Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pre-Rapture Special: How To Spend Your Rapture Weekend

Well, with the end of the world as we know it fast approaching, I’m sure you’re looking for ways to avoid having to spend your last few precious moments trapped into spending time with your loved ones and family. Here are a few events you should check out this last weekend, to make the end of the world go that little bit quicker.

Shortwave Cinema, London 9pm
Remember the good old days, when we thought that the end of the world would be brought about by man’s ceaseless meddling with nature, as opposed to the almighty wrath of God? It was a purer age.
Mark the occasion with this special screening of post apocalypse and zombie move precursor Day of the Triffids, organised by our very own Amy Cutler:
Shortwave Cinema says they’re going to let all Passengerfilms fans have an amazing reduced rate at Friday’s eco-horror party. Everyone else is paying full price at cinema rates, but if you say you’re with us you pay anything between FREE and SUGGESTED DONATION £4. Amazing. So please bring all your leafy creepy friends for a horrible night in celebration of sprouting and germination.

At 9pm in the cinema bar we will have Triffid face-painting by Muna of Artistic Strokes, a huge Triffid cake designed by Cakes & Crunk, and bright green cocktails made by yours truly. You can have one for free if you come in a good eco-horror costume, so don’t forget the green paint.
Not only that, we’ll also have (real) carnivorous plants taking over the bar for the night!”

Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich 7.30pmSome of you may not have resigned yourself to being left on Earth to suffer through the tribulation as your more deserving friends are whisked off to eternal bliss.
If this the case, you may want to score some last minute brownie points, and there’s no better way to do that then giving money to charity, is there?
“Art Love World will be hosting its first ever live event as part of this year’s Norwich Fringe Festival at the Norwich Arts Centre on May 20th. The event is being held in aid of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and all profits will go straight to a charity providing relief for Japan. 

The event will showcase some of the finest talents from East Anglia, including fantastic live bands, comedians, poets, beatboxer, magician and DJs so you can get your groove on for the evening, in addition to a host of other spectacular treats in store on the night. 

Music acts will include the rock, funk and jazz fusion of The Fuzz, the Lou Reed-esque sound of Axel Loughrey, the stunning singer-songwriter Gracie Wright, the talented and soulful Jordan Jackson, the diverse acoustic duo Cielo and, last but not least, the fantastic Norwich Ukulele Society. 

Other acts include the hilarious and talented comic poet Tim Clare, the acerbic hippie wit of comedian Andy Bennett and Chris Farnell, one of Norwich’s finest wits. As well as some surprising walkabout performances. 
Yeah, I didn’t say that bit about being one of Norwich’s finest wits by the way.
Saturday is the day of the actual apocalypse. I actually recommend you keep this day free, although if you start drinking at breakfast it’s not necessarily a bad idea.

Kings Place, London, 7.30pmTo celebrate the aftermath of Armageddon, and mourn those of your friends who, it turned out, were leading much better lives than you, why not check out this great comedy double bill, featuring Pappy’s All Business and (more thematically) the Beta Males giving their last ever performance of post-apocalyptic sketch show, The Bunker.
“Take your place in The Bunker; humanity's last refuge beneath the scorched soil. Witness a society living in the guttering light, 30 years into a mutated future. Hilarity – but mostly doom – ensues as we sketch the last 273 humans alive, and the last punchlines they'll ever share... “
Don’t believe me? Ask Beta Male Guy Kelly: “This was my favourite show in Edinburgh last year - I saw it several times and howled with laughter each night. Now I'm in the damn thing. I can't express quite how happy that makes me. The humour is pitch-black and the pace is unrelenting: I'm so glad we get to perform it one last time. Having that last time be the day after the end of the world is the icing on the horribly, horribly irradiated cake.
To be honest, if you’re still alive by Wednesday, you’ll probably be feeling a bit silly about this whole apocalypse thing. If the world hasn’t been thrown into turmoil by now (you know, more than usual) than it’s finally safe to assume that God probably doesn’t exist and write off the beliefs of everyone who isn’t Richard Dawkins as idiotic.
Just because the world is safe from Biblical catastrophe doesn’t mean you’re safe though. There’s always the risk that we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief, only to be wiped out by a Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.
That’s where this comes in handy:

