Zombies have been pitted against just about everything out there, including but not limited too, plants, ninjas, robots, unicorns, mummies, and of course, humans. But there has never been a story that featured zombies attacking other zombies. [Prove me wrong by listing examples, if there are any, in the comments below.] Have you ever wondered why this is?
Everyone loves a good ol’ fashioned monster battle; King Kong vs. Godzilla, Freddy vs. Jason, Trump vs. Hillary, Catholic Priests vs. Sexy Teens… You get the idea. The majority of these death-matches are comprised of combatants from different species or lore, each with their own unique talents, weaknesses and back story. The contrasting stylistic match up allows for creative conflicts and encourages fans to cheer on their favorite contestant(s).
Inter-species battles are less common but nonetheless have their own place within the “Versus” genre. The Underworld franchise has developed werewolf clans, aka “Lycans“, struggling against one another. However, it’s vampire wars that are the most common example of this. My personal favorite, sea monster battles, reached a fever pitch on The Sy-Fy Channel in the early 2000’s.
My personal favorite, sea monster battles, reached a fever pitch on The Sy-Fy Channel in the early 2000’s.
It’s important to recognize that the individuality of both combatants is pivotal to the alchemy of a monster battle.Therein lies the first issue of a zombie vs zombie fight; once a human has reanimated he/she shed all uniqueness and become part of a zombie horde.We’ll examine this subject in more depth in the next section.
In most zombie fiction, zombies are depicted as being under a hive mind-like control. While not going as far as working as a team, their insatiable hunger to feed on the flesh of the living collectively drives them toward common objectives. Director and genre pioneer, George Romero, has always toyed with the idea that zombies are capable of at least basic cognitive thought. He even went as far as showing zombie leadership in his later films (Land of the Dead). However, this is an exception to the norm, as most zombies are part of one large group, moving and functioning as a mob. There are no factions, no divisions, and no separations between them.
It’s hard to have a war if everyone is on the same side of the fight! Which exposes one of the more uplifting morals of the genre; the reunification of segregated humanity. Story lines in zombie fiction regularly depict people of all races, creeds and backgrounds coming together to fight against a common opponent. To quote John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living for today.” That has a much better ring to it than, “Imagine there’s no zombies”. The iconic song would may not have done as well with the inclusion of that lyric, but I think the point is clear. You need at least two sides to have an argument.
But suppose someone attempted to do just that. This brings a whole slew of additional questions about zombie mob mentality that the writer would have to answer.
• How would zombies distinguish their own group from another?
• Would a zombie vs zombie battle be binary (only two groups) or would there be more?
• If a zombie inflicted a nonlethal bite wound, would that turn a zombie from one side to another side?
• Where are the living during all of this?
Zombies consume their prey
Vampires can fight and suck on each other as much as they want. Maybe that’s why it’s a good choice to stage and wage a monster clan war with vamps. There is, for whatever reason, something socially acceptable about watching or reading about vampires drinking the blood of other vampires. Ahem, we’re looking at you Twilight and Anne Rice. Perhaps it could be that vampires are generally still aesthetically pleasing to gaze upon and romanticized in pulp fiction.
Zombies, on the other hand, kill the living with grotesque hand to hand combat and then proceed to eat their prey. Many times it happens while the victim is still alive! In zombie films, this often leads to the person screaming like a banshee while entrails are ripped from their abdomen. It’s
not uncommon for the death scene to mark the climax of justice as often the first or last victims in zombie movies are guilty of committing some type of crime against morality. The end result is the same; there isn’t much left over after the zombie is done feasting on his or her meal. So there can be no shifting of loyalties, prisoners of war, or further reanimation of new zombies.
Zombies are not sexy
Hollywood loves it’s hip and cool monsters, and I’m not referring to the Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby type. However, zombies are not among the betrothed in celluloid horror. There is absolutely nothing remotely erotic about decomposing flesh, rotten odors and mangled corpses rising from the grave. Need some proof of studio love for villains? Recently the comic book monster Venom smashed box office records with an $80 million dollar opening for the self titled film. In the Golden Era, Bela Lugosi portrayed a suave Count Dracula in Dracula (1931), having no physical deformities expect some raging canines and motor oil in his hair. I vividly remember how empathetic I was toward the Creature in The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) when I first watched it. He was the victim in the movie and the audience sincerely felt for his plight. Again, Romero was the trailblazer and rule-breaker in the genre and we all recollect of “Bub” from Day of the Dead as the one likable zombie. I personally always thought Bub was a stupid character, but he is well loved among fans now, and I’d better mention him or risk the wrath of fanboys.
While there have been some attempts at “zom-com“, (placing zombies in romantic or comedic situations), the fad thankfully died a quick death. Commercially successful zombie films, such as Zombieland, have incorporated love stories into the plot. But these romances are among the living characters trying to survive, not between undead Romeo and Juliet. So, unless you get aroused by the sights, sounds and smells of a slaughterhouse in summer, zombies aren’t sexy.
Oh, and you can forget about any random, gratuitous, sexy shower scene in a zombie vs. zombie movie. Back in the day, directors would often insert random nudity into their movies. For example, the cyberpunk striptease (Linnea Quigly) scene from Return of the Living Dead (1985), served no function other than to put a naked women in the movie. Her character literally becomes so aroused from the notion of being eaten alive by a zombie, she is compelled to perform a full frontally nude dance atop a sarcophagus in a graveyard! AHH, THE 80’s! It may not have improved the quality of movie that ROTLD was, but I’m sure it improved box office ticket sales and VHS rentals. It is now considered a cult classic.
Take note; this was before an individual could simply open a web browser to whichever high-def, streaming, porno site in the privacy of their own home. It’s not hard to argue this may have been a major factor in the success of rather mediocre film. In the #METOO era, these types of cheap thrills for horny guys are long gone. In their place, you have strong female leads like Sarah Polley in 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. She carries the story, has very strong, “hero”, moments mixed with believable weaknesses, and doesn’t loose a single stitch of clothing through the 90-minute hard-core action movie.
A zombie vs. zombie battle story would have to address many questions and taboos to be successful. Some sacred cows of the genre would need to be sacrificed, such as the mob mentality of zombie hordes. Also, necrophiliacs not-withstanding, there is a strong commercial argument as why zombies would need to be transformed somehow into sexy beasts in order to gain traction for a major motion picture.