The Big Issue : Edition 508
16 THE BIG ISSUE 29 MARCH – 7 APRIL 2016 I Walked With a Zombie (1943) White colonial anxiety is writ large in this atmospheric tale of illicit love and voodoo on a small Caribbean island. Frequently referenced in film and television, it has no flesh- chomping undead, yet still manages to unsettle. Night of the Living Dead (1968) This low-budget, black-and-white film wrote the rulebook for modern zombie cinema. Although the gore is tame by today’s standards, there are moments aplenty of genuine horror, as well as penetrating observations on the race and gender divisions in late 1960s America. Zombi 2/Zombie (1979) Falsely marketed in some countries as a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, Lucio Fulci’s cult classic features maggot-infested zombies, lashings of gore and a zombie fighting a shark. Not for the faint-hearted. 28 Days Later (2002) Although mostly completed before 9/11, 28 Days Later directly tapped into the unease and fear following the Twin Towers attacks. A compelling examination of contagion, and its fast zombies are genuinely terrifying. Shaun of the Dead (2004) The end of the world meets Gen X ennui. Simon Pegg’s film pays homage to the greats of zombie cinema, while delivering laughs. The film influenced a wave of zombie slacker films, such as Zombieland (2009) and Cockneys vs Zombies (2012). by Andrew Nette Night of the Living Dead spawned countless screen imitations, including myriad European incarnations, many of which have their own chain of sequels. The best-known of these is the Spanish- Italian co-production, The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue (1974), in which two people are unwittingly implicated in murders committed by zombies brought to life by a machine designed to kill insects. Former medical student turned director Lucio Fulci’s graphic Zombi 2 (1979) or Zombie, as it was released elsewhere, was set on a Caribbean island where the dead coming back to life feast on human flesh. Zombies lumbered into the 80s in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), which fused zombies with demonic possession, and Dan O’Bannon’s punk influenced Return of the Living Dead (1985). Best known for its zombie cry “More brains!” the contagion in O’Bannon’s film is unleashed by incompetent workers at a medical supply warehouse, who accidently release a toxic gas that causes the dead to rise. Zombies also enjoyed mainstream star power in the 13-minute clip for Michael Jackson’s song ‘Thriller’ (1982), in which the singer appeared as a member of the undead. The zombie was largely dormant in 90s cinema before returning at the start of the new century in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Released in 2002, it sees the remnants of London’s population defending themselves against hordes of former humans infected with a rage- inducing virus, and introduced a crucial innovation – the fast zombie. In an even darker sequel, 28 Weeks Later (2007), the US army has secured the United Kingdom and contained the rage virus, only to see it mistakenly released again. Two latter-day zombie films of note are Shaun of the Dead (2004) and World War Z (2013). A zombie romantic comedy – or “Zom Rom-Com”, as some critics termed it – Shaun of the Dead’s lead character is an unambitious man who must attempt to win back his girlfriend while fighting the undead [see ‘My Word’, p11]. World War Z involves a former UN worker (Brad Pitt) who embarks on a globetrotting race against time to find the cure for a zombie plague that threatens to obliterate humanity. One of the biggest grossing films of 2013, it is based on a bestselling novel by Max Brooks – whose first book, The Zombie Survival Guide, was a fictional do-it- yourself guide to surviving a zombie contagion (“No place is safe, only safer”). Buckingham believes the fluid nature of what the zombie represents explains its survival across eras and cultural forms. “The less fixed a monster is, the more it can transform to fit the zeitgeist without losing its essential identity,” Buckingham argues. It has been able to move from ethnographic curio, to flesh- eating monster, to comedic accessory in films like Shaun of the Dead. Nelson looks at the creature in a more pointedly political context. “Zombies embody our fears and anxieties, and they take on specific meaning in relation to a critique of capitalism,” she says. “They’ve replaced Frankenstein as the ultimate proletarian monster...they are metaphors for a society rotting away from within, rather than being preyed on from without.” The zombie as a manifestation of extreme capitalism is most usually present as the reason behind the contagion. In 28 Days Later, the virus is developed in a private medical research laboratory and released when unsuspecting animal rights activists break in to free chimpanzees being Five Films That Spawned the Undead BELLA HEATHCOTE KICKS ZOMBIE BUTT AS JANE BENNET IN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.