With the second half of The Walking Dead‘s fifth season starting up on Sunday, I’ve found myself giddy with excitement. It’s weird, too…I’m not into horror movies or movies with a lot of gore, yet I’m strangely draw to zombie films and television shows.
I’m not sure what the attraction is, to be honest. I remember watching the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead with some friends back in the 80’s. I saw a scene of zombies eating out the stomach of a screaming victim and it scarred me. I mean, it was disgustingly gross and I was probably way too young and way too ill-prepared to see it. That scene continues to haunt me to this day even though I fully realize I watch very similar graphic zombie attacks now.
I stayed away from zombie movies for quite some time after that. Then, in 2004, a remake of Dawn of the Dead came out. Everything that I read had explained how this movie was a reinvention of the genre. Because it was a “major studio motion picture”, I went to go see it with a couple of friends.
I was blown away with the portrayal. It was as realistic as watching CSI. I was immediately drawn into the characters and the fear that they were going through. For whatever reason, there was this virus that was quickly over-taking the world. Watching a small group of people try to survive in a shopping mall was like “zombie Big Brother”…you got to see how people could completely change given any situation. How does human nature continue on in that type of world?
And then the end? Well…needless to say I ended up watching the movie twice in the theatres.
I then opened myself up to watching more films, as long as they weren’t too serious. Shaun of the Dead was absolutely brilliant and I really enjoyed Zombieland. Those movies put a light-hearted spin on a very serious subject, yet still did their best to keep things as realistic as possible.
But then The Walking Dead came out. I was initially drawn to the show because of the concept: how would the world really continue on in a zombie apocalypse? They promoted the show as being about the characters, not just about the zombies. That, more than anything else, was the most appealing thing for me.
As we enter the second half of Season 5, nothing has changed for me. I don’t like the gore or the violence (though I’ve grown a lot more accustomed to it in this show) and I’m still not a fan of the “pop up” scare tactics that happen from time to time. The series, though, has shown the progression of people and how their personalities have changed over the course of two or three years within a zombie apocalypse. I’ve seen every single major character grow and change over time. And why wouldn’t they? This is a brutal world that makes even the nicest of people do brutal things. You would HAVE to change and adapt in order to survive.
I continue to watch because, at the end of the day, I would like to see humanity restored. I would like to know if the black hearts that the human race has been forced to grow can eventually change back to normal.
If a cure is found and the apocalypse ends, can these people ever be “saved”?
That’s why I love this show. Well…that and the fact that any character can die at any given time is a very intriguing concept, as well. But mainly it’s the appeal of watching humanity adapt and crumble and fall apart and adapt again…and then wondering if it can ever heal itself when all is said and done.
It’s an analogy for the world we live in today, which is something a lot of non-fans don’t quite understand about the genre. It’s about where we, as a society, are heading and whether or not we can ever come back from it. Is “The Walking Dead” an over-exaggeration of where our own humanity is headed? Sure, but it’s still a parallel version of the world today.
When watching something like The Walking Dead or even a classic apocalyptic movie like The Road Warrior, you watch and wonder if the world can ever heal itself before reaching that point. You wonder if, at the end of the day, everything is just a lost cause. My hope is that The Walking Dead will eventually prove that yes, humanity is worth saving. And that hope is ultimately what keeps the genre alive and the show popular.