Yeah, two movie reviews in less than a week.

Z_movie

I didn’t realize we were going to see this movie. The Cosmic Wife and Daughter and I went to go see “Monster University” and after dropping them off to go park the car, I met up with them to discover that the wife and I were watching a zombie movie while the daughter watched the Pixar offering.

I had been sort of intrigued by the “fast zombies” concept of the movie and figured “what the heck” and soon we were watching the world descend into an undead nightmare.

I suppose this isn’t really a movie review anyway, more a treatise on the concept of zombies in popular culture and the problems they present from any sort of scientific, rational or logical perspective.

The movie was OK, not great, but as B movies go, it was an OK way to waste a couple of hours. I can’t believe how much they spent making the movie and the end result, other than the zombies moving fast, is strictly your standard zombies vs humans story. I can’t believe it’s raking in the money it’s raking in either. I had thought at the very least the movie might explore the concepts of swarming behavior by having humans swarm like locusts or ants, and it is clear from the visual effects and the initial montage of different animal swarms that this was originally supposed to be something that was explored, but in the end all that survived the editing process was a bunch of running, biting, jumping, shooting and screaming.

But zombies…

I have lots of problems with most forms of “undead” creatures, just from a thermodynamics perspective alone, but beyond that, zombies are particularly problematic from any sort of bio-mechanical or bio-chemical perspective. Unless the zombification process somehow revokes the laws of physics, zombies just can’t work they way they are portrayed. In order for them to have any physical activities whatsoever, even just to LISTEN for a sound, they have to expend energy. That means they have to acquire energy from somewhere. Otherwise the end result of any zombie movie would be the use of zombies as infinite energy sources. Just put a bunch of zombies in a hamster wheel and let them run blindly in place and there you go, infinite zombie-powered electric turbine. Zombies are the solution to our energy woes.

But in movie after movie zombies are portrayed as the perpetual motion machine of undead monsters. They just keep on going and going and going, even when they have had no food for days, weeks, months, years….

This movie in particular was noteworthy since the zombies had an urge to BITE humans but showed no particular desire to CONSUME human flesh. They just bit and moved on to bite again, leaving their infected victim to morph into a thermodynamically impossible creature themselves.

Which brings me to the concept of modern “virus” zombies, or zombie movies where the humans become zombies because they are infected with a zombie virus.

The problem here is that necrotic human tissue does not function. When you die, your body’s cells undergo a biochemical process that effectively rots your tissue from the cellular level out. Muscle cells no longer have the ability to contract. Nerve cells no longer have the ability to respond to stimuli or send messages. The virus may infect a body, but once the human is dead, the virus is stuck in a dead body.

The only feasible “zombie” process is a process where the human victim doesn’t really die, but is instead driven insane by the virus and begins to act in ways we would recognize as “zombie” behavior. There is actual biological precedence for this. Many fungi are known to infect insects and cause them to behave in very specific ways which then helps to spread the fungus to new hosts. Ants infected by some parasitic fungi stop acting like ants and instead climb to the top of plants where they cling to a leaf or twig as the fungus erupts out of their bodies and spores are sent seeking new ants.

But that sort of zombification is still biological. The zombie ants will die just as an uninfected ant would die from most things that would kill an ant.

So why do I care about this?

Because it is my opinion that biologically plausible zombies are far more frightening than the thermodynamically impossible zombies because they could actually exist!

World War Z would have been a much better movie had the writers bothered to try to make a biologically and thermodynamically plausible zombie instead of a tired zombie retread. The zombies in World War Z, other than their tendency to swarm and move fast, looked and acted just like the zombies in “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

You would think $130 million, modern CGI and an A-List actor like Brad Pitt would get you a better version of a zombie. You would be wrong.