Hauling Ass Or Dragging Foot: The Great Zombie Debate

Halloween is fast approaching and as this time of year is ripe with ghosts, goblins and all things goulish I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look at everyone’s favorite undead manace – The Zombie. As everyone knows there are two types: the slow moving Zombie (SMZ) or the Olympic sprinter Zombie (OSZ). If ever anyone asked, “What kind of Zombie is best?” I’m sure the debate would go on for quite some time as there are tons of fans in each camp that are steadfast in their opinion preferring one over the other.

While those varying Zombie speeds have created divisive fan bases and it may be tough for kids in either camp to play nice, a good friend of mine and I proposed this healthy debate in which we could state our case and champion our preferred version of the undead. For me the question is a no brainer as there’s no school like the old school. But sometimes I like a change of pace…Zombie pace. So let’s look at both the SMZ and the OSZ and if possible agree to disagree about the one, the only Zombie.

My friend Kai Parker happens to be completely obsessed with the Zombie genre so before we get in to the thick of it, he had a little something to get off his chest:

Today, Marc and I want to address a conversation that has arisen, and grown more heated, in the Zombie loving community over the last 6 years… ever since Zach Snyder’s awesome remake of the much loved cult classic Dawn of the Dead. The question is this: Which Zombie is better… the Romero creeper? Or the Snyder sprinter?

Romero: The man, the myth, the legend.

Before we dive in, I’d like to sidetrack for a moment and address which we would be more likely to encounter should a real Zombie attack ever actually take place. The genesis behind Romero’s idea for his Zombies, that move at turtle speed, was that they would move like that due to the onset of rigor mortis. The definition of which is a chemical change in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to become stiff (Latin rigor) and difficult to move or manipulate.

The flaw in this logic is that rigor mortis commences after about 3 hours, reaches maximum stiffness after 12 hours, and gradually dissipates until approximately 72 hours after death. So, should a Zombie outbreak ever actually occur, the amount of stiffening taking place in the corpse would vary depending on time of death… not to mention that the level of decomposition that had overtaken the corpse would have a profound effect as well. So, the truth of the matter is, in the real world, we would probably encounter both.

However, that’s not our concern here today. We only care which one is more awesome. Let’s get to it shall we??

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THE PURIST:

While George Romero is the Stan Lee of the Zombie genre (hey they even kinda look alike), he is undeniably The Architect, ergo, what he says goes…also when the man gives you an Ace like this it’s pretty much the means to win any argument. Neat huh? But as I don’t want a cheap victory I’ll continue.

Personally, I am, as my above mentioned moniker denotes, a “Purist”. It can be quite a tough pill to swallow watching (let alone liking) Zombies running fast…or at all. I think variations on a theme are interesting and helpful to the genre but I always come back to core values which I, like other Zombie fans out there, hold to…namely “Zombies don’t RUN”. Period. True, I admit Olympic Sprinter Zombies (OSZs for short) are slightly more frightening initially, but all Zombie attacks end the same. So, where as Kai has covered the “plausible medical” angle of the Zombies’ speed, I’ll now cite my reasons why old-school stumbling, bumbling slow moving Zombies (SMZs for short) are the better Zombies in the genre.

A slow zombie, to me, complicates any situation (or attack) in many ways. I believe simply the approach of Zombies have a nearly incapacitating and hypnotizing effect on the living. In this respect, what they lack in speed they still make up for with their surreal “Fright-Factor”. From the standpoint that as a Zombie staggers toward a person, the mind of the would-be victim reels, as if to ask “what the hell is going on??” The closer the Zombie gets, the more the person comes to grip with the situation. The victim is now almost frozen in panic and horrified while thinking “holy shit this is happening, what do I do, what do I do?!?” This is all complicated by further indecision brought about by an incalculable variation of the number of approaching Zombies as well as the ability to either fortify or defend him of herself.

Finally, it is exacerbated if the Zombie approaching is a friend or loved one. It almost inhibits the “fight or flight” instinct within our bodies more to a nearly paralyzing level. It’s a complex string of events that while may be just minutes and seconds, it can probably feel like a lot longer. Finally, if we were ever in the situations we’ve seen in the movie, would we be as quick thinking as we believe ourselves to be while critiquing the film we’re watching? My guess would be no.

But to me, that’s the beauty and brilliance of the old-school Zombies. In many ways those SMZs create slow burn situations. Prolonging the attack can be more terrifying because it’s like a drawn out torturous demise. Almost like being run over by a steam roller, or (perfect cut to a Romero film) think of that ineffective fireworks scene in Land of the Dead. In the film, a number ill-fated humans who have no way of escape are about to feast dejour for the creeping SMZs. Now that’s a decidedly different take on the term “they’ve got us cornered.”

With fast moving Zombies, the kill is just as imminent but there’s (what I think is) a bright side to the situation. Being killed by a OSZ will be done with and over soon (likened to being mauled by a Lion I would imagine). But in an SMZ attack, it’s like watching paint dry…while they’re eating you! Also the SMZs are like quick-sand. If you’re surrounded by 1 to 5, sure, odds are you can probably get away. But any more than that, slow or fast, that’s 6 biting 100+ pound Zombies pushing (maybe dog-piling) and fighting for first dibbs on you. The more there are, the more screwed you are and the less likely you’re going to fend them off.

