Our disputant TJIC has this profoundly moronic observation on the walking dead:
slow old-school Zombies … are a lot less terrifying than the new-school type. You can just walk away, as long as there aren’t too many of them.
As a bridge leading to this story, recommended by our friends the Gormogons, on the topic of Haitian or "voodoo" zombies, which are really nothing more than drugged human beings enslaved to the will of another. The story is quite charming, as fantasy, and well worth your time if you're inclined to make light of such things.
To whistle while walking past humanity's grave.
True zombies, of course, are a different matter. The best depiction of such things in action comes from the films of George Romero, specifically Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (avoid the shoddy and inferior "remake"), and Day of the Dead, cautionary fables based in actual fact, concerning the remote but ever-present possibility of worldwide holocaust at the hands of the hungry dead.
The best blogpost I'll ever write was an attempt to discuss the true nature of the threat, and why it justifiably worries thinking people far more than such illusory whimsies as economic collapse or nuclear war:
Zombies, quite simply, cannot run, and in my perfect zombie apocalypse certainly do not. As a Pennsylvania sheriff put it, “They’re dead. They’re all messed up.”
When well made, zombie films are the gold standard in horror, and the gold standard in zombie films is the work of George Romero, whose first three films in the field, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead (which has undergone a critical reassessment after a poor initial assessment, an assesment that was always unfair) are among the best horror movies ever made. Romero’s work is set in our own world, but one where the dead have begun to walk for reasons never quite explained (a viral infection of the living which kills and reanimates, and radiation brought back by a space probe, a la H. P. Lovecraft but with man going to meet the things which should not be known rather than them coming to us, are suggested but never confirmed). Being dead, their brains are damaged. They have no rational thought, but they do have full use of the lower portions of the brain, which are all about aggression and hunger. So they want to eat us.
The terror these films inflict is not just because they feature graphic and disturbing images of cannibalism. Death carries its own terror, as does isolation. A world in which one is isolated among the dead carries the two worst fears, death and being utterly alone, to an extreme, as Richard Matheson’s short story I Am Legend, a 1950s vampire novella which is at the root of all of these films and which still packs a punch today despite the best efforts of Will Smith, attests. Romero, to the extent he improved on I Am Legend, did so by making its ideas explicit and by adding a jolt of social satire, which is quite evident if one can look beyond the gore.
But included within the fear of death is the fear of decay, the fear of aging run amock. Slow zombies, the dead that walk, don’t remember, don’t learn, embody the fear of aging as well as death. Recent remakes of Romero’s work, however, feature zombies who can run and can learn. They miss the point. A zombie that can run, rip doors off their hinges, and learn how doors work is not a reflection of our own fears about ourselves, and the future that awaits us all in which we consume ourselves if we’re lucky enough to live into ripe old age.
That was an attempt to discuss "zombies" (Romero, as with Coppola and "the family" in The Godfather, never used the term which made him famous; it was always "the dead," "ghouls," or simply "those things") in the context of cautionary fiction. Think of Dawn of the Dead as a 1950s industrial hygiene film on the consequences of unsafe use of bandsaws. Sure, the gory horror it depicts has not come to pass, yet, but it will unless we remain eternally vigilant. And even then, it probably will. All it takes is one slip.
In discussing this dire threat, I neglected to mention what distinguishes the living dead from other, more prosaic or even fantastic problems as the most worrisome facing humanity. When the dead walk, they won't need to run. They'll know just where to find us.
It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!
The Terminator (1984).
Have truer words ever been spoken? But of course James Cameron was writing a light-hearted fantasy about cyborg death machines from the future. We're talking about the real, here-and-now menace that everyone on the planet will be attacked by mindless corpses that have only enough humanity to know that they were once like us. That we have something they want, but cannot recover. That will not stop until WE ARE LIKE THEM! Until all of the earth is peaceful, and quiet, and dead.
It's silly to think that the dead can run. But it isn't silly to say they're "not scary" because they can't. It's criminal nonsense, and those dangerous nutcases who claim such, that we should ignore the problem because, "Oh, I could just walk away…" would be stoned in public squares if we ruled this country.
The dead can't run, but they don't need to. Because they walk. They walk to us. And they never stop walking. Or crawling, if need be. They know that we are not like them, and they are drawn to us. Inexorably. While they'll happily, if they have such an emotion, consume us skin and bone, all that it takes is one bite to kill us. The infection is irreversible. Better, in fact, that they did eat us entirely. Because the bitten die, only to rise and BECOME THEM!
And so the cycle renews. Many is the internet-tough-guy who's asserted, "Oh, I'll just walk away," only to find, hours later, that he could walk no further. That he could climb no further. And still they came, never tiring, never resting. And never going away, until finally, in despair, he dropped out of the tree, yielding to the inevitable. Until he (or what was left of him) was put down by citizens who took the threat seriously. Who didn't claim, "I'm not afraid because I can outrun them," only to find that they could just run so far. Who kept firearms on their persons, in their homes, in their offices, and in their trunks, at all times. Citizens who knew that one must kill the brain, so the body will die.
But one day, some ninny like TJIC will be caught, alone and defenseless, thinking he can just run. Or he can just climb that tree and wait. Then he will become two. Two will become four. Four will become eight. And the rest of us will learn the sorry lesson in mathematics that he failed to comprehend, until it was too late.
Have you cleaned and reloaded your firearms today?