Why Slow Zombies Are Still More Frightening Than Fast Ones

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Something is going on with the zombies that populate our stories. Not only are there more of them, but they are also noticeably faster, almost acrobatic, capable of running full tilt and even leaping over the tops of walls after prey. And yet, for all that, their plodding predecessors had one thing they don't.


In response to the recap to this week's Walking Dead (NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD), a discussion began about just what made Tyrese's death so wrenching. Part of the reason was the character himself, but just as important, noted several commenters, was how it happened.

In movies and TV shows featuring what are essentially the pro-athletes of the zombie world, the dangers they represent are somewhat akin to a natural cataclysm. Escape, if it happens at all, is a matter of chance, the tornado that hits one house and leaves its neighbor standing.

With slower zombies, however, escape, perhaps even triumph, is theoretically possible. The danger they represent is less an overwhelming one and more an omnipresent one, one that can strike when you, for even a moment, turn your back on it:

Garrison Dean

This is exactly why I love slow zombies. Death comes from human error. That moment you lose focus, slow down, give up, show hubris around these dumb creatures, or allow yourself to become overwhelmed, that is the moment you die. 20 fast zombies are like a natural disaster, you never had a chance. The best zombie stories use the creatures as a catalyst to explore human nature, and here we were looking at how grief can take over and make someone get distracted from what is right in front of them.



So, basically, slower zombies are better because people become stupid. I've never been able to take slower zombies seriously due to the need for hilarious levels of incompetency to take place in order for them to even marginally spread. I mean, sure they would be more devastating if the infection was airborne, but bite to bite? My suspension of disbelief always has a hard time digesting that, and I just end up rolling my eyes at the level of ineptness that seems to happen in sequence.

I think it's not the zombies that terrify me in those movies, but the level of human idiocy that just suddenly happens.