THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI 1920 Though not recognised specifically as a ‘zombie’ movie, the character of thesleepwalker portrays many of the characteristics of what is now recognised as the ‘Living Dead’. Although not using zombies, his wake from a ‘death-like’ sleep shows the beginnings of the current cultural meme.
WHITE ZOMBIE 1932The film introduced the Haitian ‘voodoo’ zombies to theatre, the undead army controlled by a High Priest, an necromancer. This introduced the ‘magical’ element, whilst also giving us the lumbering, not-all-there style of zombies.
I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE 1943Carrying on with the ideas of voodoo summoned zombies, this also harks to the plot of the now literary classic Jane Eyre.There is a focus on voodoo rituals, and an introduction to the scarier aspects of zombie horror.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH 1964 This is an Italian-shot movie, in which the antagonists are closer to thezombie-like meme than vampiric. It was later remade as The Omega Man in 1973, and I Am Legend in 2008. This sparked the introduction to the Italian explosion.
THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES 1966This film, whilst still using voodoo zombies, introduces the more violent and predatory traits now commonly used.It was also a huge influence on George A Romero, a famous horror director.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1968 This George A. Romero classic begins the explosion of modern zombie movies, as well as setting in place the characteristics of this genre, such as; The group of survivors trapped in an enclosed space, becoming more of a threat to each other than the Living Dead are.The mindless, flesh-eating, shambling moaning zombie, known as ‘The Dead’, where the outbreak has a scientific rather than magical cause.
THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE EXPLOSION The 1970’s saw an explosion in Italian-shot zombie-horror films, often scorned in Britain for their highly bloody content. The most notable of these would be ‘Zombi 2’, the name suggesting a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead when in fact the two were entirely unrelated. These films tended to be a lot bloodier and more horrific than anything released in Britain and America.Another sub-genre around the same time came to be know as ‘Giallo’ (yellow) named so after the yellow covers on cheap paperback mystery novels. The genre covers most types of horror and is known for its combination of sex and violence. Although separate from the gothic-horror, the two began to combine overtime. These films were not well received in the U.S. often because of being re- dubbed and poorly edited.
DAWN OF THE DEAD 1978George A. Romero’s classic breathed new life into the zombie-horror genre. Throughout the ‘70’s there had been some trouble, mostly due to poor reputation, however Romero’s portrayal of blue/green skinned, bloodied, slow, stupid zombies brought about a resurgence. The film was followed by an Italian sequel ‘Zombi 2’ in 1979. It was then remade in 2004.
ZOMBIES IN THE ‘80SThe coming of the 1980s brought about a great love for zombie horror. Films such as ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985) and ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981) were released.They all served to enhance and develop the traits now widely recognised such as; A hungering for flesh, a lack of intelligence and the only way to kill them be being some sort of disruptive trauma to the brain.
THE EVIL DEAD 1981 This low-budget horror has become somewhat of a cult classic, which‘combines just the the right combination of gore and black humour’ – Rotten Tomatoes review. Its sequel, ‘Evil Dead II’ was released in 1987. It could be said that this film sparked the idea later to develop into what are now known as ‘zom-coms’.
THE 90’S, YEAR OF MISTAKES The 1990s are widely considered as a time of mistakes to fans of the genre. The films were renowned for focusing more on the gore aspect than on anytype of plot. Often, fans consider a majority of the films made in this decade unworthy of the classification. However, there were a few worthy films still released during this decade.
BRAINDEAD 1992 Released under the name ‘Dead Alive’ in the U.S, this cult zombie comedyslapstick horror directed by Peter Jackson is said to be the goriest film of all time. Viewed as a mistake, it was a truly violent film, although one of the better ones made through the decade.
THE EARLY 2000’S – STAYING IN THE BACKGROUNDThe early 200s saw a mixed bag in the way of this genre. Although a few good films were released early on, many of the films tended to be more unknown. There were quite a few big, blockbuster films, however, along with man big selling remakes of older classics.Many the films, however, were made by more independent filmmakers instead of blockbuster hits, and so stayed in the background.
