Zombie Culture seems like more than just a pile of chairs

I recently watched Les Affames (The Ravenous) on Netflix ( you can read about that  here ). That film has some interesting ideas about Zombies. The (sadly fast) zombies seem to feel pain. They also react to the death of other zombies with something approximating emotion, suggesting that they feel a connection to each other. None of that is really what sparked my interest, though. These zombies seem to be employed in a shared task, creating something.

The film open with a shot of a kitchen chair in a fog shrouded field.  That image, while intriguing, is soon forgotten as the film jumps directly into the midst of an already underway zombie apocalypse. It goes about introducing characters and doing the normal things we expect a zombie movie to do.  Things progress normally until we get a glimpse of some zombies standing around, looking at a pile of junk. This doesn’t seem that strange, certainly no stranger that the zombies transfixed by fireworks that Romero gave us in land of the dead. We don’t get any hint at that moment that this is anything more than zombies coming across a trash heap and, for some reason, finding it interesting. That idea will shift a bit later in the film’s run time.

Eventually the characters stumble across that chair from the beginning. It’s not just a chair. Rather, it’s part of a collection of chairs. There is a tower of chairs stretching to the sky, surrounded by a ring of chairs. Zombies stand transfixed by this monument to sitting. It seems like we should conclude that the zombies have built this tower of chairs. Their attitude seems almost religious.  We can only guess at what this means. Do these zombies have a burgeoning religion? Does this count as culture? Is there higher order thinking of some sort involved, or are these undead creatures akin to bower birds toiling on instinct without understanding the importance of what they do?  The movie has no answers.

This isn’t the first time that a zombie movie has hinted at these sorts of questions. Famously, George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead features a zombie named Bub who seems capable of at least pantomiming use of familiar objects. He knows what a razor is for. He knows who a phone should be held. He almost says at word.

Bub was followed by Big Daddy in Romero’s follow-up, Land of the Dead. Big Daddy remembers how to pump gas. He learns how to use tools (especially weapons). And, most importantly, he teaches others this skill. Romero is pointing at evolution. His zombies improve, they adapt, and eventually, we should believe, they will rule (it’s the Land of the Dead, afterall).

Les Affames (The Ravenous) has big ideas. Or, at least, it wants us to think about big ideas. I would like to see a film that actually wants to take these ideas to some sort of conclusion. 

Couldn't we have a movie that takes places decades after the zombie uprising? Maybe zombie culture is fully developed now, maybe they have a complex and alien religion. What would that look like?  I for one would buy that ticket.