Ah, zombies. Dear, dear zombies.
You can't live with them – a legion of films and novels and comic books and video games, all concerned with the dreaded undead, have clearly established that. But would you want to live without them? I know I wouldn't.
These days, if you see a zombie, your chances of physically outstripping them are... well, let's be honest: they're not great. When the hordes rise up, we’re done for.
Where's the fun in that?
Amongst the myriad reasons for the prominence of speedwalking zombies in modern-day entertainment, one rationale rules them all: fast food. As in the Big Mac, the Whopper and the Footlong. Let's face it: we're fast food people in a fast food world. And what we eat is just the beginning of it. Virtually everything we consume these days has to come in convenient, bite-sized portions, be it burgers, books or beliefs – the better for our increasingly intolerant appetites. And movies have not proven immune to the regrettable whims of such an impatient nation.
Once upon a time, the MTV generation merely consumed, but now it's all growed-up, and a few drive-through addicts have worked their way into positions of power where their bread and butter is not consumption, but creation. And largely, what they create, with frantic, borderline-lunatic glee – in film as in everything else – is a shadow of what once was. Thus, the fast zombie: a clear-cut case of style over substance if ever there was one. An empty thing, hollow and heartless, a focus group creation with no rhyme or reason but to stuff the lowest common denominator amongst the hungry hordes so full of quick cuts and mindless, wall-to-wall action that they never quite realise what an obscene thing they've consumed.
They should know better. We all should. Have we learned nothing from Supersize Me and people turning orange after drinking too much Sunny Delight? There's certainly something to be said for fast food, and indeed fast film, but in this day and age, we understand all too well that to overindulge a diet of such dodgy proportions is to consume ourselves into oblivion. Sadly, in terms of the undead, no-one's quite arrived at that realisation.
I'll say this: sometimes, yes, you get a good burger, a hearty, wholesome meal in fast food clothing, but more often than not, your Big Macs and your Whoppers and your Footlongs will only leave you with a severe case of indigestion. The same can be said for modern zombie fiction in film and literature. The notion that fast zombies have outmoded Romero's so-called "classic" undead is, then, fundamentally flawed.
In and of themselves, fast zombies aren't the enemy. The likes of 28 Weeks Later and Zack Snyder's retooled Dawn of the Dead are proof enough of that. In this day and age, fast zombies have earned their place. It'll always be a case of us versus them, but the "them" in that equation needn't be one or the other – fast or otherwise – and short of Romero's recent trilogy comprising Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and lately Survival of the Dead, the kinetically challenged amongst the zombie populace seem to be considered a remnant of the past.
Which simply won't do. Where's the hopelessness? Where's the sense of dread? Instead, we have stuttering handicams and extreme close-ups on gore no-one in their right mind really wants to see.
Are you with me?
Tell you what. Stop patronising McDonalds and Burger King and Subway and chow down on a nice home-cooked meal. On the go? Pack a sandwich. Maybe then, if we're lucky, slow zombies will get their second chance.
"Faster, Zombies! Kill! Kill!" originally appeared on The Living Dead Book blog on March 24th.