"It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder."
News broadcaster[src]
Zombies in Zombieland.jpg
Aliases: Undead; Walking Dead; Reanimated corpses; Deadites; The Crossed; Walkers; Geeks [1]
Sub-groups: Vampires; Mummies; Reanimates
Films: White Zombie, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Zombi 2, Zombi 3, Return of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Resident Evil, Zombieland (and many more)
Programs: The Walking Dead
Comics: Tales of the Zombie, Marvel Zombies, Marvel Zombies 2, Marvel Zombies 3, Marvel Zombies 4, Marvel Zombies Return, Crossed, The Walking Dead

Zombies are humans, animals or any part thereof who have died and have since been reanimated through any of several methods. They have been referred to as the Undead or the Walking Dead. Traditionally, when a human being dies and is resurrected as a zombie, they are no longer a sentient being and lack any semblance of a conscious mind. These creatures are typically driven by pure instinct or an innate primal desire such as hunger or the need to kill. Zombies are often susceptible to psychological suggestion and may be easily manipulated or controlled by those responsible for their reanimation. This is not always the case however, and many zombies have rebelled against their creator over the years.

Origins[edit | edit source]

Liv Moore.gif

The creation of a zombie may be conducted through a variety of ways. The earliest methods of zombie creation stem all the way back to ancient Egypt in the form of mummies. Egyptians who had earned the enmity of the Pharaoh or the gods would find themselves executed. Their bodies were wrapped in linen upon death and placed inside of a tomb. In place of the traditional Egyptian prayer ceremonies however, these mummies were instead cursed to return to life as a shambling monster with no other desire but to kill. It was common for Egyptian tomb builders to place a warning upon the sarcophagus, indicating to others what might happen should the tomb of the mummy be disturbed. While mummies may lie inert in their coffins for centuries, it was not uncommon for a thief or archaeologist to discover their remains and, ignoring the warnings, inadvertently bring the mummy back to life, usually at the cost of their own lives.

For the past several centuries, one of the more noted methods of zombie creation stems from the religious voodoo sects of the West Indies as well as some regions of the Southeastern United States. Many zombie creation rites originate from the island of Haiti. In the tenets of the Voodoo religion, a Voodoo priest, known as a Bokor, performs a ritual that brings the body of the recently deceased back to life. Like most zombies, this individual no longer has a will of their own and is submissive to the instruction of the Bokor.

Zombies in film[edit | edit source]

Zombies as film villains did not reach the same popularity as vampires or werewolves and they usually took the form of mummies or some variation of the Frankenstein Monster.

One of the earliest representations of zombies in horror films is the 1932 movie White Zombie starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi played a character named Murder Legendre who owned a sugar mill run by a zombie labor force. At the behest of a colleague named Charles Beaumont, he produced a serum that could turn the living into zombies. Beaumont intended to use Legendre's serum on a woman he desired named Madeleine Short.

Although White Zombie is considered a respected staple in horror film history, it did little to boost the popularity of zombies in modern culture. 1943 helped to provide more zombie exposure in the RKO Productions feature I Walked With a Zombie. By the 1950s, zombies were seldom used for anything other than b-movie fodder such as the critically-panned Ed Wood movie Plan 9 from Outer Space.

It wasn't until 1968 that a director named George Romero created a franchise that would forever change the face of zombie culture in cinema -- Night of the Living Dead. Romero's zombies were not the product of voodoo practitioners, but rather, were the result of some contagion. These shambling monstrosities sought out human victims, consumed parts of their flesh thus transmitting the virus, transforming their victims into zombies. Romero's mythology established that a zombie could only be killed through severe trauma to the head. This method has since become the de facto means of execution against zombie in nearly every medium from this point onward. Romero's Night of the Living Dead spawned several sequels and remakes including Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. The first three films have all received the remake treatment.

As Romero's franchise grew in popularity, other film makers borrowed a page from Romero's play book and produced their own crop of zombie-related horror films such as the Return of the Living Dead franchise, The Dead Hate the Living, Shaun of the Dead, Dance of the Dead and so on.

