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By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
Is it just me, or does it seem as if America is under the spell of some zombie-fetish movement? By my count, there will be five major films out this year, not to mention a slew of books, books and even a television series in the works for next fall that all feature the walking dead.
Relatively few zombie films were released during the golden period of the genera – essentially the 1960s to the 1980s – and the recent explosion of zombie related films can be traced back to two films released in 2002; Resident Evil and 28 Days Later. Each of these movies met with enough success at the box office to warrant sequels and reignite the genera. What followed were zombie films like Dawn of the Dead (2004), Shaun of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Doom, Slither and Grindhouse.
Still, even with this flood of zombie related media the last few years, I can't shake the feeling that the end of the genera isn't right around the corner.
Case in point – 28 Weeks Later due in theaters May 11. The original 28 Days Later is one of my favorite films, but when a sequel was announced last year my initial reaction to the news was "why?" Why have a sequel to a (almost) perfect film where there didn't really seem to be a need for a second? Especially since the first film ended with the apparent destruction of the zombie menace, seemingly negating the need for a second movie altogether.
In 28 Weeks Later, the American government has decided to begin repopulating a zombie-ruined British Isles via a sort of Iraq-like "Green Zone" manner, where part of London is cordoned off from the rest and declared a "safe zone" for repopulation. Of course this repopulation plan that "can't go wrong" goes wrong and the virus responsible for turning people into ravenous zombie-baddies returns with a vengeance.
What bothers me the most about this film is that I'm not sure that the overall plot to 28 Weeks Later works? Why would anyone choose to move back to a place ravaged by a virus so virulent it was responsible for the deaths of millions in little under a month? Wouldn't the smell of a country piled high with MILLIONS of rotting corpses be enough to keep people away?
In fact, I'd imagine that outside governments would be so frightened of the 28 Days Later virus being accidentally carried to other shores that they'd seal off the UK and keep people out by force. Think of it this way, 28 weeks is just seven months and it's been over 20 years since the disaster at Chernobyl – and when was the last time you heard anyone moving back to Chernobyl? (And the last time I heard there wasn't much chance of being torn to shreds by virus infected people at Chernobyl – though I suppose a vodka laced Russian could be as dangerous as a rage filled zombie.)
Even more frustrating is another remake due out this year, Day of the Dead, which, reportedly, has nothing to do with the original Day of the Dead or the previous Dawn of the Dead remake even though the two movies share some of the same cast.
The one movie bright spot is the movie Diary of the Dead that marks the fifth zombie film from the "Godfather of Zombies" George Romero also due out this year.
One indicator that of just how popular zombie movies have become of late, and just how overloaded the cinemas are becoming with them, is the release of the mega-budget I Am Legend film later this winter. This third version of the source novel, I Am Legend stars Will Smith as Neville, the long survivor of a plague that turns its victims to bloodthirsty vamparitic zombies. There's not much else that's known about the movie, other than it takes place in a deserted New York, that the zombies don't much care for daylight and that (I'm guessing) the budget of I Am Legend will be greater than all five of Romero's zombie films combined.
I can imagine one, maybe two, more years of the flood of zombie related media before the genera implodes on itself just as the slasher film did in the 1980s and the vampire film did in the 1990s. Oh well, even the undead can't roam the Earth…errr…I mean theaters, forever. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.