Evolution of the undead - zombie movies

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 16, 2009 01:42pm | Post a Comment
As vampires are increasingly depicted as little more than be-fanged, neutered teenage emos; the popularity of zombies has risen to the point, according to some sources, that surpasses that of the traditional king of the undead. Zombies are certainly more popular than most of their undead peers, including re-animated skeletonsghosts, mummies or the Crow.

Although zombies rule right now, their reign may prove short. After all, no individual zombie has risen to the level of familiarity of a Dracula, Frankenstein's monster or Mac Tonight. What zombies possess in ability to strike fear into the hearts of living, they lack in the personality department. Their mythology is simple, borrowing from ghouls, vampires and mummies whilst adding few touches of their own. That may be why zombies still don’t have their own musical subculture like vampires do with Goth -- just a handful of musically dissimilar bands like The Zombies, White Zombie, and Fela Kuti and The Cranberries' songs, "Zombie.” Zombies can't be said to have truly arrived in the pantheon of monsters until one appears on General Mills' line of monster-themed cereal.
In real life, zombies are entranced or betwitched servants or thralls of a Vodou/Voodoo/Vodun bokor... or, sorcerer. They can be living or dead. In movies, however, zombies have gradually taken on a variety of aspects borrowed from other undead, mainly the aforementioned vampires and ghouls.
Ghouls were originally from Arabia and are an evil sort of desert-dwelling, shapeshifting Djinn that eat children and the dead, afterward taking on the meal’s appearance, thus proving the truth behind the old adage, “You are what you eat.” In films, there had been relatively few attempts to depict ghouls. The British film The Ghoul (1933) concerned an undead Egyptologist’s (played by Boris Karloff) attempt to attain immortality and to kill his former servant. It had more in common with the previous year's Boris Karloff vehicle, The Mummy. Other ghoul movies, like The Mad Ghoul (1943), Nobody’s Ghoul (1962), Boy Meets Ghoul (1965), The Ghoul (1975), Ghoul School (1990), Ghoul Panic (2000) and The Ghouls (2003) are unlikely to ring many bells.


In the 1930s, an Indian film, Chalta Purza, may be the only silent zombie film, which is sort of a shame since zombies, with their taciturn natures, would seemingly be naturals. White Zombie, like most zombie films for several years to come, would depict Zombies within the Voudon context as not necessarily dead, but mind controlled slaves. The concept of zombies was first introduced to most Americans in the 1929 novel, The Magic Island, about zombies in Haiti.

Chalta Purza, White Zombie (both 1932) Ouanga (aka The Love Wanga) and Revolt of the Zombies (both 1936)
In the 1940s, the zombie-horror-comedy lumbered onto the scene with Zombies on Broadway.

King of the Zombies (1941), Zombies on Broadway (1942), I Walked With a Zombie and Revenge of the Zombies (both 1943)
The 1950s - despite its title, 1952's Zombies of the Stratosphere had nothing to do with zombies and therefore did not introduce the now-common idea of zombification resulting from extraterrestrial events. Instead, it was noted pioneer Ed Wood with Plan 9 From Outer Space that introduced that concept.

Back from the Dead and Zombies of Mora Tau (both 1957), Plan 9 From Outer SpaceGu wu jiang shi and Teenage Zombies (both 1959)
The 1960s - 1968's Night of the Living Dead is, it's fairly safe to say, the first important, modern zombie film. It's also still the most influential. Interestingly, the undead creatures are only referred to as ghouls within the film. As with ghouls, they shared their taste for human flesh, something most zombies are assumed to like now but had never been an aspect of their culture previously. Furthermore, unlike  traditional zombies, the creatures weren't under the control of a wizard, alien or other agent. About the only thing they had in common with traditional/real-life zombies was the lumbering gait that characterized them for decades to follow.

A few years earlier, The Last Man on Earth appeared, a film adapted from the 1954 book I Am Legend. Though it isn't strictly concerned with zombies, it's also proven very influential (including on Night of the Living Dead). After the film appeared, many zombies thereafter depicted the transformation into a zombie as a disease spread through contact from the zombie to victim, as with vampires before (and werewolves in Hollywood as well). And it blurred the lines between re-animated corpses and the merely infected living who take on similar characteristics and the singleminded hunger for flesh.

