For the past several years, there's been a serious debate raging on between zombie fans. Some feel the slow moving zombies that Romero brought to life are the only true zombies, while others feel the faster moving incarnations, such as those seen in the Dawn remake, are much more terrifying and menacing. Today, Z For Zombies' Zach Shildwachter (a zombie expert of sorts) joins the Romero Week fun to settle this debate once and for all. No matter which side of the coin you're on with this one, I think what Zach's about to tell ya will make you understand that nobody is wrong when it comes to this issue.
(Zach with his zombified girlfriend, Eva. Clearly, Zach loves him some zombies!)
George Romero has gifted to the world one of my favorite genres of horror ; Zombies. This bespectacled behemoth has utilized the walking dead to express his views on politics, consumerism, and the state of human nature when confronted by crisis better than any director before him and has forever changed the art of filmmaking by doing so. The underlying principal behind the fear he’s constructed is not some masked slasher, but rather the fear of what lives next door. The fear is that the ones we know and love can turn on us and commit unspeakable horrors. It is then up to us to destroy them or die trying. From this moment the instinct to survive becomes paramount, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can trust the living either.
People love to battle zombies and follow along because death trumps all social moirés when faced with the walking dead. If they’re infected, you can lay devastation to man, women, and child without blinking an eye at the repercussions. You can loot and pillage and rebel against cultured society because it’s you against them. No other genre of film is more rock ‘n roll. Might makes right as survival of the fittest is proven before your very eyes. In a zombie apocalypse, there’s no need for material possessions, nostalgia, or a dead end job, only what gets you through to see the next day. With a little luck and some preparedness, you can actually survive the night, which is the first glimmer of hope in the horror genre.
When I was asked by Johnny Boots to contribute to Romero Week I knew there would be no way I could compete in his contributions of film critique, cultural significance, or unknown trivia from one of the Godfathers of Gore. What I could offer was my own zombie survival plan, listing an inventory of supplies and weapons, share my blueprint for building a proper fortress, and map out the ways to move about and regroup with fellow survivors. But I say screw that, if you’re not prepared for what’s coming, it’s your own fault. My survival plan is the only reason people keep me on speed dial. I have to personally thank George Romero for having any friends at all.
What I can offer is my patented zombie theory that will finally settle the debate of slow versus fast zombies and the behaviors they exhibit.
Upon transmission of the agent that causes re-animation, the victim expires, whether it’s from the infection itself or another mortal wound. I believe the agent stems from a strain of bacteria that can live within dead tissue versus a virus that exists through a host. This explains the transmitting of infections in methods outside that of a bite. As with most deaths, the body loses control of involuntarily controlled functions like pulse rate and breathing. This accounts for the vacating of the bowels, blood starting to pool and coagulate, etc. The brain immediately releases all of the stored adrenalin and dopamine as well. This explains why the recently deceased are able to run and exhibit such strength when they return as the living dead.
As rigor mortis sets in, the body depletes its lifelong stored amounts of previously mentioned chemicals. With no dopamine to combat the effects of continuous pain, (i.e. physical deterioration, body mutilation, etc,) the last semi functioning organ, the brain and the central nervous system, is riddled with an overabundance of pain. The brain is overtaken by the amount of stimuli and the constant firing and relaying of neurons that the other body systems would normally regulate. This sensory overload causes the body’s synapses to function in ways they were never designed to accommodate. This explains the moaning and hunger for brains to replenish dopamine levels to offset this imbalance, which has been often mistaken for physical hunger. This is particularly exemplified in subjects that display the complete lack of a digestive system.
With the onset of rigor mortis, the limbs stiffen, impeding movement and creating the ambling shuffle. Thus fast and slow zombies are one in the same. The forgotten variable in any crisis situation is time, though many constantly refer to it in gestation of the agent to those newly infected. From the time of infection to a recorded attack can offer a plethora of contingencies that determine the type of zombie one might encounter.
It should be noted that though the brain is infected it serves as it did before infection. That is to say memories can be recalled and skills remembered. Zombies will migrate to settings from their former lives in an attempt to fulfill their unrelenting hunger. A cognitive communication between zombies is capable in their efforts to communicate nearby sources of fresh brains and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way. This includes the use of tools and other associated motor skills. This also accounts for the need to gather into a collective, travel as a herd and hunt as a pack. Ultimately the zombies will continue to exist until their bodies completely deteriorate or the brain is destroyed in their quest to stop the pain of their unholy existence.
I have to thank the bearded one, Johnny Boots, for giving my voice a platform to be heard, but I owe the biggest thanks to George Romero for giving me something to say. His effect on cinema and horror will live on longer than anyone that will read these words. I just hope you’re as prepared for the inevitable as I am, I suggest you study up on the master’s efforts.
So ya see, the only difference between fast and slow zombies, according to Zach, is time. Armed with this knowledge, is there really anything left to debate about? Can we all now just sit back with a cold one and enjoy zombie flicks without fighting about the way the filmmaker chose to depict the undead?
Thank you Zach for your incredible, and very smart, insights.