The zombie has transformed over the years. In early cinema the zombie wasn’t really a flesh eater, but more of a catatonic slave controlled by a powerful lord. Old movies like ‘White Zombie’ staring Bela Lugosi were usually set in Haiti because the culture there believes in these types of zombies. The Haitian zombie isn’t really my particular flavor, even if it does have a legend like Bela Lugosi in it.
The modern zombie, in my opinion came from the mind of George A. Romero and his 1968 classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’. That type of zombie is actually referred to as the ‘Romero Zombie’ believe it or not. Romero was influenced in part by the 1954 novel ‘I am legend’ by Richard Matheson, which was really more of a vampire novel but it had qualities that inspired him nonetheless.
In most of the zombie films you get little introduction to the situation, and find yourself in the middle of the action. You often don’t get much of an explanation to what caused the outbreak. The zombies of the recently dead are walking the earth and they crave human flesh. Romero zombies move slow, and are not intelligent. He also set a working formula for most all the zombies to follow it. Let’s set the scene:
A group of random people are thrown together and are forced to find shelter. They have to fortify said shelter while they bicker amongst each other. The group of people always has to have a minority (usually a black male), and female lead. The zombies will gather in great numbers outside the shelter and end up breaking in. Most of the cast will die in the resulting zombie B&E and 1-3 people will get away.
Romero has brought us several awesome zombie movies in his ‘of the Dead’ series, like ‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘Day of the Dead’, ‘Land of the Dead’, ‘Diary of the Dead’, and ‘Survival of the Dead’. Apart from those Romero also brought us ‘The Crazies’ both old and new. Of all the zombie outbreaks to be in, I’d choose the Romero brand.
There is another brand of zombie that does cause for an entertaining movie but a totally hopeless situation. The John Russo zombies are pretty much invincible. Russo’s novel ‘Return of the Living Dead’ (a zombie comedy) was adapted for film in 1985. The Russo method gave a reason for the zombies right off the bat saying that the government spilled a chemical that reanimated corpses. These zombies can run, are freakishly strong, and can even talk. Also the method of zombie disposal is pretty different as well; the ‘Bullet to the brain’ method used in the Romero movies doesn’t work. The only way to kill a Russo zombie is to totally dismember the zombie at the joint.
If you are bit by a zombie you will eventually become one, which is pretty much the only way to be zombified in a Romero film, but Russo paints a much more hopeless situation. You can be turned into a zombie in a Russo film in the following ways:
- Coming in contact with 245-Trioxin (zombie gas) that is sealed in the government canister containing a zombie meant for disposal.
- Being bit or scratched by a zombie.
- Walk though Zombie Fog which is the Trioxin chemical mixed with air.
- Zombie smoke which is what results when you burn a dismembered zombie.
- Zombie Rain which is what results when zombie smoke reaches the atmosphere.
Most of the zombies you see today are the result of either Romero or Russo’s zombie rules. Although they seem like two different brands both Romero and Russo wrote the 1968 ‘Night of the living dead’ but parted ways soon after. Another mentionable person in modern zombie films is Tom Savini which is a make-up artist, director, and actor. Savini directed my second favorite zombie flick the 1990 remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ starring Tony Todd from Candyman.
No matter what brand of zombie movie I might happen to see doesn’t really matter, it’s all good entertainment!