While most U.S. theaters remain closed, apparently movies are still kind of a thing overseas. Currently, the number one movie at the, admittedly sparse global box office, is Peninsula -- which isn't a Pixar movie about a sentient, semi-aquatic landmass, but rather, the loosely-connected sequel to 2016's South Korean zombie thriller Train to Busan.
The new movie made more than $20 million in countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, and Korea -- where previously the box office was dominated by another zombie movie, #Alive, and also the (arguably equally-horrifying) Woody Allen film A Rainy Day in New York.
All of which prompts the question: Why would people around want to watch a zombie movie right now?
Well, it turns out that there are a few possible reasons why, even in the midst of a pandemic, movie fans might turn to the undead for comfort. For one thing, horror movies, in general, have been shown to actually reduce anxiety. This sounds counterintuitive, like suggesting that a Nickelback album will somehow reduce your disdain for all of humanity. But scary films "provide tangible fears" that allows viewers to "focus their minds" and calm the multitude of other anxieties ping-ponging around their brain. Think about it: you're not stressing about relationships or bills when your mind is busy worrying that, say, Mark Wahlberg might get taken out by a killer fern.
The popularity of the zombie movie tends to mirror our real-life fears; the 1950s gave us nuclear-powered atomic zombies, and most famously, 1968's Night of the Living Dead reflected America's current racial violence in its grisly story that ultimately ends with its Black protagonist being, effectively, lynched (unless you watched the terrible godawful '90s special edition).
And though it may be inadvertent, it makes sense that the zombie genre would resonate with people in 2020. Stories about zombies help us cope with "the fear of annihilation," which most of us are now wrestling with every goddamn hour of the day. And, most pertinently, zombie movies tap into our fear of other people. With social distancing protocols, we're all kind of living our own mini-Romero movies, avoiding the lumbering threat of our potentially germ-filled neighbors as we, say, walk to the local grocery store. Really, it's kind of amazing that any of us can relate to non-zombie movies at this point.
Top Image: Next Entertainment World