Thomas Jones reviews ‘Zone One’ by Colson Whitehead · LRB 26 January 2012

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Harvill Secker, 259 pp, £14.99, October 2011, ISBN 978 1 84655 598 5

Zombies, thousands of them. At the movies, on TV, in computer games, on Facebook, roaming the streets in protest or for kicks, the undead hordes have never been more prevalent. They’re a relatively new phenomenon, as monsters in Western horror go, lacking the canonical pedigree of werewolves or vampires. But the plague spreads quickly. The zombie as it emerged in 20th-century American popular culture, though nominally a figure looted from Haitian folklore, is a recombination of familiar mythological tropes: reanimated corpses, anthropophagy, brainwashing, speechlessness, herd instinct. The first zombie movie is generally reckoned to be Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932), in which Bela Lugosi plays a mill owner in Haiti who uses voodoo to control his black zombie workers, and to enslave a young white American woman who’s engaged to one of his neighbours. As Kyle William Bishop writes in American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture, ‘this germinal film presented audiences with the exoticism of the Caribbean, a fear of domination and subversion, and the perpetuation of the imperialist model of cultural and racial hegemony.’

Thomas Jones reviews ‘Zone One’ by Colson Whitehead · LRB 26 January 2012.

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About Karl Dallas

Former BBC and IRN presenter, presenter of jazz, classical, movie and talk shows on Bradford Community Broadcasting, editor and presenter of VideoCaroline, "the best TV over the Seven Seas".
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