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Harry Hitchcock

on 14 January 2015

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by David, Harry & Cara
History of Zombies in cinema
Zombies have an inability to feel emotion or act on human desires and are described as a non literary monster. Humans have a fascination with the zombie as it is essentially ourself and it is the other. Zombies have been used as a metaphor for many things. They are used to challenge social and political order with their cataclysmic nature.

Pre-Medieval folklore in Europe told of the fear that those who died with unfinished business would awake from the dead to finish it or reap revenge on those who have wronged them.

"Many of these early stories described the dead that rose as being flesh eating, blood sucking creatures that looked dead. This is where there is a cross over between the zombie and the vampire. Vampires are also seen as the more sexual because they drink the blood rather than the zombies more basic desire to eat the flesh. Both have routes as resentful undead, but the vampire remains a clear 'top' to the zombies 'bottom'" - d elliot smith.

noun: zombie; plural noun: zombies
a corpse said to be revived by witchcraft, especially in certain African and Caribbean religions.

a shambling or running cadaver that spreads infection through bites. zombies have an inability to feel emotion or act on human desires and are described as a non literary monster. Humans have a fascination with the zombie as it is essentially ourselves and it is the other. Zombies have been used as a metaphor for many things. They are used to challenge social and political order with their cataclysmic nature.
Unlike the original zombies that originated in Africa that were controlled by a Voodoo shaman, the depiction of European zombies is that they have no master, except hunger. - Although there’s been some debate about if The Returned (2012) is explicitly a 'zombie' TV show, the first thing all of those who returned did was to eat food, and continue eating & one of the characters is stockpiling an armory of weapons which means there could be some kind of undead threat on the horizon. Similarly, 28 Days Later (2002) has been questioned as to whether it is a zombie movie as it involves a virus, however some of the original zombie stories are drawn from real life pandemics of diseases like leprosy so it comes under the same branch in a sense as they share the same destructive tendencies and the disease passes through bites - as does Resident Evil (2002).
Dir. Victor Halperin (1932)
As the stock market crashed and people fell into debt and out of their homes the zombies symbolized the powerlessness of the American workforce. Their new hell was a vision of unemployment lines full of blank-faced, expendable humans who had lost their individuality and increasingly, their will.
Dir. Jacques Tourneur (1943)
Dir. George A. Romero (1968)
Dir. George A. Romero (1978)
Dir. Lucio Fulci (1979)
Dir. Edgar Wright (2004)
Unlike the original zombies that originated in countries like Africa that were controlled by a Voodoo shaman, the depiction of European zombies is that they have no master, except hunger.
They hunt living human flesh which is similar to the depiction of zombies in many Hollywood & European zombie movies.
It's been 83 years since the first 'zombie' movie was released, White Zombie (1932), unless you count 1910's Frankenstein, when voodoo and zombie masters played a big role in the zombie movie.
George A Romero was the one who changed it all in Night Of The Living Dead (1968), where came about the introduction to the relentless cannibalistic free roaming zombies, who are killed when their brains are removed. These original masterless zombies are said to be a metaphor for the boom in capitalism and consumerism and the zombie has since evolved in meaning and temperament.
"The etymological roots of the monstrous imply a boundary space between human and non human...the Zombie transgresses this boundary, giving corporeal shape to all that is not spirit- the remainder of our humanity after the loss of a unique soul...thus the Zombie is an antithesis of our human identity (therefore monstrous)"

Kevin Alexandra Boon, ‘The ontological anxiety made flesh: Zombies in literature film and culture'
"Given the colonial history, the concept of enslavement implies that the peasant fears, and the zombie suffers, a fate that is literally worse than death – the loss of physical liberty that is slavery, and the sacrifice of personal autonomy implied by the loss of identity."

-Wade Davis
The zombie gives people a common enemy and allows them to come together and work as a commune as they face the threat that is essentially themselves and reinforces people’s humanity.
Italian film Zombie flesh eaters (1979) is one that sticks out as it takes the zombie back slightly to its voodoo roots but only touches on it slightly, but like Night Of The Living Dead, it was frowned upon for its extreme violence and one of the trade mark scenes, do to with eyes was removed from the UK cut of film.
Before Dawn (2012)
In the Flesh (2013)
Similarities: In The Flesh, Les Revenants, and other Euro Zombies
Themes (In The Flesh)
Nature of humanity in the face of threat

Depression, sexuality, & suicide
Metaphor how society treats mental health
HVF: The Human Volunteer Force is very similar to the idea of the Home Guard that came into action in the 2nd world war, only updated in the sense that women are also allowed to join. This has very strong connotations to the way rural communities come together in times of crisis and try to defend their own.
The Church: It's not uncommon for towns and villages in rural areas to still have a strong connection with the church - as everyone knows everyone, the church is the ideal meeting ground for socialisation in a sense.
The pub: this is common in many British produced film and tv shows, as it is seen as one of the things that make the British, British. It is a social environment and is part of the culture. This is very apparent in ITF as many of the HVF's meetings take place down the local.
North/South divide: more than once in ITF the 'bloody Southerners' are mentioned and it is apparent there is a large divide.
Isolation: as the town is very rural and out the way it makes it a perfect place for prejudice as there is very little diversity and is also very susceptible to attacks in various forms which makes the inhabitants more wary than most.
The Government: No one in ITF has a high opinion of the government and this is echoed in real life. They feel the government has let them down and allowed danger into their lives and there is a hatred there for that - and the way they dealt with the conflict before the rising ended.
In The Flesh is based on a real persons battle with depression and feeling like an outcast in a rural area.
concern with community & family in the wake of trauma
Tragedy changes structure of family
Camille’s return forces family to confront loss over again
Guilt of survival & difficulty with reconciliation

Camille’s presence is disruptive because she is a psychological zombie draining the lives of her family members; Just when her family is almost done with coping with their loss, she comes back like nothing ever happened even though people have moved on and changed.
1920’s flood killed many, and the victims are coming back to life in the forest.
(Suggests the town itself returning from the dead?)

1. Who do you perceive to be more inhumane; zombies or people?

2. What similarities can you spot between INF and Les Revenants?
Sexual Elements
Zombies are also seen as sexual objects in many things, in both The Returned and In The Flesh, humans are having sex with the deceased.
Russell: ‘Zombification- whether it’s turning men into slaves or women into sex objects- is closely linked with themes of powerlessness.
In the 70's the nudity represented in zombie movies was influenced by the popularity of pornography at the time.
Religion trying to question and oppose science happens rather frequently - always religious people who turn on the zombies despite the scientific community telling them its fine.
Surge in the popularity of zombies being re-integrated into society: Not just in European film, like In The Flesh and Les Revenants but films such as Warm Bodies (2013) and the American cartoon Ugly Americans (2010) which similarly to In the flesh shows regional differences in the acceptance of the partially dead, and how more suburban or rural locations have a stronger opposition to them.
Other Zombie Movies to consider:
Dead Snow (2009)
Shaun of the dead (2004)
Dead Set (2008)
Rec 2 (2009)
28 Days Later (2002)
Decay (2012)
Rammbock: Berlin Undead (2010)
Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
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