The Miller Pub, London Bridge, 7pm
This event, run by Whippersnapper Press and one of our favourite zombie arrestees, Hannah Eiseman-Renyard, is to mark International Towel Day. So make sure you bring a towel.
There will be two categories:
* Nerdcore
* So-Bad-It’s-Good

There will also be:
* The most bureaucratic voting system we can devise
* Pan-galactic gargleblasters to drink
* Some damn snazzy costumes
Last I heard, the voting forms will also double up as vomit bags, so by the time the poetry’s been read, if the world hasn’t ended, you’ll wish it had.

Monday, 16 May 2011

#19 The Bible (Part Two): May 21st 2011, The Actual End of the World

(Deep booming voice) Previously, on Chris Writes About The End of the World

Yes, we’ve covered the Bible before, and the number of zombies and zombie apocalypse type events within its pages. The case for the Bible predicting all our deaths at the hands of animated, cannibalistic corpses is a slim one. Slightly more alarming however, is the apocalypse that is actually predicted in the Bible, which some people are arguing is due this Saturday. So hey, at least it’s a weekend that’s likely to have decent barbecue weather.

Here Comes The Maths
Above there’s a link to an eBible Fellowship tract that explains the thinking behind this date, however, Bible tracts have a pretty dry style, and an absolute dearth of knob gags, so I’ll do my best to summarise here.

It all starts in the book of Genesis when God says to Noah “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

You might have read about that flood in picture books as a kid, and maybe know songs about animals going onto the ark two by two, because if there’s one thing RE teachers are good at, it’s turning global, apocalyptic level acts of genocide into catchy tunes. However, by skipping forward a few books, you find this quote: 
“Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.”

So, God mentions the flood, then tells us that to him, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.

The flood is dated as taking place in 4990 BC (because... Okay, I didn’t look this bit up, those websites are written in a really dry style with absolutely no knob gags). So:

-4990 + 7000 = 2010!

Okay, that doesn’t look impressive, sorry. But, due to a massive oversight on the part of our Gregorian Calendar makers, they forgot to include a year 0 because... Okay, I didn’t find that out either. The point is, the sum is actually:

-4990+7000 = 2011!!!

Then we get May 21st from this passage:

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”

And then... Okay, then the argument gets kind of hard to follow. It’s all up here though and involves detailed readings of Genesis, Peter, Hebrews, Matthew and others.

Basically, it is one hundred percent clear that, with detailed readings from various books written years apart, and combining that with lots and lots of sums, the beginning of the end of the world is due to start this Saturday. Because if there’s one thing we learn from the Bible, it’s that when God has a really important message to deliver to us, he likes to do it in code.
Pictured: Subtlety
Now, don’t worry, we’re not all going to die on Saturday. The Earth isn’t destroyed in fire and brimstone until October 21st because (Look, just read the damn tract)

However, zombie lovers, May 21st is the day that (I’m quoting the tract, not the Bible here) “God will raise up all the dead that have ever died from their graves. Earthquakes will ravage the whole world as the earth will no longer conceal its dead (Isaiah 26:21). People who died as saved individuals will experience the resurrection of their bodies and immediately leave this world to forever be with the Lord. Those who died unsaved will be raised up as well, but only to have their lifeless bodies scattered about the face of all the earth. Death will be everywhere.”

This is an event commonly known as The Rapture. It’s basically when God filters out all the good people, to leave the rest of us sinners to endure some of the unholy shit that goes on in Revelations.
Basically it'll look like this. I'm so sorry for reminding you of this film.
That, for those of you who mainly get your Bible teaching from the Omens movies, is where huge balls of fire fall from the sky, and the water turns to blood, among a complete host of other fucked up things.

