Graveyard Shift The Varied Depictions Of Zombies And Undead Ghouls In Movies And TV  

Ann Casano
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List Rules Vote up the types of zombies from movies and TV you would stand a chance against in real life.

In popular culture, zombies are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that all living dead are created equal. In fact, there are myriad types of zombies. The craze started with the Bela Lugosi (he wasn’t just Dracula) movie White Zombie in 1932, a film rooted in Haitian zombie folklore. However, most zombies in movies and zombies on TV use the conventions from George A. Romero’s black and white 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. But not all zombies feed on their victims, and some can even run really, horrifyingly fast. There are all types of zombies on movies and TV.

There are many differences between types of zombies. Some are victims of a voodoo curse, others are the result of a rapidly spreading virus, and some are just victims of the standard zombie bite. Zombies can trudge around slowly and lack the ability to reason or think, or they can move faster than the blink of an eye and can adequately use a weapon or open a door.

And even though we traditionally think of the walking dead as mindless creatures who desire nothing more than to feed on brains, many of the films here are rich with metaphor and contain symbolic meaning of zombies. For example, Night of the Living Dead is just as much a critique on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War as it is about scary monsters.  

Let's learn, then, about all the different kinds of zombies. 


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The Walking Dead (TV Series 2010 - )

How the Apocalypse Started:

The TV series has not broached this topic, it remains a mystery. In fact, the characters really never discuss the origins of the zombie outbreak. Their primary concern is about survival. 

Additionally, every single person who dies becomes a Walker, as along as their head is intact. There have been instances, however, when a person was saved after getting bit. For example in an episode from Season 3, Hershel gets bit in the leg by a walker and Rick is able to save him by quickly amputating his leg before the virus spreads to the rest of the old man's body.

Characteristics:

"The Walkers" as they are typically called by the main group in the series, are slow movers and they follow the standard conventions of the flesh eating Romero zombie. They work best in groups, when the sheer number of them can overtake a victim. They do not talk and are not at all intelligent. It seems to take hours for a human to turn.

How to Kill Them:

The Walkers will only die from a direct blow to the head.

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Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

How The Apocalypse Started:

Radiation from a fallen satellite caused the dead to start rising from the grave. 

Characteristics:

Romero's ghouls are slow-moving but relentless. The zombies in the film must eat the living in order to survive. Also, every person that dies, as long as their brain remains intact, eventually turns into a zombie, usually within an hour or two. The bite from an infected person results in death. They typically attack in large groups. Night of the Living Dead set the conventions for most zombie films that followed. They are mindless, devoid of reason, and cannot be injured. Their arms and legs can fall off their bodies, but they can still remain "alive."

How To Kill Them:

Romero's ghouls can only be stopped with a blow to the head.

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28 Days Later


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28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)

How the Apocalypse Started:

The initial outbreak of what is called the "Rage" virus begins when an infected chimpanzee bites an animal rights activist attempting to free the animal. The blood borne virus spreads very quickly among the population. It is highly contagious through blood and saliva, and within 28 days the entire society where the film takes place has completely broken down.

Characteristics:

The "infected," as they are called in the film, are beyond violent. They are voracious, brutal, and full of a bottomless well of anger, hence the name Rage virus. They also have lightning-quick reflexes and can run very fast. The infected are not quite dead, they are still alive and they don't appear to decay, but they seem to lack intelligence beyond basic motor function. They don't attack victims for food, instead their goal is to spread the virus.

There are instances in the film where we see the infected retain the ability to open doors and windows, so they are not completely mindless. For example, one infected man was able to operate a piece of machinery that was used when he was human. They do not have any super strength, but their adrenal glands are working overtime. Therefore, they are much stronger than the average person. Similar to other fast-moving zombies, the incubation period between a person getting bitten (or coming in contact with an infected's bodily fluid) and the infection taking over is almost immediate, 10 or 20 seconds. So, just a single infected individual can quickly spread the virus in a large group.

How to Kill Them:

An infected can be killed any way you can kill a normal human, not just with a blow to the head. However, it is difficult to kill an infected because they are so relentless and hyped up on adrenaline.

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Day of the Dead (Romero, 1985)

How the Apocalypse Started: 

Radiation from a fallen satellite caused the dead to start rising from the grave. 

Characteristics:

The basic zombie conventions from Romero's original film still apply. However, science plays a very important role in Day of the Dead. One of the scientists in the film, Dr. Logan, AKA Frankenstein, believes that zombies can actually be trained to become submissive. Dr. Logan has dissected a bunch of zombies to this end. He had the ability to research many zombie test subjects at a secret military compound.

He is even able to train one ghoul in particular, "Bub," and turn him into an obedient servant who recalls parts of his human life. Bub is soon able to listen to music and hold a pistol. Bub even has a legit personality and a sense of humor. At the climax of the fim when Bub finds Dr. Logan's dead boy, he actually displays both sadness and anger.

How to Kill Them:

Despite their evolution, Romero's ghouls can still be killed with a blow to the head.

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