Screaming undead

 A Deal with the Devil?: Zombies vs. Tricksters as Cinematic Magic

Katherine A. Fowkes

High Point University

Abstract | From the beginning, cinema has been intertwined with magic as illusion. The magic of cinema not only provides the illusion of reality, it can also create fantastic creatures, marvelous stories, and imaginary worlds. While movie zombies are currently in vogue – embodying anxieties of soulless, brain dead individuals – the perfect antidote to the zombie can be found in the figure of the trickster. The trickster’s role is often to breathe new life into lifeless people and petrified situations by causing mischievous and usually humorous chaos. Although movies can function as “zombies” when they reinforce clichéd ideas, stereotypes or “soul-less” stories, cinema can also operate as a kind of meta-trickster to help us re-imagine ourselves and our world. “Fantastic” cinema (fantasy, sci-fi, gothic horror, etc.) represents the epitome of a type of story that can help re-ignite our imagination and help us re-conceive what we thought we knew. It can also help us re-imagine what we believe to be possible or impossible in the real world. And because cinema itself is founded on trickery (illusion of motion, etc.) and has its roots in many traditional magical tricks, the trickster can serve as a potent metaphor for imaginative and speculative narratives of cinema.

Keywords | Devils; imagination; magic; tricksters; zombies.