56 Comments

Fast Zombies

Now that World War Z is part of movie history, perhaps this is a good time to have a heart to heart talk. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything if I were to ask a simple question. Some folks might have their opinions, and quite frankly, I’m interested in hearing what those opinions are. After all, I write my Monday Mayhem series hoping to understand what you, the audience, finds exciting about zombies.

Fast Zombie (photo credit: Plan B)

Fast Zombie (photo credit: Plan B)

Therefore, without further delay, here’s my question: What do you think of fast zombies?

You didn’t really think I’d pass up the opportunity to discuss these speed demons, did you? They’re a terror to the masses. They flock like birds evading a predator. Only, they are the predators. I would find it horrifying if one would come after me. But fifty? A hundred? A thousand? Time to bring out the big guns.

As many of you probably know, and if you’ve read me long enough, I’m a lover of old school zombies. I enjoy seeing them lurch, drag, lumber their way from one corridor to the next in close proximity to where humans become their main dish. Not much goes on in their deteriorating puss sacks except for a few thoughts, which is possibly instinct anyway. Where’s the food? Need the food. Eat food. It would be quite a challenge when two of these belly suckers have their victim trapped, one at the foot of the stairs as another makes its way down, all the while the victim says their prayers, smack dab in the middle, of course.

I suppose the reason for these slow encounters in the past had to do with how Hollywood shot zombies back then. Unless A-list stars took top billing in projects, budgets for these films remained as close to a shoestring as possible. Even more so, if a movie did have an A-list star attached to the project, the film wouldn’t guarantee a heavy reliance on special effects to get their point across. The audience was different back in the Sixties and Seventies, folks could sit through a two and a half hour movie where the characters do nothing but talk.

To pile more stuff on the DNR table, technology back then did not permit super-fast zombies to exist either. So even if a smart producer were to have said they could see zombies that could sprint the streets and crash into trucks like stampeding elephants, studios wouldn’t know how to present such a scenario. They would have needed the imagination of Steven Spielberg to aid in the quest to bring these creatures to life. But Spielberg was too busy making sharks look larger than life than to worry about making zombies fast.

Brad vs. The Zombie (photo credit: Plan B)

Brad vs. The Zombie (photo credit: Plan B)

Anyway, that’s my two-paragraph Hollywood history lesson I didn’t mean to write yet appeared in an edited stream of consciousness writing session. What was my point again? Oh, yes. I like slow zombies.

Then I Am Legend made its debut. Already I hear the sharpening of the knives. Yes, I know these creatures are vampires—in. the. book. The movie however, makes no distinction. The audience can look at these creatures as vampires. Alternatively, they can look at them as zombies. It’s entirely open for interpretation. Nevertheless, the point being, these creatures are super-fast, able to crash into cars with very little damage to themselves, and leap, dash, plummet in bounds. Not much different from the zombies in World War Z, right?

Now, I have to admit something. I like fast zombies too. I think, hadn’t it been for today’s special effects, fast zombies wouldn’t have been possible. Stories with these undead involve being out in the open with them chasing after you. Hollywood has the technology to do it now. And, well, I’m kind of embracing it knowing there’s an infinitely vast potential of story left to watch from the movie studios featuring these rambunctious creatures.

Those are my thoughts on the subject.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

What do you think of fast zombies?

56 comments on “Fast Zombies

  1. The idea of fast zombies is even more terrifying than those that lumber, however there is something dreadful – and panic-inducing – about slow zombies. I’m torn.

    I haven’t seen World War Z, but I did see the trailer and I want to see the film. My only concern with the filming of fast zombies (from what I saw in the trailer) is that they move almost too fast for the camera – as I get older, I have a more difficult time tracking fast movements on the screen.

    PS: Liked your two paragraphs on Hollywood History, even if they were unintended stream of consciousness – those can often be the best kind!

    • You brought up a good point, Katie. I think everything on TV and in movies is accelerating. Even music videos, that ought to run slow has quick cuts almost one to two seconds each shot. I think producers are tailoring to a generation that has the attention span of a moth (me included, but I’m more like that of a squirrel on caffeine…and I don’t drink coffee!)

      Thanks also for the compliment on those two paragraphs. They poured out and I’d debated if I should leave them or not. Guess I listened to my creative side!

  2. I’m not a fan, especially in this movie. It feels really like they just used the title to get people to show up at the theaters. If zombies were as fast as they are in the movie (based on trailers), man wouldn’t stand a chance. We would be screwed. It’s like a blob of bodies.

    But I prefer the slow tension to the quickies. I don’t mind the speed they move in Walking Dead.

  3. I am proud to say that I’ve never watched a film with fast zombies. They lack the relentless dumb power to horrify. There was a build up of horror as a slow zombie ambled towars its victim. Now it’s just shock, slam, shock.
    The subtlety is gone with fast zombies.

