Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life of the Dead

I've pretty much stopped writing.

It's a strange thing to say, given that I write almost every day for the twenty or so human beings who read this blog. But I used to write creatively, pitching out stories that burbled to the surface of my churning consciousness, yearning to be told. The last story I wrote was over a decade ago, and having failed to get it published, I've left it sitting out on the web as a reminder that I used to have some semblance of a creative spark.

It's still there, of course. I just don't give myself the time to play out the narratives that clamor to be put into print. One of my favorite unfulfilled tales isn't a book, but a screenplay concept that puts a different spin on one of the more interesting genres in moviemaking: the zombie flick.

Ever since the really-quite-amazing Night of the Living Dead, George Romero made zombie flicks something more than just horror. They are, in their own way, commentary about the human condition. Here's my twist on the genre: In my imaginary screenplay for Life of the Dead, zombies do not want to eat your brains. That never made a lick of sense anyway. Why not spleens? Why not hunger for toenails? It goes further, though. In my take, zombies not only don't want to use your brainpan as a snack tray, they have no desire whatsoever to hunt/eat/consume/harm anyone.

Instead, after the necessary terrible accidental release of a zombie-inducing biological agent, those who've been zombified just attempt to go about their lives. Being zombies, though, they are completely oblivious to one another, and to those few humans who haven't been infected. They are also really, really incompetent and aggressive, and being dead, don't really take their own mortality into consideration when going about their lives.

The narrative tension would come from the requisite rag-tag band of the unaffected, trying desperately to leave a major metropolitan area in which 95% of the human population has suddenly become undead. Easy? Imagine trying to cross a major highway on which zombies were commuting. Or the potential hazards posed by zombie airline pilots. Or avoiding zombie cops arresting whoever they could catch. Or zombie military personnel, randomly attacking everything in sight.

It's a bit like Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, a deeply absurd and humorous/horrible fable about our radical selfishness and complete lack of caring for one another. Only you wouldn't tell anyone that, because it might seem too hoighty toighty.

Given my tendency to put a faith-spin on everything, I envision a particularly delightful sequence early on in which one of the protagonists takes refuge at her megachurch....only to find it filled with a throng of zombie Christians, while the undead pastor bellows and grunts incoherently at his swaying, slowly rotting flock. Some of the hands being held up during zombie praise might not even be attached.

I'm telling you, this thing's got legs, baby. 150 million gross, easy, and that's before it hits DVD/iTunes distribution. Have your people call my people.