by Steve Anderson
The first bonafide zombie movie (of the modern sort) that anybody noticed was George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” in 1968. It was considered distasteful by many (who probably had the wits scared out of them), and certainly not easy to view, because it was somewhat before VHS, DVD, or anything like that. For all practical purposes, you needed a movie theatre to view it—not practical at all for most of us. Still, the genre grew (even as George Romero was about the only practitioner), new directors signed on, and, gradually, it became formidable. Now, who would dare estimate the number of zombie movies, as new ones keep appearing and older ones crawl out of the woodwork?
So it’s been almost 50 years without much let up. Gradual at first, and then a flood. Currently, no less than three TV series are in action, based on zombies, walkers, for whatever.
All this prompts the question: When will it let up?
Developments on the series Fear the Walking Dead may give a clue on how much gas the genre has left. In “Pablo & Jessica” we have one group of survivors holed up in a resort hotel. Their decision? They must prepare to stay there for the long haul—build a refuge to hang on until the walkers (what the people in this series call zombies) walk away, disintegrate, evaporate, or whatever. A little reflection tells that something like digging in has been a mainstay of the still-running original series (The Walking Dead). Its survivors have protected themselves on fortified farms, prisons, a walled town, a walled model community, and so on. Each new season becomes the excuse for finding protection in a new secure place. Fear the Walking Dead (or, the Walking Dead in another part of the country) begins by trying new plot approaches. But, finally, the luxury yacht is just another version of the walled refuge. So by the time we come to “Pablo & Jessica” we have survivors ready to fight it out from a resort hotel. Further, we can’t overlook developments in another plot thread in which a character finds safety in a place called “The Sanctuary”—another walled community
Have we reached a dead end for settings?
But there’s repetition in other aspects of the stories. In one of the late installments of last season’s Walking Dead, human survivors were guiding an endless stream of walkers around and away from their walled community. Walkers, it seems, can be tricked into following one behind the other in their search for humans to devour. In “Pablo & Jessica,” Alicia thinks they can empty the hotel of walkers more efficiently than destroying them room to room. She proposes, and the survivors follow through on, inducing all the walkers in the hotel into moving, one behind the other, out of the hotel, across the pier, and into the ocean, where, presumably, they will be harmless. So the walker problem is solved for the moment at that particular hotel. Copying plot elements in this way isn’t necessarily a problem, but it could become one, especially when used in two closely related series within a year.
We haven’t reached the point of nothing new to say—but we may be getting there.