And weirdest of all, there is a certain, very specific kind of Christian (not to confused with regular, non-insane Christians) who has an absolute hard on for this happening. Enough of them to buy 65 million copies of the books in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind series. It’s a sixteen book series, but with incredible foresight LaHaye and Jenkins got the final book in the series out in 2007. The series also spun off a videogame trilogy, which has the dubious bonus of a multiplayer mode where you get to play on Satan’s side. (Side note, am I the only one who thinks the theme music that website plays is weirdly catchy?)
Sure, you won the game asshole, but now you're definitely not getting Raptured!
One blogger far, far braver than me, has actually been trying to read the book series and pointing out just about everything that’s wrong with the writing, morals and theology of the books. Sadly, he won’t have finished reviewing the series by Saturday, so we’ll never know if it gets good towards the end.

A much better interpretation of the events of the Book of Revelation, the final word on the Biblical Apocalypse, can be found at the Brick Testament, here. I would include a picture the giant, bloodied, seven eyed lamb he build, but the guy who runs the site doesn’t like other people using his images. Which is a shame, because that photo is fucking terrifying.

So, for what will, let’s face it, probably be the final time. Let’s play the drinking game.

Do the dead rise regardless of whether they were “infected”? Ummm, maybe, kind of. Depends who you ask. Infected with God! Yeah, go on, take two shots.

Are the zombies walking dead who move slowly and can only be killed by destroying the brain?
Umm. No. No they are not.  However, what it does have is armoured fucking locusts with fucking human faces and fucking lion teeth and fucking scorpion tails, ruled by Abaddon the Destroyer. Fuck it, I’m taking a drink.

Is mankind the real monster?
No, no it is not. I’m pretty clear that the monsters here are the fucking locusts with human faces. Oh wait! No! There’s a seven headed dragon!
Have a drink anyway.

Has anybody said “They’re coming to get you Barbra!”
They’re coming to get Barbra, they’re coming to Ben, they’re coming to get you, and me, and everyone you care about. Take a drink.

Do the characters spend most of the story under siege in some manner of building?
No, not buildings. People scream to the mountains and the caves to hide them. Christ that’s depressing, I’m having another drink.

Are the people coming to rescue you incompetent or more dangerous than the zombies?
It’s supposed to be an all-loving, benevolent, omnipotent God doing this right? Fuck yes he’s incompetent and dangerous. Finish the bottle.

If you think there's hope in trying to avoid the inevitable, terrifying judgement of your Lord, and you happen to live in Norwich, you could gain a few brownie points this week by going to the charity gig Art Love World Live, where I, and other talented individuals will be trying to raise money for the victims of the Japan quake by performing comedy, poetry and music. Giving to charity is great, right? And it's THE DAY BEFORE THE RAPTURE. Basically, I think God is telling you to buy a ticket to this event.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

#18 Call of the Dead: How To Create The Ultimate Zombie Survival Team

How you create the ultimate ass kicking zombie killing team? This question came to me, not for the first time, when watching the trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Black Ops: Escalation: Call of the Dead. There should be a joke about colons here, but I’m in a hurry, so think of your own:

Now, your first reaction to seeing this was probably the same as mine (because I find it very hard to believe that there are people in this world who think any differently from me). Wow! Awesome! Buffy, Machete, Freddy Krueger and the Racist from Walking Dead all teaming up to fight zombies! How can that not be the most awesome thing in the awesome history of the overuse of the word awesome?

And they fight George Romero! THE George Romero!
Do NOT tell him what you thought of Survival of the Dead!
Now I’m not saying my first reaction wasn’t correct- that never happens. But what I am saying is that under further consideration, this awesome team isn’t as equipped to fight zombies as we at first hoped.
Buffy- Fought vampires, and a small number of zombies in one episode, and they could all be easily killed off by breaking one mask.

Machete- Fought a corrupt senator, also, he don’t text.

Freddy Krueger- Killed high school kids. While they were asleep.

The Racist From Walking Dead- Hasn’t actually been seen to kill a zombie on screen yet, although he did saw off his own hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure faced with actual zombies all of these characters will dig deep and find their inner zombie murderer.
Okay, he didn't kill any traditional zombies either, but it's still a crime he didn't make the team
But here at Chris Writes About the End of the World we demand some slightly higher credentials. So today I’m going to be taking you through my own personal, carefully selected zombie survival team.

