This is Part II of a series titled ‘A Decade of Zombies.’ Part I is here.
Playwright David Ives once said that “it is all in the timing” referring to the concept of the punch line. It appears to be the similar case with the zombie apocalypse where the punch line is made more humorous when it occurs in moments of absurd timeliness. Take for instance Joe Ballarini’s Dance of the Dead (2008), where the apocalypse takes place on the night of the senior prom in a small town high school.
The UK was also particularly successful in creating similar scenarios. On one hand we have Shaun of the Dead (2004) where the outbreak occurs on the day Simon Pegg’s character decides to propose to his long time girlfriend. On the other hand, Dead Air (2008) a TV mini series, chronicles the survival of several housemates from the Big Brother safe house who were spared when the outbreak spread across the United Kingdom.
Similarly in literature, a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has been released in the middle of 2009. Titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the arrival of Mr. Darcy serves as a concurrent distraction to Elizabeth Bennet, as she tries to rid the hamlet of Meryton from the zombie infestation. The publishers notes describes the book as “Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.”
Actually, the book sucked.
The formula for the modern day zombie apocalypse plays on the age old wording from the Christian Bible — that it “will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4). Not only does the apocalypse provide a setting for a comedic enterprise, it also helps build an exemplary literary device for published works that already exist. Think about it. Take any work of literature, add zombies, and you have a completely new plot device to play with. In retrospect though it would have been the same if you added ninjas or robots but there’s a more emotional element to seeing friends and loved ones undergo the transformation into an Infected. That’s how modern day memes are formed.
It is the transformation that gets to people. It is what offers storytellers a template for human conflict that apparently never tires. Oftentimes in movies have characters fallen to folly by trying to revive those who have passed on such as Yvette Tan’s short but gripping literary piece, Waking the Dead (2009) where an old man, driven by madness tries to revive a graveyard full of old friends, among them his former wife. The fleeting sentiment goes beyond human beings, as seen in Will Smith’s facial expression as he twisted the neck of his German Shepherd as the infection spread through the dog’s system.