Fast or Slow?

August 14, 2009

It’s time to address a topic that is tearing us apart. Two separate and opposed camps have emerged from this, each convinced that their side is right. No, I’m not talking about health care, Iraq, or even Supreme Court justices. No, I’m talking about the national debate on our movie zombies*: fast or slow?

For many of us, the zed word conjures up images of slow, moaning, shambling grease-painted ghouls that are, as Johnny aptly pointed out, “Coming to get you, Barbara.

But nowadays, we’re subjected to a slew of films with the new “track star” zed-word (TSZ for short). You know the ones. 28 Days Later (Which, technically isn’t a zed-word film, since the monsters are not actually dead, just infected humans, but it’s a cool film and I happily group it in with the other Zed-word films), 28 Weeks Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake (don’t get me started on Zack Snyder!), and a whole bunch of really bad straight-to-DVD flicks all have the fast zed-word. Each has a scene where the Protagonist comes around the corner, the TSZ’s spot him, stretch their quads, and then take off like Olympic sprinters goosed up on ‘roids. These stampede sequences can best be described as Dante’s view of the Boston marathon. Really? Is this supposed to be scary? Dying ‘cause you’re not fast? If you want to make a movie where your characters get killed in a stampede, make a monster-bull movie, not a zed-word movie. (Coming soon from Toxic Bag Productions – Stampede: “Here’s the beef”)

What in the name of George A. Romero is going on?

I fail to see where the fast zed-word is scarier than the slow variety. In fact, I’ll argue the other way: the slow zed-word is infinitely scarier than the fast. In the 1990 remake of Night the un-catatonic Barbara begs Ben to leave the house with her, stating “They’re so slow. We could just walk right past ’em and we wouldn’t even have to run. We could just walk right past ’em.” Yes, they’re slow. Yes, they’re uncoordinated. Yes, they’re the supernatural version of the Keystone cops. But isn’t that the whole point? They are all of those things…and they’re still going to eat you. From a distance, they are unthreatening and comical. But once they get close, and grab hold, most of the humor goes away as you become the lunch special.

Oh, and don’t try and bring up 1985’s Return of the Living Dead. Yes, I’m familiar. Yes, I’m aware that it had fast zed-words. In fact, not only did that film have fast zed-words, it had fast, talking, funny zed-words. See, director Dan O’Bannon took all of the Zed-word standards and turned them on their ear. First, it was a comedy. Second, the zed-words aren’t destroyed if you hit the brain, third, they can talk, and fourth, they’re not slow, but slippery fast. All of those elements combined with a tight script and a game cast made a truly underappreciated zed-word film, and one of my faves of the genre. And the kick-ass soundtrack? Bonus.

Then again, what do I know?

* Saying the Zed word is prohibited because it’s ridiculous.

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