The Dead One (1961), Santo Contra los Zombies (1962), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies and The Last Man on Earth, Zombies (1964), 5 tombe per un medium (1965), Plague of the Zombies (1966) Night of the Living Dead, Mad Doctor of Blood Island and The Astro-Zombies (all 1968)

Zombies in the 1970s carried on pretty much as those in Night of the Living Dead, although they were much more likely to unlive in Italy or Spain and enjoyed a bit more flesh and blood in their continental breakfast. Sugar Hill is notable for being one of the first zombie films to return to zombies' voudon roots, something rarely done since.

Escape, Christina, princesse de l'érotisme, La noche del terror ciego, La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba and Let's Scare Jessica to Death (all 1971), Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Messiah of Evil and La rebelión de las muertas (all 1972), Les démoniaques, La orgía de los muertos, The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow, Horror Express, House of the Living Dead and El ataque de los muertos sin ojos (all 1973), Corpse Eaters, Dead of Night, Garden of the Dead, El buque maldito, Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, Nightmare Circus and Sugar Hill (all 1974), La noche de las gaviotas (1975), Bakterion and Gou hun jiang tou (both 1976), The Child and Shock Waves (both 1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Zombi II (1979)
In the 1980s, the 1985 film Return of the Living Dead added something to zombie lore that's now widely considered canon; that is the preference for human brains over other cuts. Also, Zombies started showing up in martial arts films, beginning with Kung Fu Zombie Vs Tigerkralle.

Alien Dead, Bloodeaters, The Children, Paura nella città dei morti viventi, Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi and Zombie Holocaust (all 1980), Dead & Buried, Heavy Metal ("B-17"), The House by the Cemetery, Kiss Daddy Goodbye, Kung Fu Zombie Vs Tigerkralle, Night of the Wehrmacht Zombies, Virus and Le lac des morts vivants (all 1981), The Aftermath, ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, Le notti del terrore, The Curse of the Screaming Dead, I Was a Zombie for the F.B.I., Wu long tian shi zhao ji gui (all 1982), L'abîme des morts vivants, La tumba de los muertos vivientes, Hysterical, and Thriller (all 1983), C.H.U.D., Night of the Comet, Zombie Island Massacre and Zombie vs. Ninja, (all 1984), Attack of the Beast Creatures and Day of the Dead, Hard Rock Zombies, La mansión de los muertos vivientes, Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead (all 1985), Gore-Met, Zombie Chef from Hell, Night of the Creeps, Raiders of the Living Dead, The Rape After, The Supernaturals, Zombie Brigade and Zombie Nightmare (all 1986), I Was a Teenage Zombie, Night of the Living Babes, Redneck Zombies, La revanche des mortes vivantes, Video Dead, Death House and Zombie High (all 1987), After Death (Oltre la morte), Dead Heat, The Dead Next Door, FleshEater, Flesh Eating Mothers, Return of the Living Dead Part II, Serpent and the Rainbow, Waxwork and Zombi III (all 1988), Oigyeingwa kongkong gangshi, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D., Curse of the Zombi, The Dead Pit, Hellgate, Night Life, Pet Sematary, Jiang shi da nao xi men ding, Working Stiffs and Zombie Rampage (all 1989)
The sheer number of zombie films in the 1990s suggested there was no stopping them. Lots of retro-tongue-in-cheek-zombie comedies, though...

