Horror Debates: Fast Vs Slow Moving Zombies

Gone are the days when a zombie's speed had to be recorded using a sun dial! Tonight's debate is over the current trend in Horror, where the once sluggish zombies have now picked up tremendous speed. Bill from Radiation-Scarred Reviews will be defending the fast-moving zombies of the past decade, while ratof13 from The World of Disgruntled Monkey will come to bat for the classic slow-moving zombies:

Should Zombies Be Fast Or Slow Moving?


Slow Moving - ratof13:

When I was a little boy going through school I was big, honestly now at 28 I’m still rather big but damn it there are just too many tasty things in this world. Still in school there were two things that kept me going no matter how bad the taunts got, I was actually a fast sprinter that could easily out pace my would be bullies, and secondly in case of a zombie apocalypse I could not only outrun a zombie but leave plenty of food between me and it. Now it’s the present and thanks to such movies as the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later one of those comforts are a thing of the past. What am I supposed to do? Eat healthy and exercise so I can regain my advantage? Hell no instead I’m just going to complain that Hollywood has got it all backwards.

The origins of zombie if my research serves me correct, is all about Voodoo and how a Bokor (sorcerer, wizard, etc) would hypnotize a corpse into his or her service to perform various menial tasks. They weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed but they got the job done. The zombie was seen as a horrendous fate, a by product of the real monster the Bokor and as such were never a real threat like the vampire, ghoul, etc. There are also versions in book and movies that deal with zombies as living victims hypnotized, and in this dream state they are slow and unresponsive kind of like the zombies we all know and love.

But to be honest it’s not really the history that makes me prefer the slow zombies to the fast zombies but what the two really represent. The slow zombie in my mind has always represented the inevitable depressing ending of humanity. Zombies were never the real threat but just a background to allow the real horror of human nature take place; if people just worked together the zombies would be taken care of. The slow zombie also sometimes represents a fate that can’t be escaped. Yeah you survive and live till you die a natural death but you become a zombie anyway in the end, sucks to be you. Zombies don’t have to be fast as they are like the ocean, wave and wave will come and in the end it’s the humans who change not them. It’s inevitable and that’s frightening.

Fast zombies seem to really be a response to the need in movies to be more exciting, more fast paced. While I will not ever say that the remake of Dawn of the Dead is a bad movie I don’t really think that fast zombies have added anything crucial to the genre and may have taken away a deeper meaning that older zombie movies have. That’s not to say fast zombie movies are bad but just that they might be the lesser of the two.

Fast Moving - Bill:

So, zombies. Right now, in early 2010, I feel like we're reaching a point of saturation with the walking dead -- they're in our cinemas, our comic books, our parodies of Jane Austen novels. Simply everywhere. Everyone has their favorite take on zombies, be they voodoo-induced, radiation-awoken, or disease-carriers. From what I've seen, however, there's one aspect of zombies that arouses more debate than any others: Whether they move slowly or quickly. Slow zombies are the classics -- WHITE ZOMBIE, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD. And those are the original NIGHT and DAWN, mind you, not the remakes! Fast zombies are a more modern take, originating in 1984's NIGHT OF THE COMET and 1985's RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, continuing on into 28 DAYS LATER, ZOMBIELAND, etc.

There's a fair degree of thought on the side of slow-moving zombies -- rigor mortis and decayed muscle would both slow a zombie's movements, for example. However, on the side of fast-moving zombies we have pure primal terror. To take a step back for a moment, back in time...there are a number of sort of primal fears in the human psyche, most of them leftovers from our earliest primate ancestors. Snakes and spiders are two of the biggest -- fearing them and their potentially-lethal bite was a survival mechanism. Fear of death is a big one, on a more metaphysical level, and I think is the primary fear that zombies play on, but with fast zombies we overlay that with an ancestral fear of predation.

Fast zombies combine our fear of dying and our fear of being chased down by wolves.

While slow, shambling undead we could perhaps flee from long enough to find a safe bolt-hole and plenty of ammunition, giving us a comfort zone, fast zombies deny us that. Fast zombies are on you, clawing and biting, before we have time to react, and forget about running. Even if they aren't faster than you (and they probably are), you'll tire before they do. With fast zombies, you have no real hope of survival beyond simply dumb luck. And that's not something you can ever count on.


