Friday, June 1, 2012


Ha.  Made you look.

Zombies--dead that rise and feast upon the flesh of the living, ghouls, to be more technically accurate--are all the, um, rage (as it were) nowadays.  From the recordbreaking ratings of The Walking Dead on AMC to the bestselling (and soon-to-be Brad Pitt cinema vehicle) World War Z by Max Brooks, way back to the effective progenitor of this "generation" of the genre, George A Romero's Night of the Living Dead (and its sequels, and the remakes of each)--what is it about these grisly creatures and their ghastly antics that so captures the imaginations of so many?

As I see the zombie story (we'll stick with the Z-word because that's the familiar term, right or wrong), it's all about nihilism.  Which is a 50-cent word that bears definition (credit American Heritage Dictionary):

nihilism [( neye -uh-liz-uhm, nee -uh-liz-uhm)]
An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false. The term is from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing.”

In a nutshell, that pretty well explains the ending of Night of the Living Dead.  (If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it.  But go see it.  Right now.  I'll wait for you to come back.  All done?  Good.)  I've embraced this... ethos, for want of a better word, wholeheartedly in my own zombie writing; first and foremost in my approach to the subject is that there are no happy endings, ever.

How can there be?  Think about it.  The world as we know it has been decimated (or worse) by whatever apocalyptic scenario it is that has brought corpses, I SAID DEAD FREAKING CORPSES, JESUS H TAPDANCING CHRIST DID YOU HEAR ME, shambling to life and eating the faces off your friends, neighbors, and family.

Many of these godawful undead face-eaters are, in fact, your friends, neighbors, and family.  And the only way to keep them from eating your face is to shoot them in the head, or whack them in the noggin with a machete, or otherwise do something nasty, gory, and devastating to what passes for a brain in what's left of their mouldering zombie skull.

Face it.  There's just no way this ends well.  The best one could hope for is to die peacefully in your sleep and then have your house burn down with you in it, before your remains rise to become one of the face-eaters.  How in the name of Harold Robbins did this sort of thing become the stuff of best sellers and big box office, anyway?

That's a darned good question, little one.  Why don't you go and ask your Mother?


  1. Thanks, great post there Lane! I disagree, though. I think the ending of Night of the Living Dead was incredibly bleak but Dawn of the Dead was equally fun for the fact that there's a sliver of hope, even if it's not as good as the next. Downer Endings are vanishingly rare, though, in horror and I think your philosophy does probably lead to good stories.

    My .02.

  2. Even with a sliver of hope, a world populated by zombies is still a world populated by zombies. Family's dead. World smells like a sewer, but . . . hey did we just bond over a dented can of corn? I'm thinking 'hope' is to strong a word to summarize the close of zombie novels or movies.