So I’m a zombie fan. Well, the movies, not the creatures themselves. I have never gotten the fandom about them. They lack the personality of a vampire or the ferocity of a werewolf. A single zombie is pretty unimpressive. What works is the unstoppable sense of doom. That’s also why I prefer slow zombies to the newer, faster upgrades. When I see a character stuck somewhere and the zombies are slowly, slowly closing in, that is awful to watch. Death is inevitably coming, and taking its damn sweet time about it.
But what I really like about zombie movies is the breakdown of society. In that sense, zombies or mutants or cannibal humans – whatever it is that brings us down and sets us against each other – that’s what fascinates me.
Going back to zombies, however, I must declare a serious pet peeve of mine.
No one, no half decently aware human being, should be surprised by a zombie.
You see it all the time in films and shows, but it shouldn’t happen unless set in very specific circumstances. Zombies are not sneaky. They don’t see a human and start tiptoeing over. They grunt and groan on a regular basis. They stumble. They would also smell. I mean smell bad. They’re dead so that means an evacuation of the bowels has taken place, plus they are often rotting away. You should smell that bastard coming a mile off.
Okay, so there can be certain circumstances in which this would be overcome. For instance, if you were in a building which had a lot of dead lying about, the smell from them would blot out that of a single zombie. You could have a situation where there is a lot of noise to cancel out the stumbling stomping of the undead – such as the helicopter blades whirring in the Dawn of the Dead original. Trying to make your way through a world overrun by zombies, you would find yourself in moments of vulnerability to the usual warning signs.
Yet, if you were a survivor and fighter, tackling the every day dangers of a zombie-plagued world, you would soon learn to become more aware the more ways there could be for you to be attacked. If sound is blanked out by noise, keep an eye out. If the smell is overpowering, well, not sure how you could stand being near it but again, be alert. Essentially, if the senses that are your natural early warning system have any trouble, keep those peepers peeled. Even then, having sound and smell blotted out would be rare, and zombies are still stumbling buffoons. A human should not be sneaked up on unless they’re stuck in really bad circumstances or an idiot.
But the single zombie sneak up continues to be a thing. It bugs the hell out of me. I mean, I accept it. It is a cliched thing that is going to happen and keep on happening. It is a tiresome way of getting a quick scare. Just like the walking murderer somehow getting ahead of the running victim or the car that won’t start for no good reason. Even so, for some reason every time I see it my brain has to gripe. It just shouldn’t happen. It is a highly forced contrivance.
Oh, and so is the peripheral vision failure. That happens a lot in zombie movies too but also in other horror. A character looks one way, then another, then back and SURPRISE!! I mean, again, no way you don’t notice a zombie that close, but definitely you see it out the corner of one eye. Vampires can get away with it a bit, you might suspect there is something supernatural going on to make them stealthy, but it happens way too often.
Anyway, jump scares are annoying and it bugs me when they are forced on the audience in a dumb way. It isn’t anything to get worked up about beyond a random blog post, but if you do have a movie or tv show where a unlikely zombie sneak-up occurs, don’t expect me to feel for that character as they expire in your fictional post-apoc world. That character is either an idiot or you are lazy at your job. Perhaps both.