Zombies have risen in popularity over the last couple of decades. They have gone from the rotting, loathsome, fall-apart husks of humanity to the moaning, sympathy-inducing, fall-apart husks of humanity. The CDC even has an emergency plan for the “Zombie Apocalypse.” Some even say that zombie is the new vampire.
However, the zombies in the movies today are not the same mindless minions that our parents and grandparents know. The zombie has evolved.
The zombie, or as it is known in Haitian Creole as zonbi, originated in West Africa where the legends of Vodou claim that a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies have no will of their own and follow whatever direction they are given by their creator. It is rumored that feeding a zombie salt will force it to return to its grave.
In the 1980s a theory was introduced that a living person can be turned into a zombie if given psychoactive drugs via the bloodstream. It supposedly caused a death-like state and made the person submissive to the will of the bokor. In either of the first two cases the zombies were slow and stiff. (I guess rigor mortis does that to you.)
The first step in the evolutionary process for the zombie took place in 1968 when George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead. In this movie zombies gained the ability to act under their own motivation—to eat the living. This was taken even further in John A. Russo’s film, Return of the Living Dead. Their culinary habits changed slightly to focus on the eating of the person’s brain.
In 2002, the film 28 Days Later introduced Rage Zombies, which are fast zombies. Now the living had to worry about out running the tireless undead hunters rather than blithely dodging the clumsy attacks of their predecessors. This round of evolution also introduces a basic emotion of rage in the previously instinct only undead. Some argue that these are technically not real zombies because the condition is brought on by a viral infection, but we can save that for another discussion.
Move forward to 2013 and we find the zombies recovering from their condition with a partial return to humanity. Warm Bodies, puts us inside the head of a thinking zombie when human passions and reason start to reassert themselves. Although this is not the first film to give zombies a limited amount of reasoning ability I felt it did the best job of it.
Where does the evolutionary track go from here for the popular undead race? They can already run, talk, think, and fall in love. Don’t forget their ability to convert the living to their lifestyle through infectious bites. In some cases they are stronger than their living counterparts and generally are immune to radiation, poisons, and the hypnotizing power of used car salespeople.
Got it. The next wave of zombies need to have—a Law Degree. In too many cases zombies have moved away from their origin as creatures of horror. They have become likable and cute. Turn them into lawyers and politicians and you return them to their proper place in the halls of Scaredom. Maybe you’re a bit skeptical. Try picturing yourself across from zombie litigator during a divorce trial. They could give a whole new meaning to the term ambulance chaser. And if you want to envision the pinnacle of fright close your eyes and imagine a zombie as President.