'Zombies, Man... They Creep Me Out!'
A View from Here of the Current Zombie Epidemic
Where did this lovable epidemic come from?
When I was a kid in the late 80s, early 90s, I loved horror films. In fact, they were an extension of who I was as a kid. I saw my first horror film at four years old (yes, I remember). As I reminisced in a post I did while ago titled "10 Films I Would Need If Stranded on a Deserted Island":
"I remember it like it was yesterday...late night, curled up on my L.A. Raiders beanbag, bag of Funyuns at my side, two handing the VCR remote... play pressed."
That film? The Evil Dead (1981). Mind you, as extreme as the movie was (it has aged pretty damn well), multiply that 100-fold to a four-year-old. Yet, I was enthralled; completely enamored by what I was witnessing. I grimaced and hid my eyes during the Achilles pencil scene (I still do until this day), laughed when Ash gets drenched in blood in front of the projector, cried when it was over.
Now I'm sure a few of you have asked yourself, "What kind of parent, in their right minds, would let a four-year-old watch something that grotesque, that 'ferocious,' that obscene?"
A U.K. Video Nasty
Needless to say, I had a very hip, very cool great-grandmother who loved horror films just as much as I did. My time with my GG consistent of entire summers of mom 'n' pop video store visits, VHS hunting in the wilds of flea markets from Sacramento to San Jose (waaaaaay before it was "cool"), and food. LOTS of food.
My parents didn't approve. They still believe if you watch The Exorcist you invite that sort of evil into your home. I say: it's a few dozen people standing behind a camera with a few adults "make believing." It's entertainment.
Which brings me back to my initial thought.
Zombies are thriving and have been for quite some time. They are in almost every available form of media and product. I mean, zombie chia, anyone?
Growing up, a fascination with zombies in school was a clear-cut case for being labeled a weirdo. We horror kids might as well line-up next to that freak metalhead (I was a purveyor of metal, as well... woe is me) with the long hair and patches all over his denim vest. I say "horror kids" like it was a "thing" back then. It wasn't. I can seriously say without a shadow of doubt that I was the only one of my kind at my elementary school. I lived and breathed horror films—more importantly the zombie genre.
But what am I getting to? Well, I have a child of my own. She's eight, and the most amazing little person in the world. She knows of her pop's fascination with zombies and is always trying to steal my Rotten Cotton t-shirts for sleepwear. And now... she loves zombies.
Now, being the type of kid that I was, this is a dream come true. It's something I always wanted to share with someone I cared about. My girlfriends, friends—hell, even my ex-wife—found it too bizarre, too radical. But my eight-year-old daughter gets it!
Just to be clear, I haven't inebriated her in any way. She has her own personality, her own agenda on life. She's even accepted Christianity as her religion and I respect the hell out of that. Those that know me have probably choked on their own tongue with that last realization. I don't have a right to deter her own curiosity and growth for my benefit. Why? Because I know she is an intelligent kid and will one day be an intelligent woman, and she will be able to make up her own decisions regarding these enigmas.
I've noticed a lot of parents around my age, and in very similar predicaments when it comes to growing up a horror/metal nerd, completely indoctrinate their kids with nostalgic items from "their" past. Its a sad sight, really. I get it, you're a cool parent and want to flaunt how awesome you are as a parent because you created a mini-you. You could possibly be spoiling a beautiful, original personality.
So, what's the reason for this zombie craze and the eventual reinvention of the zombie that has been on full-throttle since the turn of the new millennium? Some people say it was the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Others say it was Max Brooks and his pretty nifty Zombie Survival Guide. My thoughts? I agree with George Romero when he mentioned video games as the true purveyor of zombie craze.
An Unlikely Duo
Kids and adults alike have equal access to video games. I remember playing Zombies Ate My Neighbors almost religiously (when not watching horror films). That fascination came to an even bigger fruition with the release of the 1996 game, Resident Evil. It's funny because my remembrance of Resident Evil is so strong for a completely unattached reason.
The day I experienced Resident Evil for the first time was the exact same day I was meeting Bret "The Hitman" Hart at the West Valley Mall in Tracy, California, during the spring of 1996. The line was long (Bret was at the height of his popularity, and had just lost the championship to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania VIII in the famous Iron Man Match) and as we crept close to the "Hitman," we (who else but my awesome great-grandma?) came across a KB Toys store—remember those? In I went, and got my hands on the PS1 controller for the "new" game just released.
This was every horror kid's dream come true! Now we control the visuals on screen. Now we can be those zombie hunters we wanted to be so badly growing up—pretend-playing at recess to kill zombies with a variety of weapons, getting bit, and then doing your best zombie impression to the delight (and shock) of school staff/recess coordinators. I still think my zombie impression is right up there with FlyBoy's.
I guess I can never really be sure when it comes to today's zombies. Things have changed so much since I was a kid. It doesn't seem fair to compare what is to what once was. I try hard not to do it, but in all actuality, memories, nostalgia, etc. are pretty much all we have, when it comes down to it. We're all trapped within our own heads. As a writer, I will never escape this fate. It's as innate and ingrained within me as the color of my eyes.
And, as a writer, I've decided to take the two gleaming subjects presented in this wonderful rant of a post (kids and zombies) and write a kid's book (grade level three and up). My daughter has inspired me with so many ideas and moments, I find it only fitting that she be the star of this book.
I've realized that I've used my depression to spout many poems, short stories, vignettes that deal with deprecation and the utter lonesomeness one can feel. With the inspiration from my daughter, I can break that mold and channel my imagination into a different direction. Hopefully, this is a sign of wonderful things to come.