27 Jan 2016


Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?

An exploration of zombie films and zombie-like films (I'm including things in 28 Days Later which aren't living dead, but infected living, because they have the same feel formula.)  Just because a film may include walking dead in it it isn't enough to include on the list because it doesn't make it part of the genre.

"The Walking Dead"


There will be no warning...

"The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour." ~ Victor Pascow, Pet Sematary (1989)

... for the characters in the zombie film.

1a.  Eerie - There will be no warning, but there will strangeness or weird vibe.
1b.  News - There may be unusual news stories which relate to the outbreak, but seem random or meaningless to the characters in the film (if they notice them at all.)
1c.  Sudden - The outbreak will be sprung on our heroes, who will be attacked before they know there's a problem.  Sometimes this will appear as an instant-spread of zombism, sometimes that they were just unaware until it was too late.

Naked Zombie Girl


There may be sex and nudity.

"Let's see if I got this straight - our best stripper is a reanimated corpse who is feeding off the living flesh of our customers, who in turn reanimate, even if they're just a fucking head? ...You don't see this as a problem?" ~ Ian, Zombie Strippers (2008)

Sex and nudity are secondary issues in zombie films

2a.  Nudity - Often small amounts of zombie nudity.  Rarely nudity from the main characters.
2b.  Sex - Possibly sex before the outbreak, rarely after as there isn't time and it isn't safe.  Those who have sex will probably be distracted and die.

Resident Evil


Unknown cause.

"Lazy must have been bitten by a purple fly!" ~ Papa Smurf.
"A purple fly?" ~ Smurfs
"What's a purple fly, Pappy Smurf?" ~ Sassette.
"It's a fly that smurfs a disease that only Smurfs can consmurf, Sassette" ~ Papa Smurf, "The Smurfs" (1981 - 1990)

3a.  Unknown origin - Because of the sudden disaster nature of the outbreak, the cause will often go unknown.
3b.  Vague hints - As noted, there may be unusual news stories hinting at the cause or multiple possible causes.
3c.  The originators - Sometime those who caused it will be part of the plot: scientific or military types who are basically evil.  There may be also be hippy-types responsible for the escape/spread of the disease.

Land of the Dead


The Living Dead.

"Bart! You cast the wrong spell! Zombies!" ~ Lisa.
 "Please, Lis. They prefer to be called the living impaired." ~ Bart, "The Simpsons."

The "rules" will vary from film to film.

4a.  Dead - They will be dead.  However, some films that fit the rest of the rules rules instead have some kind of living infected.
4b.  Rising from the grave - A cliche that may happen in older films.
4c.  Instant decay - they will show signs of decay instantly, but will stay at that same level forever.
4d.  Origin - As noted in 3a, the cause will often be unknown, but it will often be suggested to be a viral infection of some sort or possibly radiation.  It may rarely actually be supernatural.
4e.  Spread - Usually by bite, sometimes by other paths of infections, and rarely, just by death.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - Automated responses and instinct, following noises, light and smell, not thought or planning.  Except when they do.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - Moans, groans and sighs.  Unless they can say "brains."
4h.  Lost memory - They don't recall their old lives, however, they may be drawn to places from their past or momentarily seem to recognise those they knew.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - Due to being decayed and having a rudimentary IQ.  Unless it's one of those film where they can run.
4j.  Swarms - Over time the zombies will begin to gather into herds, which will build up outside entrances to buildings, roam the roads and often chase/engulf a lone survivor.
4k.  Stealth zombies - despite the shambling noises, moaning sound and decayed smell many zombies will be amazingly stealthy surprising unawary survivors.  Some of these may be dormant zombies, seemingly lying in wait.  Even swarms will have stealth ability.
4l.  Feeding - Zombies will desire flesh.  Preferably human, but whatever's available.  They will, for whatever reasons sometimes prefer or exclusively feed on human brains.  Their desire for human flesh will lead them to bite (therefore spread zombism - see 4c) but will rarely eat turned zombies.
4m.  Destroy the brains - They seem to need whatever is left of their brain to function, so destroying the brain will stop them, and will be the only way to do so.  Removing a part of the body will stop that part functioning (unlike more supernatural zombies where parts can operate independently.)  Sometimes the instructions are to remove the head, but if the brain is still intact, the brain may continue to live.  Fire may work, but probably only once it has destroyed the brain.
4n.  Exploding heads - Being shot in the head will often cause the head to explode.  As will hitting it was any kind of melee weapon.
4o.  The Z Word - They will go by many names, but rarely, if ever, be called zombies.

Omega Man


The Living

"Make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end." ~ Abed Nadir, "Community" (2009 - 2015)

The films will feature groups of the living.

