The word easily creates terror wherever it roams – with a scowl, slow gait and a penchant for biting people and stripping them of their good sense and humanity.
Zombies have been around for decades and there is just no stopping writers, artists and filmmakers from reimagining this horror that lives deep inside the minds of those who’ve had the (mis)fortune of encountering it in popular culture.
You don’t have to be a comic book guy, a film buff or literati to encounter zombies. Chance encounters are sufficient to strike fear into the hearts of fascinated consumers of pop culture. People just know that zombies are nasty, period.
And it is this primitive and deeply-rooted terror that we have of death that draws us to zombies and other death-themed tropes in pop culture.
We are fascinated by death because we fear it, and the things that we fear are less terrifying and more manageable when we can somehow apprehend them in forms and boundaries that are well-contained, such as film and comics.
Experiences that bring us closer to simulations of the zombie, such as horror houses and terror trains, make the experience more physical and much more terrifying because of the ‘risk’ of being touched or contaminated, but at the same time, we are comforted by the presence of strangers (the herd versus the horde) and we are emboldened to push through with the experience (in the act of conquering our fears).
Extreme fear, after being conquered, creates a sense of relief and relaxation so strong that people feel that thrill of being frightened on purpose by zombies is definitely a great way to unwind, to come close to one’s fear without being harmed. In a big way, this is how the mind conquers all of its fears and anxieties – in small, controlled doses or quantities.
Zombie lore has developed considerably, thanks to the adaptation of zombies in movies, video games, board games, novels, comics, etc. Each kind of zombie has peculiarities that affect its physical movements, functions and capacities. The most common zombie, which is also the most recognizable, is the generic zombie.
The generic zombie or walking zombie is the forerunner of nearly all other deviations, with the exception of the running zombie (I know, it sounds weird). There are two kinds of walking zombies: the fleshy ones and the boney ones. Boney zombies are hunks of rotting carcasses with the bones and joints showing.
Zombies can’t run, right? There’s a bit of confusion here, especially if we go back to the basic definition of what a zombie is, which is essentially a person who has either lost his senses and begins attacking people for no reason or has become an undead being (and begins attacking people, too).
Walking zombies can easily become carrier or contaminated zombies if they transfer bugs and nasty viruses when they bite, thereby spreading the cause of the conflict and reproducing at the same time.
(That’s a crazy concept isn’t it: reproduction through biting or mauling. So anti-life if I may say so myself)
So-called “running zombies” are usually infected by a virus (the virus that’s out to decimate the entirety of humanity) and for some strange physiological twist of fate, they gain the exact opposite of what walking zombies get during their transformation: they become strong, fast and really, really mean.
If walking zombies depend on horde movement to get anything done (a single zombie doesn’t really scare a small clutch of people with some ability to physically defend themselves), the running zombie is a killing machine.
It will hunt you down and everyone with you and no amount of just running will stop it. A good solid shot to the head (the brain of course still plays a major role in its animation) usually stops a running zombie dead in its tracks, but only after it has wreaked a lot of havoc and spilled a ton of badassery onscreen (or on paper).
And yes – no one is really equipped mentally and physically to deal with a deadly running zombie, unless one is a zombie hunter to begin with. (Hey, that’s sounds like an interesting story arc, eh?)
Latter appearances of the running zombie has given us more reasons to ponder what a zombie really is. For example, zombies with mutant powers (as in the case of the Marvel Universe zombies). Zombiekind has really changed in the past few years!
But what about voodoo zombies?
One of the oldest forerunners of the modern, pop culture zombie are smatterings of news that in the African continent, Voodoo practitioners are able to control both the dead and the living to do their bidding. Voodoo zombies are more like slaves (think of zombies in the Hellblazer comic series) and they usually do not pose any immediately threat to the general populace, unless of course, they are animated and cursed at the same time.
What is interesting is that even in the intersection of zombie lore from different countries, we see the clear signs of zombie-ism being a disease of sorts (in a broad way) that may or may not be cured. It is an affliction. What are the ramifications of this? We can say that zombies become meaningful only after some sort of invasion or infestation of the human body and that it represents something else completely if you try to analyze it from a physiological perspective.
PART II COMING SOON!