Zombie Apocalypse Part II

Oct 26, 2011 by

Claustrophobia is a theme played upon by most zombie movies; the onslaught of walking dead march on relentlessly pursing the heroes into ever more confined spaces, generally a basement. Night of the Living Dead establishes claustrophobia as nearly inherent to the genre, Shaun of the Dead, teases with the expectation of claustrophobia when they are rescued, deus ex machina from the basement at the last moment. In Dead Snow 2009, the vast empty landscape of Norway plays with the expectaiton of claustrophobia. Even though there is little interior space there is also no escape and the inevitability of an implacable resolution is confirmed.

As the system of production and consumption become increasingly efficient and increasingly intertwined claustrophobia becomes inevitable. There is no where to go, production apart from society becomes more difficult and less tolerated by society since it encroaches on the efficiency of the central machine. Efficiency demands specialization and generalists who want to escape the suburban grid are disdained.

The problem is not inherent to American style capitalism. Dead Snow, is a Norwegian zombie film that opens with a group of university students driving to a remote off the grid cabin for a snow filled weekend of fun. Sara, one of their friends and the owner of the cabin will join them later, but rather than drive she has preferred to cross country ski. She is the first victim of the Nazi zombies.

Facist zombie Colonel Herzog beautifuly parodies Casper Friedrich's individualistic Wanderer









The Nazi zombies were created, it is explained in the film, when Colonel Herzog and his men occupied a small town in Norway during World War II. They acted inhumanly (even by Nazi standards) and at the end of the war went door to door in the village stealing all the gold and silver, killing anyone who stood in their way. The Nazis then fled into the mountains trying to escape the liberating Communist army. Lost in the mountains they froze to death. How they came to be zombies is not entirely revealed. The vampire of Eastern Europe is created through an act of apostasy. Perhaps the Nazis had become apostates of humanity and upon their frozen death became zombies.

In death they continue to serve a hierarchical system under Colonel Herzog.  Even after the Nazi zombies are mostly destroyed Herzog has the power to re-summon them and re-constitute them. Immortality is gained by the complete reification of the system to oneself. It is through the system you adhere to that you will live forever.

Vegard, One of the college students stumbles upon the Nazi’s mountain lair. Their flag is still proudly emblazoned their helmets are still laid out with military precision. Even in death they are the servants, the extension of a system. Interestingly a bite from a Nazi zombie does not spread the zombie contagion. They are not interested in “recruitment,” one character remarks ironically: “Besides your grandmother was Jewish.” Fascism is not interested in making converts to its ideology; it is only interested in expanding its system by maximizing the efficacy of the system.

Facism promises immortality through adherence to the system

 The zombies of Night of the Living Dead and the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead are slow lumbering zombies; zombies which would be difficult not to escape from were it not for their strength in numbers. More recent zombie films like Dead Snow, and even re-makes like Dawn of the Dead have increased the athletic ability of the zombie villains, they are faster paced. This indicates a strengthening of the machines efficiency. The more completely reified the system they represent has become the more actively efficient and mobile the zombies are.

Zombie films end seemingly in one of two ways. Either the zombies are completely triumphant, the system they represent and are manipulated by collapses beneath its own weight; after all what do all those zombies consume after all the humans are dead? The result of this would be posthumanism.  Or the system reasserts itself and regains control, only to re-subjugate humans to zombificaiton again. In Night of the Living Dead the hero claustrophobically holds out until the last second when he is seemingly about to be rescued by the military. The military armed and in uniform is systemically killing zombies.  Believing all human like creatures walking about to be zombies they inadvertently kill the hero. Shaun of the Dead likewise opens with Shaun stretching and yawning, very zombie like as he prepares to go off to a long day of selling consumer goods. The film also ends with Shaun, now rescued by the military restored to his London flat, again rising for a day of selling consumer goods, again stretching and yawning zombie like. Dead Snow concludes with the remaining students fending off the Nazi Zombie horde with garden tools. At one point the hammer and sickle are brandished together in an overt symbol, but to no avail: All the students die.

There is no recourse to any system for the rescue of humanity. The optimistic flutter of the flag above the boat in Dawn of the Dead is a false hope; the communist hammer and sickle will be subsumed within the machine. In a television interview in 2005 to promote the release of Land of the Dead, George Romero was asked what he would do if zombies were to take over the planet. Romero replied that “He would go right out and get bitten: That way I could live forever,” (Lauro 88). We are caught in the dilemma of wanting our human lives to go on, we desperately crave some sort of assurance of immortality, but the curse of the zombie is in existing seemingly forever but at the high cost of human existence.



 Works Cited

Brooks, Max, and Ibraim Roberson. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. New York: Three Rivers, 2009. Print.

Dawn of the Dead. Dir. Zach Snyder. Perf. Sarah Polley. 2004. DVD.

Dead Snow. Dir. Tommy Wirkola. Perf. Lasse Valdal. Euforia Film, 2009. DVD

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. [New York]: Herder and Herder, 1972. Print.

I Am Legend. Dir. Francis Lawrence. Prod. Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, David Heyman, and Neal H. Moritz. By Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich. Perf. Will Smith, Alice Braga, and Dash Mihok. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2007. DVD.

Lauro, Sarah, and Karen Embry. “A Zombie Manifest: The Nonhuman Conditionin the Era of Advanced Capitalism.” Boundary 2 Spring (2008): 85-106. Print.

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