  4. I like the slow zombies myself. Something about the anticipation of seeing it come towards its target, the reaction of the victim, the view you get of the disgusting creature. It’s what zombies are all about! Fast zombies may as well be a pack of wild animals.

  5. Fast zombies are extra scary but less suspenseful.

  6. Great post Jack. I agree with you that there was something charming but also frightening with the old slow lumbering zombies, but I must say, that I think that mixing it up a bit is a good thing. For instance, the zombies in the walking dead do lumber, but they can move quickly if incentivised to do so. Personally I like this as when used well it can ratchet up the tension – look at the ‘zombies’ in 28 days later for example. While there is something scary about zombies lumbering towards you, there is something terrifying in them swarming. So yeah, personally, I do kinda like fast zombies….

    • I’m in full agreement with you. I think if a story can present the best of both worlds, that story would do well. I think if zombies are in buildings, they should be slow movers. When they’re outside, some should lumber while others should run like crazy. Of course, the story would have to have a scientific explanation for the differences.

  7. I have to go with slow zombies. Yes fast zombies would be more dangerous, but I like it being a competition between the human’s speed and the fact that zombies never get tired. There is something about the slow dogged pursuit of a zombie that down right creepy.

  8. The fast zombies freak me the heck out, as you know. And I do think they make more of an impact as a group than slow-moving ones – you get a sense of that feral, wild pack mentality, which I find all the more creepy for being something that we already see existing in nature today.

  9. Are they actually zombies though? Traditionally Zombies were resurrected corpses and couldn’t be killed by a head shot but a curse etc had to be killed, or the person controlling them would need be destroyed,this was only really addressed in a few films the “fast” zombies seem to be more of an infected person who can be killed, but were alive at the time of the infection!!? If they aint coming out the ground they aint zombies!

  10. Awesome post, Jack! But just with any virus or bacteria, it mutates. So you could hypothesize that the zombie virus could mutate to make them move faster. To speed up their mobility. Things are weird like that, you know? Eh, I am on the fence on whether I like the faster mobility zombies or the slower mobility zombies. I think the faster mobility zombies kinda take the whole challenge out of the survival out of the film but on the other hand it puts MORE challenge in the survival and makes the surviving humans work more harder to survive. When you have slower moving zombies, you don’t have to work as hard to survive…I suppose you could look at it that way. We watched a movie here recently…oh yes, Warm Bodies, where the virus mutated somehow in those zombies and made them more human and back into humans over a period of time. Whether that a stretch on the whole zombie thing, well, I guess that was up to the viewer. But, I think it was a good and different story, nevertheless. Something different to wrap your brain around :)

  11. Slow, implacable, unstoppable zombies just have a sense of menace that I’ve always found lacking in the super-fast kind. It’s the difference between sudden unexpected death and the creeping sense of utter doom and despair in the face of an overwhelming force slowly tramping towards you.

    I don’t mind fast zombies I suppose, but I do feel it does lose a lot of the sinister menace in favour of going for shock horror treatment.

  12. I don’t want to talk about this. I do not want to have this heart to heart.

    Fast zombies change the game completely. With slow zombies, you know that you can out-run or out-climb them. Slow zombies are not known for their ability to reason or act as a team. Every book I’ve read about fast zombies paints them as more cognitive. They work in groups, hunting like a pack of wolves, strategizing and negotiating the best way to overcome their human prey.

    It’s nerve wracking.

    Suddenly, my shotgun isn’t enough. Now I need to anticipate their thoughts and plans as I would in any other kind of war.

    It makes for fast-paced story telling, but in case of actual zombie apocalypse, let it be known that I’m in favor of the slow, disorganized zombies.

    • I think this heart to heart is unavoidable.

      By definition, Zombie packs don’t make much scientific sense. Then again, a zombie doesn’t make much scientific sense either. The mere thought that zombies could form social groups in an effort to breach their prey’s habitat in order to gather their next meal, sounds downright frightful. However, the idea of having zombies that acts on instinct, and they all have instincts, would explain their pack mentality. But introducing concepts like alpha-male/female zombies to the pack negates certain behavioral qualities zombies should possess by nature (i.e. see human, eat human–not, see human, let alpha dictate who eats human).

      Very nerve wracking.

      In a perfect world the shotgun would be the perfect weapon.

      Nothing wrong with slow, lumbering zombies. Old-school rules.

  13. fast zombies are terrifying….I know you’re talking movies but i have to bring up that Mark Tufo incorporated fast zombies (he called them speeders) into his zombie fallout book series so when I saw the movie trailers for wwz the idea wasn’t all that foreign to me. I don’t know if I’m going to see world war z or not but it’s been interesting to read all the reviews.