Excellent contributions gentlemen, thanks for your time and effort in this week's debate! Now is your chance to chime in and voice your opinion on the topic! Be sure to comment below with your thoughts.

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Honolulu Girl-Suz said...

I like Shaun of the Dead 'speed of Zombie'. That's my pick.

I agree, to pick up the pace of the movie, the zombie needs to be somewhat swifter than that of movies long ago, but JFC, I've seen some movies, where I swear to god, did he run like that when he was alive? What the... God damn, I don't even run that fast on my treadmill.

Anonymous said...

I'm a purist. And fast zombies is one of my little pet peeves. It totally loses all the suspense and tension for me to see that in the film. What made Night of the Living Dead scary? Two things. the musical score and the fact that the dead were far away, and then closer, and closer, and they're almost on you.....scary. In today's zombie flicks, they're far away and then they're sucking your veins out of your skull in the same frame. /yawn We SO need some "back to the basics" for horror films these days.

Did I mention that I was a purist?? :P

oducerproducer said...

I prefer slow zombies in film, but i believe if an outbreak were to happen in real life, it'd be caused by a virus ala 28 Days Later, and would just be an infection.

Steve Miller said...

I look at it this way: Why fast zombies when we've got vampires and werewolves already filling that monster niche?

R.D. Penning said...

Oducerproducer was the only one to hit on it, but everyone else failed to mention that even the people who make fast moving zombie movies make excuses for them moving fast. 90% of the time you see fast zombies, it is because they are infected, not necessarily dead but infected. Just like 28 Days Later and the Rage Virus, they are fast because they are not necessarily dead, but infected. Don't get me wrong, I still call them zombies, and I love the movies, but shouldn't that be included in the argument?

Daniel Hobson said...

I was thinking about touching on the infected thing. But seeming there is a debate on the whole infected zombie I thought it best to ignore it and concentrate on other things. Didn't want to tread on anyones toes.

Highly Caffeinated said...

I think that either way has its merits, and the fast or slow zombie should be used depending on the pace and story you're telling. I had this very debate in pre production of Gun Barista. While I love the craziness of running zombies, I went with slow zombies because it fit better for my story.

And just a side note, while we are talking about the science of all things dead, ala rigor mortis etc, I think the fact that they are the reanimated dead kinda throws science out the window.

Bill said...

I'd actually like to note that, despite writing the argument in favor of fast zombies, I'm something of a purist in terms of zombie speed as well. I like my undead slow and shambling, but I relished the opportunity to argue the opposing viewpoint as an intellectual exercise.

Lee Russell said...

I personally prefer slow zombies. Still, slow is sort of subjective here. In some classic zombie films, some of the zombies still moved at a fairly normal speed. It's believable that some "classic" zombies would be slower than others. It's believable that the not-at-all-dead, "infected" types, would still be able to go full-on. What I REALLY dislike are the fast zombies in films such as the remake of "Day of the Dead" that are pretty much doing Parkour on steroids.

Too Many Zombies said...

I don't buy the logic of the fast zombie. Firstly, I think it misses a huge part of the slow-moving type - the fact that they aren't so dangerous in small numbers but the relentlessness and quantity will get you in the end.

And I think it loses the important element that zombies are actually people. When they become ravenous beasts, there's no time to consider that. No guilt. No meaning to who they are.

But, more than that, where does that line of reasoning end? If they are more dangerous, like predators, running and clawing, and so scarier, then why not give them guns? Or giant preying mantis hands? Or death ray eyes? Then we wouldn't stand a chance, so that must be even scarier.

Or nukes?

But that would miss the point of them being zombies, wouldn't it? And so it is with fast zombies. Yes, they can be scarier exactly for the reasons given. But that doesn't mean that's the way it should be.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Im really a lover of both breeds in terms of cinematic suspense, however logistically I dont think there is any reason why the long dead zombies would ever be able to run, ever. I can understand the bestial side of the recently deceased springing to life as the result of the virus, and their still intact musculature would allow for some sweet ass running action. It is still just strange to see all of the fast zombies after growing up with the shambling ones.

Jack Veasey said...

I prefer slow zombies. I find unintentional humor in fast ones, and that kind of ruins the whole scene for me.