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In recent years, the undead have been on the rise in films. Zombies and vampires are taking center stage and raking in money in record amounts. Resident Evil moved on to its fourth installment, 28 Days Later morphed into 28 Weeks Later, and 30 Days of Night is scoring some serious box office attention. George Romero, the king of the undead film, released his latest Land of the Dead, fourth in the Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead series. There has even been an updated remake of Dawn of the Dead where the zombies transform from the shambling mounds of the past to the hyperdrive zombies of today. But what makes these films, so focused upon the living dead, so popular? Are we attracted to the undead because we, as Americans, are morphing into a society of necrophiles? Or are we already a society of necrophiles simply searching for an outlet? By examining the genre with an eye to Erich Fromm’s concept of necrophilia in a mechanized world, a new trend reveals itself. According to Fromm, as the world becomes more and more mechanized, humans become more and more disassociated from their selves, creating a move from biophilia to necrophilia. As we become inured to social ills and violence, it’s a small step from being distanced from life to being attracted to death. If the trend continues, the undead in films will be mere reflections of the undead in a mechanized world. Art imitates life. In the case of the undead in film, art imitates death. And who doesn’t love art?


This paper was presented in 2008 at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture Conference, Albuquerque, NM.



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