There are zombies everywhere these days. Not quite as many as there were at their peak in the Aughts, when it seemed like you couldn’t turn around without stepping in the latest zombie thriller, but they’re still everywhere you look. There are zombie movies, zombie books, zombie comics, zombie video games (oh, the video games!), and even a zombie TV show on prime time.
And – this pains me to admit, as a horror hound – for the most part, I don’t like ‘em. There are a few exceptions – Return of the Living Dead, both the original and remake of Night of the Living Dead, plus everything even remotely associated with The Evil Dead (though I would classify those more as demons than proper zombies) – but for the most part, zombies aren’t my thing. Part of the reason for this is that, like almost everyone else, I got zombied out back in the Aughts. As Special Effects go, zombies are cheap, and there was a while there when it seemed like everyone and their sister’s dog had talked their friends into putting on gray makeup and going out into the woods with a handycam to record their own steaming heap of brilliant social commentary.
The other part of it is that very social commentary aspect. Zombies are less monsters than they are a natural disaster. If the humans just kept their heads and worked together, they’d have nothing to worry about – but of course, they never do. The real monster in zombie fiction is us. The genre exists to showcase how stupid, cruel, cowardly, petty and bickering humans can be when put under pressure (and never mind how it ignores how brave, generous and ingenious we can also be under such circumstances). It’s a powerful message…once. Watching humans be horrible to each other can get tiresome when what you wanted was a fun creature feature.
What I do like is a story, in any medium, where the zombies are controlled by a greater force, be it a necromancer, a demon, an elder god, or an out-of-control A.I. You find this all over the place in video games, of course – need those end bosses, after all – but it’s surprisingly rare in movies. In fact, except for the Evil Dead series, which has the aforementioned blurring of the lines between demonic possession and proper zombies, the only movie I can think of that has its zombies controlled by a greater force is the 2006 film Slither. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, then, that Slither is one of my favorite zombie movies ever, and one of my favorite horror movies in general.