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Zombies and America

In the last few years, I’ve noticed a horror film trend. Zombie movies seem to have their own sub-genre now, and its content has become extensive in the last few years.

I recently watched a 2006 remake of George A. Romero’s classic “Day of the Dead,” and started to wonder why zombie movies are so popular these days. Some of the titles that have been released in the last few years include “28 Days Later” and its sequel “28 Weeks Later,” the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and “I Am Legend,” to name a few.

Here’s only a few that have been released since 2001: Biohazardous, 2001; Children of the Living Dead, 2001; Beyond Re-Animator, 2003; Blood of the Beast, 2003; Corpses are Forever, 2003; Bad Friend, 2004; Bone Sickness, 2004; Choking Hazard, 2004; Corpses, 2004; Dead and Breakfast, 2004; All Souls Day, 2005; Boy Eats Girl, 2005; After Sundown, 2006; City of Rott, 2006; Awakening, 2006; Awaken the Dead, 2007; Beneath the Surface, 2007; Brain Blockers, 2007; Days of Darkness, 2007; Dance of the Dead, 2008; and Dead Air, 2008. For a much longer list, click here.

c614e-dayofthedeadZombie films seem to have become more popular since Sept. 11, and I think there are several reasons why. The first is the threat of bio-terrorism. Many films like “28 Days Later” and the “Day of the Dead” remake are about countries or towns that have been infected by viruses.

While “28 Days Later” is about the chaos that erupts after an infected monkey spreads a deadly virus through England, the “Day of the Dead” remake is about irresponsible scientists who allow a bio-terrorism agent they were working on to get out of hand in a small town, ultimately infecting its citizens and turning them into flesh-eating zombies.

While the plots are generally pretty simple and straight forward – the dead walk the earth and seek to kill the living – zombie films do have underlying symbolic relevance to post-9-11 America. They are generally always about the annihilation of the citizens of a country or town. An outside force, the possible work of a foreign entity, invades a territory and, not only destroys its people, but turns them against one another, completing an apocalyptic vision of political doom.

Even the survivors in this horror scenario cannot be victorious or triumphant overcoming the monster. The end is bleak, and the drive to survive is only an animalistic response because the characters who do survive will ultimately be alone, confined and left to spend the rest of their potentially short lives on the defense.

Some have said that Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic “A Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has political undertones about the Vietnam war. It is a road trip horror film, and in an earlier post, I blogged about how I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve seen more road trip-themed horror films since the Iraq war began. Zombie films are also designed to capitalize on our modern-day political fears.

Got a comment? E-mail me at or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.


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