Zombies are everywhere these days, it must be the unsettled age we’re living in. In a way, zombies are to today’s troubled times what giant radioactive crabs were for the 1950s, a sci-fi expression of societal angst brought to hideous half-life. Whereas the variously mutated monsters from the creature features were born of reckless science and rash experimentation, the zombie mythos is based as much around the terror of being alone in a crowd as it is the visceral threat they pose to humanity’s survival.
Here we take a walk with the walking dead, so shamble along if you want to get an idea of what they’re capable of.
Zombies on TV
AMC’s The Walking Dead is where you’ve most likely seen them, and generally in quite the numbers. For ravenous necrotic killing machines, these zombies tend to be on the gregarious side – they like a crowd, they like a city, and they like to swarm. Based on a series of graphic (and we do mean graphic) novels by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, this long-running TV series heads into its eighth season having systematically killed off most of the characters you were rooting for and twisting audience expectations into a tense knot of suspense along the way. It’s been a gruelling journey so far, and shows no signs of letting up. There’s a spin-off show – Fear The Walking Dead, which is a similarly dour affair, but taken as a mounting and grisly body count. With some of the best CGI-generated mayhem ever exhibited on the small screen, these shows still make for compelling viewing if you have the stomach for them.
Santa Clarita Diet is a whole different dish. Shot for Netflix, and ideal in box-set sized doses, this unnerving black comedy features Drew Barrymore as a suburban realtor whose life is somewhat inconvenienced by her sudden hankering for raw human flesh. That might seem like rather a hard sell for a comedy vehicle, but creator Victor Fresco pulls off the neat trick of humanising what one can only presume to be a very stressful transformation, and leaves the fertile grounds of the undead rich in unexpected humour and moments of human tenderness.
Zombies On Your Computer
When a best-selling tactical shoot-em-up applied zombie make-up and went on the rampage, the re-skin proved just as popular as the blockbuster game it was based on. We’re talking Activision’s Call of Duty franchise here, and more specifically Call of Duty: Zombies, a frenetic 2009 iOS release that took its premise from a fan-based Zombie mod of the earlier World at War game. Gamers of the world united in the guiltless pleasure of cleansing multiplayer maps of hordes of homicidal zombie SS Storm troopers. Swipe right to save the world. Or something like that, anyway.
If tapping a screen to save mankind sounds too arduous (or you’ve already dropped your smartphone and there’s a frosted spider web where the screen used to be), then perhaps you might consider spinning an online reel or two with post-apocalypse zombie slot Lost Vegas instead. This six-reel game features on the MobileWins iGaming hub and lets you play as either survivors attempting to find new order in a crumbling world, or as zombies intent on ripping it all down and eating everyone. Whichever side you choose, it’s all decidedly tongue-in-cheek stuff, with cheerful cartoon-style graphics and some droll puns hidden among the scenery.
This year also saw the launch of Resident Evil 7 on multiple platforms. The first game based around the new RE Game Engine, expect to witness plenty of clones of this title appearing in the future, but don’t expect many of them to capture the sheer claustrophobic terror of this, the 24th entry in one of gaming’s most immersive and nerve-jangling franchises.
Zombies on the Big Screen
George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead lays claim to being the first true zombie movie, despite the actual word “zombie” never appearing in it anywhere – a trait it shares with The Walking Dead, and indeed much other zombie material. This house-under-siege flick stands the test of time as a taut psychological thriller, a clinical dissection of ordinary humans under extreme pressure and threatened by an outside world that very definitely wants to come in. Shot on a tiny budget ($114, 000), it reaped huge box office success, and every year it would seem that some indie filmmaker attempts their own version of Romero’s coup, to varying effect.
Much like graveyards, hospitals and small American towns, movie sites teem with zombies: some films are big budget extravaganzas such as World War Z (2013), some are critically acclaimed, like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and many more are tiny productions with limited distribution and a small cast of friends. When all you need to replicate the feel of the Zombie apocalypse is a weed-strewn parking lot and some gore from the local butcher’s shop, why not grab a digicam and record your personal vision of what the end of the world might look like?
They might (usually) be slow, but so what? They don’t get tired, they don’t have to sit down and they have no breath to catch. And they’re beyond dead too, so really they have nothing to lose. Which is why they’ll win. You watch them on TV, see them in films and games and books, and then maybe one day they’ll be right there, chasing you around your own living room… Good luck with that.