What It Takes to be a Zombie

This is a reprint of an article from Zombie Cat Productions.

Much has been said on the measure of a man. But what about the measure of a zombie?

Every time a new movie that comes out which features a bunch of “somethings” that used to be people attacking a group of real people, it’s declared the next big zombie movie. 28 Days Later, [Rec]/Quarantine, The Crazies, even I Am Legend, all get grouped in with zombie movies.

But guess what? They just flat out aren’t.

Listen, I’m not saying you can’t CALL them zombie movies. You can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own home. You’re also free to use racial slurs and call the effeminate couple next door your choice of homophobic insults. However, if you want to sound like you actually know what you’re talking about, you just won’t do it.

Zombie Origins

Most people now know the zombie myth came from the Haitian voodoo culture. Voodoo sorcerers were known to raise the dead to do menial work, from gardening to housework. Since the zombie had no will of their own, the sorcerer had control over him or her until they were freed…or fed salt, apparently.

Also, some South African tribes have the same belief, where a witch can be brought back from the dead to perform certain tasks.

Most people, however, know zombies from the movies, specifically the George Romero invented version of the zombie from his line of horror films. Movies like Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Return of the Living Dead, and legions of Italian zombie movies helped secure the image of what a zombie should be in moviegoer’s heads.

In the post-Romero world, a zombie is a person who has come back from death to feast upon the flesh (or brain, in Return of the Living Dead) of the living. Though Romero intended on making the monsters in Night of the Living Dead ghouls, it somehow stuck with people they were zombies. Besides, ghouls aren’t necessarily undead, and can even be a demon from the desert.

How Are They Not Zombies?

What’s the similarity between pre and post Romero zombies? They are all “risen from the dead.” It’s in the definition of the word “zombie.” Therefore, if your monster didn’t rise from the dead, it’s not a zombie, no matter how much you want it to be.

In 28 Days Later, the infected people were turned by a virus into raging, pissed off loonies. Zombies? You tell me, did they die and come back? No? Then they’re not zombies.

Is 28 Days Later a bad movie? If you believe that, you have no business on this website. But zombies they ain’t.

In [Rec] and the godawful remake Quarantine, they were demons and full of rabies, respectively. Were they bad movies? Quarantine was, yeah, but [Rec] is a modern day horror classic. But there are no zombies in either movie.

What’s the Big Deal?

Technically, it’s not really that big of a deal. For categorizing purposes and nerds like me, it really is. What it boils down to is calling a spade a spade. If someone came out with a version of a mummy that wasn’t Egyptian, nor wrapped in cloth, nor risen from the dead…but they shambled and loved someone who looked like an ancient Princess, is it still a mummy? What about a vampire who doesn’t suck blood or psychic power, doesn’t turn into a bat, isn’t able to seduce anyone, but happens to live in a castle and have poofy hair? Still a vampire?

No. People would balk. There would be nothing tying it to the original mythos, not by any stretch of the imagination. But it happens with zombies all the time.

So please, the next time you start to call the monsters in I Am Legend zombies just because…well, I can’t really figure that one out, actually…think before you speak. You wouldn’t want to sound racist.

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