As a deeply-entrenched member of the “slow zombie” camp, I was thrilled to read Simon Pegg’s article which appeared yesterday in the Guardian newspaper in England. In this article, he makes perhaps the most convincing case I’ve ever read as to why fast zombies are a risible obscenity, and why slow zombies are awesome.
In my books, I’ve argued that what makes zombies so great is that they find a way to succeed in almost every situation despite the fact that they are physically slow, dull-witted, and monosyllabic. It is theis multitude of setbacks that makes zombies so inspiring. An articulate, clever, good-smelling zombie who can run the 100 yard dash in 12 seconds just isn’t the same for me.
Certainly, it’s important that filmmakers and writers feel that they can try variations on the traditional zombie. Some variations will stick (if they’re good), and some won’t, and that’s how it should be. It’s important directors try new things. Remember, it wasn’t until 1985’s Return of the Living Dead that someone put forth that zombies like to eat brains, and now that idea has become unquestioned canon. And even George Romero has had his failures in introducing new zombie traits. Remember how in Land of the Dead we “learned” that zombies are distracted by fireworks? Yeah, I haven’t seen that in any subsequent films, have you?
But despite the need for innovation and tweaking, I feel like a zombie’s slowness (or general physical handicap) is his most important, central trait.
Imagine my excitement, then, as I read the following lines by Pegg:
Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable. […] The absence of rage or aggression in slow zombies makes them oddly sympathetic, a detail that enabled Romero to project depth on to their blankness, to create tragic anti-heroes; his were figures to be pitied, empathised with, even rooted for. The moment they appear angry or petulant, the second they emit furious velociraptor screeches (as opposed to the correct mournful moans of longing), they cease to possess any ambiguity. They are simply mean.
Wow, it’s hard to resist the urge to just paste the entire essay. You can read the whole thing on the Guardian website here.
Until this essay, the best defense of slow zombie’s I’d heard was in the film-within-the-film in Romero’s Diary of the Dead. When an actor asks the director why the walking dead move slowly, the director responds that if they moved quickly they’d fall apart because they’re rotting corpses. I think that argument’s pretty good too!