Zombies: Eat The Rich

A spectre is haunting capitalism - the spectre of flesh-eating zombies.

The glorious day...

Think of it this way: the undead are divided along class lines. Vampires are pretentious, upper class toffs – idle, over-sexed fops the lot of them. Your zombies, on the other hand, are like the rest of us poor Morlocks – tired, alienated, lonely, confused and prone to random acts of violence. Unlike vampires, zombies are hard-working: they really get their teeth into the task at hand. As far as body counts go, no aristocratic vampire ever gets through as many humans. For zombies, on the other hand, a typical city street is a veritable production line. And soup kitchen.

They’re not evil, per se, they’re just confused, hung over and finally getting around to that inheriting the earth business that was promised, rashly one might argue, in another well-known horror story. Zombies can even be educated – not unlike the member of the great unwashed who penned this paean to putrefied remains.

We can thank one man for all of this: George A. Romero. Not only did Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead invent the modern zombie movie, it invented the modern horror film. Trapped in a recognisable setting turned eldritch, attacked for no reason by enemies whose motives can’t be divined, the paranoia and in-fighting starts and mirrors the violence outside. Night Of The Living Dead satirised the then-ongoing Vietnam war, racism and American mass culture: the zombies brought America’s violence home.

Things were only ever going to get more political from here. It was in Romero’s 1978 sequel, Dawn Of The Dead, that the undead got really pissed-off, formed a union and started eating their oppressors.

Ad – content continues below

Dawn Of The Dead‘s zombies are clearly proletarians: shuffling and numbed, they seek comfort in the only place left to them; in a viciously satirical move they focus their attack on a shopping mall, the source of the commodities from which they have become permanently alienated. The poor bastards have become so divorced from their inner humanity that all they can do is wander mindlessly around a mall. And eat human flesh.

2005’s Land Of The Dead, meanwhile, featured Dennis Hopper chewing the scenery as a fascist mayor before his body gets chewed in an explosion caused by a revolutionary zombie leader. Eventually the zombies destroy the class hierarchy Hopper’s character controls – I am not making this up – by eating the elite.

The cinematic history of all hitherto existing zombies is the not, however, history of class struggle. Other zombie flicks, such as the Return Of The Living Dead series, and last year’s Zombie Strippers, tend to play the undead for laughs – more’s the pity; in today’s economic climate there’s surely a market for a critique of capitalism that involves devouring the flesh of bankers.

On the other hand, it’s not just Romero who plays politics with corpses. 1971’s Omega Man is an avowedly political film whose message of belief in man’s works chimes magnificently with Marx’s belief in progress. The only difference is that in this film, the monsters aren’t working class, they’re environmentalists who want to create what would today be called ‘sustainable communities’ by destroying technology. Priceless. Unsurprisingly, when it was remade in 2007 as I Am Legend, the allegory was removed and the eco nuts replaced with postmodern vampires. It seems that the anti-machine age is more comfortable attacking development than attacking its critics.

So, the next time you hear a zombie’s agonised wails as it lumbers toward you, try to remember why it wants to kill you; after all, as Marx himself said, “The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.”

Jason Walsh is a ‘hackademic’, a journalist and MA student at the National College of Art and Design. He has written about such exciting subjects as art, politics, prostitution, Orange marches, home insulation, ceilings and partitions, hotel interiors, supercomputing and nuclear bomb shelters. He plans to have his corpse reanimated after death and let loose in Davos.

Ad – content continues below