June 11, 2012

What's so scary in zombies ?

What's so scary in zombies ? They are monsters like the others, they are ugly, they want to kill us, they are not even all that interesting. So what makes them, excuse the term, so fascinating ? What pushes us to continue to search them in movies, series, books and comics ? Why they not become boring ? Why they continue to scare us so much ?


Yes, I'm not kidding. Stupidity is scary. I'm afraid of stupidity in normal people, imagine how much scares me in a monster. A devil or a mad scientist who wants to destroy entire populations will not scare us so much because, after all, intelligence (or super intelligence) somehow justifies things. A super smart monster, after all, can almost earn the right to kill us. Moreover, with an intelligent monster you can even (maybe) reason. On the other hand, stupidity does not seem to make room for dialogue or any kind of confrontation. Being killed by a stupid monster is, well, terrible, because it challenges our own intelligence.


Most of the stories of zombies do not end in victory. The most the characters can get seems to be a sort of 'resistance to the imminent end'. The zombies are too many, they multiply quickly, they die a little. We can not win. It's inevitable, and inevitability is scary.
Does remind you of anything ? It's life, and death. We live, we fight, we resist, only to die sooner or later. We pretend to forget it, but zombies remind us of the uselessness, for our western individualism, of a life of mere survival.


The slowness of the zombie is scary and makes them more fearful of any monster that lurks in the shadows and strikes lethally fast. Seeing them approach, even in daylight, their lame walk, indifferent to everything and always in search of food.
Death by zombie itself is slow, horribly slow. First a small bite, then held by a hand, then pulled down and eaten alive, but slowly, still too slowly. It is no coincidence that many characters in zombie stories always keep a bullet for themselves, so that they are able to 'close their account' quickly.


Zombies look like us. There are not fantastical creatures with tentacles and claws. They are ordinary people. Only more dead than us. They wear our favourite T-shirts. They wear pajamas and slippers. They do not even require expensive special effects in movies to show.

Zombies break the sense of mystery, wonder, the unknown, the fantastic that can make not only bearable but even fascinating the scariest story. The human being can face the fear of the worst monsters when it comes to unravel a mystery. But if there is no mystery, there are only monsters.

And this is really scary.

(photo by rodolpho.reis)

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