With the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead coming this Sunday night, I decided to do a zombie feature article. As predictable as the fact every House episode mystery is solved between the 36-39 minute range (if you watch it on DVD), almost every zombie film will have some form of these following characters, band together to survive the zombie apocalypse.
We all know this guy; he is the every man. He usually comes from the middle class, and is usually somehow involved with law enforcement or security. He is the reluctant leader, forced into that position by lack of saner options (see: badass and panic guy). However, he is also the least interesting character most of the time. The hero hardly ever gets any mention by fans after the film because most of his time is spent telling people to calm down and is usually humorless (with the exception of Shaun of the Dead). Being the hero in a zombie survivalist party is no great honor though, because it usually requires sacrificing yourself at the end of the film to save your love interest or a lazy little child.
Chance of survival: 20% (65% if there is no child)
Due to some childhood trauma, crystal meth, steroids, or long exposure to lead-based paint (or a combination of all of those), this rage-fueled, profanity spewing character can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to a zombie apocalypse. He is handy when the zombies have found the group and they are closing in, because he will either kill them violently in slow motion or he will act as a distraction so you can make a clean get away. He is your worst enemy when you are trying to remain unseen from the zombies because he will get fidgety and will start yelling and opening fire at the worst possible time.
If he lacks a gun, a chainsaw is his secondary weapon.
He also will cause problems because since he has killed the most zombies he thinks he is the most qualified to lead the group….right into harm’s way. After a couple of days he recovers from the crystal meth and steroid abuse and realizes how terrible of a friend he has been to the group. Using what juice is left in his system, he will usually go down in a blaze of glory, deliberately sacrificing himself to save the rest of the group.
The good outweighs the bad with this character, he is a strong, albeit unstable, ally during the apocalypse.
Chance of survival: 13%
The Ultimate Survivor
The Ultimate Survivor usually is not introduced until about halfway through the film. This guy will have claimed to have been hiding out alone, killing zombies, for at least six months, even if the apocalypse just started two days ago. He will know all the ins and outs about how to defeat them, and will seem like an automatic shoe-in for leader of the outfit. While he is a loner, he will take in the struggling band of survivors, but he usually has his own disturbing agenda. He will generally have a dislike of everyone, except the hot chick who he will berate anyway, but will have ethical differences with the hero. The hero will get into an argument with the ultimate survivor, which will be less of a vocal disagreement than a staring and nostril flaring competition, which eventually leads to a fist fight or imprisonment while the zombies close in. Despite his self-proclaimed prowess at killing zombies, it will fail him somehow and he will meet a gruesome death, usually in an ironic manner, and the hero and clan will leave him to die.
Chance of survival: 0.05%
The Parent/Relative/Extremely Close Friend
The zombie apocalypse will always happen when someone in the survivalist party is with a relative, that is either their only friend and confidant, or someone they have been estranged from for years, and they are forced to take them with the group on their journey to survive. If their relative is more like a best friend they will work as an incredible unstoppable zombie killing force for 3/4ths of the film. They will have some sort of catch phrase or inside joke that was established at the start of the film that will be overused and involve either sex or bodily functions.
If the relative is someone they are estranged with, they will not work well with the group and they will bicker and argue, get in each other’s ways and air out differences when they should be focused more on killing the undead horde that is nearby. But, about 2/3 of the way through the film they will all of a sudden find common ground (probably killing zombies), and work things out. For the next 10 minutes of the film, they will become like best friends and become that unstoppable force.
Whichever type of relative this character is, it usually ends the same: they get bit by a zombie. If you happen to be the parent of The Child (see below), they are twice as likely to be eaten by zombies, leaving the hero to have to emotionally blow their face off and also be burdened by taking care of their offspring.
Maybe if we ignore them they will stop following us.
If this is not enough to make them feel bad, they will probably not be killed by the hero soon enough to stop them from killing more of their zombie survivalist friends.
Chance of Survival: 5%
The Hardened Woman/Potential Love Interest
Apocalypse’s are great for the down-on-their-luck heroes who never get any action. It is the one time that they can legitimately turn to that hot girl and say, “Well, the world is about to end…so….you know….” But, the hero never does that to someone that he hasn’t fallen madly in love with in 72 hours. What union the zombie apocalypse has started, no undead man can tear apart. The love interest, whether it is someone he just met, or someone he has pined over for a while, will be a vital asset to him because it gives him a reason to live and the only reason to step up and be the hero, until she gets him killed. She is usually the strong, yet damaged type, using rage over an ex-boyfriend or “that time of the month” to her advantage as a zombie killing machine. She will probably rack up the second highest zombie kill count of the group and play the tough girl, until the hero and her, next to an ill-advised campfire (why do they always light campfires during zombie films? I get it, they want to stay warm, but it is just pointing out their position to the zombies), will make a connection and boom chica-wow wow.
Chances are that she will survive because the hero will be much more focused on saving his piece of tail than anyone else in the group.
Chance of Survival: 92%
The Panic Guy
As soon as you meet this guy in the film, you know there is no way he is going to survive. He is a tool, and usually a prick to the hero, before the apocalypse. He is cocky, rich and will have stereotypical 80’s antagonist written all over him. All his cockiness will come crashing down when he stares into the lifeless eyes of the undead. He will become a bundle of nerves, like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. He will think he is smarter than everyone just because he is richer and of a higher class. He will not even make it halfway through the film, and will probably cost you a member of the survivalist party because he will sacrifice their safety to save his own skin. When he finally completely loses his cool, starts screaming like a little girl, and making rash decisions. These rash decisions will lead him to probably the most gruesome death of the film.
They will probably stay put and in a dead pan voice yell, “Wait..no..don’t do that…we don’t want you to die and stuff…”, but as soon as he is gone, shrug and continue their journey.
Chance of survival: 0%
The best way to survive a zombie apocalypse is to be a helpless child. Sure, we all see zombie children and they are creepy as hell.
Especially this one.
But, in the film, once you are established as a solid member of the survivor group (membership is usually established through The Relative character), you are good to go. Everyone else will go out of their way to save your lazy butt from the horrible zombies you are making no attempt to run away from. The hero, parent, or love interest will put them over their shoulder or carry them while shooting or swinging their baseball bat. All the child has to do is scream to alert the party that zombies are nearby and they are good to go. Plus, it is brutal watching a child get murdered. It is apparently okay to introduce a child zombie post-reanimation, but it is not okay to introduce them before having them eaten by zombies.
Chance of Survival: 100%
If you can think of other stock characters from zombie films, leave them in the comments!
Here are some clips from The Walking Dead which premieres this Sunday at 10pm to satiate your desire for the undead!!!