Zombie movies won't die, but maybe it's time they did?

Stefan Pape
Contributor
Iggy Pop plays a zombie in Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die (Universal)

Like the very creatures at the heart of zombie films, it's a genre that just keeps coming back.

Also like the walking dead, it's a rather difficult one to get rid of. The latest addition comes via indie darling Jim Jarmusch, who presents The Dead Don't Die; a comedically inclined, meta horror flick that affectionately satirises the archetypal zombie movie. Though boasting a cast that consists of Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Selena Gomez, the film abides by hackneyed tropes and tired, familiar concepts that makes us wonder if a break for this particular type of movie should be on the cards.

It has become a deeply saturated market, and the most striking thing of all is that many of the films that are entrenched in this cinematic stomping ground are actually quite good. For many filmmakers they're taking the hypothetical notion of an apocalypse and using it as a catalyst to explore a whole myriad of different themes, allowing the zombie film to flourish within other genres, like comedy, romance and science-fiction, exploring the notion that sometimes the best way to understand humanity, is to step away from it.

What a cast - Bill Murray and Adam Driver take on the leading roles in The Dead Don't Die

This contemporary resurgence could well be entwined with the modern landscape we seem so hellbent on destroying. As the planet suffers in our hands, perhaps maybe the fear of a zombie rising could be the trick to stop us using so much plastic, this apocalyptic idea of having to stock up on tinned fruit in case something awful happens, or that could just in preparation for Brexit.

Or maybe it's just because as a theme it evokes a variety of different emotions; there's the fear of being caught, the sadness from seeing a loved one after they turn, or just the more jovial aspect that derives from the traditionalist idea we have of zombies being slow and ponderous, allowing regular people – much like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – to take on the form of unlikely heroes.

The original poster for Edgar Wright's ZomCom Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead is a fine example of the sub-genre being used effectively, though with critical acclaim and box office success comes the inevitable slew of imitators, each trying to ride the same wave Edgar Wright had so triumphantly ridden. It became a strange phenomena to just start throwing in zombies into very real life – sometimes historical situations – playing with the idea of mundanity, and exploiting the fact that these cinematic villains are one of the least threatening. That's not to say they're not scary, but you'd get away from them at a brisk pace, a power walk, if you will.

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So we had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We've had Cockneys vs Zombies. How could we forget Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies? We even went and put pirate zombies into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in On Stranger Tides. We've seen Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and Romeo and Juliet spin-off Warm Bodies, starring Nicholas HoultAubrey Plaza was in Life After Beth, while Arnie took centre stage in Maggie. That's a lot of mediocre zombie movies.

The concept keeps changing - but the core theme stays the same. You can picture the board meetings at studio offices, with each opportunist producer bringing a new and unique angle. 'I have this idea of a new film, it's got zombies in it, BUT...'. Some are very good, there can be no denying that, and it feels somewhat unfair to declare this exhaustion at this overused narrative device when some filmmakers are exploring it in such resourceful, creative ways.

Rarely is London so quiet - a still from Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (Fox Searchlight)

From around the world we've had the terrific Korean film Train to Busan, while in Spain we were given the treat that was Rec.. Back on home soil Danny Boyle tried his hand in the genre with 28 Days Later, while more recently there's been the Gemma Arterton starring The Girl With All the Gifts, and fun high school musical Anna and the Apocalypse. There's even been very subtle, we-don't-show-zombies-but-we're-still-a-zombie-movie fare like The Cured, and the excellent indie It Comes at Night, starring Joel Edgerton.

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But if we want there to be a hiatus on the genre – which we do – it means sacrificing the good as well as the bad. But a break would just be ideal, to recharge our batteries and come back with a fresh frame of mind and kickstart the sub-genre, which certainly has a place in a contemporary cinematic landscape.

But sadly any such wish is not to be granted, for we've already got a couple of big zombie flicks on the horizon. There's the sequel to World War Z (if that ever actually transpires of course), starring Brad Pitt, as well as the return of Zombieland. Annoyingly two films we're actually quite excited to see, even if resenting their very existence.

Woody Harrelson, Jeese Eisenberg and Emma Stone make up the core cast of upcoming sequel Zombieland: Double Tap (Sony)

So maybe let’s start this break after these films are out. And this isn't us saying we don't like these films, we just feel we need a break. It's not you, it's me, etc. But that all being said, if you get rid of zombie films it would mean there are a lot of extras out of work, while semi-famous news readers we recognise from the telly will see their cinematic offers decrease quite significantly - and nobody wants that.

The Dead Don’t Die is out on 12 July