Our fascination with Zombies has been a long running one, 45 years now at last count, and zombie films have long been a staple of the horror movie genre. While the origin of zombies is arguable, for the mainstream our love of the undead started with George A. Romero’s Night of the living Dead (1968), and his subsequent zombie movies; Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Day Of The Dead (1985).
6. Origin Of The Living Dead
Considered by many as the father of modern zombies (zombies up until the late 60′s were largely still associated with Haitian Voodoo culture) Romero noted on making Night Of The Living Dead:
At first I didn’t think of them as zombies, I thought of them as flesh-eaters or ghouls and never called them zombies in the first film. Then people started to write about them, calling them zombies, and all of a sudden that’s what they were: the new zombies.
I guess I invented a few rules, like kill the brain and you kill the ghoul, and eventually I surrendered to the idea and called them zombies in “Dawn of the Dead”, but it was never that important to me what they were. Just that they existed.
Romero would pick up the zombie baton again over 30 years later with his forgettable Land Of The Dead (2005) along with a string of disappointingly forgettable follow-ups. His original trilogy however remain sacrosanct.
But following his opening salvo the floodgates had been opened and Italian film-maker Lucio Fulci took Romero’s concept to further extremes and minus Romero’s famous social commentary with Zombie Flesh-Eater/Zombi/Zombie (1979), and a slew of riffs, spin-offs, sequels and remakes from Dan O’Bannon’s Return Of The Living Dead (1985) to Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead (1992) followed throughout the 80′s and early 90′s, after which the volume of low-fi zombie films produced became almost impossible to quantify.
The 2000′s heralded the evolution of the zombie with 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007) which gave us a different take essentially based on the Zombie template and a faster more terrifying version of the classic horror character was born, this time simply referred to as ‘The Infected’. These speedsters would be pilfered by Zack Snyder in his Romero Dawn Of The Dead remake in 2004 and continue to be prevalent in modern zombie output.
Since then we’ve had Nazi Zombies (Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow, 2008) French zombies (Yannick Dahan &Benjamin Rocher The Horde, 2008) and every possible take on zombies. Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2008) provided a more comical visual of the Zombie Apocalypse and returned Romero’s original shambling brain eater and Warm Bodies (2013) even injected some romance to a market traditionally dominated by killer corpses.
The zombie movie genre currently rests on it’s latest entry, the Bradd Pitt starring Max Brooks novel adaptation World War Z (2013).
So if you live in a city, you’re surrounded by people constantly. If you imagine something suddenly afflicted them all, and they were all coming after you, then you’re in big trouble. It’s a fear of an anonymous mass coming after you – Charlie Brooker on Dead Set
The Zombie concept however isn’t confined purely to the silver screen.
There is a large array of computer games set in the post infected world, most famously Capcom’s Resident Evil series created by Shinji Mikami Shinji who claimed he created the original Resident Evil game in response to his disappointment with Lucio Fulci’s Zombie and was determined to make a game with none of the failings of the movie.
It was later converted into a Milla Jovovich starring movie franchise that has since garnered it’s own cult following, but RE is just the tip of the iceberg gaming wise, with a veritable feast of Z-Games to choose from. They include the likes of – Dead Island, Dead Rising, House Of the Dead, Left 4 Dead, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare and the currently popular The Last of Us.
The TV industry has even produced some successful Zombie serials. Channel 4’s 2008 Charlie Brooker satire Dead Set based around reality TV show Big Brother sees the world end and the house mates, who are clueless to begin with (let’s be honest, they are always clueless) face a zombie apocalypse they’ve missed in their seclusion. It was incredibly popular and the public loved seeing the UK shows host Davina McCall get zombified for all of 45 seconds before getting put down rather abruptly.
Finally Fox’s The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s wildly successful decade plus running comic book has proved a raging success with viewers and has prolonged the typical battle of the living against the dead (and sometimes the living as well) for considerably more the bog standard 120 minutes or so that you get with a Hollywood produced Zombie flick.
Other comic books of note beyond the obvious must have TWD Kirkman series include – Marvel Zombies (Kirkman again), iZombie, 68 Scars, Night Of The Living Dead Revival, The Waking, Green Lantern: Blackest Night and again, the list goes on. Not to mention the seminal zombie fiction from novelists such as – Max Brooks World War Z, Mira Grant’s Feed, Stephen King’s Cell, Jonathan Mayberry’s Rot And Ruin, Carrie Ryan’s The Forest Of Hand And Teeth, and possibly the grandappy of ‘infected’ fiction Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend