In recent times, moviegoers have come to realize there are no absolutes when dealing with the horror genre. Ghosts can eat food (Pirates of the Caribbean), werewolves can change at will (Underworld), and vampires can sparkle when exposed to sunlight (Twilight). However, all bets are off when we talk about zombies. Zombies live in a world of absolutes.
As a primer to my Monday Mayhem series, let’s examine The Three Commandments of the undead. Established by director George A. Romero in the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead and solidified in his 1978 film Dawn of the Dead, these three laws are what make the zombie genre unique. Without them, zombies wouldn’t exist in their present form.
I—The Dead Have Come Back to Life
A zombie isn’t a zombie unless it comes back from the dead. Much like vampires, zombies were once dead. Hence the name: undead. Through a biochemical change, voodoo or some other form of reanimation, the dead rises. This is the crux of zombiehood. Without it, zombies simply are not zombies.
What about a virus? In modern storytelling, a virus is the usual suspect in the blame-game for many undead creations. Typically, the virus runs through a population, changing them to become zombies. In strict technical terms, these creatures may not qualify as true zombies if the victims do not initially die. However, I argue if a virus has an element of death associate with it (biological or intellectual), then of course the resultant creature is none other than a zombie.
The key here is to note a physical transformation from death to life.
II—The Undead Crave Human Flesh
Every biological species requires sustenance to maintain health. Zombies do not. Zombies eat because it’s in their nature to hunger after human meat. It’s a compulsion. They cannot turn off the desire to slay a human and feed off the body. They just can’t. They are like the sharks of the underworld. They yearn, hunt, kill and eat. That’s it. They don’t stop. From one body to another, they’ll consume a whole town without regard. They are never satiated.
III—The Undead Will Die with a Blow to the Brain
The only thing that will stop a zombie is the destruction of its brain. A hunter of the undead can use various methods to attain this result. The most common is a bullet to the head. A knife through the temple will also do a fine job of ridding the earth of the vermin species. As would any of these other methods: An ice pick through the eye socket, multiple blows from a baseball bat, a sharp stick through its mouth thereby severing its spinal cord, a screwdriver to the back of the skull, a meat cleaver aimed directly at the frontal lobe, etc. The possibilities are endless. The purpose is to render the creature dead by inflicting the maximum amount of trauma to its brain. Once complete, the zombie will no longer pose a threat to any other humans.
Have you ever heard of The Three Commandments? What are your thoughts about zombiehood?