Before the explosion of sexy, dead-faced Vampires in contemporary pop culture, there were Zombies.
Zombies were equally as undead, but were deprived of those higher-brain functions enjoyed by their nocturnal counterparts (as well as a proper make-up artist). Much like the Vampires lack of a heartbeat fueled their desire for blood, zombies' lack of cognitive facility translated into a potent lust for brains. Both mystical creatures operated by a certain logic inapplicable to mere mortals: if something is missing from your life, forcibly remove it from someone else, and stuff it into your own soulless body. Duh!
And while we can all commiserate with vampires for their humanity, their uncontrollable urges, and their struggle with the trials and travails of posthumous existence, it’s much more difficult to get inside the mind of a zombie before they reciprocate by, ahem, getting inside of yours. In fact, their portrayal in films has classically reflected that difficulty. Tragedy always plays out in the same way: character X, a close friend of protagonist Y, is tragically infected with pathogen Z. Then in a suddenly touching scene, Y must put down X, a la Of Mice and Men (spoiler alert: sorry, guys), before the last shadow of humanity vanishes. Usually, Y, being human, hesitates, and narrowly escapes with his or her life.
In most zombie films, there’s really only enough this for a single moment of emotional connection. But what if, instead of being the cause for the final act, this terrible metamorphosis becomes the focal point of the entire film? This thought must surely have occurred to Rob Scholty, the creator of the film Patient Zero, as he watched the umpteenth zombie-apocalypse horror flick of the past few years. This project sets itself apart from the crowd by exploring the story of a single man as he loses his humanity one step at a time, and from the trailer it looks like one helluva ride. What's really intriguing is the way he approaches the production of this film. Unlike some, who may see their audience as a crowd of waxen faces lumbering and groaning, arms outstretched, for a copy of their film, Scholty wants to bring us along for the ride with constant insights into the blood and guts of the filmmaking process. Being a part of the movie from such an early stage will make the transformation that much more terrifying.
What if the first zombie to walk this earth wasn’t a scientist in a top-secret military facility, but a struggling twenty-something trying to get pick up another shift at his dead-end job? What if he fell in love, and reluctantly agreed to an experimental treatment because it was the only way he could pay the bills? What if, only after we come to know this person, does he begin to show signs of transforming into a zombie? The truth is, we simply don’t know! I, for one, welcome the dominance of a new genre of zombie films to ravage Western civilization as we know it, and it all starts with a single patient. Cue the suspenseful music...