Your Weekend Creature Comforts: The Conclusion To Our Halloween Monster Madness Is The Zombie

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I have a confession to make. In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am whole-heartedly obsessed with these brain-munching monsters. I promised all you followers that I would end this month’s creature comforts column with my personal favorite of the most classic Halloween terrors, and the zombie is my beloved of all October creatures. It’s interesting that I get most excited by this fiend when of all the monster territory we have covered this month, including werewolves, vampires, and witches, this is the one creature I don’t wish to be. Yes, I would technically also be dead if I were to become a vampire, but at least that comes with some added bonuses like retaining your cognitive abilities and the possibility of some added superpowers. However, when you get changed in to a zombie, you’ll just be one of moaning horde, so while I get thrilled to read, watch, and immerse myself in all things zombie I spend most of my time thinking like Arthur of what they should of done, or what I will do in order to survive the zombie apocalypse.

My obsession with zombies started with a novel, which I have talked about before, but I will save for the end of this post since it is my favorite novel series of all time. But since that series opened my eyes to the genre of zombie stories, I have been hooked. So much so that I have started working on my very own novel that maybe some day you Evil Geek followers will get to enjoy. But for today’s post I did a little research for you all, delving in to some non-fiction in an attempt to better understand the undead.

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You might have heard that the original zombie myths were of Haitian-Creole origin, specifically related to voodoo. The actual first time the word “zombie” was used in history was 1810 when Robert Southey used it in his “History of Brazil” text. He was referencing the practice of vodou sorcerers known as bokors that utilized black magic in order to reanimate the dead. These reanimated individuals were able to walk and respond to their surroundings, but lacked a consciousness. Some anthropologists trying to immerse themselves in these cultures in the 1980’s postulated that the use of neurotoxins and dissociative drugs was a cause of a vegetative, death-like state in some humans that might be an explanation to prior zombie folklore.

So undead persons roamed the lands of myth for at least a couple centuries prior to the modern zombie. And what is the modern zombie you might ask? We can thank the infamous George Romero for what has become an epic phenomenon, the zombie we all know and love today. His original 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead is now considered the origin of the modern zombie, where Romero tried to combine qualities of vampires with the previously mentioned undead zombies to create a flesh hunger ghoul more terrifying than any encountered before.

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With this new invention of the modern zombie comes the concept of the zombie apocalypse, something we all associate with most modern zombie stories. This ties the zombie condition to some sort of infectious plague that can spread most often via bites from those afflicted, which seems to connect the condition to other real-life terrifying maladies like rabies. Realistically, these scenarios depicted in fiction follow the course of a potential real life outbreak, and the CDC has smartly used the concept to their advantage to promote preparedness for any possible disaster, zombie related or otherwise. And this apocalypse scenario is what I think I have really bought in to, knowing I would be a great asset to any surviving team come the zombie plague.

And how can you become prepared for the inevitable zombie apocalypse? Read and watch as much as you can about zombies now of course! You think I am kidding, but the survivors are going to be believers, and considering mock-attacks are the best way to train law enforcement and soldiers how to be prepared in battle, we civilians can use a fictional experience to our advantage and readiness.

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So where to start? I know, I know, I am not the most knowledgeable in comics or video games, but there is quite the plethora of zombie-flavored options in those genres to partake in. I did purchase the application “Zombies, Run!” for my iPhone but haven’t have time to yet try it out. But zombie video games are actually even more popular than the novel genre, having it’s own Wikipedia page just dedicated to zombie gaming. Glancing through it, I thought Call of Duty was mostly an army game, but it looks like they’ve had multiple zombie themed battle games since I guess blowing off the heads of the undead is probably more justifiable than doing so to the live soldier from another country. And even I knew that the movie series Resident Evil was actually derived from a video game. Since there were too many games to mention that I have never actually played, I counted them for you. There are 127 video games related to zombies listed on Wikipedia, and I thought the most creative name of them all was Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ.  Wow, that can leave your mind with a lot of images if you are creative.

