A few years back, I wrote an essay for my Film Genres class. Being the Zombie obsessed person that I am, I decided to write a novel about the merits of Zombie films. Let’s make this clear, I understand that there are a lot of really bad zombie movies. There are also some that are on a different level. If World War Z had been out when I wrote this essay, I’m certain it would have made the list.
My essay discusses the various roles that various forms of governments play in Zombie films. I am only going to post the latter half of this essay which focuses on the case studies and not the analysis of the Zombie film as a genre. Maybe if there is a decent response I will post the entire thing.
Here you go!
The Films and Governments
Fido (Currie 2006) is set in a society after the post-apocalyptic zombie spread, with a re-established social order. Resembling a 50s society, with zombie pamphlets replacing atom bomb prep pamphlets, life is simple and orderly within the community. However, right outside the borders of the established town lays a vast wasteland of zombies. Within the borders Zomcon acts as both a replacement government and providers of ‘controlled’ zombie servants. There is no mention of the government that existed before the gated community of Willard because Zomcon has taken control thanks to its resources.
Zomcon as a government is of no use to the well-being of the people when in a crisis. Zomcon’s use of neck braces that are designed to keep zombies in check, making them useful for household chores, backfires. It becomes a symbol of status to have one of the controlled zombies working within one’s household. When an outbreak occurs, the military forces sweep in and put an end to it relatively quickly, but Zomcon continues to allow the use of zombie braces. While the zombie apocalypse endures outside of the walls of the gated community, Zomcon brings the dangerous beings inside for their own monetary profit. Zomcon’s concern with the safety of the community is thus secondary to the ability to make money off of the situation.
Shaun of the Dead (Wright 2004) is a comedy modeling itself off of the works of George Romero. Similar to many zombie films the characters that are still amongst the living have the first main goal of finding loved ones, which Shaun does find his girlfriend, Liz. The next main goal is to remain safe while they wait for the government to come and save them. Most of the action occurs as they travel from location to location attempting to avoid zombies. It is only once Shaun and the gang, seek refuge in Shaun’s favorite pub, The Winchester, does all hell break loose before the government arrives. When the government arrives, after nearly the whole group has died except Shaun and Liz, their appearance is done in full force as a bus plows over zombies. Military, in this instance, overpowers the zombies firing wildly into the horde and attacking. The military force of the government is able to reestablish society, with Z-Day “little more than a bad dream”.
The government’s ability to reestablish society to its previous state, with the exception of zombies used for menial labor and entertainment, is based in the film’s satirical and romantic roots. As a satire of the zombie genre it has to be considered that the fact that society returns to relative normalcy is to reverse the idea that in non-satirical works society is lost. This same theory applies directly to the arrival of the military to save the group at the end. The military would not be coming to the aid of a group of survivors in a local pub, at least without an ulterior motive. Instead the government would be positioned in various locations such as hospitals and schools because of the increased protection and ability to house more people.
28 Days Later (Boyle 2002) presents one of the grimmest views of how those with governmental control can become corrupt when unregulated. By the time the group consisting of Jim, Selena, and Hannah meet the military, the military has reached insanity. Major Henry West leads his group of soldiers and provides safety and leadership, but his ideas of fixing the zombie situation display his inhumanity and inability to really help anyone. West keeps an infected soldier chained up in a courtyard to observe how the infected work and to see what will happen. It is the position that West held before the outbreak that granted him the ability to pull rank and control the group of soldiers at his base.
In this instance government is not providing aid to civilians, but using the rank they previously held in an established world to gain control over citizens. It puts those who should be capable of helping others in the position to help only themselves. Civilians are exploited for the twisted needs of the government. Major West was willing to use the female civilians to repopulate, while males were useless. This corruption of the leaders is a representation of people’s primal instincts to put their own needs above those of the group. However, West tries to mask his corruption by implying that raping the girls will be necessary for repopulation.
Land of the Dead (Romero 2005) is a prime example of how even civilians who held power before the apocalypse can become those who are in control after. The entire film focuses on how the rich people remain holed up in a high rise in downtown Pittsburgh and fund the expeditions to supply the area. Meanwhile the everyday citizens were forced to live on the edge of the community right next to the border. The wealthy are in control and only care about benefitting themselves, as they live luxuriously and the poor live in a shanty town.
