The Beginners Guide To Zombies

Mark Roche offers his opinions and favorite choices from the zombie sub-genre of horror and shows why the future is bright and full of…brains.

You find yourself in a highly improbable scenario; your life now depends upon the next move. Where do you run? Zombies have taken over the world and you need a stronghold.

Such are the thoughts that run through this insomniacs mind on a frequent basis; a thought which is directly proportional to the amount of Zombie based horror movies I have watched. Cleaning out my hard drive is a chore I enjoy; sorting through 42 GB of Zombie sub genre’s however is laborious at the best of times.

Do you begin at the start and provide a linear progression? Or divide it into each variance of ‘biters’? Virus or Voodoo?

I’m a bit of a freak in that sense; some suggest I have OCD… I’d much prefer if it was called CDO if not only for the pretty alphabetic arrangement, but I digress. This piece should offer you a beginner’s guide of the progression of Zombies through the ages and highlight some of the defining moments in Horror History. In as close to defining a Zombie goes I’d suggest that:

‘A Zombie is a reanimated corpse whose origins exist in Haitian culture and Somnambulism’. Without the works of Poe, Lovecraft or Shelley we would arguably have never had Zombie fervor.

I’d argue that the very first Zombie movie is possibly one of the very first horror movies, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920); a tale of a murderous man (albeit never particularly dead), awoken from a slumber and under the control of a mad doctor.

Cesare the Zombie

White Zombie (1932) and Bowery at Midnight (1942) followed the same suit, starring Bela ‘Dracula’ Lugosi. The next couple of decades were filled with b-movie classics which built upon but never revolutionised the genre; Teenage Zombies (1959) and I Eat Your Skin (1964) being two of my favourite for the utter ‘cheese factor’.

Lugosi in White Zombie

1968 is undoubtedly the most essential year in the origins of the modern Zombie. George A. Romero, the father of Zombies transformed the zombies from an almost docile sleepwalker in comparison to their new image; rotting, brain eating monsters! Night of the Living Dead (1960). It spawned an entirely new franchise of movies, The Dead series (1968 – ) and The Living Dead series (1985 – ).

Night of the Living Dead Zombies

Romero practically reinvented a monster, gave it new attributes and the potential to scare millions of children for years later. The entire genre lulled for a while with a demotion to almost a taboo association. With the exception of foreign cinema, Braindead (1992) was the only Zombie flick to really make a mark on the culture until the Zombie Renaissance of the Noughties.

Dead Alive

Resident Evil (2002) perhaps was the spark to set the flame rekindling the passion for gore; remakes of classics accompanied long-awaited sequels to series lost to the eighties.

My favourite series of late has to be the 28 series (2002 & 2007); it introduced en mass, a new fear. You don’t have to die to become a Zombie but you’re still reduced to the rotting, flesh-eating monster as before. The RAGE Virus, to me, is one of the most terrifying aspects of the modern Zombie.

Cillian Murphys first encounter with a Zombie

The latest edition to the genre, The Walking Dead have capitalised on the idea of virus rather than supernatural reanimation and it’s certainly influenced by modernisation of weapons and I’ve read literally reams of academic work arguing the critical analysis of society and radicalisation suggested through Zombie-lore.

Zombies Inside

After all, a popular siege tactic of the Middle Ages was to throw rotting carcasses over a defensive wall and allow disease and infection to run wild, an origin of chemical warfare and a sure precursor to this viral infection genre.

The so-called birth of Zombie fiction is certainly earlier than many of us think with Movies, TV Shows Authors and even Games Developers (Nazi Zombies appear in the massive franchise, Call of Duty) cashing in on the undead since the beginning of the century; the next year looks pretty exciting for the progression of Zombie fiction across the board.

The aforementioned Walking Dead have dominated the rankings lately although a turn is approaching; Paranorman (2012) will be, to my knowledge the first animated zombie movie while Warm Bodies is also set for release later this year with Nicholas Hoult at the helm of this Zombie Romance; what I’m practically frothing at the mouth for, is the release of Max Brooks adaptation World War Z starring Mr. Hollywood himself, Brad Pitt.

Paranorman

I could talk for days on Zombie origins and the progression of the genre since; not to keep you any longer, if you haven’t seen any of the movies mentioned, get on that right now.

You have no idea what you’re missing; they also may save you at 4am at night when you’re looking for a strategy of escape from the Zombies outside your bedroom door. If not, allow this child to share some wise words.

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