With the massive commercial success of TV shows such as The Walking Dead, and the zombie genre’s longstanding pride of place in cinema for over half a century, the zombie film seems to be truly un-killable.
George Romero is rightly cited as the godfather of the American zombie movie after the release of The Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Shot in black and white on a low budget, the films nihilistic tone and terrifying, cannibalistic creatures made a lasting impression on both audiences and the horror genre alike.
The film stands as a firm favourite of ‘Zombie Ed’ Thurlow, who organises the world’s longest running zombie festival at the Phoenix, due for its next instalment on Saturday 12th November.
A well established expert on the genre, Ed suggests that the secret to a great zombie film is when filmmakers set out to make ‘a good film with zombies in it, rather than a film about zombies’.
This is true of some of the more recent instalments of the genre- 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead are arguably more concerned with examining the collapse of society and the breakdown of law and order than they are with the zombies themselves.
This focus on story over zombie could also account for the horror icon’s success across different genres, with zombies appearing in big budget Hollywood action fare such as World War Z as well as low budget British comedies such as Shaun of the Dead.
The genre-hopping nimbleness of the zombie is also apparent in the festival line-up. The critically acclaimed Train to Busan opens the festival, and sees commuters trapped on a train with the infected passengers. The film utilises the ‘fast zombie’ made famous in the previously mentioned 28 Days Later to terrifying effect, and broke box office records in South Korea.
At the other end of the spectrum is the brilliantly titled Austrian ‘Zom-Com’ Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies, which sees a ski resort at war with the slow and shuffling undead, and involves some of the most inventive zombie kills put on film (ski poles and zombies are a great combination) .
The festival’s range of low to high budget films across an array of genres is a reflection of the zombie film itself. Ever adaptable and under constant revision, the genre has endured through fans’ enduring appetite and the radical interpretation of filmmakers.
With the Festival of Zombie Culture now celebrating its tenth year, it seems the horror icon will be roaming the earth for many more years to come.