Taking my daily walk around my local area, I cannot help but notice how the world outside suddenly resembles the London of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later: deserted streets, immobile vehicles, and almost no ambient noise. It’s not quite a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but it certainly puts me in mind of one.
I love dystopian movies. Especially ones with a healthy dose of zombie action. Fifty years ago, the modern zombie movie was born when George Romero released a low-budget movie called Night of the Living Dead. Combining hordes of the undead lurching across the suburbs of Pittsburgh with a healthy dose of social commentary, the movie terrified and intrigued in equal measure.
During the current lockdown streaming of zombie fare has gone through the roof. We can’t get enough of recent movies such as Zombieland and World War Z which all but convince us that a viral plague will turn us all into drooling cannibals.
And so, I present here my seven golden rules for surviving such an eventuality…
#1 – Don’t stand next to the Token Non-White Guy
We all know the scenario. It’s been done in countless movies before so why should zombie films be any different? As soon as any character of black/south-Asian/Indian/Latino descent is given more than a few lines, you know that dude is history. Might as well hang a sign around his neck: dead man walking. Even Will Smith who played the lead in I am Legend ended up having to blow himself up to keep the zombies from chomping on his skull. So, if you bump into Token Non-White Guy – stay well clear.
#2 – Kill your best friend
First rule of post-apocalypse survival – don’t trust anyone. Least of all your friends and family. They ALWAYS turn. The best thing to do, the only thing to do, is to flamethrower them right away. If you don’t have a flamethrower to hand, a mallet to the brain will do. Don’t be sentimental. I guarantee you will save everyone a lot of angst in the long run.
#3 – Don’t turn your back on the family pet
Zombie animals are the sneaky villains of post-apocalypse scenarios. Just when you think you’ve dealt with the lurching hordes of former humans, you discover little Benji has turned into a slavering Cerberus intent on tearing you limb from limb. This is one case when there is no such thing as man’s best friend.
#4 – Don’t go near shopping malls
For some reason zombies are inordinately attracted to shopping malls. Judging from the generally tattered state of their clothing, perhaps this is understandable – there must be plenty of post-apocalypse bargains to be had in the zombie clothing department. One of the best examples of the mall zombie is Dawn of the Dead.
#5 – Don’t bother with the toilet paper
Particularly relevant, given recent shenanigans. It’s a simple proposition… In every zombie movie we see panicked civilians stripping supermarkets for tinned goods, raiding gun stores for weaponry, rampaging through pharmacies for medical supplies. But have you ever seen anyone stocking up on toilet paper? No? Me neither.
#6 – Beware of anyone who suddenly needs to wear more clothing
You know the one. That dude who’s been swanning around in a Bruce Willis wifebeater vest, happily modelling torn jeans and a dodgy stubble, and all of a sudden he decides to wear a Sartre turtleneck and ski gloves. In the middle of a heatwave. You’re not fooling anyone, Bruce. He’s been bitten/scratched/infected. He will turn.
#7 – Don’t go anywhere with Special Forces
In theory, it makes sense to hang out with a squad of experienced killers when faced with a horde of zombies. After all, these people have been trained to shoot, they have the kit, they’re strong, fast, well-drilled, and have no compunctions about blowing away a cute little five-year-old who even twitches funny. Better safe than sorry is their motto… Except, as movies such as Resident Evil have shown us, this gang of pumped-up macho men – and women – are usually jaw fodder for the zombie hordes. Arrogance, a complete refusal to believe in the situation, and sheer weight of opposing numbers tend to make their contribution relatively short-lived. Stay well clear.
There you have it. My tips for post-apocalypse zombie survival… Now, until we all turn into drooling brain cannibals, we can prepare by watching lots of good quality zombie entertainment. My recommendation: Train to Busan. A rather brilliant South Korean zombie film that takes place in the claustrophobic setting of a speeding train.
You can hear myself and Abir Mukherjee discussing post-apocalyptic fiction on the latest episode of our podcast here: www.redhotchilliwriters.com
In the meantime, I wish you all the best. Stay safe!