Well, continuing with the horror genre theme for this month’s articles, I thought that I’d talk briefly about the zombie genre. In particular, why it is such an appealing genre to both the audience and to authors/film-makers/game developers etc… So, here are three of the many reasons why the zombie genre is so awesome:
1) A blank slate: One of the awesome things about zombies is that they can symbolise so many different things and, as such, are a surprisingly versatile type of horror monster.
Whether it is the fear of disease, the fear of death, the fear of mindless conformity, the fear of societal collapse, the fear of official incompetence in the face of danger, the claustrophobic dread of being trapped by hordes of zombies etc… Zombies can symbolise a whole host of different fears in a way that no other type of horror monster can.
So, zombies are something of a blank slate for horror stories. Although the genre has it’s own set of traditions and conventions (eg: fast and slow zombies, infectious zombie bites, “Destroy the brain!” etc…), both readers and writers of zombie stories can expect the unexpected when it comes to what the zombies actually mean.
2) Milder horror: Despite everything that I’ve said about how zombies can symbolise many different fears, they are one of the least frightening types of horror monster out there. After all, everyone knows what a zombie looks like, what a zombie apocalypse looks like and how the characters can fight or hide from the zombies.
In fact, the focus on both fighting back against zombies and/or finding convenient places to hide from them also helps to lessen the fear of this type of horror. After all, the characters can usually protect themselves against the horrifying threat they they face. So, the zombie genre tends to overlap with the thriller genre slightly and becomes more of a genre about courage, resourcefulness, strength etc… than about the kind of vulnerability that makes horror stories genuinely terrifying.
But, why would anyone want a milder form of horror fiction/movies/games? Well, simply put, sometimes people want to relax, to feel brave rather than frightened, to enjoy something in the horror genre without feeling nervous for hours afterwards etc…
3) Familiarity, creativity and simplicity: One of the strengths of the zombie genre is it’s relative simplicity. After all, most zombie stories involve a group of characters surviving a sudden and unexpected zombie apocalypse. It can be a giant world-ending one or a small-scale one. There can be an explanation for the zombies or it can be left mysterious. Whatever it is, zombie stories usually have a fairly similar premise.
But, why is this so appealing? Well, it is a type of instant no-nonsense drama. It is a familiar type of story that the audience can jump into without a long introduction, it is a challenge to writers to put an exciting new twist on a well-known formula and it is a type of story that comes with built-in suspense.
The best metaphor for all of this is probably either a Shakespeare play or a piece of classical music. In short, every performance of it will contain the same basic elements – yet the real creativity and fascination comes from how different people interpret the same thing. It comes from seeing what someone has done with something familiar.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