We are seeing zombies everywhere these days. And I’m not talking about people in cubicles grinding out an eight-hour work day while groaning “coffeeee.” I’m talking about rotting, flea-ridden corpses, bones cracking and popping, skin peeling like paper mache, rising from their much too shallow graves groaning “braaaiins.” I’m talking about zombies.
Having just wrapped up its third season, the zombie-based television series “The Walking Dead” currently holds the crown as AMC’s highest rated show, breaking new records with every finale. All across the country, a zombie themed 5K called Run for Your Lives continues to grow in popularity, now boasting over 20 locations for its 2013 tour. Zombie walks, in which the public is encouraged to gather, dress as zombies, and make their way around city streets and public places, have become more and more frequent.
Why do we love these flesh-eating creatures so much? Based on the description above they sound repulsive. What sane person would want to fight such a creature, let alone be one?
I’ll admit, this question has been posed before and there are several theories that might explain our obsession with the undead. Many argue that zombies represent everything that we are afraid of but feel helpless to do anything about, that they give us an outlet for facing those fears. Still others would have us believe that zombies represent our rampant consumerism. Or that the zombie apocalypse can provide us with a more honest, albeit over the top, assessment of the world we live in.
These are all great arguments and none of them are wrong. But I think people often miss the most important thing about zombies. They’re just fun. If you want to kill werewolves you’ll need some silver bullets and you’d better know what you’re doing. Hunting vampires? It’s still going to take a wooden stake to the heart or some sunlight to finish the job. In most stories hunting vampires or werewolves is not an occupation you just sort of fall into. It’s a destiny or a calling.
But zombies? Pick up anything from a weed-whacker to a two-by-four with a nail sticking out of it and you’re in the zombie-killing business. It’s not about skill; it’s about style. Slaying zombies is a messy, blue collar job that any one of us could take part in. It’s all the fun of monster killing without the rigorous years of training. That is what’s great about the zombie genre. It’s all about possibilities with very few limitations. Zombies can be fast and terrifying as they were in the film “28 Days Later,” or they can be slow shambling hordes as in “The Walking Dead.” This allows them to be scary or hilarious. Sometimes both. With zombies, there’s something for everyone.
And the best part? The fun never ends. Take Humans vs Zombies for example. This is a massive game of tag invented in 2005 at Goucher College that is now played on campuses all over the country. Students here at Keene State College organize its own annual game of Humans vs Zombies that is free to play and open to the entire campus.
“Human” players are armed with Nerf guns, which they use to fend off the “zombie” players. If human players are tagged by the zombie players, they continue playing the game except now they are operating as zombies.
Zombies are one of the only horror creatures that offer this unique system where you can be tagged or “killed” but the adventure doesn’t end. All that has changed is your objective and possibly your appetite for warm fleshy brains. And what’s more fun than hunting down your friends and “infecting” them too? Like a virus loosed on the world by a careless government research lab, the zombie craze has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity for over a decade now. When this rise will reach its peak is anyone’s guess but as long as it continues to be so much fun to watch zombies, kill zombies and be zombies, these flesh-eating stalkers of the night will never disappear.
Zach Pearson can be contacted at