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Zombie survival not easy

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The other day, I was walking out of World War Z -- the big summer zombie movie with Brad Pitt -- and I couldn't help but look at people and wonder:

Which ones survive?

Which ones turn into zombies and bite their loved ones because they were too indecisive when it counted? And which ones end up with rippling muscles and tight-fitting clothes, the sleeves ripped off, smoking a cigar?

Try it yourself. Look at your friends, family and think on it.

"I'm going to survive," insisted my colleague Old School, who does not smoke cigars but said he would begin after a zombie apocalypse.

"I'll be that guy with the muscles and the sleeveless shirt and a sawed-off shotgun and a double-headed axe if they get too close." Old School has thought this one out. He knows it's unlikely an entire family makes it. They never do.

There's nothing like a zombie movie. Zombies are all about direct action, cold-blooded purpose and relentless predatory impulse. And sometimes you can hear their teeth clicking, just like an IRS agent hunting down conservatives.

It's not the same with vampire movies. Vampire movies can't hold a silver candelabra to zombie movies.

Vampires were once scary because they'd take your everlasting soul. These days, vampires wear skinny jeans and get married in vampire church.

And the vampires have babies. Vampire procreation has ruined the whole vampire thing for me.

But zombies are different. They're mindless and bloodthirsty. They mass together in huge swarms and take what they want. Zombies can't be reasoned with. They're insatiable.

In other words, zombie movies are extremely political.

It's strange, though, that there's little if any blood. Even the Christ-like Pitt character doesn't bleed when he's all but crucified in a plane crash, with a shard of metal stuck into his side, dirty blond hair hanging down like a blue-eyed Jesus.

Another thing wrong with the movie is there aren't any kid zombies. But most zombie movies avoid turning kids into zombies.

You'd think that children would go zombie first because they're weaker and not as cunning and because teenagers never listen. But in this one, no kid zombies. Only adult zombies.

Back at work, we looked around the city desk and determined who would and wouldn't make it.

The consensus was some would make it -- especially those who had once been adamantly opposed to concealed carry but had suddenly changed their minds.

But a few editors wouldn't make it. They're trained to be annoyingly logical.

"If they're dead, then why don't they decompose in a few days?" one might ask. "Why are they running? How can they run if their flesh decomposes?"

Why indeed. That's when a zombie jumps out from the darkness and bites into their thorax.

World War Z is entertaining, but it's not the most terrifying zombie movie ever made. That honour belongs to 28 Days Later, which introduced the fleet-footed zombies that can run you down. Even the blue-haired old lady zombies can chase down an NFL cornerback.

But nitpicking about zombie movies is a fool's errand. The main thing to remember is that a zombie movie is political, as is all science fiction.

Sci-fi is never about robot revolts or a society where combat veterans are the only ones who become citizens and vote. It's about the politics.

Zombies overwhelm modern bureaucracies, forcing governments to make hard decisions, forming what amounts to "death panels."

One of my favourite sci-fi movies is Soylent Green, in which the people have stopped reading. This mindlessness makes it easier for the government to promote suicide cults, and the bodies of the self-inflicted dead are promptly turned into green crackers to feed the hungry mobs. According to the famed Lisa Zombie Theory, created by a friend's wife named Lisa, the zombies are symbolic of a political class: Baby boomers. Because, like zombies, boomers just won't go away. Zombies refuse to retire. Their very presence sucks up precious resources from young people trying to survive.

And that's where the Kass Zombie Theory comes in. Everyone knows what happens to the boomers. The young will turn us into crackers.

Political theories won't stop zombies any more than bureaucratic anguish. What stops zombies is a plan. Writer Mick Swasko said he has a plan.

"I know my zombies," said Mick. "I've been thinking about this for a long time."

Mick's zombie-survival plan is to run to a Wisconsin hamlet surrounded on three sides by water with only one road. Everyone would have a duty. The deer-hunter neighbour would hunt meat. Others would build a barricade. Mick would be the intelligence officer because he has read every zombie book and seen every zombie movie and knows their every weakness.

Unfortunately, it's always the responsible fellow who, in a moment of pity, undoes everything and allows chaos to ensue.

"I'm sticking with my plan," he said.

It's good to have a plan. It might not be perfect, but at least you're not waiting for Big Sis, the Homeland Security boss, to come up with one.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

-- McClatchy Tribune Services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 A17

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