It’s night and a pack of zombies are chasing. Eerily, the walking dead stick on the hunt despite not being able to see their quarry. They won’t be distracted by Daryl and his dog creating a diversion and steer back on their course. Fog descends. Lightening pierces the deep gloom. Aaron and Jesus (Paul) carry the injured Eugene on and on, hoping to get away but unable to out-pace their shambling but relentless pursuers.
This is when they stumble up against a barrier. What is it? A walled cemetery. Unable to open the gates they climb through a broken gap in the cemetery wall and in. However, they are not safe: somehow the zombies push through the same gap, some falling, but others inevitable breaching the cemetery and able to advance on their injured prey.
Making their way to the opposite side of the cemetery, Eugene, Aaron and Jesus find themselves trapped inside, unable to open the iron double gates and leave the undead hunters amidst the tombs. Unable to climb with one of them injured, they turn to face the on-coming horde.
Amidst the graves, the zombies come, and, unexpectedly, some of them whisper and wield blades, able to transform themselves from ungainly and mindless walking corpses into fast and effective fighters. This is the horror worse than all horrors; zombies that can think, move swiftly, handle weapons and … whisper to each other.
Yes, in episode 8 of series 9 of The Walking Dead, a nightime cemetery becomes the venue for the ultimate encounter with pure evil: the Whisperers.
I won’t reveal any more plot-spoilers, but it is the doom of a lead character in this cemetery space, and the others are only saved by reinforcements appearing on the scene in the nick of time.
Now, The Walking Dead has not shunned cemeteries before, and in previous posts I’ve surveyed the ways in which the communities create new cemeteries, but also encounter the tombs of the pre-apocalyptic dead, and in one instance a funeral home. My reviews can be found here and here. Yet pre-apocalyptic cemeteries are held in reserve for specific engagements with mortality. Hence, I simply observe that the show leaves until this very moment before revealing the true horror of the cemetery as a place of encounter with beings who seem to spring from the supernatural world, but turn out to be something far more disturbing to 21st-century audiences: people who have abandoned the very idea of sedentary human society.
The Walking Dead finally goes full-horror for a brief and memorable scene as tall Gothic tombs and weeping angels look on. The cemetery is depicted as where reflection and remembrance takes place, but also where nightmares can become real.