In recent years, the popularity of zombies has led to an ever wider variety of stories that use the image and metaphor of a zombie in ways that are almost completely alien, even antithetical, to the traditional zombie movie structure that has been with us since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Deadgirl was one such movie and American Zombie is another. Not that these two movies are anything alike. However, both reframe the idea of zombies in ways that might seem, to some hard-core zombie fanatics, almost sacrilegious.
American Zombie is structured as a documentary that is looking into the lives of the living dead. The Center of Undead Studies (or something like that, I’m not going to go back and check the reference because you get the point) has three classifications for zombies: Feral, Low-Functioning, and High-Functioning. High functioning zombies hold jobs, go about their lives trying to connect to something, trying to remember their past, trying to find true love. But for their rotting flesh they are just your everyday, ordinary Americans trying to get by. There’s even a Zombie American organization with the slogan “We’re here, we’re dead, get used to it.”
If you can’t tell by now American Zombie has both a sense of humor and a satirical agenda and is very clearly not your typical zombie movie. That said, it’s actually interesting. The characters who are interviewed as subjects of the documentary are compelling and the thin line between pity and fear is played with throughout the film. The filmmakers play themselves making the documentary and while we don’t have a lot of character development on their part, there are a few very nice scenes that give them some depth. A couple of creepy moments give the viewer a bit of a thrill but this isn’t a horror film in any real sense so don’t expect to be scared. Amused, curious, and interested perhaps, but not scared. If you are fascinated, like I am, in the whole zombie fascination our culture has going, I recommend this movie. If you want to watch a bloody and scary movie, you’ll probably want to skip it. And if you have Netflix Streaming you can watch it instantly and for free.
I’ll be interested in other reactions to the movie, so drop a comment if you watch it.