The mob scene as splatterpunk extravaganza…
Amongst other things, zombies speak to the basic human fear of the mob, of being individually outnumbered by the ill-intentioned. But such an encounter can be dramatized with wicked wit, as witnessed in David J. Schow’s 1989 story, “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy” (collected in Zombie Jam). It’s one of the most famous–and outrageous–pieces of zombie fiction ever written, featuring a 400-pound survivor of the apocalypse (who lives to feast on undead flesh) and an evangelical preacher leading a rotten congregation of Born-Agains (who are controlled via voodoo-like doses of rattlesnake venom).
The climactic showdown, as the Right Reverend Jerry directs his flock to attack Wormboy’s heavily-fortified graveyard stronghold, is an absolute carnival of carnage (consider this grotesque nugget, as Wormboy shoots the zombie dubbed Barf Eater for its particularly indiscriminate palate: “Its limbs stiffened straight as hydrostatic pressure blew its head apart into watermelon glop. Then it came undone altogether, collapsing into a mound of diarrheic putrescence that bubbled and flowed around the pipework.”). What prevents the action from becoming submerged in the sophomoric is Schow’s sheer stylistic verve, his wordplay and unabashedly vivid imagery. Even as Jerry works at “rousing the rabble” with his Bible thumping, the reverend’s rhetoric is countered by the narrative’s consistently irreverent/ironic tone. Jerry gets a nasty surprise when he verbally and physically tries to urge one of his holy soldiers “Onward!”: “The flat of his hand met all the resistance of cold oatmeal. A cow patty had more tensile strength and left less mess.” When Wormboy (armed with enough weaponry to outfit a whole squad of monster-hunting angry villagers) guns down one of Jerry’s decomposing deacons, “Something fist-sized and mulchy smacked Jerry’s shoulder and blessed it with a smear of yellow.” Nevertheless, the Born-Agains continue their pursuit of the morbidly obese Wormboy: “The closer the congregation staggered to the graveyard, the better they could smell this sinner, and his fatted calves.”
There’s probably nothing I can write here, though, that adequately captures the manic energy and macabre fireworks on display in this extended sequence. Amidst all the splatter, the scene offers critical commentary on religious fervor and unchecked appetite alike. As seen in the story “The Thing Too Hideous to Describe” (which I covered in a previous post), Schow is no stranger to intelligent variations on the angry-villagers motif, and “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy” forms another unforgettable example of a mob scene.