This is a little outdated (okay… more than a year), but since I never got around to submitting it to Relevant Magazine online, I thought I’d still show it to the world somehow. Here is one of the first articles I ever wrote. OH, and can I also mention that I do not quite agree with myself anymore. I’ve grown a lot since writing this. I enjoy most horror/suspense movies now, regardless of whether you think super intentionally about why you’re watching or not. No judgment.
The virus has infected the whole world, and you are alone. A scraping sound fills your room, the door rattles, and your heart lurches as you look down and realize your ammo is almost out. Growling drowns out the sound of your heartbeat as the door bursts open… Yep. You guessed it. Another zombie movie.
If you find yourself fascinated with the zombie apocalypse film genre, you’re not alone. Zombie movies are off the charts, taking up genres such as comedy, romance, and classics as well as horror. And they are multiplying. A Google search will show 665 zombie movies, and AMC-created television series The Walking Dead to top off the past decade’s zombie-movie success. Its Season 3 finale had 12.4 million viewers.
It seems as if this generation is being overtaken. We all know the craze is everywhere, and with the millions they’re making, the zombies are here to stay. But why are they so popular? What is it about this genre that keeps us coming back? And, most importantly, what are Christians to do with these films?
Many critics and journalists have explored possibilities, suggesting critiques on society, obsession with violence, or a reflection of our discontent in life. These reasons are not new. Ever since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead shocked audiences in 1968, the zombie movie has done something more; it has said something to us about our human condition. And it’s way more than just “brains!”
Mark Muska, associate professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Northwestern College, thinks the reason is twofold. On a surface level, our generation is merely self-absorbed and over-stimulated. We continually seek the next thrill and satisfaction. “Zombie movies are like roller coasters in that way,” Muska says. “They take us on adrenaline highs, and we always return for more.”
Many can’t deny their love of haunted houses, horror movies, or exploring places for fun at night. It’s just simply our culture. But since horror has been around for so long, the movies now get creative. Zombies are perfect because we don’t understand them, and they’re hard to kill. When the zombies leak into other film genres, it is simply combining two loves and desires into movies that will keep the box offices making millions.
But the other level of appeal is much deeper. Muska acknowledges the secret draw towards the films. He says they reflect our longings and interest in life, humanity, and mortality, even for Christians. “The genius of it all is that they don’t raise it directly,” he continues. The characters may not be Christians, but they have things to say about where the world is going. This results from a curiosity towards the afterlife and the end of the world but is often not blatant or obvious unless you’re looking. Also, in a way, the movies force us to imagine being stripped of everything distracting us from what matters most. What would happen if we had to face humanity at its worst? If we really looked, it would show us what we value: beauty, companionship, and sacrifice.
Though the genre doesn’t reflect the Bible in a literal way, the movie makers can often be quite intentional in their underlying messages. Hershel Greene, a character in the TV series The Walking Dead, states to another character in one episode, “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan. Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”
As Christians ourselves, the question we must ask ourselves is how we need to respond and evaluate the craze. Do we turn a blind eye and deem the movies as “sinful,” or do we just exercise caution by thinking about it first?
That’s for each person to decide for him or herself, but the point is to check one’s own interests, standards, and convictions. What needs to be addressed is how we think about and interact with the films and their values even when the TV is off. The Bible doesn’t give a “yes” or “no” concerning horror. Muska reminds that “we are given a lot of freedom in this area.”
Though almost everyone has a special curiosity for the afterlife and the apocalypse, Christians see it differently. On one hand, the zombie apocalypse could be a metaphor for our fallen humanity. Ultimately, these films reveal our depravity and the human nature that would exist on an earth without our redemption. But though the world may not actually be overtaken by zombies, the genre adds something to our values. We can see how it causes us to think about our culture in a new way.
Thus, for Christians, there are two extremes. One would be labeling these films as junk, and the other would be consuming them without a second thought. Middle ground and wisdom are the key, so find what works for you. The importance is your intentions behind why you watch them.