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This one will run and run - The Ex-Communicator

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November 10th, 2008


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11:38 am - This one will run and run
A nice Guardian exchange between two masters of Zombie horror, over the vexed question: do zombies run?

To recap, Simon Pegg was the creator and writer of the massively successful Shaun of the Dead, and Charlie Brooker is creator of Dead Set, the five-part zombie TV drama which was on the week before last every night on E4. In Shaun of the Dead, zombies of course shamble in the traditional manner, in Dead Set they run, snarling like feral beasts.

In an article last Tuesday Pegg argues that zombies should not run. In an article today (half way down that page) Brooker replies as best he can to the charge (the whole debate is charming). Pegg's argument is thoughtful:

The fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.

However (and herein lies the sublime artfulness of the slow zombie), their ineptitude actually makes them avoidable, at least for a while. If you're careful, if you keep your wits about you, you can stave them off, even outstrip them - much as we strive to outstrip death. Drink less, cut out red meat, exercise, practice safe sex; these are our shotguns, our cricket bats, our farmhouses, our shopping malls. However, none of these things fully insulates us from the creeping dread that something so witless, so elemental may yet catch us unawares - the drunk driver, the cancer sleeping in the double helix, the legless ghoul dragging itself through the darkness towards our ankles.



Brooker's counter-arguments are merely pragmatic, but compelling in context.

They HAD to run or the story wouldn't work. The outbreak had to knock the entire country out of action before the producers had time to evacuate the studios.

We had to clearly and immediately differentiate Dead Set from Shaun of the Dead, which had cornered the market on zombie-centric horror-comedy. Blame yourself, Simon: if you'd made that film badly, it wouldn't have been so popular, and drawing a distinction wouldn't have been an issue. Each time one of our zombies breaks into a sprint, it's your own stupid talented fault.

...Running zombies are, to be frank, cheaper than stumbling ones. You only need one or two to present a massive threat.


(But read them both in full if you like zombie stories)

ETA metafilter have a discussion here.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:November 10th, 2008 11:59 am (UTC)
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Perhaps running zombies simply haven't been dead as long. The more decayed they are, the less able to run without falling apart. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 10th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
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It's interesting that you say that, as Brooker wanted an epilogue 'six months later' where the zombies are a bit less 'fresh' and can only drag themselves around.
[User Picture]
From:spacefall
Date:November 10th, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
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That was pretty much the debate we had on #chat at the time of Dead Set :D
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 10th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
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I think either decision can work. I didn't see Dead Set because I was poorly, but I think sometimes death does run at you.
[User Picture]
From:spacefall
Date:November 10th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
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My friend Red felt that the shambling and flesh-dropping slowness was a vital(hahah) part of zombie horror. I'm willing to accept newly 'dead' zombies being fast, though a few of us debated the practicalities of zombie decay and why zombies shamble :)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 10th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
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And there's the similar but different rage-virus story, which seems so much like a zombie movie, though it isn't literally (like 28 days later)
[User Picture]
From:spacefall
Date:November 10th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
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Hah, yes, 36 was talking about that but.. (small voice) I haven't seen it!
[User Picture]
From:gair
Date:November 10th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that's lovely!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 10th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)
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Yes, nice to see people disagreeing but in a really friendly respectful way
[User Picture]
From:pinkdormouse
Date:November 10th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC)
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Excellent! Thanks for the links.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:November 10th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC)
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I think Charlie Brooker was always a good writer but he's got more likeable in the last year or so.
[User Picture]
From:iainjclark
Date:November 11th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
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I saw the Charlie Brooker article but hadn't hunted down the Simon Pegg one. Both are good. :-)
[User Picture]
From:lexica510
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
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What I don't get (she said, crankily) is the idea that "we had to differentiate ourselves from other zombie movies — so we did it by breaking one of the most basic rules of zombie movies!"

Oookay... what's up next, vampires who walk around during the daylight and don't mind running water? Werewolves that only change when the moon is waxing gibbous? Faeries who'll gladly tell you their True Names, because what's the harm in it anyway?

Bah.

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