Hannah Star The Evolution of the Zombie

While I was in high school, my friends and I weren’t exactly the coolest kids around. While other kids were breaking into their parents’ alcohol cabinets (and, in retrospect, getting properly prepared for college), my friends and I liked to spend our weekends watching movies in each other’s basements. Our favourite Friday night routine was ordering in shitty Thai food and watching even shitter zombie movies. Somehow this was – and still is – a surprisingly great time. For those of you looking to break into the zombie movie-watching scene, here’s my easy-to-use guide to the evolution of the zombie.

The Black and White Zombie

White Zombie (1932) is said to be the first full-length zombie movie. The premise of White Zombie involves a man hiring a witch doctor to lure his infatuation away from her fiancé. Things go awry, and the witch doctor’s magical potion causes the woman to die and then return from the dead as a zombie slave. Not only is the movie sexist, culturally insensitive, and boring as fuck, but its “zombies” aren’t even scary. Actually, there’s really only one zombie- totally lame. In her zombified state, the woman looks exactly as she did when she was alive, only now she’s really quiet and subservient. Sounds more like a misogynistic idealization of women than an actual attempt at a horror movie. Just sayin’.

I can’t believe it took until 2004 for someone to realize that zombies would be way more terrifying if they actually moved fast.

The REAL Original Zombie

The zombie as we know it today got its real start in 1968, with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The Night of the Living Dead zombies are slow-moving, flesh-eating, pale-faced ghouls, but they’re really not very scary. There’s nothing about their physical appearance to suggest anything frightening; they’re clad in the same clothes they were presumably wearing when infected with the zombifying disease, and their faces look relatively human save a few scratches and bumps. They’re also not particularly threatening because they’d be really easy to outrun. Let’s be honest – we’d all much rather be chased by a 1968 zombie than a fucking werewolf.

The Running Zombie

I can’t believe it took until 2004 for someone to realize that zombies would be way more terrifying if they actually moved fast. In the Dawn of the Dead remake, the zombies could sprint. REALLY FUCKING FAST. Watching those zombies run sent me into a mental tailspin; I had to totally rethink my zombie apocalypse survival plan. Thank you, Dawn of the Dead remake, for taking zombies to the next level of scariness. But fuck you, Dawn of the Dead remake, for being unbearably shitty in all other regards.

The Satirical Zombie

Around the same time that zombies learned how to sprint, they also learned how to mock themselves. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004) is a brilliant parody of other serious zombie movies, featuring a zombie-killing scene set to Queen’s “Don’t Stop me Now”. Then there was 2009’s Zombieland, starring the adorably adorable Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone. Zombieland is a zombie movie that’s ironically aware of the fact that it’s a zombie movie; the characters stop to give viewers specific instructions on surviving a zombie apocalypse. The zombies seem to wait around on screen for the characters to demonstrate zombie-killing techniques for their viewers. Now that zombies have become self-aware and self-satirizing, I can only expect that they’ll start acting all ironic and hipster-y. Look out for Shaun of the Dead 2: Zombies go on a Shopping Spree to Salvation Army and Urban Outfitters.

The Zombie you Wished Didn’t Exist

If there are people who get turned on watching women have sex with horses and shit, you know there are some weirdos out there who are into zombie porn. A little bit of apprehensive, dear-god-I-hope-no-one’s-watching-me Google-searching proved to me that yes, zombie porn does actually exist. Listen to the description of this one zombie porno: “a film about an undead hottie who becomes a sex slave to teen boys!” If you’re curious to see more, check out ”Zombie Strippers!”, a porno starring Jenna Jameson about a zombie virus that works its way through a bunch of underground strip joints. As for me, I think I’d rather watch sex without the flesh-eating, thanks.

The Nazi Zombie

Yeah, this shit existed too. At a production company somewhere in Germany […really? – Ed], some drugged-up filmmaker probably said to his buddy, “Hey Franz, remember how shitty Hitler unt the Nazis were? Imagine if they were all zombified!” The result? A German movie Dead Snow(I’m really hoping the title sounded better in its original, un-translated German form).

It’s kind of like Night of the Living Dead, except it takes place in the wintertime and involves Nazi zombies.

In this cinematic gem, the zombies aren’t just random, infected Joe Shmoes like in every other zombie movie. In Dead Snow, the zombies are representing a very specific historical period, fully clad in Wermacht gear, adding a whole new dimension of zombified ridiculosity. 

So what’s next in the timeline of zombie evolution? The options are endless. Personally, I’d love to see an army of un-dead Disney pop stars wreaking havoc at the Jersey Shore, forcing the Jersey Shore cast to barricade itself in the beach house in an attempt to survive attack from a zombified Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. I should pitch that to somebody. Anyways, now that you’ve read my comprehensive zombie history, use your newfound knowledge to go snag that dorky-yet-sexy guy in your class who you know is eating shitty Thai food alone this Friday night. 


"I can’t believe it took until 2004 for someone to realize that zombies would be way more terrifying if they actually moved fast."

Return of the Living Dead, 1985. Only 17 years after Night of the Living Dead.

Dead Snow isn't German; it's Norwegian. You'd think they could hire someone who knows the genre a little better to write an article about it.

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