Another zombie-related franchise that grew out of the new millennium was the Resident Evil series of films. Inspired by a series of popular video games developed by Capcom, the franchise has, to date, produced three full-length feature films, one computer animated direct-to-DVD film as well as a series of comic books and novels based on the video games. The films feature actress Milla Jovovich in the role of Alice, a former employee of the evil Umbrella Corporation who now fights against hordes of zombies produced by Umbrella's T-Virus. All of the films to date have been written by Paul W.S. Anderson, who also directed the first Resident Evil film.

Zombies in television[edit | edit source]

"My need to feed on brains is weird, but how many people can say that satisfying their munchies could potentially help solve a murder case? This is my contribution to society. I'm just a fake, psychic zombie trying to do her part."
Olivia Moore[src]

Zombies in The Walking Dead.

Zombies were one of dozens of supernatural entities featured in the ABC Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. In a storyline commonly referred to as the 1897 flashback, one of the main characters, Quentin Collins, is murdered by his wife Jenny and resurrected as a zombie through Gypsy magic. Zombies also appear in a later storyline where two characters witnessed future portents of the year 1994 (the episodes were shot during the early 1970s, making the year 1994 the distant future). In this flash-forward storyline, an evil warlock named Judah Zachary summoned a horde of the undead to destroy the Collins family ancestral home, Collinwood.

In October of 2010, AMC began airing the first live-action drama series centered exclusively around zombies - The Walking Dead. The series adapts the popular Image Comics comic book series of the same name, written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. The series follows former Sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes as he awakens from a coma only to discover that the world has been overrun by zombies. Making his way to Atlanta, Georgia, he reunites with his wife and son and becomes a member of a camp of survivors, all of whom are struggling to avoid becoming the next meal for the flesh-craving corpses that have infected the city. As is typical of most Romero-inspired ghouls, the undead featured in the series are never referred to as zombies. They are only ever identified as either "walkers" or "geeks".

The CW Network television series iZombie focuses on the misadventures of a young medical intern named Olivia "Liv" Moore, who is infected by a zombie named Blaine DeBeers at a boat party that ends up becoming a zombie feeding frenzy. Liv dies and is reborn as a zombie, but maintains her personality and intellect, though she suffers a ravishing need to consume human brains. Fortunately for her, her job at the Seattle Medical Examiner's office affords her ample opportunity to sample the local, and recently deceased, cuisine. Unless Liv consumes at least one human brain per month, she will degenerate into the classic shambling monster zombie. One notable aspect that sets iZombie zombies apart from other zombies is that whenever Liv eats a brain, she temporarily gains insight into the life of the deceased; even to the point of picking up some of their skills, mannerisms, memories and personality quirks. This effect wears off on its own, but ceases upon the consumption of another brain, at which point, the entire process starts all over again.

Zombies in comics[edit | edit source]

"It's their world. We're just living in it."

Like most monsters, zombies have always been a part of popular culture, and they are certainly no stranger to the comic book medium. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, zombies were commonly used as a plot device or the "monster du jour" for anthology titles such as Vault of Evil and Tales from the Crypt.

In the 1970s, zombie culture enjoyed an upward thrust in popularity, particularly when Marvel Comics began publication of a magazine entitled Tales of the Zombie. Tales of the Zombie was published by Marvel Comics and Curtis Publications from 1973 to 1975. The series starred Simon Garth, a plantation owner who had the misfortune of falling under a voodoo curse, which transformed him into a zombie. Simon Garth has been affectionately referred to as the "Marvel Zombie", a name which had also been used to describe Marvel Comics fans during the 1970s. In the 2000s, the term took on an entirely different meaning as Marvel literally introduced a Marvel Zombies franchise, albeit with no connection to Simon Garth. Tales of the Zombie also included stories featuring occult super-hero Brother Voodoo as well as Voodoo's nemesis, Black Talon. The series ran for ten issues and included a double-sized 1975 Annual edition.

