Confessions Of A Pre-Teenaged Zombie
We’ve done our fair share of promoting zombies this month, positioning them as fun for the whole family in the form of our latest game, Zombie Pizza. We even went so far as to publish a roundtable asking if our pop culture has gone too far in taking the horror out of the walking dead. With zombies atop the box office and the best seller lists, it should surprise no one to learn that zombies are just as hot with teens and tweeners as with their developmentally-arrested parents. To zero-in on what makes zombies so damn cool, we went to the source — our resident (almost) teenager, Miles O’Connor.
Miles, the zombie-hunter
The son of Appy co-founder Paul O’Connor, Miles probably never had a chance at a normal life. Burdened by the nerd gene, and raised around videogames all his life, Miles was bound to grow up bent. But even the most ardent supporters of environment over heredity as the determining factor in personality would have to admit that Miles is unusually attracted to horror and the undead, even for someone of his geeky bloodline.
We caught up with Miles after he returned from seeing Zombieland with his old man (who won’t be winning Father of the Year any time soon, we know).
APPY: So, what did you think of Zombieland?
MILES: I’m very happy about it, it was more than I expected and I want to immediately go back and see it again.
APPY: To give us some context, tell us what other zombie pictures you’ve seen.
APPY: I Am Legend was without approval, by the way. You’ve seen the original Night of the Living Dead. No way would we turn you loose on these deconstructed zombie pictures without first seeing the original.
MILES: Ok, there you go.
APPY: Where does Zombieland rank for you?
MILES: I’d give it a ten out of ten. That was the best. I liked the way they kill zombies in the film. I liked the way he (Tallahassee) opens the car door on the zombie as he drives by, the way they hit zombies with golf clubs.
APPY: Can’t say I remember golf clubs, but if you say so … think was that an homage to Shaun of the Dead getting loose with a cricket bat?
Shaun faces a sticky wicket
(warning … Shaun of the Dead spoilers follow below)
MILES: It reminded me of Shaun. They obviously watched Shaun along with a couple other movies before they started directing.
APPY: This zombie business obviously isn’t scaring you … in the picture today, you were squirming and cheering like you were on a thrill ride. What is it about zombies that you find so fun?
MILES: I like the panic that they spread to people, and the way they act … the chasing and they won’t stop unless given a sudden blow to the head.
APPY: Why, you little … in our day, blows to the head were confined to the Three Stooges. Don’t you feel bad when zombies get killed? They used to be people.
MILES: Nah. I’d feel bad if it was an innocent person getting killed in the middle of changing into a zombie, but once they go bad, I like watching them get hurt.
APPY: Do they really get hurt?
MILES: No I don’t think so. Zombies don’t really feel anything.
APPY: Ever seen a zombie that seemed to have feelings?
MILES: Well, I don’t think I’ve seen any zombie movies where they build up a zombie relationship.
APPY: I guess you haven’t seen Day of the Dead yet –
MILES: You won’t let me!
Bub, from Day of the Dead … a thinking man’s zombie
APPY: — you’re not missing much, it’s not Master Romero’s strongest film — but in that picture, “Bub” definitely has feelings. What about Shaun of the Dead’s friend? At the end of the picture?
MILES: Yeah, that changes my feelings.
APPY: What’s different?
MILES: It’s because they build up a relationship between Shaun and Ed, but the joke is when he’s a zombie, he still acts the same as when he was alive.
APPY: I think the subtext of Shaun of the Dead is that we’re all zombies. Shaun’s life before the zombie attack was a kind of living death, to be sure. But for all that it was comedic, Shaun of the Dead has some dark, dark moments. Didn’t you feel bad when Shaun’s mother turned undead?
MILES: Of course I feel bad, I feel bad for when she turns and when she gets shot, but if she was out in the zombie crowd for an hour and then she came back I wouldn’t feel bad becaushe she’s a zombie already. Like when Pete, Shaun’s roomate changes, you don’t mind, it’s fun when he gets shot.
APPY: Now wait a second. We build up a relationship with Pete just like we do with Shaun’s mother. Why is it funny to see him change, but not funny when the mother changes?
MILES: Pete’s sort of yells at Shaun and criticizes him, so I guess that when he gets shot, he’s the guy that’s always chattermouthing, so it’s kind of fun. When he dies you’re kind of relieved.
APPY: Remind us to point your future college roommate toward this blog.
APPY: All right, let’s talk about Left 4 Dead. When we saw this game rolling out at PAX last year, it looked like a sharp little zombie shooter, but we had no idea it would become a daily obsession for you. Don’t you feel the slightest bit of remorse gunning down all those people?
