Not all that long ago I reviewed the film Gangsters, Guns, and Zombies, and one of my complaints was how often a certain character named Muscles, who happened to be the muscle of the group just in case the name wasn’t clarification enough, enjoyed punching zombies in the face. It’s true he was reacting to moments when they’d been attacked by zombies and he didn’t have a weapon on him, but punching a zombie is almost guaranteed to have the same result as just letting them bite you, you’re most likely going to turn into a zombie. Punching someone in the face isn’t quite as pretty as it looks in the movies, oftentimes a person’s teeth will scrape your knuckles, or worse, you get to keep the tooth that’s now embedded into your fist as a keepsake. So, if a zombie passes on its virus through a bite, then popping said zombie in the mouth probably isn’t the best idea. It might seem like a good idea to get you out of a tight spot but taking a few seconds to find something else to hit a zombie with could mean the difference between escaping with your life or escaping only to become a zombie later. Yes, even a few seconds are valuable in that situation, but what’s the point of escape if you’re just going to turn later? I started thinking about this because I always overthink everything, it’s kind of a problem I have. You’re talking to the guy who had an issue with a tyrannosaurus rex using vines to swing himself over to a victim trapped within the same vines as the t-rex itself. In a film about a giant monkey that would be much too large to even hold itself up, let alone go on a rampage through New York City, my biggest complaint was that a dinosaur was shown to be much smarter than it should have been. My rotten mind has a funny way of focusing on minor details like that. Well, I started thinking about Muscle’s chosen method of defending himself against the undead and realized that it’s happened in more than a few films I’ve seen. This in turn got me thinking about all the things that happen in zombie flicks that annoy the hell out of me, things that are shown on either a consistent or at least somewhat consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, zombie films will always be my favorite horror subgenre, but there are some things that bug me each time I see them. Some of them are no doubt fun to see, others allow a zombie movie to do things it wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so I’m not saying they need to be taken out or that filmmakers should stop doing them, but they get on my nerves none the less. So please, allow this old zombie a bit of your time to unnecessarily bitch like a fan boy after any superhero movie comes out. Here, in no particular order, are my top five zombie film annoyances.
1-Zombie Blood –
This one you see in at least 75% of all zombie films. A person is attacked by the undead and either bludgeons them or starts shooting them at close range. The result is they end up covered in zombie blood, blood that is usually far too liquid for a creature that’s been dead for a while, but that’s not the point. I can bitch about how zombie blood should look like chocolate pudding that’s been left out too long another time. Anyways, this is diseased blood, the blood of a creature that died and has reanimated, yet there doesn’t seem to be any ill effects to being covered in it. Just bring a wet wipe to clean up your face and a bottle of water to rinse out your mouth and it’s all good. I know what you’re saying, “But what about rabies, you can get the blood from an animal infected with rabies all over you and still be fine.” Well little voice in my head, there’s a big difference between an animal and a walking corpse, the animal infected with rabies isn’t full of the kind of nastiness that builds up inside of a dead body. That doesn’t include any kind of disease that still might be present inside of the blood from when a person died either, nor the fact that bashing a person’s brain in is likely to transfer some of the grey matter onto you, grey matter that will undoubtedly carry the virus. At the very least, getting their insides all over your outsides is likely to make you sick, not to mention the stuff that might make its way in from open wounds on your body. Some movies address this issue such as 28 Days Later, but for most of them, you could bathe in zombie blood without worries. This is one of those annoyances that, despite how much it bugs me, I wouldn’t have any other way because it allows for some serious carnage. Have you ever seen Dead Alive, aka Brain Dead? The scene with the lawnmower is pure genius and had our hero been worried about how much blood he was going to get all over him it would have played out much differently. Is it fun to watch a horde of zombies get mowed down while the shooter gets covered in tons of blood? Absolutely, but it still annoys me.
2-Firearms Proficiency –
This one is common not just in zombie films, but in a whole host of movies in several different genres, especially action flicks. Pick up a gun and you’ll immediately be an expert with it, no problem. Shooting a firearm proficiently is a skill that takes years of training to hone, it’s not something you’re likely to pick up just because a situation requires it. Guns are unwieldly creations that, while one of the best defensive weapons available to you, have several drawbacks that only proper training can help you move past. While this is a complaint I have with several different movie genres, there is something that makes it even worse in zombie films, the headshot. Even those that are well trained in how to handle a firearm are usually trained in firing center of mass because, unlike a zombie, you pump several rounds into a living human’s midsection and they’re going down, the center of mass being much easier to hit than a person’s skull. In a zombie film however, no one seems to have any trouble putting a bullet right between a zombie’s eyes. I guess no one wants to see a person put several bullets into a zombie before finally getting a lucky headshot. I’d think most would want to see a zombie ripped apart by bullets, but maybe that’s just me.
