I've been asked many times over the years, "Why zombies? What's the fascination?" Usually I think the question is aimed squarely at me and my longtime interest/obsession with these undead entities, but it's also a fair question for anyone. Why zombies? What's the appeal? I think it all boils down to the fact that they're the underdog of the monster world. They play into our neuroses and self-doubt. There's nothing sexy or appealing about them. Lots of people fantasize about being other horror mainstays: vampires, of course. Werewolves. But zombies? No. I've never met anyone who said, "Yeah, man, a zombie is what I'd like to be. They're so cool." ...Read the whole thing. Fingerman has a point in mentioning how the zombie trope sheds light on the human condition. But I think lumbering hordes of undead allow us a glimpse into another (very ugly) reality -- that of societal collapse. I call south Florida my home, and every once in a while a hurricane will sweep through, knocking out essential services. Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma battered us in 2005, the latter taking down the power for nigh on two weeks and providing a tiny taste of anarchy. I remember an argument breaking out between shoppers at the local grocery store over one of the last jugs of bottled water, the conflict escalating exponentially, the arguers coming close to blows within seconds. That severing of society's bonds is what zombie horror allows us to explore and to imagine how we would survive it on a grand scale.
Zombies, à la Romero [and his gory films], are us. That's what makes them resonate. We don't wish we were them because we already are, sort of. Zombies had no choice in becoming zombies. It just happened via bad luck. A stray bite and pow: you're infected and there's no cure.
(Picture: CC 2007 by JamesCalder)