Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Mar. 10, 2008)


This column is a no-brainer


  By John Martin

One of the most defining trends thus far in the new millennium is the return of the Zombie. Although they have existed in literature and pop culture as far back as 1697 with the satirical French novel, Le Zombi du grand Pérou ("The Zombie of the great Peru"), Zombies have now become mainstream.

There have been numerous Zombie movies over the years, arguably beginning with 1932's White Zombie starring horror film staple Bela Lugosi. But for the first time they're now coming out of big budget studios. The Resident Evil series, a remake of Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later followed by 28 Weeks Later have introduced the Zombie to a whole new generation. Setting the standard by which all Zombie films will forever be judged, George Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, has been re-released and proven to be ever popular with today's Zombie aficionados. We've even seen a handful of Zombie comedies, most notably Shaun of the Dead and Fido.

The Zombie has also used this decade to make a notable return to comic books and pulp fiction with The Rising, World War Z and the popular trilogy Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet among the pack.

There's also the cult phenomenon, The Zombie Survival Guide, which is a hilarious take on the countless survival guide, restroom readers, popular with those not looking for an overly taxing read.

Zombies have strutted their slow moving stuff into the arena of video games with Resident Evil and Dead Rising leading the pack. They've become an ever-recurring theme in music videos and of course there's Rob Zombie himself, who has countless references to all things Zombie throughout his lengthy music catalogue.

So what's this all about? Why Zombies and why now?

Nostalgia and retro-mania may be part of it. But why didn't pop culture embrace the werewolf, vampire or flying saucers?  Why Zombies?

The Zombie's current popularity is more of a testament to the right pop culture icon for the right time. In some strange fashion, the Zombie is the perfect creature for the here and now. This was so brilliantly illustrated in the opening moments of the satirical film, Shaun of the Dead. The sequence included slow moving crowds of people staggering in unison, oblivious to one another and focused on their cell phones while others lumbered down the street plugged into their iPods.

Instead of stalking the living in country farmhouses, Zombies now seek out fresh brains in shopping malls, dragging themselves around endlessly the way they might formerly have spent the bulk of their waking hours as mindless consumers meandering about. Watch any of the latest Zombie movies and then recall a recent newscast that featured crowds of homeless people or crack addicts, more dead than alive themselves. The similarity is overwhelming.

Whether it's post-9/11 anxiety, mistrust of those different than the rest of us, or a metaphor for Armageddon - Zombiemania has made an impact.

Then again, maybe we just admire those who aren't always in such a rush.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008