5a.  Individuals - It will initially follow one or two survivors who will join with a small group.
5b.  Group of survivors - The groups will feature in-fighting and being forced together (obviously) by circumstance. The group will, obviously, get smaller as the casualties grow.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The hero - The unwilling hero, unwilling leader or loner who is forced to join and lead the group.
  • The heroine - Potential love interest for the hero.
  • The bossy guy - Usually the businessman/military, usually older.  The willing leader who will constantly argue with the hero's plans.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - Usually his wife.  She will often support the hero's plan over her husbands, but if the group splits will go with her husband.  Strong opinions which are always wrong.
  • The secondary hero - A young handsome man who supports the hero but does not lead or try to lead.
  • The weepy girl - A female character who is unable to deal with the situation (or the recent death of a loved one) and will be a burden on the group.  May be the heroine or an additional character.  May rally and become an action heroine (especially if the main female character) or may just have a final act of bravery and resolve.
  • Child - A kid.  But fair less guaranteed to survive than in a Slasher Film or Disaster Film.
  • The crazy guy - Someone who knows important survival information safely hidden in his crazed ramblings.
  • Unbeliever - The male version of the weepy girl, but not as weepy.  He will just refuse to believe in zombies.  Will often be the bossy guy (this is his first wrong opinion).  Sometimes killed early as they prove that it is real and happening by being killed.
  • The gang leader - The boss of a rival, more violent group.  If the groups join it may require his death.  If he is part of the joined group will be a more dangerous, violent version of the bossy guy and may fill that role.
5d.  Man is the real monster - Probably more survivors from the group will be killed by other humans than by zombies.
5e.  Steep learning curve - No matter how inexperienced the survivors are, they will quickly become expert marksmen (able to head shots every time) and figthers.  And probably doctors and builders and whatever else.
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - The hero and heroine may be the last survivors.

Zombie Honeymoon



"I couldn't pull the trigger on my own brother.  Rabid rotter or not, I couldn't do it." ~ Jem Walker, "In The Flesh" (2013 - 2014).

The following mistakes will be made by survivors (often leading to death)

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - Why don't they just get moving damn it.
6b.  Grieving - Necessary, but not a good idea while being attacked.
6c.  Making accidental noises - Especially when trying really hard not to when hiding from zombies.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - And thus fall victim to stealth zombies.
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - they'll win.  Yelling at them won't improve thier chances.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - Possibly in a hope they it isn't infected or it will get better, or just not to be killed immediately by the rest of the group.
6g. Unwilling to kill the bitten - Obviously endangering the living, despite being told that "they're already dead."
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - Especially loved ones, maybe appealing to them hoping to be recognised.
6i.  In-fighting - Especially over unwillingness to kill will create a distraction and noise attracting stealth zombies or allowing the bitten to fully turn.
6j.  Fighting at all - At this point, many survivor become OK with the idea of murdering people.
6k.  Having sex - Will create a distraction and noise attracting stealth zombies.
6l.  Being cowardly - Will result in almost immediate death.
6m.  Betraying the group - Will result in almost immediate death, or being found dead later.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - Once again, this is one of the best known rules.  Dark, dangerous, seldom used and few easy exits.
  • Upstairs - The exit to multiple story buildings are on the ground floor.  Going upstairs limits escape routes to dangerous window and roof exits.
  • For a Shower - Showering requires being naked (3b) and in most cases alone (4f).  If the character is not alone, (3b) counts double.
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - Think of these as outside basements.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - The forest isn’t safe, and the character is probably alone (4f), being cowardly (3g) and in danger of tripping and falling (6d).
  • Anywhere alone - Splitting up is bad.  Going anywhere alone just allows the character to be picked off one-by-one.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - Cabins in the woods, spacecraft, anywhere that you are in a small pick-offable group.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - That's where evil lives.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't in rely on a slasher film
  • Communications devices - Phones, Radios, and Mobile Phones, these are usually the first things to fail.  [Such devices only become useful for official warnings and contacting others survivors.]
  • Lighting - First the lights will go.  Then the flashlights/torches and candles.  Banging on the flashlight may or may not fix them briefly.  [Mains power may quickly disappear as civilisation collapses]
  • Vehicular Transport - Any vehicle that does not break down getting you into this situation, will in the most cliché way possible fail to start when needed.  [While vehicles will have diffuculty starting, they will all seem to have easily accessible keys,]
  • Their Own Legs - Stumbling and falling will happen when being chased.  [Also need to be careful of having them grabbed.]
  • The Authorities – Unless they are The Protector, the police and other authorities will not believe the crazy claims of the heroes or The Doomsayer.  If they do arrive during the film they will probably be killed.  [Especially don't rely on the military they will either: be wiped out immediately, be the evil cause of the problem, or become the most dangerous gang.]
  • Weapons – Obviously, weapons will break or fail in a crucial moment during the showdown.
  • Escape Routes - Especially bridges and tunnels.
6p.  Being over-confident - Ironic death warning.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - The more complex the plan, the more ways it can go suddenly and horrifically wrong.
6r.  Making a plan - Death is what happens while you're busy making other plans.
6s.  Assume they're safe - Because they're not.
6t.  Be happy - Horror hates happy.
6u.  Just one last thing - Never go for one last unnecessary item while on a supply run.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - Because... zombies.