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And while I don’t read many comics, I am aware that The Walking Dead TV show was actually written based on a comic book series. SPOILER ALERT!!! I also know that poor Glenn, one of my favorites, is destined to die if you follow the comics, so here’s to hoping that the TV series strays somewhat. But aside from The Walking Dead, there are zombie comics’ series in both the DC and Marvel worlds, including one that sounds particularly interesting where most of the Marvel Universe’s superheroes are turned in to zombies.

But film and novels are where I became obsessed with brain-eaters. Let’s go through some of my personal favorites.

As I said earlier, we have to thank George Romero for the creation of the modern zombie. And I can’t really describe his films with much better love and adoration than C-Mart, so I leave you with the link to his amazing post on the Romero films. These films terrorized adults and children alike, and have created the doorway for our modern zombie to become a central character in many horror movies.

Bringing scary to another level are the 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later films. While many decades after Romero’s original film, these zombies in my mind were some of the first that didn’t bumble around slowly, but pushed your adrenalin to the limit as they can fucking run. I personally prefer the haunted-house horror scenes from Days, and think that film was one of the most terrifying zombie films I have ever enjoyed. Now Weeks is quite a bit different, but has some elements that make it redeemable. While we missed the whole outbreak in Days, since our main character wakes up from a coma 28 days after the outbreak in a secured hospital bed, Weeks tries to give us that fear of being right in the middle of an outbreak as a city falls apart. Of course, the blood and gore of this film I think got a little over the top for shock value, but it was a creepy film nonetheless.

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Continuing on through my collection, I have to put a shout out for the comedic films in the zombie films. Shaun of the Dead will always be my favorite of the Cornetto trilogy, and to this day has me on the edge of my seat laughing and enjoying the thrill of a British zombie apocalypse. This is a must see if you have not indulged in it yet.

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Additionally, Zombieland is probably in my top 10 favorite movies. The awkwardness of Jesse Eisenberg combined with the kick-ass Woody Harrelson is superb, and adding an imposter zombie Bill Murray just adds to the hilarity. I have been debating whether or not I should get “The Rules” from Zombieland tattooed on my body somewhere so that I am prepared for the world’s first zombie outbreak. There have also been rumors of a sequel to this amazing film, and I will keep hoping that that ends up being the case.

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And my last zombie comedy was the more recent Warm Bodies, a cute teenage love story about a zombie who falls in love with a human. You might be rolling your eyes and thinking this is not worth the 90 minutes of your life it will take, but having watched it for the first time last month I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it is super corny at times, but it is fun and gives a whole other side to the zombie persona. I thought it was particularly creative when they tried to explain that zombies just can’t help but love brains cause when they eat them they have what is similar to an LSD induced hallucination.

Now the movie I Am Legend depicts some horrifying zombie-like monsters, but I know I have told you all before that the novel this was based on was actually one about vampires. That being said, the hybrid like creatures in the movie are all the more frightening with their uncanny ability to learn. And sadly the most tragic twist to the whole story is that other mammals can be infected. I think the most heart-breaking moment in the entire movie occurs when Sam, the canine sidekick of Will Smith’s character, becomes infected and must be killed.

The Resident Evil movie series is one that has gone on for two long if you ask me, but I will say that the first two were somewhat enjoyable. In particular, the first Resident Evil deals with a creepy-ass computer program in addition to an underground city full of zombies. One of the images from that film forever imprinted in my mind is one of the soldier’s head being precisely cleaved in two by a laser powered alarm system. And while the monsters of the second film get a little out of hand (what can I say, I’m a traditionalist), the zombie dog scene is particularly well done. After the first two movies though I feel the series just spirals out of control and you can go on and on getting angry with the Umbrella Corporation if you chose to watch them, I just wouldn’t recommend it.

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The Walking Dead is not technically a film, but probably one of the best screen adaptations of zombies yet. Obviously this website has a whole column dedicated to this frightfully wonderful show, so I don’t need to go in to details about it, only that it is a show I can watch over and over and over again, never growing tired of it.