  14. Fast zombies are terrifying. The fact that they swarm adds to their menace. It’s less likely that you’ll survive because they stronger and faster than you. Eek! I hate fighting against them in video games like State of Decay, because they are a lot scarier than the slow, lumbering zombies.

  15. What about both? Wouldn’t that be even more terrifying? If you didn’t know if they were going to shamble toward you or run.

  16. I prefer walking Zombies, but I would prefer less CGI waves even more :D

  17. I think that there could be good reasoning to have fast zombies. Especially if they are newly reanimated. Think about it! If the body functions just like a human body (just recently dead) but yet it cannot feel pain so it can push the human body past its breaking point in order to get to you. I could see it happening. The might degrade a little faster, but since when did a zombie care about its own well being? In that kind of world I think there would be both fast and slow zombies depending on their condition.

  18. Personally, I think it depends on the story being told. Some stories that work with fast zombies wouldn’t work with slow ones and visa versa. For example, 28 Days Later wouldn’t work if the infected just shambled around (they wouldn’t be scary and nor would they fit the rage virus scenario). This is because the story is all about being pursued by active and frightening predators that once were your friends and loved ones. However, when you have stories which are primarily about being trapped or holed up somewhere, and trying to survive, hordes of slow zombies making their inevitable advance and surrounding you are more fitting.

    This is why I think slow zombies work in World War Z the book, and fast onces work in World War Z the movie. The book is about a slow seeping spread, bringing down country after country, and how the world reacts (or fails to react) to it, and this needs traditional slow zombies. In contrast,the film is more about trying to solve the problem before the world falls apart completely, and fast zombies are better fitted to this type of plot line (it matches up well with the idea of the hero of the piece being up against the deadline of the end of humanity).

  19. I was always a fan of the slow lumbering zombies myself, but since World War Z, have started taking a liking, or unliking if you think about it to fast, raging zombies. Those types of zombies in an apocalypse would be absolutely terrifying. Consider me, now a fan of both styles.

  20. I loved World War Z (the movie). Haven’t read the book yet. I think the fast moving zombies worked in the film. It heightened the tension and kept you on the edge of your seat. I know that traditionally zombies are slow moving creatures but knowing you can’t outrun the zombies in the film requires more intelligence. And that’s what I loved about the film. It’s more than your usual brain eating gorefest.

    I do agree with Katie Sullivan’s post – – there was an instance in the film that things were moving so quickly, it was hard to keep up with what was happening.

    Great topic!

  21. I actually like the idea of both. I’m picturing those black things from Harry Potter but bigger and uglier.

  22. Like most people, I am a fan of the slower zombies, as Romero always argued that they are dead, their muscles are wasting away how can they run. However, there is something to be said for some fast zombies (Return of the Living Dead franchise and ReAnimator) but only in certain circumstances.

    I think Hollywood simply changed it as you said due to general film-goer tastes (mind you not changing horror/zombie fans but the more general mainstream) and to expand the target audience to include action fans and casual cinema goers.

    I would attribute this to the infected in 28 days later and the Dawn of the Dead remake instead of the awful Will Smith ego project I Am Legend, but everyone should check out ‘Nightmare City’ which in a rare moment for Italian cinema saw them ahead of the curve instead of ripping it off.

  23. […] good discussion can be found on Jack Flacco’s blog here, which I recommend you check out, but here’s my two pence on the […]

  24. I have yet to watch World War Z but judging from the trailer those zombies run pretty fast. I think that adds to the fear factor.I guess in the end if the plot is good then I would like the zombie movie, no matter if they are slow or fast. :)

  25. Dear Jack,
    I do not know if anyone wrote this already, but why not both? As humans tend to go slower when lacking nutrition so could zombies. If one would be lacking nutrition, and hence being slower, such zombie could be a part of lower food chain, eating and fighting for food scraps, when well nutritioned zombies would have unconscious incentive to remain in their prime; this way we would have inter-zombie “survival” and dominance fights and make those stories even more intersting. For the sake of intruigue we could say that zombies who underfeed for a long period of time dry-up, leaving them in ecsrusiating state of being, then we could have a la Lestat (Interview with a Vampire) situation, where its chance of reviving would depend on slow and continues consumption of stray bugs, etc; which in fantasy world could also lead to further horrendous mutations.
    Oh my, I feel I rumbled too long, hopefully I make some sort of sense.

    All the best with your story and subsequent book,
    OD

  26. Fast zombies, to me, only suit movies like World War Z up to the point where you can believe that humanity would stand a chance. If you make them too powerful or fast or strong, then it just becomes one excuse after another as to why they haven’t already won. Slow zombies on the other hand, have the brilliant scapegoat of being slow and avoidable. They suit different genres and give significantly different feelings to films. I like them, but definitely in the superficial horror kind of way, slow zombies suit the psychological horror genre more.

