surely moving in on you, oppressing you and taking away whatever free space you have centimeter by centimeter.
I am willing to admit that the idea of slow (literally–they are slow zombies after all, and I don’t mean that in the sense that they should be riding the short bus, but I suppose it could have a double meaning) moving zombies is more effective when there has been some pandemic of walking rotting animated dead bodies aimlessly roaming the earth searching for flesh upon which to feed and letting loose with their hollow and anguish filled moans, which is what 99.9 percent (statistic made up, but probably pretty accurate) of all zombie movies are so the point is inconsequential. Slow zombies are the death we always know is coming, but never really expect, a point which Bill Maher illustrated perfectly for me when he made that crack about being able to outrun zombies doesn’t make them scary. It’s precisely because the slow ones seem so non-threatening that they are scary and should be considered highly hostile and dangerous at all times.
Fast zombies are scary because they move fast. They are harder to escape, or at least outrun, but they’re still zombies so they’re not all that intelligent (unless the terms fast or quick can be applied to their mental capacity–but I am not going to go that far because fast or not, I still think that all zombies have the intelligence quotient of a moth). Their speed, combined with their lackluster mental capacity could actually be a large advantage to humans, what with trip wires and other kinds of traps. A slow zombie might not trigger such a trap due to jerky and slow ambulation, but a fast zombie would just run, setting off traps left and right.
Okay, I admit, that last bit about fast zombies and traps and whatever didn’t really make sense, but I’m leaving it in any way because this is my blog and I can do what I want with it, even if that means leaving in nonsensical and possibly contradictory statements. And digressions, those stay too. I don’t know where this blog would be if I didn’t allow myself to digress….
Fast zombies may not be more likely to set off traps, and the chances of actually successfully setting a trap for fast zombies is very slim, due to their quick nature. A faster zombie means less time to set up defenses such as pitfalls and dead-falls. However, a fast zombie is easier to hear, not only because they moan and groan like their slower moving cousins but because they move fast, and things that move fast generally make more noise than those that go slow, and being able to hear something dangerous before it gets too close is a big advantage humans have over fast zombies, thereby decreasing their risk factor slightly, or at the very least attempting to demonstrate that running zombies are really no more frightening than those that amble and mosey.
I think the fast zombie is quickly becoming a staple of zombie cinema is simply because of the movies that brought the idea of the fast zombie into the modern version of the sub-genre. Movies like this:
The 28 Days/Weeks later series gave us fast-moving, ghoul type things (It can be argued if the 28 D/W monster are truly zombies are not, but I am not going to do that here, because this blog totally already did it, and I kind of “borrowed” the above picture from them.) and the Dawn of the Dead remake gave us flat-out fast zombies. Both of these movies are thrilling and have their share of scares and jumps, and convey the deep feeling of dread that a good zombie/ghoul movie should. However, I think those scares and jumps come from the way the films are shot and edited. The zombies in the Dawn remake are no scarier, truly, than the ones in the original. They just move a bit faster, but they seem just as easy to avoid. They are more startling, to be sure, especially with Snyder’s slow-fast-slow motion style of shooting motion pictures. They seem more menacing and horrific because of how they are presented to the viewer.
28 Days Later is another example of the idea that it’s the presentation of the creature, not the creature itself, that is creepy (not a profound statement I know, but I think at this point I am just writing to write and ramble. I apologize if I’ve stopped making sense, but I thank you for hanging on this long if you are still here). In 28 Days the beasts are fast and smart and single-minded, and they are shown at all angles and in quick confusing cuts. The viewer is disoriented within the film, causing confusion, which gets the fear reflex going, and soon their hearts are pounding and adrenaline is soaring through their systems. Sure, the monsters are creepy, they puke blood and move really fast, but if they were shot in a way that allowed us to watch them move and attack their victims, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective because they would just be some kind of pseudo zombie that doesn’t even need to have its brain destroyed in order to be killed.
To me, slower zombies will always be more frightening because they were the first, and because they represent the inevitable. We will die, and we will join the ranks of these other dead people, and there is nothing we can do to stop that. The slow-moving zombie, more than the fast one, preys on our primal fear, but also threatens to lure us into a false hope, Slower = easier to avoid = complacency = zombie biting your ass. The slow mover encourages complacency–Hey, it’s no problem, I’ll just outrun all these dead things that want to rip the flesh from my body and chow down on my insides–and then punishes it mercilessly. If that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is.
I have to respectfully disagree with Bill Maher about his New Rule that Zombies have to be fast if they want to be scary. What Mr. Maher forgets when he says that zombies in zombie movies have to be fast in order to be scary is that zombie movies are not scary because of how fast or slow the creatures move, they are scary because of the human characters. In every zombie movie ever (and I discount Zombieland here because while it is technically a zombie movie, it’s really just an action movie with zombies, and no real danger for any of the characters–well except for Bill Murray but cameos don’t count) the real danger to the survivors comes from other survivors, whether they are traveling companions or other groups out to take whatever they can get. We are always more dangerous to each other than the zombies, and that is what makes zombie movies effective. It has nothing to do with the speed of the zombie.
With all that being said, I prefer slower zombies because as indicated earlier in the post, they were the originals and as such they will always hold a higher position in my zombie hierarchy than any other ghoul type creature. And I guess that’s the end of this rant, crazy talk, nonsense. If you were able to make it all the way here, thanks for reading. If you weren’t then you can go suck shit through a tube (hey I can say it because if they didn’t make it this far then they’ll never read it).
Happy Halloween everybody.