Zombies have been quite a social phenomenon recently, with the idea of the living dead have been quickly and rather smoothly integrated into popular culture, in general, and the horror genre, in particular. Although the public enthusiasm for the walking dead creatures seems to have declined slightly, zombies have warranted their place in the history of movie monsters. Compared to other creatures in horror films, which represent particular social anxiety that is characteristic of the era in which a movie is produced, zombie-related films tend to render psychological concerns (Dumas 32). However, social issues also often intersect personality-driven themes in zombie-related films since the described subgenre of horror films also addresses social anxieties, portraying them in the form of the undead. Although Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead use different aspects of moviemaking to increase the shock value, the underlying message of human nature as the main repository of the ultimate horror is what bridges the gap between the two films.
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Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead utilize different tools to achieve the visual impact and convince the audience to believe what they see. However, it is the implicit idea of human nature being the conundrum of noble and horrific intentions that elevates both films, allowing them to keep their relevance and attracting numerous audiences even years after they were aired. Both films rely on the concept of human nature as a combination of the unknown and terrifying to keep their audiences on their toes and maintain the investment in the plot and character. Even despite the decades that separate the two cinematic works, the films still purport the sense of horror and entrance their audiences, exposing everything that can be ugly about humankind.
Theoretical Perspective: Comparison and Discussion
Since the idea of a zombie as the embodiment of a rather bitter reflection on human nature implies a social analysis, it requires considering several theoretical frameworks. In their book, Hubner et al. establish that social theories need to be merged with psychological ones in order to represent the complexity of the role that the image of a zombie plays in popular culture. The authors state that “we have to employ theory beyond an exclusive formalism in order to consider the mechanisms through which audiences engage with the formal properties of the text” (Hubner et al. 5).
The perspective that the recent studies on the issue of zombies in popular culture offer is rather broad, involving the analysis of social and psychological conflict. The complex approach toward the analysis of the zombie subgenre of horror movies is dictated by the presence of an intrinsic psychological context that makes viewers question the very notion and essence of humanity.
Overall, the current research insists that the fascination with zombies has more depth than a mere need to receive an adrenalin rush while watching a surreal chase scene. Due to the heavy social subtext that the very idea of a zombie carries, both Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead share a strikingly profound idea of human nature being very dark and complex. The films may share very few plot points, with the use of special effects and mise-en-scenes being much more sophisticated in the latest version of zombie horror, yet the idea that underlies each of the films remains the same (Dhusiya 11). Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead question the sanity and emotional strength of human nature, making it dubious that one can resist the urge to succumb to social tendencies and trends.
While Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead are strikingly different in their choice of visual effects, plot, and characters, the theme of humanity being questioned is what connects them. Both movies delve into the question of what it means to be a human being, seemingly juxtaposing the notion of a zombie to that one of a human. On further scrutiny, one will realize that each of the movies questions whether being a zombie is not a nightmarish and outlandish notion but an inherent part of contemporary reality.
Both Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead are emblematic of the idea that the concept of the living dead is more than an oxymoron. Despite the differences in their plots and settings, both films address the intrinsic fear of people turning to their savage nature and abandoning their ability to reason. In fact, some of the similarities between the settings and plots of Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead maximize this impression, with the claustrophobic environment in which the lead characters are placed serving as the starting point for rendering the problem of social alienation. Thus, both movies reinforce the impression of the social divide between the main characters and the monsters that pursue them.
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Even though there is a significant difference in the plot and stylistic choices of Zombie 2 and Diary of the Dead, both films address the darkest depths of human nature, as well as the issue of social ostracism. As a result, the parallels between the movies become evident and point to the necessity to regain humanity as the key to cognizing oneself and building a better society. Projecting social anxieties onto movies, including their settings, themes, and especially characters is an unavoidable process. Movies represent an interpretation of reality through the lens of their directors, which makes zombie films more than an attempt at engaging their audiences with cheap scares.
Dhusiya, Mithuraaj. “Introduction” & “Epilogue”. Routledge: London & New York, 2018.
Dumas, Chris. “Horror and Psychoanalysis.” A Companion to the Horror Film, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017, pp. 21-37.
Hubner, Laura, et al. The Zombie Renaissance in the Popular Culture. Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.