Zombie Evolution

George A. Romero, the father of modern zombie flicks, said in a recent interview with Daily Dead that zombies are advancing at a rapid pace—in his words, “advancing even a little further.” As part of my Monday Mayhem series, let’s have a look just how advanced zombies have become from their docile, sloth-like beginnings.

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

When Night of the Living Dead made its debut in 1968, the campy feel to the scenes made this film a Horror lover’s delight. What audiences didn’t know was the movie would go on to become an anchor to which other movies in the zombie genre would aspire. For years after its release, zombies had the intellect of vegetables and lurched to wherever they needed to go. They didn’t have reasoning skills. They lacked any sense of intelligence. If they wanted something, they’d hunt for it until they found it. Zombies back then were somewhat silly.

This is where Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead exceeds. All of a sudden, zombies became focused, one-track-minded, machines. They wanted flesh and would do anything to get to it. Their strength to combat those who stood in their way became paramount. Their greatest asset became in attacking in numbers. One zombie will not do it. But maybe many would. And that’s just what happened in this film.

Then in 2005, Romero made a point with Land of the Dead that zombies were here to stay. The undead became intelligent. A character by the name of Big Daddy took over the screen teaching other zombies how to fight the human resistance, taking arms, and pushing forward to destroy those who interfered with the zombie plan to annihilate humans from the face of the earth. (Incidentally, filming took place in a prominent location in Toronto of which I am very well familiar.)

World War Z Horde
World War Z Horde

At the same time, in 2002, director Paul W.S. Anderson presented a version of zombie others couldn’t soon dismiss. In Resident Evil, the idea of a fast zombie took hold, the impact of which wouldn’t be realized for a decade or more. When 28 Days Later appeared later that year, the fast zombie had begun to proliferate modern media, and studios looked to screenwriters for original ideas regarding the concept.

But it wasn’t until 2013 when World War Z’s fast zombies became the norm. The film depicted the undead as stampeding Velociraptors that had the ability to hop from walls without consequence. Gone are the days when zombies lurched from area to area in a slow drag that would aid in the salvation of mankind. Instead, these zombies had the ability to launch from their stationary positions to a determined path simply by allowing a smell or a sound to guide them.

What will 2014 hold for the zombie evolution? Will there be a film so different, so astounding that it will rock the zombie apocalypse foundations from its axis?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What do you think will come next for the zombie genre?

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13 thoughts on “Zombie Evolution

  1. I like to read more of the story behind the zombie apocalypse. I get tired of continuous zombie killing. The life and trials of the survivors is the story that I want to read. How do the survivors handle the new world? What challenges must they face? In my stories there are three types of zombies. While there are no fast zombies per se (zombies are no faster than the average human) there are cannibals that are infected with a milder strain of the virus that have some amazing abilities. Like Kaela Moore said, a thinking enemy that can plot revenge is much scarier than a mindless zombie that shambles around. In my world there are both.

  2. The evolution from brainless (haha, see what I did there?) zombies to strategizing, fast zombies is absolutely terrifying. What’s worse than an undead monster who craves you? Oh yeah! One who can come up with a plan, plot revenge, and defend their fellow undead. *shivers in horror*

  3. This is a trend that is already well underway but I think there is a kind of ‘medicalization’ of the zombie genre going on. The nomenclature of epidemiology is becoming more and more common in zombie films and stories. And it seems like writers are more interested in exploring the scientific nuances of just what a zombie might be. I personally have welcomed this development — I like my horror with a dose of science.

  4. It’s truly hard to make a zombie film without being a cliche. World War Z, while some of my friends disliked it, seemed like a refresher to me. Mostly because of how it ended. But the fast zombies were also something I’ve never seen before. Shortly before Zombies climb over the huge boundaries, you can see zombies in the streets like flood of water. I wonder how they accomplished that special effect.

    Also, I’d keep my eyes out for slow-paced zombies as well, something that makes Shaun of the Dead kind of unique.

  5. Zombies in Space? Seriously though, the evolution of zombies appears to revolve mostly around mobility. So, it’s hard to tell where they might go if the trend stays in that arena. Maybe it will branch out to various infection methods like in the Left 4 Dead games.

  6. I’ve been watching old zombie movies lately, and I love them. I’m still waiting for the perfect zombie game, I am yet to find one that suits my needs. I do love the evolution of the zombie, but I hope they don’t take it too far. I remember watching 28 days later, the first movie I had seen in which “zombies” run. Okay they weren’t technically zombies, they were infected with rage, but I thought this concept made zombie movies more believable, that you cannot just outrun them.
    Great post! 🙂

    • The only Zombie game I was attracted to was Left 4 Dead. You can also opt for Left 4 Dead 2. It’s multiplayer co-operative shooting. But if you prefer something more subtle and story-driven, you’d be better off with Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Seriously mind-blowing stuff.

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