I know it’s not actually funny. It’s actually sad and tragic and awful, an indictment of our entire mental health/homelessness conundrum. But when I read the news reports about the homeless guy in Miami who was eating the face of another homeless guy, my first thought was: the zombie apocalypse is upon us.
The Center for Disease Control has been all over this story. They even issued an official statement denying the existence of zombies. They pretty much had to: just two weeks earlier, they’d issued a tongue-in-cheek memo on zombie apocalypse preparedness. But then came the Miami attack, as well as the grad student at Morgan State who ate his roommate. So the CDC figured they’d better come clean–officially now, according to the CDC, there’s no such thing as zombies. Good to know. No word, yet, about werewolves. And I’m up nights wondering what the US Equestrian Federation thinks about unicorns.
Although I’m a major zombie fan now, once I was generally more attracted to vampires. Both seem like subconscious attempts to cope with the fear of death. As Christians, we believe in eternal life–vampires are the anti-Christian response. Not eternal: undead. Vampires, though, are elegant, sophisticated. Traditionally, they live in castles, with servants. And there’s something decadently sexual about vampires–they bite the necks of their victims, participate in a kind of sanguinary orgasm: blood spurting, erupting in geysers.
Vampires are aristocrats: zombies, the proletariat. They swarm–they win by weight of numbers. Zombies are theologically a half-resurrection. Christian belief posits a bodily resurrection, but perfected bodies; we all get to be 25 again, and skinny. But zombies are our bodies in an advanced state of decay. We’re not able to do much–we shamble, and what we want is knowledge: we want brains. But presumably a mostly decayed brain doesn’t retain much–zombies are also pretty stupid; one track mind monsters trying to feed. Vampires make plans, plot, out-think their adversaries. Zombies just attack, blindly.
For that reason, vampire movies are sort of sexy-scary, while zombie movies are more funny-scary. The all-time classic zombie movie, The Night of the Living Dead, went for gross-out scary comedy, and the very graphic body parts in it inspired lots of learned commentary in the ‘can this be good for our kids?’ vein. I was twelve when it came out, but it was re-released a few times later, and I remember reading an op-ed piece by, I think, George Will, opining that this movie Went Too Far. Well, heck, you know I had to see it then. But I didn’t think it was all that scary. Zombies lurched too much to be a real threat.
But then came 28 Days Later, in which zombies were basically scary-fast track stars, and Shaun of the Dead, which walked the scary/funny tightrope beautifully, and Zombieland, with that great cameo by Bill Murray, and Dead Snow, a Norwegian students-in-a-cabin zombie flick with Nazi zombies, and Will Smith’s I am Legend, where I guess they’re sort of zombies he’s killing, and Robert Rodriquez’ great B-movie spoof, Planet Terror, and both the old and new versions of Dawn of the Dead. There are a lot of them, and I’ve seen most.
I still haven’t seen The Chernobyl Diaries, but will, probably with my daughter. Our thing is watching scary movies together, and why not? Some families garden, others play tennis or golf, others play family flute recitals. We watch people getting their brains eaten by half-decayed zombie monsters. It’s who we are.