Not many words raise the amount and depth of images and emotions that zombie does. It can mean many different things in many different contexts yet is still only one weird sounding word.
Corporate zombie: A white collar employee that seems devoid of personality and life and is stuck in a routine of work and other prescribed activities (eat, sleep, watch TV, and avoid thinking).
Rage Zombie: Closer to your typical movie zombie and gloried in ’28 Days Later.’ The Rage zombie is a still breathing, fast moving hard to kill human being driven insane with only the desire to kill the closest non-infected thing. This zombie contrasts with the corporate zombie yet at its core is still taps into something that defines ‘zombie’.
That definition seems to be that, a zombie is a human being deprived of humanity. Every zombie was once human is now a mindless creature that only serves to mock what it once was. This often takes the form of aggressively (often painfully) converting non-zombies. Ever notice how few zombies in movies attack animals opposed to human beings?
Now don’t confuse the term with Crazies. Crazies (another Romero creation) are basically rage zombies but with one key difference. The crazy is not always concerned with converting a non-crazy and only some of the time is it violent.
Nerd rage aside…
The zombie brand has spawned its own subculture. One would be hard pressed to venture on the blogosphere without seeing a few articles on how to survive a zombie uprising. The whole ironic nature of this subculture is that, some people are beginning to WANT a zombie uprising. Never mind the fact that most zombie nerds maintain a steady diet of cheetos and energy drinks; its doubtful many of these people would survive.
This is why our video showcase of the week stands as the definition of ‘ahead of its time’
Return of the Living Dead
Directed by Dan O’Bannon, ‘Return’ is a satirical black comedy of the zombie genre. From the first scene it indicates that the “That film with the zombies” was actually a true event that was re-written for the big screen. Why the military forced the creator to modify the film and not halt production is a mystery to me.
From then on the film takes a funny and sharp down turn with almost immediately setting a zombie loose and poisoning the two characters working there. The infection is spread through a mysterious gas that travels through ventilation ducts and reawakens a corpse held in a meat locker.
The movie follows a strong nihilistic punk angle which almost pokes fun at the zombie genre. In one scene three of the characters attempt to kill the meat locker zombie by holding it down and jamming a pick through its skull. This fails. Hilarity ensues.
Throughout the film all sorts of holes are poked into the zombie mythology like how utterly useless bullets are on zombies. Or how reanimated corpses walk, talk, and fight just as a normal person would. In some scenes it looks like production was so cheap on the zombies they just slathered mud on people in dirty suits.
What really serves to set this zombie movie as a satirical look at the zombie genre is overall the behaviour of the aspects of the characters. Typically, a zombie movie will involve the destruction of society and the survivors afterwards. In ‘Return’, the world is still very much alive and almost seemingly unconcerned at the zombies.
In the typical zombie movie, zombies are the brainless morons whom the humans have to outsmart. In ‘return’ the zombies retain their intelligence and are seen on multiple occasions tricking humans or setting traps. The zombies are far from brainless and are shown as being smarter than most of the humans.
The most important satirical aspect though is the movies refusal to obey its own rules. Seemingly random aspects of the zombie ‘rules’ make it impossible to categorize ‘return’ zombies and only confuse anyone looking to adopt a strategy to fight them. Some victims arise from the dead, some merely twitch, and others become some grey naked super zombie with red hair. Yes that last one actually happens.
Speaking of which, special credit goes to Lennea Quiggly who basically performs this movie naked. That’s right. I’m not talking about some undead queen zombie that just happened to not have any clothes. This super-nudity started before the zombies started digging themselves out of the ground.
If you’re in the mood for something funny with dead things eating living things, Return of the Living Dead is your movie.