The wealthy elite within Pittsburgh serve as the government that gave greater amenities to grunts who serve as a new military force. The new military takes on the responsibility not of protecting the people, but for scavenging for supplies. The new regime has a vast disparity in the living standards of the people within the safe-zone in the downtown area. The government is not prepared for further attack by zombies and believed that surviving for a couple of years meant that they had established a safe way of living. When the dead finally breach the city the government and its military do not know how to properly respond despite having known the threat that rested at their door. The people who ruled the city become victims to the zombies as retribution for not aiding the people as they should.
The government within the world of Resident Evil it examines the way some major corporations have such a heavy hand into the government. Umbrella Corporation is the inventor of the T-virus, which is the cause for the death and reanimation of zombies, and knows the only successful way to combat and avoid the spread. In Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Witt 2004) the government is forced barricade Raccoon City in an attempted to contain the virus within the walls, but Umbrella Corp had little help for containment and moved to extract important civilians. It becomes clear that the government has no intention of helping those who are trying to flee the city, even its own soldiers, only those who Umbrella Corp deem worthy can leave.
The military branch of the government fails to help civilians, despite efforts made, because they do not have the necessary resources to survive like Umbrella Corp does. In the evacuation scene, the military is seen manning the only exit out of the city to control the exit of medically cleared civilians. A young girl’s father dies at the gate and havoc breaks loose amongst those around them. When the military notices what has happened, they immediately stop the evacuation process. As a result, every person waiting to escape and have a chance at life becomes enraged, but the government can do no more without spreading the infection outside the city limits. The infiltration of Umbrella Corp into the government is extreme. The forces that man the barricade are being led by an Umbrella Corp operative. Meanwhile, the scientist is to be evacuated from his home via helicopter on special order from Umbrella Corp. It is the Umbrella Corp military that is sent in to try to clean up the mess in the city, while US government men, police and others, are left in the dark.
In The Walking Dead pilot, “Days Gone By” (Darabont 2010), the complete ineffectiveness of the government and its forces are clearly displayed. As the world falls to the zombie epidemic, Rick Grimes, a former deputy, awakes in an abandoned hospital from a serious injury. As he makes his way outside he sees right on the grounds of the hospital is filled with abandoned military forces including a helicopter and vehicles. After Rick meets Morgan and his son Duane, Morgan informs him there may be a refugee center in Atlanta. In a trip to Rick’s old station for weapons, he witnesses a former deputy who had turned to a zombie. In that moment it becomes clear that even those who were meant to protect have succumbed to the new horrors of the world. The idea of the protectors failing to protect is solidified when Rick arrives in Atlanta to find everything in complete disarray. Amongst the rubble and abandoned vehicles Rick sees an abandoned tank with a dead soldier being pecked at by a crow. After encountering a small horde of zombies Rick ends up inside the tank, only to have to kill the sole inhabitant, a zombie soldier.
The government’s military forces in “Days Gone By” were completely overrun and could not act as the protective force they were meant to do. The government run refugee center falls almost immediately to the hordes of zombies. Military personnel are looked upon as so ineffective that all are dead, with only two policemen surviving. One of the policemen, Shane, despite living in the wild for a month still maintains that staying near the city will be better when the government comes through. His status as a policeman helps the other campers to believe what he is saying, even if they doubt any help from the government any more. All that the campers have is hope that the government will save them. While, we know nothing of anywhere else in the world, the Atlanta region has become devoid of all human life within a month, despite feeble military efforts within the city.
The role of the government in these films is tragically flawed. Either the government uses the events to their own personal advantage or they are incapable of protecting. When comparing the way the government is portrayed in the films to the relevance of what a government may do in real life, the audience is forced to think about what would happen. Each film gives a different perspective to government’s ability to be effective and their possible motivations. While, zombie films do not explicitly claim that the events that occur in the film serve as a direct representation of what would happen in a more plausible situation, they do bring to light some flaws of the way governments and the people behind them.
Each of the discussed films follows the syntax and semantics of zombie films while highlighting the inefficiency of the government in such situations. As far as syntax each film includes an allegorical commentary on society that forces the audience to think. They also evoke a sense of fear that comes not from zombies but from being helpless and having to fear both peers and government. Each film also displays the semantics of zombie films which are not as important for making a zombie film what it is. They contain hordes of undead zombies attacking anything that lives, a seemingly fearless leader that a group of people look to for providing safety, one group member who is doubtful and causes for trouble, and the hope that there is someone out there that knows how to fix everything that has happened. Zombie films effectively present their own unique set of semantics and syntax that separate the films into their own genre.