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Old 11-06-2008, 02:38 PM   #1
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Why Fast Zombies Suck

I know, I know... Zombies that run are more visceral, exciting, and immediate. They are the modernization of a classic monster. It's the difference between Lon Chaney Jr. howling with brown-painted cotton balls glued onto his sideburns and The American Werewolf In London. Hell, the Dawn of the Dead remake was all kinds of awesome and Left 4 Dead is currently showing people how sweet badass screaming zombies catapulting into you can be.

Simon Pegg, of Shaun of the Dead, begs to differ and he makes some great points.

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I know it is absurd to debate the rules of a reality that does not exist, but this genuinely irks me. You cannot kill a vampire with an MDF stake; werewolves can't fly; zombies do not run. It's a misconception, a bastardisation that diminishes a classic movie monster. The best phantasmagoria uses reality to render the inconceivable conceivable. The speedy zombie seems implausible to me, even within the fantastic realm it inhabits. A biological agent, I'll buy. Some sort of super-virus? Sure, why not. But death? Death is a disability, not a superpower. It's hard to run with a cold, let alone the most debilitating malady of them all.

More significantly, the fast zombie is bereft of poetic subtlety. As monsters from the id, zombies win out over vampires and werewolves when it comes to the title of Most Potent Metaphorical Monster. Where their pointy-toothed cousins are all about sex and bestial savagery, the zombie trumps all by personifying our deepest fear: death. Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.

However (and herein lies the sublime artfulness of the slow zombie), their ineptitude actually makes them avoidable, at least for a while. If you're careful, if you keep your wits about you, you can stave them off, even outstrip them - much as we strive to outstrip death. Drink less, cut out red meat, exercise, practice safe sex; these are our shotguns, our cricket bats, our farmhouses, our shopping malls. However, none of these things fully insulates us from the creeping dread that something so witless, so elemental may yet catch us unawares - the drunk driver, the cancer sleeping in the double helix, the legless ghoul dragging itself through the darkness towards our ankles
Choose your apocalypse! Fast or slow zombies?
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:40 PM   #2
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Wow. Didn't know Simon Pegg could speak with such eloquence. +3 to him, sir.

Also, I like both. They're both freaky as fuck. Left 4 Dead/28 Days/Weeks Later shows this, while the Dawn of the Dead movies shows why the slow ones are scary as fuck too.
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:46 PM   #3
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Flying werewolves? That might be cool....

Slower zombies give humans more of a chance to survive.
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:46 PM   #4
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So.. did he just hit middle age? There is nothing wrong with slow and fast zombies. They are both equally upsetting.
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:47 PM   #5
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I favor slow zombies, but I understand that game devs need the added variety a speedy zombie would add. I also understand that it's easier to make a "scary" movie if you can do a lot cheap startling moments.
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:56 PM   #6
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I'd suspect that if you're a speedy kind of person (say an Olympian of some merit), there's a decent chance that when the zombie apocalypse comes and you get bitten, you're most likely not going to shamble. If zombies still have some rote memories - like going to the mall, say - I'd bet they can remember how fast they can sprint.

And when that happens, you're gonna get zombie-raped.
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Old 11-06-2008, 02:58 PM   #7
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I've got a zombie obsessed friend who argues the that fast zombies just aren't possible within the framework of the zombie storyline. Zombie are reanimated humans that retain only the most basic brain functions. They're only driven forward with their lust for human flesh, a force strong enough to overcome death. After all, the zombie condition is a disease of the bain, evident in the way you kill them. So in essence, zombies don't have the functioning brain compacity to movie quickly. You need motor skills to be able to run and zombies just don't have it anymore. They're barely able to move, let alone run like olympic sprinters. Zombies are also still decomposing, so the futher they are down the path of decomp, the less responsive body parts are. Now this largely based on whether your zombies are the newly deceased or the dead rising from the grave, but you can't run if your legs don't have the muscle mass to carry your weight anymore.

Now, this doesn't apply to the 28 Days Later super virus zombies, obviously. If we're talking traditional zombies, they just plain shouldn't be able to run.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:01 PM   #8
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I think as a concept, I value slow zombies over faster ones because I like the idea of the undead hordes being a plodding unstoppable force. When you die from slow zombies, it's almost always your fault. You got tired. You got careless. You got complacent. Slow zombies are the punishment for humanity's hubris and inability to cooperate. They provide abject lessons for observers to shake their heads and think they would do better.

Fast zombies are better when there's no lesson to be learned. They're great in games and movies because we just want entertainment. Don't bore me with observations on the human condition. Just get with the flesh munching! Fast zombies allow scenarios with urgency and quick, frantic immediacy. You must get the car started now! You need to close the door now!

I like the idea of a zombie apocalypse that starts out with a majority of fast zombies, because the monsters are freshly dead. As decomposition sets in, they get slower and slower, turning into the shambling, rotten legions moaning for food. This allows the frantic craziness of the breakdown of society and then provides opportunites for protagonists to make mistakes later as the hordes get more lethargic.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:01 PM   #9
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I've actually read a similar argument by him before (I freakin' love Simon Pegg), and he's absolutely right. He makes the very important point that "zombie" comes partially from the Latin "somnambulist," meaning "sleepwalker," which I've always found to be a good, quick argument against running "zombies."
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:03 PM   #10
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I've had this discussion numerous times with friends. When all the cards are on the table, one cannot argue the accuracy of the slow zombie.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:07 PM   #11
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Flying werewolves? That might be cool....
Until humanity is decimated by winged lycanthropes. We'd be so fucked.

I agree with Pegg and his intelligence makes me love him even more...if that's possible. Right now no DVD gets nearly as much playtime in my player as Hot Fuzz does.