MILES: I don’t feel bad for them because it’s a video game. The zombies look really great, but if you look carefully, some of them are the same. I don’t feel bad about it in Left 4 Dead because you never knew those people before they turned. I wish you could have your survivors turn undead when they die, but they didn’t do that in the game, which is why I curse them. I guess I should write a letter.
APPY: You just did. But it isn’t just zombie games where you kill lots of people. You’ve blasted a whole Reich’s-worth of Nazis to death in Call of Duty.
MILES: They do terrible things, don’t they deserve it?
APPY: You tell me. What’s the dividing line?
MILES: In a game like Grand Theft Auto, you’re just killing random people.
APPY: You’ve never played Grand Theft Auto.
MILES: I’ve played Crackdown, that’s about the same. And Destroy All Humans. I kind of feel bad because you’re electrifying people in that game, but they obviously don’t want you to feel bad for killing humans. When there are only three kinds of humans and they all look the same, you don’t feel bad for them when they die.
APPY: Is it a question of identity?
MILES: In a video game, they don’t have personality. They’re just zombies, they’re all the same, they all think the same way.
APPY: By the way, which is your favorite zombie videogame — Left 4 Dead or Zombie Pizza?
Zombie Pizza, for iPhone & iPod Touch
MILES: Left 4 Dead.
APPY: You little bastard. Zombie Pizza puts food on your table!
MILES: You taught me not to lie, Dad.
APPY: We’re not “Dad” here, remember? It’s Appy!
Miles, the zombie … with a shirt from Nightshade
APPY: What are the essential elements of a zombie movie?
MILES: Terror, in every zombie movie, but they didn’t really have that in Zombieland. The intense feeling of the zombies being outside and you can’t escape from wherever you are, zombies banging on the window and coming through the door. The intense feeling that you’re not immune to the infection so you can be infected that easily. You feel threatened by the thought that just being scratched can make you change.
APPY: Do you worry about changing into something or getting sick?
MILES: If I get the flu or something I’m happy because I get to stay home from school. But I don’t think there’s a z-virus out there yet.
APPY: Let’s talk about how zombie movies have changed. What do you remember about Night of the Living Dead?
MILES: I remember conflict.
APPY: What kind?
MILES: Arguments. The people were arguing. Didn’t have those kind of arguments in Zombieland, it was a little more about the zombies.
APPY: George Romero always used his zombie movies to tell us something about ourselves, and our attitudes toward each other. His movies are about how close we are to a total breakdown in civilization.
MILES: That’s like the message, right?
APPY: What’s the message of these new movies, like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland?
MILES: Shaun was practically a human zombie until he had to start fighting them. The meaning of Zombieland … probably, I’m guessing, I don’t know, was there a message of Zombieland or was it just a movie?
APPY: Wasn’t it about trust and family and love? Appreciating the little things?
MILES: Yeah, in Zombieland they learn to trust each other.
APPY: What about consumerism? The need for things, the owning of things? Is this part of any of these films?
MILES: Twinkies. Yeah, Twinkies.
Twinkies … the ultimate treasure of Zombieland
APPY: Well, not quite what we were thinking. At one point in Zombieland, they’re in this expensive mansion full of cool stuff, but they just leave it. They also bust up a trading post full of stuff.
MILES: They decided they just needed to, they were probably stressed. Sometimes tipping things over can be fun.
APPY: But don’t people spend all their time trying to get those things?
MILES: Things they don’t need, yeah.
APPY: How about Dawn of the Dead? The heroes hole up in a shopping mall full of the things they most wanted when they were alive, but now …
MILES: Can I see Dawn of the Dead? I really want to see that.
APPY: No, not yet.
Dawn of the Dead told us what we already knew — shopping malls are full of zombies
APPY: So do zombie movies somehow ask us what it means to be human? Just being alive, being hungry, wanting things … is that what’s important in life? Because sometimes it seems that’s all we do. But when the apocalypse comes, it doesn’t mean anything any more.
MILES: It’s time to let go of all that and just survive. It probably means take what you need, don’t take what you want.
APPY: Maybe we don’t need the end of the world to decide that makes sense, right?
MILES: I guess.
APPY: So these new zombie movies almost make it seem fun to survive the end of the world?
MILES: Yes, it looks like a lot of fun. I’d love to just go and whack zombies, that would be fun.
cutting loose in Zombieland
MILES: They don’t treat it seriously. They were just trying to have fun and that’s why I liked it.
APPY: But what about the infection and the loved ones turning and the fear and the mass deaths?
MILES: You think too much, Dad. Lighten up, it’s not like Zombie Pizza is some big serious zombie game you know.
APPY: Go to bed, Miles!