Halloween - the only time of the year when it is socially acceptable for strangers to come to your door, dressed as serial killers, psychopaths and clowns in hope of receiving chocolates and sweets. The reason? So your house doesn't get covered in eggs and toilet paper like last year!
Where the once ‘draped sheet’ reigned as the trick-or-treat king, costumes have become more and more elaborate. Horror movie favourites Michael Myers or Freddie Kruger appear at our doors, expecting treats as much as the clichéd pumpkin or an attempt at a 19th century vampire. Yet, as phases of Halloween dress up come and go, usually with what film was popular that year, there always remains a constant. The zombie.
It could be a zombie this, or a zombie that, or, just your bog standard zombie (your generic tatty t-shirt, pale face and a generous helping of fake blood) that makes an appearance, but zombies are no longer just a ‘go to’ fancy dress costume. They’re now a cultural phenomenon that show no sign of letting up, particularly with these rumours of Ebola victims raising from the dead! Scary stuff!
Yes, everyone has their favourite films, the cult classic 28 Days Later or perhaps the very British Shaun of The Dead, all wielding very different renditions of the undead. But the real surprise of the last 5 or 10 years however is the volume of zombies making appearances in our games consoles. The gaming industry really has gone undead crazy, but we love it.
Zombies initially were the thing of nightmares. Early editions of the Resident Evil series had the horror tone down to a tee and established zombies as the kings of survival horrors, spawning fan favourites like Left 4 Dead and Dead Space, truly terrifying experiences which captured the zombie survival genre in it finest form. But zombies aren’t always there to scare the crap out of us, they are the perfect cannon fodder, like endless hordes of dummies lining up for slaughter. For every gaming masterpiece like The Last of Us, where the living impaired (as they prefer to be called) boast: fear, eerie character design and spine-tingly sound, there are a plethora of arcade zombie genocide emulators which take a more tongue-in-cheek approach to horror. Of course zombie genocide isn’t an official genre, but games like Dead Island and Dead Rising are exactly that, kill as many of the walking dead as you can in which ever way suits you most!
This genre has spread its wings into further fields too, linking up with some AAA titles, think the Call of Duty Nazi Zombies mode or Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, which took a zombie B-movie stab at the iconic western. Kill zombies as a soldier, cowboy or just your everyday Joe Bloggs, whoever you are, it’s hours of fun and a night and day comparison from the early ‘play with the lights on’ horror games.
They may now be considered a cliché, or ‘overused’ as mentioned in South Park: The Stick of Truth but we speak with our wallets and apparently we can’t stop buying zombie-themed games, cliché or not! And now even the undead are dragging their bodies into child-friendly games, be it Minecraft where the dull groan of a zombie is more a burden on building time then it is scary. Or take for
instance the not-so-subtle Plants vs Zombies where I don’t really have to explain myself, it’s in the title! Zombies are getting everywhere and pretty much everybody loves them.
With an unending surge, it seems zombies currently control the (metaphorical gaming) world, appearing almost everywhere. Surely we’re only a few years away from zombie FIFA, zombie Assassin’s Creed or even a zombie kart racer. One thing is certain, zombies haven’t been this popular since Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, and we love them!