Runnin’ Zombies

I was over at Wil Wheaton’s site reading about his twisted views on life. He recently went to see Dawn of the Dead and posed the question, “When did zombies start to run?”

Well that just so happens to be something I know a little bit about. Now I definitely haven’t seen every movie on the planet and especially in the last year, there are quite a few films I haven’t yet watched, but I do like my B horror films. (I know what you’re thinking, “How can I make movies and not watch them?” I can’t explain it. I eventually do. It just sometimes takes a while.)

I have yet to go see this new version of Dawn of the Dead. It looks pretty fun. Unfortunately it’s going to have a hard time competing with the original–at least in my book. I still remember the first time I saw George Romero’s second zombie movie. I was in junior high spending the night at my friend Josh Marcus’ house. It scared the crap out of me but I loved it. I thought the idea of living in a mall with a small group of friends was so cool. Crawling around the ventilation ducts. Making false walls. Playing with anything you wanted. It seemed like a great adventure.

Several people posted in Wil’s Comments that 28 Days Later had running zombies. Here’s where I’m going to have to step up and admit that I haven’t watched that one yet either. I know, I know. Well now I’m resolved to do it–I’m going to pick up the DVD today, watch it tonight, and I might catch a matinee of DotD tomorrow.

Apart from all that, I do know that the punk rock classic Return of the Living Dead has a few “rushing” zombies. They can pick up the pace a bit over a short distance. But overall they’re still mostly the mindless, shambling, brain-eating undead.

The first true “running” zombies appear in the sequel, Return of the Living Dead Part 2. Now this isn’t a strict sequel like “the continuing adventures of the poor saps that made all through the night of horror and were finally able to see the sunrise of a new day.” And it isn’t a sequel like Evil Dead II–“Here’s the movie I would have made the first time if I had the money.” It’s more of a “remember how funny those two guys who got sick and slowly turned into zombies were in the first one? Let’s get those actors back and have them do the same thing only as different characters. And oh yeah, more zombies.”

RotLD2 has lots and lots of zombies running through a Levittown-like suburbia. And I do mean running. It struck me the first time I saw it. It was definitely unusual because the typical zombie moans a lot and looks like it’s just as likely to fall on its face as take another step–but it doesn’t stop, it’ll crawl after you if it has to, and that’s what’s so scary. The more I thought about the running zombies in Part 2, the more I realized they were even scarier. You still have the mindless persistence. They’re still going to do everything they can to get you. But now you can’t outpace them with a light jog. You better be ready to sprint because they sure are.

Return of the Living Dead is one my all-time favorite movies. Several years ago, before I bought a DVD player, I always said I was holding out for The Warriors and RotLD to get released. Of course I didn’t end up waiting THAT long. But if I was going to recommend one zombie movie to watch it would be that one. You’ve got the punk rock kids hanging out in the cemetery, the split dogs coming back to life in the medical supply company, “More brains” from gooey guy with no skin, “Send more paramedics” from the midget zombie, all kinds of great stuff. It’s a classic.

Part 2 is worth seeing just to see where the running started, but other then that it’s not all that good. Part 3 however, is pretty awesome. It’s kind of a Romeo and Juliet where he’s alive and she’s dead. “Honey, I love you so much- DEAR GOD! Are you eating that man’s brain! That is DISGUSTING! Oh, but I do so love you.” She loves him too, and she hates the fact that she wants to eat brains, but the temptation is so strong that it can be hard to resist. So of course she resorts to doing what any sane, still-in-love-with-your-boyfriend zombie would do: stick lots of pointy things into her flesh. The pain temporarily relieves the brain lust. We’ve all seen punks with the safety pins and metal studs sticking out of their jackets. (Some of us might have even had own jackets like that.) She looks the same only all the bits of metal are directly in her skin. Frankly it’s cool… and maybe a little hot… ok, I must stop.