28 DAYS LATER 2002Although not necessarily about ‘zombies’, the man-made ‘Rage’ virus infecting the population as depicted in this film shares rather a lot of ideas with the meme. The infected are highly volatile and, although not slow, lumbering and stupid, do have the bloodthirsty nature.In this film the infection is spread through a bite, another characteristic of the genre. It also depicted what’s become known as ‘running’ zombies, the type that can move fast.It’s sequel ‘28 Weeks Later’ was released in 2007 along with a graphic novel ‘28 Days Later: Aftermath’ expanding the timeline of the outbreak, and later a comic series ‘28 Days Later’ in 2009.
THE RESIDENT EVIL FRANCHISEFollowing the videogame, but not the storyline, the franchise consists of fivelive action movies along with novels, comics, source books and merchendise. The films consist of; ‘Resident Evil’ (2002), ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ (2004), ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ (2007), ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ (2010) and the soon-to-be released ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’ (2012). The films show examples of both fast and slow moving zombies, along with the infection being a virus spread through the population. These show how the genre keeps developing with each new film.
ZOM-COMSMore recently the genre has been used in comedy, commonly known as ‘zom- coms’. These films will often use all the stereotypes but in a over exaggeratedly funny way. Examples of this would be ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004) and Zombieland (2009). These films in themselves employ their own stereotypes, such as the way the main character, a bumbling fool by all accounts, overcomes all obstacles.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD 2004 The most well know of these, Shaun of the Dead is the self declared first ‘Zom-Rom-Com’, a zombie filled romantic comedy. Although the idea of comedy mixing with zombie horror has been tried before, ‘Shaun’ is the first true success.Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright created a parody of the usual zombies, playingspecial homage to Romero, the widely renowned god of the genre. It included things such as the zombies being fundamentally idiotic, shambling creatures,the characters, more of a danger to themselves looking to hole up somewheresafe and, although made light-hearted and happy, fundamentally a sad ending.
ZOMBIELAND 2009This film shows a different side to zom-coms, focusing less on the characterspersonally, meanwhile maintaining focus on their friendship. The Characters don’t have names per-se, they go by the places they’re form or headed to.The film plays emotional alongside comedy, using interaction as a big source of comedy, along with the oddball survivors. The zombies here are generally faster moving, with the virus having a scientific cause.
RISING POPULARITYRecently, Zombie horror had become increasingly popular not just in film, but games, books, comics and television. One of the big zombie things at the moment would be the Walking Dead franchise, a series of comics written by Robert Kirkman, adapted into a TV series. Videogames have always had a large place for zombies, with many games featuring them as the foe.There have also been parody books such as ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ written, as well as ‘Word War Z’ and subsequently ‘Zombie Survival Guide’.
MOST COMMON TYPES OF ZOMBIEFirst of all there is the obvious Voodoo zombies, often seen in the early days of the zombie meme. These type of zombie were often linked with necromancy and magic, and had little to no thirst for human bloody. Lumbering zombies were the next big thing. These were slow moving, shuffling creatures, with no sense other than to feed.Fast moving zombies came later. These had the cognitive ability to run after their prey as opposed to lumbering, and were seen as far more deadly. Other types include those who dwell in water, ‘swmmiers’.The name ‘Zombie’ is often used, although more recently it’s been scrapped in favour of the term, ‘the dead’, ‘walkers’ or in the case of The Walking Dead franchise ‘geeks’.
CONCLUSION The genre of Zombie Horror has become a widely known cultural meme.Zombies can be used to create fear, tension and comedy within audiences, and have become well known and all round accepted. Starting back in the 1920s with Dr Caligari, Zombies have come a long way, and ideas have changed many times, and will probably change in the future. Zombie horror has evolved dramatically and, as far as I can see, will keep on evolving and developing a life of its own. Thank You for reading.