Jeremiah Kipp
Director of Contact and the up and coming The Sadist, as well as a former Chris Writes About the End of the World interviewee, Jeremiah Kipp wins a place on the team through his carefully through through zombie survival strategy:

“(a) Steal a helicopter, (b) bring a film crew and some guns, (c) take over a shopping mall, and (d) let loose the dogs of war.

Yes, we’ll even forgive him misquoting Shakespeare.

Matt Barnes
Front and centre, smiling because he knows soon everybody else will be dead
The sole survivor of our Team Scavenger run during Zombie LARP, Matt clearly has the ruthless, no bullshit attitude, combined with a willingness to sacrifice his friends to save his won skin, that we’ll need to survive the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Honorary mentions to the rest of Team Scavenger, who are welcome to my zombie survivalist compound if they live long enough to do so.

Hannah Eiseman-Renyard

In a previous blog, I have referred to Hannah, perhaps unkindly, as our very own Jimmy Olsen. I now know this to be inaccurate. Hannah is our very own Lois Lane, in that if we send her to cover the top story, she’s going to end up getting captured and imprisoned. On a side-note, you can see Hannah, and your humble blogger, in person at the Vogon Poetry Slam this month, with details available here.

Amy Cutler
Another of our imprisoned zombies from last week’s royal shenanigans. She is also quite the scholar of zombie folklore, from more recent fare right back to the works of Daniel Defoe. I imagine she’ll fill quite a useful Giles-like roll in the zombie compound, assuming we find room for a library. You can read about the talks she and others gave during the event Everything You Wanted To Know About Zombies (But Were Afraid To Ask Daniel Defoe) here, or you can read her opinions about how the zombie apocalypse genre has a lot to say about the Royal Wedding arrests she was caught up in.

Tom Harvey
What? Can you think of a better way to store clothes pegs?
Bassist for Hello Bear, and occasional punching bag Tom Harvey. In previous blogs I have written about his complete unreliability as a team mate in Left 4 Dead, and have repeatedly and explicitly called him an idiot who is thick and an idiot when he helped me review Plan 9 From Outer Space. When the survivalist compound's defences inevitably crumble and fail due to being manned by bloggers, students, film directors and a musician, none of whom, let’s face it, have any real practical skills, it will be important to have one team member who we are willing to cripple so that the zombies can eat him alive while the rest of us flee for safety.

So, that's my zombie survival team. If you think you should have made the cut, but didn't then feel free to come round to my compound once the outbreak occurs, and pound on the door until your fists are bloody screaming "Chris you bastard! You can't just leave me out here! Not after everything I did for you!"

I'm not saying it'll help, but feel free.

Regular readers may be saying "Hey, this doesn't really count as a blog does it? You just gave us a load of links to some older blogs. Are you trying to palm us off with the blog equivalent of a clipshow?"

Of course not, I pour my heart and soul into every blog. But if I had done such a thing, it would be because this last couple of weeks have been crazy busy, and I'm knackered. Next week, we'll be back to reviewing a given book/film/video game/live action roleplay/protest/academic discussion and putting it in context of the genre. In the mean time, who would you put on your zombie survival squad?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

#17: The Royal Wedding Zombie Flash Mob: Breach of the Peace (of the Dead)

This is part of a special two part blog. For the story on what happened at the Royal Wedding Zombie Flash Mob, keep reading. For an exclusive blog from Amy Cutler, something of a zombie expert and one of the zombies arrested at the event, and her views on just how the zombie genre is able to critique these events, click here. UPDATE: For a recent interview with Hannah, on how life's been for her after the arrest, and what she and others are planning to do about it, click here.

This was going to be a very silly blog. A combination of geeks, hippies and protesters had decided to mark the Royal Wedding of Will and Kate by having a picnic dressed up as zombies- some thought it was a political protest, some just thought it would be funny. We’ve done movies, books, TV, videogames, the Bible and Live Action Role Play on this site, so reviewing a zombie wedding party seemed like it would fill up our personal bingo card and maybe even rank high in google. To this end, unable to get to London myself, I asked Hannah Eiseman-Renyard and Amy Cutler to go and get photos and quotes for what I thought would be a bit of fun.