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A good transition from film to novels comes with World War Z, since you can relish in both the Brad Pitt movie version and the novel. I like to think of them as two separate but equally thrilling entities. The movie has some amazing on screen action shots, and I particularly loved the ending trying to step away from the worldwide apocalypse and instead have a haunted horror scene in a World Health Organization facility that brings things to a much more fear-inspiring personal level. The book is completely different, and I would argue better even though I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, just because the book can cover so much more ground that a movie would be financially limited from doing. The book travels all over the world, bringing you personal story after story of surviving the apocalypse. Two of these stories will forever be engrained in my brain, hopefully helping me survive the impending zombie epidemic: the first was that dachshunds were used as urban reconnaissance dogs by the United States since their long, agile bodies and inherent ability to burrow made it easy for them to wear harnesses with cameras and film the locations of all the bumbling zombies in cities before the army went in to take it back. I own a dachshund, and this little story just made him even more endearing to me. The second story probably would not ever really occur thanks to physics, but involved a runaway submarine resting on the ocean floor to hide from an attacking submarine. As they shut off their engines and waited for the radar to show their attacker had moved on, they started to hear clinking noises coming through the hull. A quick peek with the periscope revealed a swarm of disintegrating zombies on the bottom of the ocean trying to find a way in to their sub. There are dozens of personal stories in this novel worth checking out, so I strongly recommend reading the book even if you already have seen the very different movie.

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Like I mentioned before, zombie novels are how I really got excited about this monster. Another great series worth checking out if you haven’t already is Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, which makes the zombie apocalypse a consequence of bioterrorism instead of the result of a virus or cancer vaccine gone wrong. His first in the series, Patient Zero, is packed with one hair-rising scene after another.

Another brief yet shilling depiction of the zombie can be found in the first novel of Lilith St. Crow’s Strange Angels series. While the series focuses more on werewolves and vampires, very early on our main character Dru must gun down her father who has been turned in to a zombie. The description of her undead father is particularly detailed and terrifying, one of the many reasons to invest in this young adult series.

Dean Koontz also experimented with the zombie genre in his Frankenstein series, as the diabolical creations of Dr. Frankenstein had many qualities making them like cloned zombies. Of course, in addition to being undead and unkillable aside from via destruction of their brain, the scientist inventor of this series made them enhanced with super human strength and intelligence, and an unquenchable thirst for blood. I think this series was responsible for reinvigorating my interest in Koontz’s work, and so far I have not been disappointed.

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And lastly we come to my favorite novel series EVER, the one that got me addicted to zombies in the first place. I can’t go in to as much detail as I would like, since I have already written about this series before in a suggestions column, but The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant is by far the most well-written zombie genre horror series ever. This series deals with a conspiracy theory as our group of trusted bloggers slowly uncovers the truths behind the great zombie rising of 2014 (see folks, I tell you, it is just around the corner). This series is packed with twists and more moaning hordes of zombies than you can probably take. I have yet to find someone who can put these books down once they start them, so be sure you pick a week where you won’t be very needed in your non-science fiction based life as this series will give you many page-turning, sleepless nights.

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And that’s it for this year’s Halloween Creatures specials. Which creature are you going to be for Halloween this Thursday? I know it’s tough to pick sometimes, but hopefully this month’s spotlight on the quintessential Halloween monsters will make your costume that much more meaningful. Hope you enjoyed it folks!

 

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Posted on October 26, 2013, in Creature Comforts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Romero actually called his creatures “ghouls”.

    Now, ghouls (or “ghuls”) actually stem from Arabic folklore in which they are described as evil djinn who feed upon human flesh, even desecrating graves and abducting children to get it. It’s also widely considered to be the Arabic term for “demon”. The term should be familiar to Batman fans because the villain Ra’s al Ghul’s name is supposed to be Arabic for “Head of the Demon”.

    Anyway, combine the mindless undead zombies of Haitian Vodou tradition with the ravenous ghouls of Arabic folklore and give the resulting creature a sci-fi twist and you get the modern cinematic zombie.

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