I've always disagreed with the concept of running zombies simply because I don't think they would have nearly the motor skills necessary to run. Maybe they could try to run, but they would just fall down almost immediately.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:10 PM   #12
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Until humanity is decimated by winged lycanthropes. We'd be so fucked.

I agree with Pegg and his intelligence makes me love him even more...if that's possible. Right now no DVD gets nearly as much playtime in my player as Hot Fuzz does.
Funny since it's Shaun of the Dead for me.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:10 PM   #13
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My favored type of zombie is described perfectly by Max Brooks in the Zombie Survival Guide. The zombie will have many of the same attributes it had in life. The only thing that will get in the way is decomposition or physical damage of some sort. They may be able to move quickly at first, but sooner or later they will probably injure themselves in some manner since they don't have the cognitive function to "be careful" and probably don't have the motor skills to stay upright. Running does take quite a bit of coordination.

The only thing that I don't like about some versions of zombies is when they're given cognitive reasoning. This takes away from one of the things that makes zombies so scary, their mindless persistance. If you barricade a door and a zombie knows you're inside it will beat on it until it gets though. The only thing to make him stop is a prospect of other food or getting killed.

The idea of an enemy with ultimate resolve, with no need for rest or food, and eternally relentless is what makes a mob of zombies frightening. The second you give them the capability to think, that resolve and relentless nature disappears as they "try different tactics".

/rant

Sorry about that...this was about zombie speed and I felt the need to rant.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:14 PM   #14
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I've got a zombie obsessed friend who argues the that fast zombies just aren't possible within the framework of the zombie storyline. Zombie are reanimated humans that retain only the most basic brain functions. They're only driven forward with their lust for human flesh, a force strong enough to overcome death. After all, the zombie condition is a disease of the bain, evident in the way you kill them. So in essence, zombies don't have the functioning brain compacity to movie quickly. You need motor skills to be able to run and zombies just don't have it anymore. They're barely able to move, let alone run like olympic sprinters. Zombies are also still decomposing, so the futher they are down the path of decomp, the less responsive body parts are. Now this largely based on whether your zombies are the newly deceased or the dead rising from the grave, but you can't run if your legs don't have the muscle mass to carry your weight anymore.
My problem with this theory is that the act of walking is incredibly difficult all on its own. In order to accomplish bipedal locomotion, the rather precise coordination of a huge number of muscles is required... we humans just make it look easy. If the zombie didn't have quite good motor skills already, it wouldn't be able to shamble, let alone walk, at all.

However, once you've got walking down, running isn't any great leap of skill (IMO).

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I've actually read a similar argument by him before (I freakin' love Simon Pegg), and he's absolutely right. He makes the very important point that "zombie" comes partially from the Latin "somnambulist," meaning "sleepwalker," which I've always found to be a good, quick argument against running "zombies."
That's an interesting folk etymology, but lexicographers seem to have different theories about the origin of the word.

OTOH, most of the lexicographers I've sampled aren't quite in agreement with each other, either.

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Origin:
181020; appar. < Kongo or Kimbundu nzambi god
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Caribbean French and English Creole, from Kimbundu -zumbi, ghost, departed spirit.
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1871, of W. African origin (cf. Kikongo zumbi "fetish;" Kimbundu nzambi "god"), originally the name of a snake god, later with meaning "reanimated corpse" in voodoo cult. But perhaps also from Louisiana creole word meaning "phantom, ghost," from Sp. sombra "shade, ghost." Sense "slow-witted person" is recorded from 1936.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:14 PM   #15
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I don't see any issue it is entirely fiction. Trying to elaborate on slow and fast zombies in regards to why and why not is completely subjective; they don't exist, so reviewing the mechanics of movement in relation to being fast or slow is not going to find any definitive answer - without drawing up the usual round of zombie questions (energy, sight, hearing, decomp, etc).

Both are entertaining, should I find myself in a WWZ situation, I would prefer only slow ones.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:15 PM   #16
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Funny since it's Shaun of the Dead for me.
It used to be mine as well. It switched over to Hot Fuzz eventually though.
I can't get enough of Pegg and Frost, those 2 are just epic.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:17 PM   #17
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I find slow zombies to have better horror elements to them as well. Slow zombies naturally build suspense, especially as they start to congregate and turn into a slow, shambling wall of death. As a fully functional survivor, you'd probably figure you can always run. The real horror of the situation sets in when you figure out that it doesn't matter how fast you are. They keep coming, their numbers keep growing and eventually, your going to get caught. You've got to sleep some time. Even when you think your safe, you'll probably end up surrounded by morning. The fact that you can avoid it just makes the suspense build. It isn't like you can actually survive the zombie apocolypse. For all your effort, at a certain point, you'll eventually learn that there's no hope and dispair sets in.

I find that to be a much stronger element of horror than the quick scares and frantic situations.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:19 PM   #18
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Yes, zombies should never run. The DotD remake was enjoyable, but totally not a zombie movie. Just a demon one.

And I'm trying to like L4D.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:29 PM   #19
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However, once you've got walking down, running isn't any great leap of skill (IMO).
See, this isn't really true. Infants are a perfect example. At some point they learn to walk, but their motor skills are lacking the necessary timing to master it. That's why they stumble around, not unlike zombies. Even after being able to walk decently, how many times have you seen a toddler take off into a run only to faceplant in about 3-4 steps? Zombies, being unable to learn, never develop the skill to walk without shambling, so they definitely shouldn't be running.

Just my $.02 on it.
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Old 11-06-2008, 03:30 PM   #20
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Yes, zombies should never run. The DotD remake was enjoyable, but totally not a zombie movie. Just a demon one.

And I'm trying to like L4D.
28 Days Later came before Dawn of the Dead.
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