I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain, or alternatively I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain, or sometimes just simply I, Zombie was written, produced and directed by Andrew Parkinson, and was released in 1999 by Fangoria Films. Presented in part in a pseudo-documentary style, I, Zombie details the traumatic physical and mental degradation of a young man bitten by a zombie.
I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain is a melancholy look into the existence of a dying zombie. David, a PhD student, is off collecting data for his research and falls victim to a zombie bite as he attempts to help a really sick looking girl. He documents his body's decay, committed to the scientific method till his eventual demise. David's depression and self-loathing doesn't let up, making this a dark and heavy film. I, Zombie is not just about sympathizing with a zombie character; with graphic connections drawn to the alienation and physical decay associated with HIV/AIDS, this film has deeper social commentary. The run down house where David gets infected, as well as his own flat, remind me of the bare, squalid living conditions in the heroin injected world of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting. Though sometimes David's acting is unbelievable, this does not detract from the film's impact and its creative take on the zombie.
It is popular for zombie films to make commentary on the fear of widespread disease or the dangerous effects of scientists tampering with "nature". It is not new that the "zombie plague" or "zombie virus" is being used to represent a fear of HIV/AIDS. I, Zombie: A Chronicle of Pain tells another side of the story by exposing the social alienation felt by the virus victim. David drags the viewer down along his slow decent into loneliness, physical decay and depression. I usually expect the zombie to rot in the same way corpses do, but instead, our zombie's body decays awkwardly with random rot spots showing up on the skin. Socially, David is alone and doesn't know who to reach out to; trapped in seclusion, his actions get more and more disturbing. Without the support of any friends, family or other zombies who could potentially relieve David's emotional decline, alienation decays his soul as fast as the virus decays his body. In a later film, Dead Creatures, Andrew Parkinson shows the lives of zombie outcasts that have banded together to support each other's survival. I am interested in checking out this film.
Andrew Parkinson, director of I, Zombie has successfully created one of the most depressing films that the genre has to offer. This zombie POV demands commiseration, as we are forced to identify ourselves with an individual suffering from a disease that has effectively ostracized him not only from his friends and family, but all of society.
What is striking about this film is not that we are introduced to the routine of an atypical zombie who documents his deterioration via recorded monologues; is troubled by his eating habits; and mourns over his own death; but rather the unmistakable similarity between our main character, David’s situation and an individual infected with a publically feared disease such as HIV/AIDS.
Like American Zombie, a socially aware film to follow ten years later, I, Zombie depicts the horrors of ostracism by equating the diseased ghouls to minority populations. Though where American Zombie falls short on despondency, I, Zombie really drives it home by exploring the dangers of solitude. The weight of this film’s reclusion is almost unbearable. Although we are certain that there are others experiencing the same tribulation, David is alone. Yet, despite David’s physical disfigurations, the few people that he encounters throughout the narrative, his landlady and a prostitute for example, seem to treat him as they would anyone else. This is a curious situation, because it seems to be the case then that David has taken it upon himself to oust himself from society. His self-induced isolation echoes the sentiments of an ignorant and fearful world, as David feels incapable of being loved or the ability to carry out any sort of normal life. For this reason David resents himself, and Parkinson has made this painfully clear.