Then Hannah phoned me from the police station.

But let’s back track. A few days before the Royal Wedding of Will and Kate, of which we were all so pleased, I came across the hashtag #RoyalZombieFlashMob, which led me to this:

As you can see the invite listed various causes they wanted to raise awareness of, and had a tone that was irreverent but barely even counts as disrespectful. Seeing how this could make a silly piece for the blog, I recruited Hannah Eiseman Renyard, boss editor king of Whippersnapper Press, and Amy Cutler, who regular readers might remember as the zombie expert in our blog a few weeks back, and asked if they’d be up for popping along, taking some photos and giving me a bit of write up.

On the morning of the event Hannah headed out dressed like so:

In her defence, she's looked worse
While she was off having fun, I was stuck following events through twitter (Yes, Chris Writes About the End of the World finally has its own twitter feed @Chriszombieblog, we are at the cutting edge of 2006):

Goddamnit I can't find my tiara! Flower girl zombie it is....#RoyalZombieFlashMob
@ChrisZombieBlog so, I'm getting both grins & glares in my zombie bridesmaid outfit... Did a Queenly wave to one car & they looked v happy
@ChrisZombieBlog oh fuckit! Bus stop is outside a funeral directors. Goddamn I live in a badly-written sitcom#RoyalZombieFlashMob

Around this time I saw other, slightly more menacing tweets about arrests and police vans, and heard some of the organisers had been arrested for having a mock guillotine. I retweeted, and whaggishly posted:


Nobody tell @Hannah_Chutzpah - I'll never hear the end of it if she gets arrested. #RoyalZombieFlashMob

Then to be on the safe side texted Hannah and Amy to let them know arrests had happened, because I’m not a total bastard. Amy texted back “Should I abstain from putting blood on the flag? Is there a law against it do you think?”
Oh how we laughed.

Note: The flag is unbismirched

In her account of the day, Hannah described the “Mob” itself as:
Within Soho Square there were maybe twelve people there for the demo – one dressed as a crusader with a colander on his head, a couple of people with crowns made out of gold paper and everyone else dressed in pretty normal, boring clothes. Three film crews were milling about, bored, more photographers and journalists milling about, and a pretty obvious police presence. I decided to hang well back and stayed on the other side of the square to where anyone else was.

I heard a few chants of “one solution: revolution!”

Journalists kept approaching trying to interview me about my aims and objectives as I was pretty much the only one who looked like a zombie. I was a bit embarrassed, given that I’d come to report on it too and had no idea about aims or anything else – I just happened to have dressed up. I explained I was mainly there to report on it too. Lots of people took my picture. I couldn’t really find anyone to speak to myself. Apparently I was the story. Whoops.

It was a damp squib. It’s possibly, but not conclusively, because three of the main organisers had been arrested the previous day.

Left to their own devices, this would be a blog where my main joke would have been contrasting the gathering with this googlemaps simulation of a royal wedding zombie outbreak.

Every simulation I've run ends with Prince William running away and leaving Kate to die
Amy Cutler explains:

"We were fairly inoffensive members of the undead, who ate some homemade ‘brainnnsss’ cake earlier in the day, and travelled on to Starbucks where we sat down with some tea. At this point, four police vans (with sirens!) came round the corner and did a raid on Starbucks. We were stopped and searched under a special Section 60 for the wedding day – by sixteen police men, although there were only five zombies – and finally arrested and transported to the police station."

This is perhaps the most ridiculous part of this whole day. Sixteen police officers to arrest five zombies, when everybody knows that zombies can’t run.

And they could totally bite from there if they wanted
The zombies were arrested for “A potential breach of the peace” and were kept in a police cell up to pretty much the exact moment Will and Kate drove out of Buckingham palace past a huge baying horde that looked like a far more evocative image of a zombie apocalypse than anything some fake blood could muster.

