Zombie movies are not really my thing. Maybe it is genre fatigue. It could be the recycled plots. Or it might be that I was never just that big of a fan to begin with. Whatever the case, they just are not the type of movies I actively look for.
Which is not to say I do not recognize greatness from the genre. Obviously, there are George A Romero‘s classics. Even though there were a zombie movies well before Night of the Living Dead, Romero is largely responsible for making the genre so popular.
Sheer volume guaranteed there would be great zombie flicks since. It seems like not too much time goes by before a new zombie movie is on everyone’s lips. In recent years, there seems to be a similarity among them all.
What ever happened to the great American zombie flick?
In recent years, it seems American zombie films have fallen behind. They are still being released; they just do not leave the same impression. World War Z seems to be the most recent entry that had mass appeal. It was mediocre at best.
The best movies like 28 Days Later and One Cut of the Dead have come from other countries. This is not a bad thing. Zombie movies were never meant to be a representation of Americana. It is just surprising that a genre so closely associated with the country has failed to deliver anything better than middling.
What happened? Here are some reasons the great American zombie movie may have died.
This eventually happens in all forms of entertainment. Something becomes popular and the people in charge decide to make more and more of the same thing. There may or may not be slight variations but either way the audience eventually tires of it.
Zombies have been popular in America for decades. Along with movies there are books, video games and television series. There are even kiddie toys. Only the biggest fans would not notice how much zombie merchandise is available for consumption.
Put it this way: when there is a young adult television series on the CW about a zombie detective you have reached maximum saturation.
This ties in to the last point. Nothing stays fresh forever. No matter how many times an idea is recycled, people will eventually tire of it. There have been slow zombies and fast zombies, ones that eat brains and one that are vegetarians, there are dumb ones and smart ones. It is incredibly hard to impress with new ideas when every one has already been done.
The good thing is, a good zombie movie does not have to be creative. The down side: a great zombie movie – like any one – has to take risks. New zombie films may impress audiences, but as they long as they settle into a formula they will never be great.
The rest of the world caught up
The inverse works also. If you try something enough times, eventually you will get really good at it. Foreign zombie movies of the early 80s seemed content to leech off their American counterparts. Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 is a great example. An unauthorized sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, the Italian film did try some new things. It was obvious the focus was less about story and more about violence and gore, however.
At the time, this probably seemed like the peak of overseas zombie films as it included an amazing zombie versus shark scene. It turns out that was just a taste of things to come. It would just take a while to reach that level of greatness again.
The greatest zombie movie of all time, Shaun of the Dead, was birthed in England. Recently, Belgium’s Yummy has been a festival favorite. Zombieland came out a full five years after Shaun, but has America done anything great since?
For years, it seemed like America was home to great zombie films. In the past decade, that seems to have changed. Horror is universal and zombie movies are no different, but it is noticeable that the country that gave the world Night of the Living Dead seems satisfied resting on their laurels as other countries pass them.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!