The Farfield is an occasional series where I write about something other than gaming.
The trouble with being alive for such a long time is that you tend to feel like you’ve seen it all before. It doesn’t matter what it is, blah blah been there bought the T-shirt. I think I’ve had my fill of vampires, for example. The last vampire thing that managed to grab me is Buffy and that was five years ago on DVD.
But zombies. Ah, zombies. They never worked for me. I watched a few zombie films when I was younger such as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Return of the Living Dead. At some point I also indulged in some of Romero’s work; Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead were entertaining enough but never hooked me. I tried out The Walking Dead show but we parted ways after the first series. I never ran around hungry for
brains more hot zombie action.
Except, when I think about it, this is lies.
Right, The Fades that debuted on BBC3. People said this was about zombies but it’s a bit more nuanced than that and I also felt it was closer to vampire myth, especially as “the Fades” were not mindless munchers – they’re sympathetic antagonists in some ways. What I like about The Fades is that it took time to build up it’s mythology. One of the earliest ideas is that the Fades are spirits who are fail to reach the afterlife – not because it’s their fault, but because something is broken with the system.
I didn’t believe the series when it was kept telegraphing “the end of the world” because the story seemed so small… and was caught unawares when the story took on much larger dimensions. I’m not much of a fan of “the chosen one” type stories, as the lead character played by Iain De Caestecker (now in Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) was supposed to be special. And the so-called good guys were called “The Angelics”. Yeesh. It’s perhaps more brutal than it needs to be (the death of a key character in the final episode comes to mind) but I was sad that we’d never get a second series to resolve the cliffhanger: “I told him… you don’t fuck with ascension.”
I need to thank Jim Rossignol for getting me into Simon Spurrier’s Crossed: Wish You Were Here, an ongoing webcomic based on Garth Ennis’ Crossed where an infection – spread by touch and bodily fluid – can turn an individual into a feral “Crossed” within minutes. There is no more civilisation, only the Crossed, driven by violent and sexual impulse. Nonetheless, it’s pretty much the post-apocalyptic zombie setup. I’d find this insufferable on TV as it’s quite bitter and cynical – and some characters like Sofia are plot drivers rather than individuals – but the self-serving protagonist keeps things interesting.
If you want to know whether it’s your sort of thing, here’s a hint: the very second page features a dolphin being fucked in the blow hole. That’s an instant reader filter as much as it is an attention-grabber. Flashbacks are used liberally but the story develops at a gentle pace. There are always mysteries being revealed and spun anew in a la Lost and I keep expecting it to run out of steam… but the series is now into its fourth volume. What happened in the military compound? What is the meaning of “clay loan ex time and place”? Why are these Crossed so different? If you’re intrigued, start at chapter one.
Wait, I also forgot all about those zombie movie comedies I enjoyed: Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead… but I think I like them because they are funny and not because they are about zombies. Charlie Brooker’s mini-series Dead Set (Channel 4), which crosses zombie apocalypse with Big Brother set, was okay. It kept my attention although, in the end, it was just another “bunch of people trapped in compound trying to survive and not kill each other” scenario. Notable for having Davina McCall play herself as a zombie. But Brooker often dances too close to the country of obviousness for me – take a look at the Pop Idol episode of Black Mirror for a classic example of that.
Right now, I’m gripped by the second season of In the Flesh (BBC). This takes the opposite tack: civilisation wins and figures out how to turn zombies back into ordinary people. Now the world is awash with people suffering from “Partially Deceased Syndrome”, returning to friends and families that had previously buried them. The stage is set for a drama about prejudice, because people still regard the “rotters” as potential monsters. The original three-episode run netted writer Dominic Mitchell a BAFTA award.
It’s big on world-building, and Mitchell boldly laid some of the seeds of the second series within the first, such as talk of the “Undead Prophet” which was mentioned but hardly explored. I’m not sure I particularly like the turn of events which makes the setting of Roarton “important” in the second series, but it’s compulsive watching regardless.
So there you are. It’s obvious. I hate zombie stuff.
Game Postscript: I wonder if games would work for me as I’ve never played anything zombie-themed, although you might argue that both Half-Life (Valve, 1998) and Dead Space (EA Redwood, 2008) offer up zombies after a fashion and I enjoyed both. But, yup, I’ve never booted up The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013), The Walking Dead (Telltale Games, 2008-present), Left 4 Dead (Valve, 2008) or any other number of zombified jaunts. But you may recall I did enjoy the twine Zombies and Elephants (Verena Kyratzes, 2014).