Zombie Humor[edit | edit source]

Zombie films have also attempted to blend horror with humor. This likely stems back to George Romero's work as well, since Romero liked to interject subtle satire and social commentary into his works. Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise posited a humorous twist by introducing an over-the-top working class hero named Ash Williams who endures unending torment in his efforts to survive a plague of demons and zombies. The Return of the Living Dead franchise further displayed elements of humor by featuring two bumbling incompetents as their protagonists. This method was used to even greater effect in the 2004 UK film Shaun of the Dead. The 2009 film Zombieland partnered Jesse Eisenberg with Woody Harrelson as two sarcastic, yet capable zombie hunters.

Pseudo-Zombies[edit | edit source]

"They're not dead. Whatever else they are, they most definitely are not dead."

Pseudo-Zombies are individuals who demonstrate behavior or physical characteristics similar to a normal zombie, but are not undead. They are living, breathing organisms who are monstrous in appearance and have lost almost all semblance of their prior humanity. Pseudo-Zombies became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s and have been featured in various media such as the 28 Days Later films, the Resident Evil video game/film franchise and the Crossed comic book series.

Deadites[edit | edit source]

Henrietta. She'll swallow your soul.

Deadites are a specific type of undead monster. They bear some physical similarity to modern zombies, but they are not mindless monsters, nor are they flesh-eaters. Deadites are malevolent spirits called Kandarians, who hail from an unknown infernal dimension, possibly even Hell. Their power is bound in an ancient mystic tome called Naturom Demonto, which is a Sumerian translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This tome has also been referred to as the Necronomicon. The book itself is bound in human flesh and its passages are inked in blood. By reciting a particular incantation from the Naturom Demonto, the Kandarian demon spirits are released. The Kandarians have no innate physicality, but can effect the world of the living by taking possession of human bodies. The invading spirit kills the host form, and then absorbs all of that person's knowledge, memories and personality. It is at this point that they become a Deadite. An infected person undergoes an adverse physical change upon possession. Their skin color wanes, giving a jaundiced look, and their eyes become white and opaque. They may also develop other physical abnormalities such as sharpened finger nails and rotting teeth.

Infected[edit | edit source]

The infected

These are people who have been infected with a virus developed by a British research laboratory. Although they are not zombies in the clinical sense, the Infected demonstrate behavioral traits and physical abnormalities similar to those of a traditional zombie. The infection outbreak originated in England in 2002 when a group of animal rights activists broke into a primate research center and released a monkey which had been subjected to chemical and electrical experimentation. According to one technician from the site, these lab animals were infected with "rage", the symptoms of which included wild, violent convulsions and a primal need to destroy everything within its vicinity. The "rage" virus was transmitted through blood or saliva. Once a person became infected, the virus required only twenty seconds before infection was complete. [2]

The Crossed[edit | edit source]

The Crossed

The Crossed are similar to zombies in terms of appearance and behavior, but they are not undead. They are people who have been altered through mysterious circumstances into depraved lunatics, who act on primal, base instinct. The Crossed earned their name due to the cross-shaped scar that develops on their faces once they have been infected. According to a man named Randall, "they have so much evil in them... that it just has to get used up." The Crossed primarily target non-infected victims, but in lieu of such prey, are known to turn against one another; a trait that sets them apart even further from normal zombies, who almost never attack each other. Another important element of the Crossed is that they do not perceive physical pain the same way that normal humans do. To a large extent, they are sadomasochistic, deriving intense pleasure from physical injury.

Zombie characters[edit | edit source]

Notes & Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The 1990s heavy metal band White Zombie took their name from the 1932 film White Zombie. White Zombie's lead singer, Robert Bartleh Cummings, also incorporated the zombie concept into his stage name, Rob Zombie.

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Films[edit | edit source]

Comics[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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This article relates to the American Horror Story television series.
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Includes miscellaneous articles relating to the Return of the Living Dead film series. This template will categorize images that include it into the Return of the Living Dead miscellaneous category.
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This article relates to the Tales from the Cryptkeeper television series.
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This article relates to the Woke Up Dead web series.
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