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Fun, Fear, and Lots of Brains: Why Do We Love Zombies?

Posted on the 09 October 2015 by Nrjperera @nrjperera

white-zombie-movieA still from White Zombie

Since the dawn of man there have been tales from the crypt concerning the reemergence of the dead. Rooted in voodoo religious traditions, some of the first recorded “zombi” stories originate from the continent of Africa and the slave plantations of Haiti. The first full-length zombie film was released in 1932; White Zombie, starring the late Bela Lugosi, featured him as a voodoo master using zombies to run his sugar plantation. White Zombie was a big hit at the time of its release, and for the next several years a slew of similar films hit the market. The image of the zombie remained rooted in voodooism for over two decades until a man with another gruesome vision created a whole new genre of horror…

Rising of the Dead

1968 was the year everything changed. No more just a slave to do one’s bidding, George A. Romero gave the world a zombie to be truly frightened of. Night of the Living Dead was released to an unsuspecting theater audience that had never seen anything like it before. Not only were there corpses rising from the ground to feast on the flesh of the living, but Romero depicted gore in such a way that simply was not present in mainstream cinema at the time.

A still from Dawn of the Dead

For some, it was the new approach to violence and bloodlust that brought them to theaters to see this new and terrifying zombie monster. Others may have recognized a Vietnam-era approach to death in these films, with shambling hoards performing unspeakable deeds. In the following years, Romero would release two more zombie films, each a little more intense than the last. And when Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was re-edited and released in Italy as Zombi, it was also smash success. Suddenly, everyone was captivated by the concept of the zombie.

A still from Zombi 2

Marketed as a sequel to the hit Zombi, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 shows no resemblance to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Known for his work on the gory side of Italian horror, Fulci knew how to make a film – nice and bloody, that is. But for his zombies, he wanted something more. Fulci created his zombies to look as if they had actually crawled out of the ground. This meticulous attention to detail and realism has inspired countless artists over the years, including those at the helm of AMC’s hit The Walking Dead.

For a period of time after Fulci and Romero, zombies languished in relative obscurity as B-horror monsters trapped in direct-to-video purgatory. But with the dawn of the new millennium and the rise of several strange viruses around the world, filmmakers rediscoveredvthe perfect recipe for a new wave of zombies. Starting with the hit film 28 Days Later in 2002, we have seen nothing but a constant stream of zombie-themed entertainment from Hollywood.

The Zombie Apocalypse?

While zombies may appeal to our primal, bloodthirsty beginnings, their characters have also become the perfect vehicle on which to project our deepest fears and concerns regarding life in contemporary society. Beyond viruses, the undead have been used to contemplatea variety of modern anxieties regarding the danger of mass consumerism, racism, and the rise of automated, intelligent machinery.

A still from The Walking Dead

Still, the one thing that zombie films and television shows do better than anything else is to teach us about ourselves. Any good zombie story rests on the survivors. How people react when faced against the unimaginable says more about how we see ourselves than anything else. Sometimes kind to a fault and other times just ruthless and scared, these tales of survival show mankind at both our best and worst.

With October upon us and Halloween up ahead, most of the best zombie films are played in horror movie marathons on cable, and more are available to stream on Netflix, DTV, and Vudu. For now, the future of zombie entertainment is anybody’s guess. Today’s zombie fan expects much more than simple violence and gore. We are looking for deep stories that have something to say. With fears of automated technology, climate change, and viral diseases spreading like crazy over the internet, the next generation of zombie artists have a lot to draw from. But lucky for us, The Walking Dead returns for season 6 this Sunday on AMC with Rick and gang looking more deranged than ever before.

About the author -:

Beth Kelly is a freelance writer and blogger. Born and raised in Michigan, she moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University where she graduated with a BA in Communications and Media. She lived in Krakow, Poland briefly before moving to South Korea to teach English. Follow her on Twitter

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