Bride of Re-Animator, Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout, Night of the Living Dead and Zombie Attack! (all 1990), The Boneyard, Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town, Dead Dudes in the House, Demoni 3, Killing Birds, Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Terror, Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride...In Shocking 2-D, Nudist Colony of the Dead, Zombie and the Ghost Train, The Zombie Army!, Zombie Cop and Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence (all 1991), Braindead, Dead is Dead, Pet Sematary II, Urban Scumbags vs. Countryside Zombies, Vågn op! - en religiøs zombie parody, Waxwork II: Lost in Time and Zombie Rampage 2 (all 1992), Ghost Brigade, My Boyfriend's Back, Ozone, Return of the Living Dead 3, Space Zombie Bingo, Zombie Bloodbath and Zombie Genocide (all 1993), Dellamorte Dellamore, Flesheater and Shatter Dead (1994), Female Mercenaries on Zombie Island, Legion of the Night, Living Dead in Denmark and Zombie Bloodbath 2: Rage of the Undead (all 1995), Living a Zombie Dream (1996), Death Metal Zombies, Back from the Dead, The Necro Files, Plaga Zombie, Premutos - Lord of the Living Dead, Zombie - The Resurrection and Zombie Ninja Gangbangers (all 1997), Attack of the Flesh Devouring Space Worms from Outer Space, Bio Zombie, I, Zombie, Laughing Dead, Natural Born Zombie Killers, Zombie Cult Massacre, Zombie – Regulators and Zombie Toxin (all 1998), Crossclub: The Legend of the Living Dead, Hot Wax Zombies on Wheels, Junk: Resident Zombies, Mutation, Raw Zombie 11, Violent Shit III: Infantry of Doom, Wild Zero and Zombie! vs. Mardi Gras (all 1999)
By the 2000s the size of the zombie horde became ridiculous. 28 Days Later, though some will argue it isn’t a zombie movie, asked "Why can't zombies run?" which influenced many films that followed. The filmmakers responsible for Shaun of the Dead asked, "What if a zombie-horror-comedies were actually funny?" Other filmmakers turned to shoot-em-up video games for creative inspiration.

The Dead Hate the Living!, Flesh Freaks, Shiryô-gari, Machine Head, Meat Market, Teenage Zombie House Massacre, Vāsasu, Wild Zero Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddon, Zombie Snake (all 2000)

All You Zombies, Biohazardous, Children of the Living, Dead Tor, Meat Market 2, Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker!, Mutation 2 - Generation Dead, The Resurrection Game, Route 666, Stacy
and The Zombie Chronicles (all 2001)

Dead/Undead, The Last Days of Humanity, Mutation 3 - Century of the Dead, Necropolis Awakened, Resident Evil, 28 Days Later and Zombie Campout (all 2002)

Battlefield Baseball, Beyond Re-Animator, Blood of the Beast, Boot Hill Blind Dead, The Bunker, Corpses Are Forever, Daddy, Kiss Me, Dead Clowns, Deadhunter: Sevillian Zombies, Exhumed, Gory Gory Hallelujah, I'll See You in My Dreams, Living Dead Girl, The Mental Dead, The Naked and the Living Dead, The Necro Files 2, Noctem, The Revolting Dead, Undead, Wiseguys vs. Zombies, Zombie Night and Zombiegeddon (all 2003)

Angry and Moist: An Undead Chronicle, Bad Friend, Bone Sickness, Choking Hazard, Corpses, Dawn of the Dead, Dawn of the Living Dead, Dead & Breakfast, Dead Meat, Dead Roses, Feeding the Masses, Fuck Norge, Ghost Lake, Graveyard Alive: A Zombie Nurse in Love, Hide and Creep, Hunting Creatures, Lord of the Undead, Museum of the Dead, Die Nacht der lebenden Loser, Oh! My Zombie Mermaid, Punk Rock Zombie Kung Fu Catfight, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Rotten Shaolin Zombies, SARS, Shadows of the Dead, Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Tele-Zombie, They Came Back, Vampires vs. Zombies, Walk Like a Zombie, Zombie Honeymoon, Zombie King and the Legion of Doom, Zombie Nation and Zombie Vegetarians (all 2004)

All Souls Day, Beneath Still Water, Boy Eats Girl, Bubba's Chili, Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, Day X, Dead at the Box Office, Dead Creek, Dead Life, Dead Men Walking, Dead Things, Die You Zombie Bastards!, Die Zombiejäger, Le Divan vert, Doom, The Drunken Dead Guy, Evil Grave: Curse of the Maya, Το Κακό, Hood of the Living Dead, House of the Dead 2, Knight of the Living Dead, Land of the Dead, Livelihood, Living Dead Lock Up , The Lost Way of the Zombies, Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride…Part 3, Pot Zombies, Raiders of the Damned, Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis, Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave, Rise of the Undead, The Roost, Severed,The Stink of Flesh, Swamp Zombies, Tokyo Zombie, Z: A Zombie Musical, Zombie Hunter, Zombie Planet 2: Adam's Revenge and Zombiez (all 2005)

