On the surface, horror moves seem some so rebellious.
There is all the violence, rebelling against expectations that entertainment be docile and tame. And the subject matter itself: explorations of evil, refusing to be swept under the rug. And also lots of boring old people telling us not to watch.
I think I was almost disappointed when I first encountered critical looks at horror. When I think about the slasher movies of my misspent youth, it is hard to deny the subtext of the formula: kids go away from the safe world of adults. Some of them do drugs or have sex. Inevitably, the young lady who does those things wanders off alone, and she is killed for her troubles. Despite the gloss, it is the most boring kind of morality play.
As I watched the conclusion of last season’s Walking Dead, I came to a similiar conclusion about the zombie genre: despite all appearances, it is also a lot of old fashioned ethics masquerading as something counter-cultural.
More specifically, the whole idea of a zombie is nothing more than a potrayal of what we think of our flesh. The antagonists of these films (and books and comics) are an object lesson in everything we fear about our bodies. The monsters, by definition, have been stripped off mind and spirit and soul. A body with out these things is nothing but appetite, a harbinger of doom.
There is a long history of villyfying the body. It is easy to notice the pains we locate here. It is understandable how we blame our physicality for our weakness. But this is such a one-sided view. Ectasy lives here in the body, too. And so many of the negative things we project onto our bodies don’t belong here at all.