It’s true that slow moving Zombies are laughed at, seem very non-threatening and can be easily disposed of, but to me they’re very much like fire. Regardless of their lacking speed and dexterity, they are very dangerous and you really have to respect them. If not, they can and will, in fact, bite you. Then you’ll die and thus add to the great circle of Zombie life…it’s a lose-lose scenario. SMZs can be dealt with (or avoided if you want to save on ammo) very easily but again the success rate is only based on those two variables: 1.) the number of the approaching Zead and 2.) your ability to fortify or defend yourself. One issue that is probably the scariest of all is the longer you live, the more likely you’ll find yourself facing larger and larger zombie hordes…remember that quicksand analogy above? Staying put is a good choice but, as evidenced in dialog from Night of the Living Dead…if they get in, there’s got to be a way out. They may not be smart but they’ve got numbers on their side.

As many people in this world love a Zombie film, a great many believe “Slow is the way to Go”. But no matter what your opinion is, I bet, after seeing either Dawn of the Dead, that you never look at going to the mall the same way again. I sure as hell don’t. Now let’s read what Kai of Man I Love Films has to say…

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THE TRENDY CHOICE: 

[YAWN] I would like to thank Marc for basically winning my argument for me.

First off, I’ll just say that Night of the Living Dead (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved) never made much sense to me. If Zombies move so slow and are so weak that you could just run by them or knock them to the ground when they got close, why the hell would you hole up in a house??? I mean, the only way they pose a threat by moving like turtles is if a couple thousand of them surround you… which is exactly what will happen if you HOLE UP IN A HOUSE!!! Why not get with a group, find an RV, drive in shifts and stay on the move… this, of course, being just one of countless other options open to you if you’re trying to survive an attack from SMZ’s (as my opponent would have you call them). An option you do not have when facing Sprinters!

To further prove why the SMZ’s, are so lame, let’s stick with Night of the Living Dead. Sure, to make Dawn of the Dead, Romero conveniently kept the outbreak alive and thriving. However, at the end of Night, the threat had basically been contained… by a small militia of rednecks with their own personal fire arms, no less. How lame is that? That’s not scary… and when I watch a Zombie flick, I want to be scared!

Enter Zack Snyder with balls to the wall, hit the bricks, hauling ass Zombie. Now, these things are frackin’ scary! They also gave the long beloved genre a much needed shot in the arm… inspiring countless imitators just like the original did. The only bad thing is this brought all the purists, like my boy Marc, out of the woodwork screaming, “BLASPHEMY!!!” A charge, I say, that comes with falsely fueled fervor.

It comes down to this… if Snyder had remained true to Romero’s vision of Zombies, the purists and non-fans alike would be yelling, “BORING!!!” Assuming, of course, they force the word out through the might of their collective yawn. Let’s be honest, we have all become ADD. Video Games, GPS, iTunes, Tivo, Porn readily available at the click of a mouse (Thank You, God)… we have become immune as a society to the building of tension and the “slow burn” (Please don’t leave comments about this last sentence to show that you’re the exception that proves the rule). We need everything these days fast, hard, loud and in our faces. And that is exactly what the modern day “Hauling Ass” Zombie provides.

Admit it… the Zombie you want to see in your movies is the Zombie you hope you’d never see in real life. Not the one that stumbles around like me after a sixer of Stone Ruination India Pale Ale… ooh… I need a drink… let’s wrap this up!

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So, dear Z-Heads, you’ve heard what Kai and I think so now we leave it you. Which is better?

Please feel free to leave your comments below and remember… SHOOT FOR THE HEAD!!!

Comments

  1. I actually don’t have a preference (which helps for maximum enjoyment of the genre) but I thought I’d share an anecdote.

    Recently saw a Cuban zombie film called JUAN OF THE DEAD, which is cute bu doesn’t do anything new. At one plot though, when Juan has his team gathered and is trying to plan out a counterattack, there’s this cheeky exchange:

    Juan: “Does anyone know why some of them move slowly and some of them move quickly?”

    *No on in the group responds*

    Juan: “Damn. I was really looking forward to getting an answer to that.”

    • That’s one I’ve wanted to check out. Sounds like dumb fun. I just rewatched Snyder’s Dawn this weekend and then the Lucio Fulci film Zombie for the first time. There’s slow and then there’s too slow.

  2. I’m much more terrified by the OSZ. Simply because of the images of the one armed sprinter coming at the character in Snyder’s DOTD. I’m afraid I must side with Kai on the debate though both sides present their case well. Perhaps the ultimate zombie film will provide a nice mixture. Did you guys make up ZEAD? amazing!

    • Wish I could claim that, but I got that from Shaun of the Dead…”Don’t say that” “What?” “The Zead word”…not sure we used the same spelling so if we didn’t, then yes, we made it up:P

  3. Love this post. One of my favorite I’ve ever been a part of. Thanks for reposting, Marc!

    • Heroes get remembered but legends never die…and neither do great posts! Big thanks to yourself Kai!

  4. “falsely fueled fervor.”

    Alliteration. You win.

    Actually, let’s see…this is a tough one for me. If you think about the loved one factor, it might be scarier if they’re an SMZ. For one, as an OSZ, you might not even recognize them in time. But if they’re slow, you have all the time in the world to stare at your wife as she bangs her head on your door trying to eat you.

    On the other hand, there’s the pants-crapping panic and terror that comes when you see a pack of OSZ coming at you. Even one would be enough to cause you to make a stupid decision.

    I’m not copping out here, but it’s a wash. I think both are terrifying for different, but similar reasons.

    Also, holy crap. That signed Dawn DVD is epic.