After Sundown, Automaton Transfusion, City of Rott, Dead and Deader, Dead in the Water, The Dead Live, Deadlands: The Rising, Die and Let Live, Doomed to Consume, Dorm of the Dead, Electric Zombies, Enter the Zombie, Fido, Gangs of the Dead, Island of the Living Dead, Last Rites of the Dead, Meat Market 3, Mortuary, Mulberry Street, Night of the Living Dead 3-D, Pathogen, Plaga Zombie: Zona, The Plague, Porn of the Dead, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, Shadow: Dead Riot, The Slaughter, Slither, Storm of the Dead, Stoned Dead, War of the Dead, War of the Zombies, War of the Living Dead, Wicked Little Things, Zombie Commando, The Zombie Diaries, Night 2: Awakening, Night of the Dead: Leben Tod, Special Dead Zombie Self Defense Force, Zombie Wars, ZombieWestern: It Came from the West and Zombies by Design (all 2006)

American Zombie, Awaken the Dead, Beneath the Surface, Brain Blockers, Brain Dead, Days of Darkness, Dead Heist, The Dead Undead, Evil Keg, Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane, Fog² - Revenge of the Executed, Forest of the Dead, Forever Dead, I Am Legend, Living Dead Lock Up 2: March of the Dead, The Mad, Motocross Zombies from Hell, Mutation -Annihilation, Otto, or Up With Dead People, Planet Terror, Evil: Extinction, The Quick and the Undead, The Rage, REC , Rise of the Dead, Risen, The Rising Dead, Team Massacre, Trailer Park of Terror, 28 Weeks Later, Undead or Alive, Undead Ted, Urban Decay, Wasting Away, Yûrei zonbi, Zibahkhana, Zombie Cheerleader Camp, Zombie Farm, Zombie Hunters, Zombie Outbreak, Zombie Town, Zombie Warrior, Zombies Gone Wild, Zombies: The Beginning and Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! (all 2007)

Bachelor Party in the Bungalow of the Damned, The Brass Ring, Colin, Curse of the Anasazi, Dance of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Dead Snow, Dead Space: Downfall, Deadgirl, Descendents, Diary of the Dead, Edges of Darkness, Evilution, Fast Zombies with Guns, Flick, Graveyard of the Living Dead, House of the Damned, House of the Dead, King Zombie, Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood!, Ninjas vs. Zombies, O.C. Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown , Onechanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad, Outpost, Pig Hunt - Don't Be Scared, Quarantine, Reel Zombies, Resident Evil: Degeneration, RetarDEAD, Rika: The Zombie Killer, Sabbath, Samurai Zombie, Sexykiller, Slime City Massacre, Stag Night of the Dead, The Undead, The Vanguard , The Veil, Virus Undead, Yoroi: The Samurai Zombie, Zombie Apocalypse Now!, Zombie Hunter Rika and Zombie Strippers (all 2008)

All You Need is Brains, Autumn of the Living Dead, Bio Dead, Blood Moon Rising, Bong of the Dead, The Book of Zombies, Carriers, The Crypt, Dark Floors, Dead Air, Dead Moon Rising, Dead Past - Rache aus dem Jenseits, The Dead, Deadlands 2: Trapped, Die-ner (Get It?), Doghouse, Drive-In Horrorshow, Ed and His Dead Mother, Evil - In the Time of Heroes, FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency, Gallowwalker, George A. Romero's: Survival of the Dead, Haunting Kira, Hell on Earth, La Horde, House of Re-Animator, Joshua Breed, The Living Corpse Mutants, Night of the Living Dead goes 3D, Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, Paris By Night of the Living Dead, Plan 9, Pontypool, REC, The Revenant, Romeo & Juliet vs. The Living Dead, School of the Dead, Silent Night, Urban Scumbags vs. Countryside Zombies Reanimated, Zombie Night, Song of the Dead, Stone's War, Tormented, Uniform Sabaigaru, Walking Dead, Woke Up Dead, Worst Case Scenario, Xombie, ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, Zombies of the Night, Zombie Reanimation, Zombie Women of Satan, Zombieland and Zone of the Dead (all 2009)

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