The Royal Zombie Flash Mob was a very, very silly event. Some people there might have thought they were overthrowing the government, some people were trying to raise awareness about important issues, some simply thought dressing up as a zombie equals funny. It doesn’t matter a huge amount if you agree with their politics, or how effective you think dressing up as a zombie is as an agent of political change.

Because the silly stuff is important, it’s where we have to draw the line. The difference between the right to put on some gory make up and make a pratt of yourself in public, and the right to criticise the government and stand up for the rights we’re supposed to hold sacred, is haggling.
This is Amy's real arrest paper- not hilarious satire
There’s plenty more to this story. You can hear the zombie’s accounts of the arrests from their interviews with Mary Hamilton- one of the brains behind the Zombie LARP, who knows a thing or two about pretending to be a zombie. Here’s an interview with Hannah as well as Amy and the other zombies. You can see a zombie nun chatting to a police officer and you can watch the police evicting the remaining zombies from the park.

Read about it on the Guardian, with a photo of Amy Cutler getting escorted away in handcuffs and seven and a half minutes into this video, you can see the arrest itself.

And now, I know our regular readers will be gasping for our drinking game.

Do the characters spend most of the story under siege in some manner of building? Well, I don’t know, does Soho Park count? I’ll leave that one to your discretion.

Are the people coming to rescue you incompetent or more dangerous than the zombies? The police are technically there to protect the people they were arresting, so take two shots.
Is mankind the real monster? And another one for this.

Has anybody said “They’re coming to get you Barbra!” Probably, I reckon. If the protesters didn’t, they should have!

Are the zombies walking dead who move slowly and can only be killed by destroying the brain? Well, the zombies were going to Starbucks- they were clearly pretty sedantry. One shot.

Kiddy zombies? And they’re adorable! Two shots!

Do the dead rise regardless of whether they were “infected”?  Well, zombies have been spotted in Brighton and London today, and with Amy looking into arranging a protest lurch- email Amy here if you're interested in taking part- I think it’s fair to say they’ll rise.

GUEST BLOGGER: Arrest Those Zombies!: Policing The Undead

This week as well as our usual blog, we have a special guest blog from Amy Cutler of Passenger Films- one of the zombies arrested during our Royal Wedding celebrations on Friday. To find out more about the strange zombie happenings going on during the Royal Wedding, see our regular blog. Here, she shows us zombie movies have a lot to say about those events:

On Friday morning I attended a ‘Royal Zombie Wedding’ picnic, and was subsequently handcuffed and arrested in Soho Square (that’s me above), and spent the afternoon in a cell at Belgravia police station. While I was in my cell I thought a little harder about the link between zombies and the policing of cities. Here are some thoughts, followed by a call to arms for supporters of the undead!

Readers of Chris’s blog will no doubt be familiar with the importance of police in zombie films. Think of the pre-credit footage of riot police, soundtracked by Johnny Cash’s ‘The Man Comes Around’, in Dawn of the Dead. Or the use of riot police footage once again at the start of 28 Days Later, in which exposure to such television transmissions also means exposure to the transmission of ‘the rage virus’.

I’ve always been interested in zombie politics, which has an early model in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), concerned with the 1665 bubonic plague in London and the effect of the ‘walking putrified carcasses’ which were the infected, and also the attempts by the mayor and the aldermen to police the situation. New legislation came out at the time to ‘prevent idle assemblies’ and therefore contagion, but there were plenty of instances of people ‘breaking out in Rabbles and Tumults’, just as the body breaks out in tokens of the plague. The behaviour of the sick and infected in the book poses a form of geographical insurrection, for ‘they were with great difficulty kept from running out into the Fields and Towns, and tearing all in pieces wherever they came’. Defoe is himself awed by the idea of a mob of people, as seen in his 1702 publication, ‘The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England’ (1702). He thought mobs to be the very antithesis of government. An example is when he called upon the House of Commons to pay attention to the Kentish petitioners, and signed his name ‘Legion’; he is clearly therefore very aware of the idea of people acting as a political force. It is also telling that it is the poor and labouring classes who are of the greatest importance in Plague Year, for they cannot afford to withdraw into isolation, but must continue to work and be mobile – and are thus most likely to be spreading the infection.

