I decided to watch this movie, which I had never seen before, in response to the recent zombie attack in Florida that everyone knows about. I’m generally not really into zombie or vampire movies—I prefer my genre cliches in space—but this one was definitely thrilling, definitely tense (especially in the very beginning), definitely horrifying, and definitely entertaining, even if at two and a half hours it was at least an hour longer than most horror movies—though, of course, not most great horror movies. Alien and The Exorcist are at least two hours long, I think, and probably longer.
Anyway, every snippet I’ve seen on this movie mentions its critique of consumerism, which is obvious, with mindless zombies wandering around in a shopping mall. Zombie-like behavior has since come to define anyone who acts without thinking; a piece in the Dokdo Times claims that while Seoul has recently been infested with zombies, few people have noticed any difference, and the content at one of the nation’s top newspapers has actually improved after its entire staff was infected with the brain-numbing zombie virus.
Roger Ebert’s review was, as usual, a little more subtle and a little more nuanced, but I haven’t seen anyone mention how once the protagonists have cleared the shopping mall of evil zombies, and have a month or two to themselves with all the consumer items one could possibly need—in addition to all of the cash left in the registers at each store—their lives become completely meaningless. As soon as there are no more zombies left to re-kill, and as soon as these people are allowed to enjoy the American dream in peace and quiet, everyone everywhere immediately concludes that their situation is not just empty of all warmth, goodness, and pleasure, but that this enormous monument to consumerism—larger than any temple, museum, stadium; larger than most towns, its vast halls seeming to go on forever in every direction, almost like an Escher painting—should never have been built to begin with, and because it was built and financially supported by so many people, because it was viewed as the apex of human achievement (since it is so large and since its design has been replicated thousands of times the world over), all of these people (even the heroes) were already mindless zombies to begin with, although even after zombiefication takes place, all of them are still in denial about it.
Consumerism has built the world up and brought the world down at the same time. I think the second most important problem on Earth right now, coming in after overpopulation, is that most people are focused or even obsessed with buying things that they do not need (myself included, with the mac I’m using to write this post) while also being employed in the production or distribution of these same unnecessary consumer items. There is a cult of wealth and celebrity, but not a cult of providing necessities to everyone. One of my many Marxist utopian wishes is for the world economy to shift its focus from providing things that are not necessary to a small group of rich people to providing things that are necessary to everyone. The energy is definitely there, but not the dedication, since there is little immediate profit involved in ensuring that everyone everywhere (regardless of laziness) has access to a decent house, electricity, clean water, good healthy food, birth control, education, child care, health insurance, social welfare, retirement funds, movies, books, music, art, playgrounds, fields, forests, clean air, police protection (rather than intimidation), unions.
One more thing. In most zombie films, zombie-ism is spread as a result of being bitten by a zombie, or by coming into contact with zombie blood. The apocalyptic worlds we see in these films are usually full of zombies, and yet whenever these monsters get their hands on a fresh victim, escape is usually impossible. In almost every case of a successful zombie attack—when a zombie manages to bite a victim—that victim is completely dismembered before he or she can become a zombie. Therefore, statistically, scientifically, logically, the spread of traditional zombieism is more or less impossible, since the zombie virus doesn’t act faster than a zombie’s teeth. If some sort of airborne virus were responsible for zombie-sim—or, in the case of Florida, a cocktail of potent psychotropic drugs—everyone would be totally screwed, but the zombies would eventually die out anyway because they would run out of people to eat, even if in George Romero’s classic it seems like the zombies can go for months without feeding. The mere presence of all the consumer items in the mall appears to keep their batteries charged.
In response to increasing wealth-disparity, more people are taking to the streets than ever before, and social unrest is (or may soon become) a feature of everyday life. I’ve read that governments are planning to respond with new crowd control weapons—death rays, heat rays, pain rays that have people puking all over themselves, and myriad other methods to help remind all of us lower class Deltas and Gammas that if you work hard, you, too, can be rich. A zombie ray may one day become part of this arsenal to make it easier to get people to devote themselves more fully to the cult of consumerism.