You’re running through a deep, dark wasteland, pursued by an unspeakable terror. You can’t get away fast enough, and for some reason your every move is punctuated by gothic choral music. But then a thought occurs, and you stop. Why are you running?
Zombies are the walking dead, scary precisely because they cannot be reasoned with or persuaded. If it’s a zombie that’s chasing you, there’s no messing around with the business of exacting justice on their killer. Unlike a ghost they won’t spend most of their time attempting to communicate with you. There’s no tortured wolfman psyche, pontificating over the consequences of their actions. If you’re particularly unlucky when a vampire gets you, it may well try and come onto you.
The only way to stop a zombie from committing an act of violent horror on you is to commit an act of violent horror on a zombie, and this magnificent equation keeps any zombie movie protagonist dead or deadly; a great set up for some dark situations. Think of 28 Days Later, or Shaun’s mum in Shaun of the Dead.
Zombies themselves have no morality, and that’s part of their appeal, but they make for good social commentary. George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ series handles consumerism, Vietnam, and American culture at large. By definition they operate en masse, and that means that no matter how long you flee, how far you run, you will never be free. Sure, they might take a while to get to you. If they’re Romero’s, it may be quite a while indeed. But when Zombies catch up with you in that wasteland, at least you know they’re going to rip your head off and chew your brains out. Nice and simple; and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?