Zombie films learn from Defoe a fascination with the various meanings of the term break-out – the break out of disease, the break out of riots, and the break out of contained spaces such as shut up houses and jails. The administration that went on in trying to control the spaces of the city included the mayor’s orders forbidding the ‘multitude’ of rogues and ‘wandring Beggars’ from ‘swarming in every place about the city’, and the large scale incarceration of people within infected houses. Defoe quotes verbatim these rules for the regulation of the citizens. But he is also fascinated with the areas in which these policies fail or are ineffective. ‘There was just so many Prisons in the town as there were Houses shut up’, the narrator observes: yet over and over he tells stories of the people who broke out by force and stratagem, whether they found ways to unscrew locks, escape into one of the back streets, go over the rooftops, or break or throw themselves out of the windows.

It’s important to remember that Plague Year was written during a moment of crucial revision in men’s exercise of final authority over one another. Defoe constantly draws attention to the internal governance and state institutions that provide the matrix within which the spectacles and anecdotes of the plague take place. He adopts the conceit that fully deployed legal authority in the city turns its houses into prisons and its citizens into criminals. (When we talk about crime it’s important to note that Defoe has first-hand knowledge of the development of the penitentiary system at this time, as he’s actually been imprisoned on seven or eight occasions, both for debts and for libel in his work as a journalist.) This criminalisation of the infected is partly because, as Michelle Brandwein notes,

plague effectively turns crime and disease into identical things. A plague, as a contagious illness, breaks down the distinction between ordinary, non-contagious illness (understood as harmful only to the self) and crime (understood as harmful to others); because a plague is harmful to both the sick person and others it forms a bridge between illness and crime, and all who suffer from it are both victims and criminals at the same time.

In the modern zombie film, we see a similar concern with the political constructs behind the suppression of the zombie threat. In the sequence in the underpass in 28 Days Later, the running zombies are portrayed very much as an anonymous mob. None of them are discriminated from each other – instead, they herd as shadows towards the human agents in the scene; we hear the footsteps of a mob as one threatening sound. In 28 Weeks Later we again see the threat of the mob as something which has an uncontrollable and unmanageable element, and the efforts of the military or governmental agents to control the movement of people (as in some scenes they appear as little more than glorified traffic controllers). Concepts of border control, quarantining and containment are all subject to investigation in today’s political zombie film.

The perceived social wrongs which zombie films address have ranged from the colonial connotations of the early voodoo zombie films, the consumerism of mall society in Romero’s early films, and the various social divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ which are exhibited in the class and race tensions in Land of the Dead. We can witness that film’s interest in the policing of the divisions of the city space immediately in the poster, showing a disembodied zombie hand clinging to what we must surely guess is the wrong side of the fence.

Recent zombie films explicitly refer to particular governmental decisions. In Joe Dante’s Homecoming, the American Republican policy makers are flummoxed by the return of the Iraqi war dead, who begin to contradict patriotic narratives of the war (one declares on TV ‘I was killed for a lie’). These are speaking, thinking, harmless zombies, threatening only in the sense of the affect of their return on the government’s political agenda. Mark Peranson points out the overt links to the Bush administration:

Homecoming’s most stunning scene is the first appearance of the zombies at Dover Air Force base, as the undead soldiers emerge from beneath the American flags covering their coffins — the very scenes that the Pentagon has forbidden the media to cover. More than soldiers, though, the zombies represent all the disenfranchised, including those whose votes weren’t counted in both recent elections: as the undead eventually are allowed to go to the polls, and the results start swinging to the left, the Republicans make the call. Dante pulls no punches in declaring the fix was and still is in (after name-checking Florida, he even shows the classic “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline).