The Last Man on Earth

    RULE #7

    Standard plot

    "He's dead?" ~ Dan Cain.
    "Not anymore." ~ Herbert West,  Re-Animator (1985)

    7a.  Normal life - Some attempt will be made to establish the hero's pre-outbreak life, and possibly a reason why they're not as aware of the outbreak as others.
    7b.  Sudden outbreak - As noted the outbreak will come as a surprise to the hero.  They will probably quickly lose someone they know.
    7c.  Meetings - The hero will meet up with other people and relunctantly go places together.
    7d.  Civilisation will collapse - Really quickly while people are struggling to survive.
    7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - With the collapse of civilisation will come empty shops which survivors will raid for surplies.
    7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - Will emerge to survive at all costs and menace the heroes.
    7g.  Finding a place to hole up - Usually a mall, but somewhere to stop that is, for the moment, safe
    7h.  Avoiding contecting to people - Some people, especially one of the main couple, will avoid relationships fearing losing more people from their life.
    7i.  Suicidal - Some people will wonder exactly what the point of going in is.  It is the end of the world, after all.
    7j.  Undead loved-ones - will return, usually nearer the end.
    7k.  Mindless sacrifice - someone will give up their life, just because.
    7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - Will run low or out.
    7m.  Escape from a place - Left with dwindling surplies or another upcoming problem.  There will be a complex plan that quickly deteriorates.
    7n.  Armoured vehicle - Some sort of jerry ringed vehicle which will be initially successful but quickly become a deathtrap.
    7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - People will make plans/discuss avoiding a fate worse than just death.
    7p.  Injury - Someone will be injured and slow the group down, risking everyone's life.
    7q.  Heroic sacrifice - Someone will give their life so the group will live.
    7r.  Death of the last survivor - Will end the film.

    In The Flesh

    RULE #8

    There will be social commentary

    "That guy down there... is me. I'm in Garland, Texas. And it may look like zombies destroyed it, but that's actually just Garland." ~  Columbus, Zombieland (2009)

    The film will include social commentary.  This is subjective and if you look hard enough all films do, but:

    8a.  We are already zombies - With dull repetitive lives, mindless jobs and empty thoughtless consumption, aren't we already zombies?
    8b.  Consumerism - Somehow it gets in there.
    8c.  Racism - Deliberately or accidentally.
    8d.  Working together - For the greater good.
    8e.  Man is the real monster - With civilisation gone, man will revert to savage behaviour.
    8f.  Zombies are people, too - Because why not?
    8g.  Other - Every film will have its own...


    RULE #9

    There is no happily ending

    "I'm not sure I want to remember what went on down here."  ~ Alice.

    "I don't blame you."  ~ James "One" Shade, Resident Evil (2002)

    9a.  Downer ending - Usually after a false "happy" ending.
    9b.  Sudden end - Often the death of the hero.
    9c.  Disaster porn - A long shot of beautiful ruins.
    9d.  No cure - Because the cause is unknown, there is no cure either.  Just death.

    Title unknown.

    RULE #10


    "Groovy." ~ Ash, Evil Dead (2013)

    10a.  Sequels - Usually no "direct" sequels, but often indirect ones.
    10b.  Remakes - Only of Romero films.
    10c.  Adaptations - Will rarely be adaptations of other works.

    "Dead Set"

    The Films.

    1.  White Zombie (1932)
    2.  Night of the Living Dead (1968)
    3.  Dawn of the Dead (1978)
    4.  Zombie (1979)
    5.  Warning Sign (1985)
    6.  Return of the Living Dead (1985)
    7.  28 Days Later (2002)
    8.  Shaun of the Dead (2004)
    9.  Dawn of the Dead (2004)
    10. World War Z (2013)

    These are never set in stone.  If you have better suggestions, I'll make changes.

    ~ DUG.

    Do the survey to determine the next genre to be tested.
    Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.

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