This is a call out to Frank Darabont, a personal plea from me to him.
The first season of The Walking Dead came to a conclusion on UK terrestrial TV a few weeks back. Sitting back now, I can honestly say I enjoyed it; it was entertaining. But here’s the plea: Frank, please, MORE ZOMBIES!
I don’t say this because I am a fan of gore and viscera (although a disclosure: I am).
I’m not saying this because I’m some sort of horror genre fascist that only believes there is one true way to make a zombie movie (or mini-series in this case).
I’m saying this because, if you don’t have enough Zombies, it simply doesn’t work. Zombies aren’t like other screen monsters.
Vampires have strength, charm and intelligence. Werewolves have an unstoppable hunger and rage. Alien’s aliens are streamlined assassins. Alone, any one of these is a reason to be scared.
Zombies aren’t all powerful, on their own they’re not even particularly menacing. They simply shuffle around moaning until they rot and fall to pieces.
But, get a whole bunch of them together in a confined space and suddenly they are another matter altogether. It’s no surprise that the the two best scenes in The Walking Dead are those where we had a horde of the undead descending upon our survivors. In episode 1 our hero is riding through a deserted Atlanta, Georgia, on a horse he has appropriated from a nearby farm, when he rounds a corner to find himself facing row upon row of zombies. They turn and advance on him as a pack, desperate for flesh, eventually surrounding him whilst he hides underneath a tank. He escapes, but only just. I won’t tell you what happens to the horse, but I think you can guess. A few episodes later, the survivors are attacked in their camp with predictably gory results.
Why are these the best scenes from the series? Because implied threat spills over into actual violence, reminding you that these people are living in constant danger.
Zombie movies are rarely about the zombies themselves, they are usually human stories – love, loss, treachery, betrayal, hope, redemption. The zombies are the backdrop, the ever-present threat that pushes the intensity of these stories up an extra notch, that take them out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Shaun of the Dead is a romantic comedy, with zombies – what does it take to make you realise how much you love someone? Day of the Dead is about the conflict between science and violence, with zombies – it asks how should we solve our problems and which is the better route forward. And Land of the Dead is a story of class struggle, with Zombies.
The Walking Dead has the cast and the characters to generate enough storylines, but it also needs to remind us that they are not living in the safe, familiar world we are used to if it is to keep our attention.
So for that reason, for Season 2, please, MORE ZOMBIES!