Here are the returned patriots posing before the flag:

Equally harmless zombies are the subjects of the recent French film Les Revenants (English title They Came Back). The use of zombies to show the return of the repressed, and entry into a Marcusian non-repressive civilization, is a familiar trope. In Revenants, the mayor of the town and the governmental and military representatives decide they cannot deal with the unsolicited returnees: the returned loved ones and family members are therefore, in a horrifying final sequence (spoiler alert!), gassed and returned to their graves (below). What better image for the suppression that society enacts, in order to ensure it continues to function? Or Kristeva’s image of the zombie as the ‘abject’ of society – that matter, such as dead bodies, or faeces, which must be ejected from society in an organised fashion. (I have to say I felt like a very abject zombie indeed in Cell no. 12 at Belgravia police station.)

If we’ve outgrown Romero’s consumerist zombies, then perhaps one of the still growing zombie themes is that of surveillance and its association with the policing of space. The use of CCTV in Diary of the Dead and 28 Weeks Later are cases in point; in the latter, we are even given the military’s gun-point of view, in a scene in which all discrimination between ‘friendlies’ and the infected is given up, and the soldiers are instructed to enforce the quarantine by shooting ‘anything that moves’.

This ‘anything that moves’ bring us to what I think is the most interesting form of policing – that is, policing movement. The threat of the mobile crowd, the threat of the mobile infection, and the threat of the mobile dead – nicknamed in recent TV series The Walking Dead simply as ‘walkers’ – invites, but also defies, arrest by the authorities. The zombies are defined not simply by being dead, but by being the moving dead, and to ‘arrest’ them would also to be, literally, to cease their motion. The idea of zombie arrest is very similar to the idea of the arrested, controlled society – most strikingly so when we consider the threat of the ‘mob’, and the link between ‘mob’ and ‘mobility’. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Mob, 1680s, "disorderly part of the population, rabble," slang shortening of mobile, mobility "common people, populace, rabble" (1670s), from L. mobile vulgus "fickle common people" (c.1600 in English), from mobile, neut. of mobilis "fickle, movable, mobile," from movere "to move" (see move).

I’ve begun to discuss this idea with some of my students. (I teach a couple of classes on film studies to third year geographers on the Mobilities course at Royal Holloway, where I’m doing my PhD.) Perhaps I’m even keener given that I’ve now been an arrested zombie myself. The full story of the day is given by Hannah, my fellow zombie convict, here.

What remains fascinating to me is the revival of some of the ideas I have been previously interested in, such as the portrayal in Homecoming of zombies versus the controlling political agendas hidden behind patriotism. In our case, on the day of the wedding the scene on street level was subject to severe editing by the police. We were fairly inoffensive members of the undead, who ate some homemade ‘brainnnsss’ cake earlier in the day, and travelled on to Starbucks where we sat down with some tea. At this point, four police vans (with sirens!) came round the corner and did a raid on Starbucks. We were stopped and searched under a special Section 60 for the wedding day – by sixteen police men, although there were only five zombies – and finally arrested and transported to the police station. This constituted a successful removal of what was seen as an ‘unseemly’ element of the day’s celebrations. Apparently, our fancy dress was too alternative to be tolerated. Even though, look, I was being patriotic – I even had a flag!

Footage of our arrest is on this video – you can watch us actually being handcuffed at seven minutes thirty seconds in.
I also found out afterwards that one of the camera men who filmed us being arrested was subsequently arrested himself! His account here.

Meanwhile, the good news of the day is that the zombie family I met (complete with two little zombies in prams, one holding a ‘princesses are pigs’ sign) apparently got away and danced the night away in Red Lion Square. And they’re reported here in the Guardian, saying that ‘anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian Britain (is) the land of the living dead’.

I made good friends with the other undead convicts, Ludi, Hannah, Deborah and Erich, all charming and creative people – Erich has coincidentally just run a zombie all-nighter at the London Indie Film Festival. We also managed to get the word zombies into the Guardian the following morning, in a quote in which I sound particularly harmless and simple-minded:

So, what next? We’re thinking of arranging a protest lurch. Please get in touch if you want to be involved (, and come and be a manacled zombie shuffling round Soho, in a walk in support of our right to be zombies whenever we goddamn like.

The perfect model, of course, is Bub from Day of the Dead, who I’ve saved for the end, as probably the most famous zombie prisoner. Don’t forget he ate through his manacles in the end though.