suntimes
SCATTERED 
Weather Updates

Who put the zzz’s in zombies?

Updated: October 29, 2012 10:40PM



If you were near the Dana Hotel in Chicago last Friday night, you saw them. Zombies everywhere!

They Flash Mobbed. They danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” They snarled and growled.

And yes, they hopped around to “Gangnam Style.”

Meanwhile, in San Diego, a security firm is gearing up for an Oct. 31 zombie attack.

Well, a simulated zombie attack.

“This is a very real exercise, this is not some type of big costume party,” says Brad Barker, president of Halo Security, which is conducting the training exercise.

From the AP: “Hundreds of military, law enforcement and medical personnel will observe the Hollywood-style production of a zombie attack as part of their emergency response training.”

This on the heels of the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for how to prepare in case of zombie attack, and the Homeland Security Department issuing a release saying “The Zombies are Coming!” and telling us if we’re prepared for a zombie attack, we’re prepared for real-life disasters and emergencies.

OK.

Zombie Mania shows no signs of subsiding. You see “zombie” references everywhere. On Halloween, SAG-AFTRA is holding a “Zombie Lurch” in Los Angeles to protest Prop. 32, which it terms “a direct assault on unions.” College kids are still playing Humans vs. Zombies (it’s basically an elaborate game of “Tag, you’re it!” with a zombie theme). Zombie video games are hugely popular and, of course, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is trampling the competition.

I get it. It’s fun to dress up as a zombie or dance as a zombie or pretend you’re a zombie-killing hero.

But I still say zombies suck at being scary.

We get it ­— you want to eat us

Zombies never learn.

I suppose that’s because they’re zombies and they seem to lose the ability to process any kind of information once they join the ranks of the Living Dead. But still, that inability to adapt is what makes the zombie such a predictable monster.

Think of the vampire, who started off as a bloodsucking night creature who roamed castles deep into the night, wearing his couture outfits and speaking in a formal tone as he searched for a neck to bite. That guy was kind of a stiff.

But today’s vampire glistens in the sun, romances humans and even has his own government and society and sets of rules. Some of them are more sociable and accessible than many a human neighbor. Every time Bella visits that Cullen family in the “Twilight” movies, their sprawling, beautiful home looks like it was just featured in Architectural Digest.

The zombies of 2012 seem no more advanced or complicated than the zombie of the late 1960s. Human dies, human transforms into zombie, zombie starts growling and snarling while shuffling along in search of human flesh on which to feed. You never see a zombie movie or TV show in which the undead huddle around in their zombie hideout, plotting their next attack on human prey. (“Let’s wait until they get to the farm house, then we’ll walk VERY SLOWLY across the open field and we’ll just keep on walking even if they start picking us off one by one! Who’s with me!”)

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is racking up enormous numbers in its third season, and I count myself among its legions of fans. But as is the case with nearly every great zombie saga, the zombies are the least interesting element of the equation.

It’s all about the dynamic between the humans, who often turn on each other as they scramble for food and shelter between wonderfully gruesome confrontations with the undead. Occasionally a zombie will pick off a character (you have to be particularly wary of the seemingly dead zombie near your feet!) or a swarming horde of zombies will overwhelm a good guy who gets separated from the pack, but there hasn’t been a single interesting zombie character on “The Walking Dead” and there probably never will be.

Forgive me if I’m unaware of some form of zombie fiction in which the undead are more advanced. I can see e-mail now: “I can’t believe you don’t know about the cult graphic novel series, ‘Zombies Among Us!’ It’s about a world in which some zombies have learned to curb their appetites, modify their growling and even speak again. They’re working in offices, at schools, even in government agencies, infiltrating from within!”

Silly as that premise may be, I’ll take it over yet another scenario in which the zombie is a snarling mass of stupidity just begging to be put out of its misery.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.