3-The Shotgun and the Chainsaw –
I know this one is going to piss off more than a few Evil Dead fans considering these are the weapons of choice for a certain Necronomicon nemesis, but these two get far more credit than they deserve. Have you ever used a chainsaw? They’re a pain in the ass. Heavy and unwieldly, they’re great for cutting down large trees but not for defending yourself against a group of flesh hungry attackers. Not only is it going to be next to impossible to quickly take out several zombies, remember, just swinging wildly isn’t going to help you against a group of beings that can only be stopped by destroying the brain, but you’re more than likely to injure yourself or worse while using it. A chainsaw is also a heavy bastard, you’re going to get tired swinging it around very quickly. It does make for some brutal scenes though, I will say that. While a chainsaw is fairly useless as a weapon despite what the movies would have us believe, a shotgun does have its uses, it’s just that those uses are often times overstated. Who needs to worry about aiming when you can just point it in the general direction of a zombie’s head and pull the trigger? Actually you do if you want to make an accurate shot at the head of an oncoming zombie. It’s a common misconception that all you have to do is point and shoot to kill anything within ten feet of you, but they aren’t quite that accurate. If a zombie is within a couple of feet of you, sure, you could easily put it down, but if you have to wait till it’s that close anyways why not use another weapon that doesn’t require reloading? Still, they can be used in a pinch to quickly take out a zombie or two before running away, and a shotgun would come in handy if you needed to clear yourself a space. Aim for the center of a crowd of ghouls and, while you won’t kill them, you’ll at least knock enough back to give you some room to run. Shotguns do have a purpose, they’re just over rated. There are better weapons you could use. And while we’re on the subject of shotguns, an even bigger annoyance is people constantly cocking the damn thing, though this is an issue in any movie featuring a shotgun. Someone is always wanting to pump it in order to look cool. It’s an unnecessary and pointless action that actually just wastes an unused shell. I know it makes someone look all badass, but what would be more badass is a shooter using all available ammo instead of ejecting a perfectly good shell.
4-Biting Into a skull-
This isn’t as far ranging as one would think, but it has become an often talked about standard when it comes to the undead, one some filmmakers still choose to use. I have no issue with a zombie wanting to eat someone’s brain, but I don’t see them biting though a person’s skull to do so, use an object to break the skull maybe, but not bite into it. A human skull is a tough shell to crack, and while human teeth are tough themselves and your jaws are plenty strong, it’s not getting through a skull. Really it’s only a few zombie flicks that have done this though, Return of the Living Dead having popularized the idea back in the 80s, but somehow it became a major part of zombie lore.
You knew this one was going to have to be on the list. I’ve never hidden my preference for slow moving zombies, so it’s been brought up more than a few times and I don’t think I need to discuss it again. I wrote an entire article about my feelings, but if I’m making a list of my top five zombie film annoyances, you better bet I was adding fast zombies to the list. I won’t say it’s never been done in an enjoyable way, but it still gets on my nerves that a body going through rigor mortis is shown to be capable of such speed.
That’s my top five list, but it’s not entirely comprehensive. There’s my frustration when swords are used like they’re unbreakable god weapons, they actually tend to dull and then break pretty easily, zombies reattaching limbs by popping them back on in zombie films that feature a film from the zombie’s perspective, it takes a bit more than a nail gun to reattach a limb and get it working again, or zombies bleeding out of their mouths when they turn, maybe biting the tongue off is a side effect from time to time. I didn’t want to just go on and on about all the things that bug me in zombie films, so a top five of the biggest offenders seemed enough. It already seems like I must not enjoy zombie movies with the amount of space I’ve used solely to complain about them, but the truth is I love zombie flicks, they will always be my favorite type of horror movie, maybe even my favorite type of movie period, and if they were to listen to me and my complaints, zombie movies wouldn’t be as enjoyable as they are. I often find myself stuck on unimportant facts for ridiculous reasons, and I find many others doing the same. Maybe that spaceship didn’t work in a way that was at all realistic, maybe the hero didn’t need to put everyone in harm’s way so he could take out the bad guys in one big shootout, and maybe the zombie bleeding all over someone that was cutting him up with a chainsaw is the most overkill way to destroy a ghoul, but would we really have it any other way? I’d rather see the most over the top, completely inaccurate movie that was fun to watch than the down to earth, realistic flick that was boring and put me to sleep. It’s fun to bitch about movies, admit it, you do it as much as I do, well, maybe not as much, but a lot, and we all have our pet peeves when it comes to cinema, but we can’t forget that we don’t watch movies for their realism, we watch them for an escape from reality. Something that makes us dream or despair, cringe or smile, laugh, scream, or cry. As much as we need that escape into a world not our own, we also need a way to put cinema in its place, and that’s where our complaints come into play, and now that I’ve been able to air my complaints, I can go back to enjoying the skull chewing, blood filled fun of zombie cinema, fast zombies or slow zombies. Thanks for allowing this chap the opportunity to vent a little bit.
The Undead Review