Starbucks is releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte next week. It’s a little early for fall if you ask me but if they can do it, I can release a blog post related to monsters a little early for Halloween. Enjoy your pre-PSL warm up discussion of fictional monsters below.
I’d say we all have a favorite movie or fiction monster. Some people become obsessed with blood sucking creatures of the night. Others love the creature cobbled together from dead body parts most people incorrectly call Frankenstein (it’s Frankenstein’s monster people, get it straight!) Others are really into those who grow fur and fangs but only on full moons. Werewolves, I’m talking about werewolves if that wasn’t clear. But for me if I could only have stories about one type of creature ever again I definitely go for zombies. Here’s my list of why zombies are the best monsters.
- They are versatile – zombies can be a stand in for anything. They can be a metaphor for consumerism, for fear, for mass hysteria, for communism, for outsiders, literally for anything. It always works because zombies are just a mindless horde of creatures and the motivations they get assigned to them are based on what the still living people in the stories think they are. So if the main character thinks these suckers are in a mall all day because that’s what they did in their former lives, boom, this story is about consumerism.
- They are unpredictable – sure a slow walking zombie seems like it has it’s attention focused on a dead animal and you might be able to sneak by it but one snap of a twig and that thing and all its buddies have decided on fresh meat and next thing you know you are running like crazy.
- They can be anyone at any time – this goes along with them being unpredictable, but it happens in nearly all zombie stories. Someone has been bit. Their natural instinct is to hide it and although they start acting funny, no one wants to say anything because it’s someone they care about. Sure, the best thing for the group is to get rid of that person but that is cruel and heartless. So next thing you know, a whole group of non-infected people are now zombies. And it happens so fast it can’t be stopped.
- They are us – A person is bitten by a zombie and they turn. But this person is your wife, husband, brother, friend, cousin etc. This is someone you know. And although you know for a fact that they are no longer human, how hard would it be to stop this walking reflection of someone you held dearly in your heart only moments ago? I feel like there might not be a more terrifying scenario in fiction.
- They are never ending – Stop a werewolf? Use a silver bullet. Stop a nest of vampires? Stake the original vampire in the heart. Stop one zombie? Usually damage its brain. But unlike vampires and werewolves, the only way to completely and forever get rid of zombies is to once and for all get rid of people. I don’t think any of us wants that. The next best thing is to hope for a cure. Even if you can get that, you have to hope it sticks and the odds are not good because, well, everyone is a little different and there could be that one person that doesn’t respond to the cure. Then that person infects the next and here we go again, only this time, the infection is stronger.
- They have the coolest origin story – At their start, zombies were just people who had been hypnotized and essentially given up the will to live. They were seen this way for centuries but then, one movie wiped all of that out in one swoop and zombies have been different ever since. When Night of the Living Dead came out, George A. Romero redefined one of the most recognizable and iconic of creatures so much that his version of zombies is now the most recognizable one. That is incredibly bold and influential film making.
- They are the most likely to happen in reality – Could vampires exist? Maybe, I mean, there have been people who thought they were vampires and there are a few stories of historical figures who did very strange things with blood. But we know that a lot of the origin of that myth has to do with the misunderstanding of how bodies decompose. Could werewolves happen? There’s a ton of stories of people morphing into animals in one way or another, some of them benign, some malevolent. But there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that would make werewolves at all likely. Could zombies happen? Well, there is a lot we are yet to understand about the brain. We have untold fungus, bacteria, disease out in the world that we do not understand. We have scientific research going on that could lead to very bad things getting out into the world. I’m not saying it’s likely or anything, but the right confluence of factors could lead to a disease of some sort getting out that strongly reflects our modern concept of zombies. It’s the only fictional monster that I can think of where this is even a remote possibility. For me, that’s enough to make them my favorite and the ones I am most likely to be frightened by.
So what do you think? Do you have a counter argument? Is there a better monster out there in fiction? Which creatures keep you awake at night? Let me know in the comments.