Zombie Movies: A Once Dead Genre on the Rise Again

Staff Writer: Jaiden Palys

For the 130 years film has existed, zombies in film have been a thing for almost as long. In their time the zombies, along with the movies themselves, have evolved and changed, creating for the genre its own little history and timeline. As an obsessive movie watcher, I figured I’d give you a bit of insight of said history, and perhaps pique your interest in select movies.

Zombies were not always the deadly cannibalistic type as we know them to be today. In the first ever zombie film, White Zombie (1932), they were actually based on those of Haitian folklore. A zombie was little more than a reanimated corpse brought back by means of magic, or more specifically voodoo. They were devoid of mind and soul but were capable of simpler tasks and in the movie, just as in its original folklore, were used as slaves. No brain-eating or violence amongst them.

It wouldn’t be until 1968 when the world would be introduced to a whole new zombie. The Night of The Living Dead brought its dead back from the grave through the reasoning of radiation from a fallen satellite. And this time, they were hungry for the living. Fun fact: not only was this film significant in how it paved the way for the future of zombies as we know them today, but it also starred a black male actor, Duane Jones, as the lead, which is especially impressive for the time and remains socially significant to this day. The movie offered a unique ending of almost nihilistic sorts too, establishing that hope can only do so much and killing everybody off by the end.

Duane Jones was the first black lead in the horror genre. His role in this movie was a major step forward in a time when black actors were still primarily used in roles of servants, slaves, or other roles of racial significance.
Photo Credit: Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero)

Followed by many sequels and other less popular movies, it wasn’t until 2002 that we would receive two more relevant zombie films. Resident Evil and 28 Days Later. Resident Evil was based off its original game released for PlayStation in 1996 and was just over all an epic and unique zombie movie that after six movies and nine games is even now still on-going.

Meanwhile, 28 Days Later is an indie film that gained a lot of attention for its portrayal not only of the infected, but of human behavior in an apocalyptic situation. Of all the versions of zombies to have been seen on screen, it’s widely understood that those of 28 Days Later would be the most likely of any to plague the Earth. If you’ve seen this movie, you’d understand just how horrifying this conclusion is.

The rapid spread of a man-made virus, the zombies are especially strong and fast, and all it takes to be turned is a bit of infected blood entering your own system. On the bright side, they can only live for so long before they starve to death, but it wouldn’t matter much as surviving

through the beginning of it would prove nearly impossible without proper preparation and the right amount of luck.

Two years later, in 2004, a gem of a movie, Shaun of The Dead, would be released. The first in zombie comedy, it remains iconic in both genres. Going back to the classic “back-from-the-grave” slower zombies, they take pride in poking fun at how amongst today’s youth and depressing adults they would hardly look out of place. And with their clever jokes, it’s not uncommon to catch dads quoting from it even now, 16 years later.

Although not a movie, it’s a must that The Walking Dead be mentioned. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, it quickly gained a lot of traction and opened more people up to zombie movies. Even with only two lasting members of the original cast, fans still love it dearly.

For a few more honorable mentions, 2007 gave us I Am Legend and 2009, Zombieland. In 2013, World War Z came out. World War Z was spectacular in that it gave us a look at potential international affairs and occurrences during such an apocalyptic situation, although this was more so notable in the book. With 2013 came a personal favorite of mine, Warm Bodies, a fun zombie rom-com loosely based on Romeo and Juliet and another favorite in 2016, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the classic literature tale, but with zombies and powerful women).

Unmentioned in the article, The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) featured the spread of a mutated fungal disease that uniquely affected pregnant women, leading to hybrid babies. The film had a focus on hope, change, and the bond between a motherly figure and a child.

“My favorite is Anna and the Apocalypse because it’s festive and I like all of the music,” said Hannah Rhodes. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) is, simply put, a British Christmas zombie

musical and therefore arguably one of the best things ever to be seen on screen. With Christmas coming up, it’s perfect for a seasonal watch.

“Overlord is my favorite zombie movie because although the concept of Nazi zombies has been used before, this take on it is especially interesting.” said Nick Shewbert. Overlord (2018) takes place on the eve of D-day of WW2. It focuses on a group of soldiers who discover the twisted human experimentations of Nazis on village-folk right below their feet. These experiments range from simpler, well-known zombies to deadly human mutations. Not recommended for those with weak stomachs.

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