COVER- Zombiesque: The lighter side of the living dead
Logic isn't always to be feared– but fear is often logical. At least, that's the dynamic local director Brian Wimer is tapping into with his genre of choice: horror. The past three films he's spearheaded have contained varying degrees of humor, absurdity, and horror, and two of them– 2009's Eat Me: The Zombie Musical and his most recent, Danger. Zombies. Run.– play off the long-standing fear of the living dead to present a larger social critique.
"Zombies are something to be feared, and what we do is run from them," explains Wimer. "But zombies only chase you because you run from them."
Wimer contends that the horror genre digs deep under the surface of a society to draw from overarching socio-cultural problems– and that's why we find ourselves shaking, crying, or screaming for it to end. Godzilla films drew from post-war Japanese fear of the atomic bomb; vampires and werewolves acknowledge a Puritanical fear of sexuality and primal instincts, while zombies, according to Wimer, represent our fear of socialism and the loss of individualism in a mass of deadened souls.
"Monster movies have always played upon our subconscious and our fears," says the director. "There's a huge fear in this country of socialism, and we're all afraid that we'll succumb to becoming a big zombie mass who don't think for themselves."
For Wimer, who remembers recurring childhood dreams about running from Frankenstein, zombies represent the innermost problems that we refuse to acknowledge– which cause them to chase us faster and strike fear at our hearts.
It's only ourselves that plague us, says Wimer, and the faster we begin to accept our fears, the slower the zombies will run until they eventually tire and go home.
"Our instinct within our culture is kill the intruder– that's the way we deal with enemies," Wimer says. "If we deal with problems by trying to kill them or ignoring them, they'll keep on plaguing us until we become a culture that actually deals with our problems, turns around, and faces them."
But if our first instinct is to switch off the television, horror films also stroke something grotesque within us: a desire for more. Who hasn't eagerly awaited the 18th installment of Saw or the next remake of The Exorcist?
"Zombies are fun, or like going to the Superbowl," laughs Wimer. "There aren't Abominable Snowman movies or Loch Ness Monster movies– there are zombie movies, and there's a reason why."
Collaborating with a team from the Charlottesville Filmmakers Republik with a governmental grant, Wimer headed a team of 72 filmmakers, actors, and musicians that assembled at local man-about-town Matthew Farrell's home for a two-day shoot. The resulting "gumbo" had "all sorts of crazy flavors," according to Wimer, including unicorns and rock 'n' roll music from local musicians such as Corsair, Astronomers, and Thrum. And zombies.
"I like to make movies where you've never seen anything like that before," he says. "There's not another movie within the Virginia Film Festival line-up that compares to it for what it is."
Danger. Zombies. Run. at 11pm, Friday, November 5, at the Regal 3 Downtown.