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Zombie Authority Helen Matthews Watches Pumpkinhead While Grading Papers

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Kids headed to college know little about the strange places academia may take them — and Helen Matthews may just be their hero. Her graduate degree in French Literature from the University of North Carolina has become a springboard for her interest in the tales of Haiti’s walking dead. “The zombi [the correct Haitian term] activates themes of slavery, American occupation, womanhood, dictatorship,” says Matthews, “And, most importantly to my research, exploitation.”

How does modern zombie mythology measure up? “At this point, most zombie movies are so far removed from Haitian mythology that they don’t have any right to pay homage.” They still play an important role in her work, however: “I was never a huge fan, and you’ll notice that none made my top 10, but my Netflix queue is teeming with them. I watch them mainly to stroke my imaginary beard and ponder the many ways in which Haitian mythology is being exploited by American popular culture.” Our appetite for apocalyptic viruses speaks for itself, she suspects. “Watching contagious zombies eat flesh and run really fast is way more entertaining than pondering the pain of losing your individuality and being forced into labor on a Haitian plantation,” says Matthews.

Helen Matthews’ Top 10 Horror Movies:

10. House of 1000 Corpses
9. They Live
8. The Birds
7. The Shining
6. Videodrome
5. The Hills Have Eyes
4. Monkey Shines
3. Chopping Mall
2. Opera
1. Pumpkinhead

“I pop on Pumpkinhead sometimes while I’m grading my
students’ homework. They’d probably be disturbed to hear that,” says Matthews. “Careless teenagers,
sworn revenge, an old witch, a curse, and an ugly creature. It imagines
an outward manifestation of a man’s internal demons, and that
manifestation looks a lot like Alien. How could it go wrong?”

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