  27. I can’t remember much about I am Legend and I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how to distinguish it but I like fast zombies. I get the appeal of slow zombies and they are creepy in their own way. Fast zombies just seem to much more threatening. I think it all started in how 28 Days Later made it as the virus of Rage or whatever you call it. World War Z does a fantastic job at it as well.
    All to say, I like fast zombies..but I mean, I like say Dawn of the Dead which weren’t as fast.. but I buy the concept of fast zombies :)

  28. I don’t like slow zombies. Wanna call them something else, feel free, but to me they aren’t zombies. Neither are the things in “I Am Legend”. I liked “I Am Legend”, but those weren’t zombies.

  29. Something worth tossing in there – the original zombie stories (pre-Hollywood) usually were slow, lumbering and mindless, due to the spells/drugs that controlled them. I always figured Hollywood went with shambling zombies because that fit the original (though God knows Romero wasn’t afraid of artistic license!)

    I’m not a big fan of horror. As such, I’ll go for fast zombies, which push the story more into ‘action’ territory. But it’s always worth remembering the roots of stories, even as they evolve. (after all, Dracula did go on in daylight – but he NEVER sparkled.)

  30. Those dead warriors that Aragorn leads in Return of the King could be thought of as fast zombies! Yes, there’s a lot of potential there.

  31. I prefer slow zombies, something terrifying about that slow and lumbering, but incessant, lurch towards you. And it’s easier to line up a head shot. I must say I’m thinking about giving World War Z a miss. I loved the book, but I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the movie in relation to the book. Why buy the rights to a book if you’re not going to stick to the story and elements within?

  32. Fast zombies don’t feel like zombies. I kinda like the concept that there are normal slow zombies and sometimes you get the abnormal running ones, because of mutation. That’s I think the optimal situation for both sides of the argument.

    However, again, in my heart of hearts zombies don’t run because they would trip instantly – they just don’t have too much agility and limb coordination without an active brain.

  33. I don’t mind fast zombies. 28 Days Later convinced me.
    However, I am old school in that I watch zombie flicks for the gore. That was sadly lacking in this film.

  34. I will be the first to admit I read this post title as “fat zombies.” That could be another post altogether.

  35. i think “28 days” introduced me to the fast zombie. and scared the pants off me!
    if you look at zombies from a back from the dead stand point…”quick” makes no scientific sense. There is decay and rig to slow them down. But from a viral outbreak…it makes complete logical sense…

  36. I’m glad I’m not the only one wondering about this. When did zombies get so freakin’ fast? I too remember the days of slow, lumbering zombies muttering a single word, “Brains”. Somehow this made them a little creepier.

  37. I took a class about zombies, ghouls, and ghosts and I agree we all owe our love for zombies to George A. Romero. There is a philsophy-science to zombies and their nature/existence. Though I believe there is a difference with movies like I am Legend and 28 days/weeks later. Infection/Death by a bite and progessive death is rather infection/mutation. But I can’t say I don’t like it….It is different though

  38. When they’re the classic Eat Brains zombies, I like that they’re slow. They’re just dead and eat brains and creep you out because they’re brain-eating machines. A door can protect you, but just barely. When they’re the zombies that have viruses that lead to a combo of anger/hunger, I like when they run fast, jump high, and bust through walls. I assume they’re running on some sort of zombie adrenaline fed by the cannibalism virus. It can also be argued that they’re really feeding on human fear, which could be zombie adrenaline. So, I sit on the fence Re: Zombie Speed & Strength

  39. Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.
    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

  40. The YA books starting with Forest of Hands and Teeth featured fast zombies (when the dead human turned in the absence of other zombies — to ensure a fast proliferation of more). Although I didn’t really like the books, I did like the concept. Btw: Ranger Martin is for what age? (I can’t help kids when I hear ranger, but that’s probably just me). I look forward to reading it whoever it’s aimed for.

  41. Although I read World War Z, I don’t recall them being fast. I will certainly watch the movie once it hits “on demand”. I myself am trying my hand at the Zombie genre (Day 42 at contrafactual.com). My zombies also are fast and hunt in packs. They obey the laws of physics, which is something that has always troubled me about much of the genre.

    Will Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocolypse be available as an eBook, perhaps on iTunes?

    • Good to hear about your zombies obeying the laws of physics. Hunting in packs is an interesting concept I have yet to explore.

      Yes, Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse will be available as an ebook download. Details to come. Stay tuned!

  42. […] the same concepts I am introducing in Day 42 (DayZ of DiZeaZe). With possible exception of Fast Zombies (as commented on by Jack Flacco), WWZ and Day 42 have nothing in […]

  43. Reblogged this on Contrafactual and commented:
    Aonother take on Fast Zombies

  44. […] of the impending zombie apocalypse, Monday Mayhem has you covered. Want to discuss the merits of fast zombies?  You can find a great forum here as well. Mondays also encourage reader interaction with […]

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