Zombies have devoured the market of horror since they stumbled into the brains of the population. However, it was in the late 2000s when the cultural juggernaut The Walking Dead appeared on our screens did the craze spread to…apocalyptic levels. We’ve been inundated with zombies across novels, games, movies, there was even a British game show based on the corpses (I Survived A Zombie Apocalypse).
But, while there are hordes out in the world to experience, there are some standout gems where they were especially original, had significance, or sold the horror medium to us in a convincing way.
With Project Zomboid finally dropping a multiplayer mode, and 7 Days to Die releasing Alpha 20, it’s a great vector to look into the decaying world of zombies. Thus, we have a list!
Here are my picks for the Five Best Zombies in Media.
5. Walkers - The Walking Dead
Of course they’d make an appearance here.
The universe of The Walking Dead features two unique facets to the mix; everyone’s already infected, and zombie media never existed.
This meant that characters had to learn to go for the head after trial and error…unfortunately there were lots of errors. The nature of the “everyone’s already infected” plot point introduces something new in the fact that people can and have survived zombie bites. Hershel, portrayed by the late Scott Wilson, survived a zombie bite on his leg when Rick amputated it. So assuming that you unfortunately get nibbled on by a walker, the bite wouldn’t transmit the “zombie virus” we’re all accustomed to. Instead, other diseases that they carry (could be anything) are the things that would get you in the end. Unless of course, you were ripped apart in the traditional way. This also means that if anyone dies from anything other than a brain-destroying injury, they will be reanimated and join the horde. You have to essentially kill people twice.
Where The Walking Dead does horror well is quite different. It obviously excels at body horror, and the makeup and effects artists deserve an Oscar each for how gruesome they make their decayed corpses look, but the really creepy aspect is the prospect of being eternally hunted. Simple things like walkers heading on their merry way in the background, not addressed at all or even noticed by the characters is the really scary thing. The world is always hostile, always out to get you, and will be dangerous to exist in for the rest of your lifetime. That is something that can only be addressed in a series that has been running for that long.
The comic series has ended now, but the impact the walkers made on the cultural landscape is undeniable.
4. The Partially Deceased - In the Flesh
Okay so what if, hypothetically, through the use of drugs, you could de-zombify people? That’s the premise of In the Flesh.
Offering a very unique take on the idea of an apocalypse, it centres on a political and societal story of those with the coined term “Partially Deceased Syndrome” reintegrating into normal human life. They lack the ability to taste, have pale skin, and don’t have any colour in their eyes.
Taking place four years after “The Pale Wars”, the in-universe name for the zombie apocalypse, it centres on the town of Roarton in Lancashire, and how the “Rotters”, which is said like a slur in the show, deal with the stigma they have. Particularly by the members of the Human Volunteer Force, who defended the world from the zombies when they rose from the grave.
In The Flesh battles with the ideas of radicalisation, fetishism, discrimination, religious authority, ableism, homophobia, pretty much every negative aspect about society, and that’s just in its short, two-series run (it ended on a cliffhanger and I’m still pissed about it). This series deserved better.
There are some fun ideas that are brought up in this series. My favourite being that as they can’t partake in typical pleasures, the Partially Deceased can get high by eating sheep’s brains. However, if they take another drug called Blue Oblivion, they return to their zombie state and become rampant.
Though it can be a little heavy-handed at times, if you can find this series, give it a watch, and once you're done, pester BBC Three to make a third season.
3. The Army - Army of the Dead
Zack Snyder sucks but these zombies are pretty cool.
Army of the Dead is…a movie. It’s a heist movie to be precise…with zombies. It’s not a bad premise entirely, but the movie was entirely style over substance.
But the zombies were so damn cool. There’s a hierarchy, with a King, a Queen, some Alphas, a goddamn tiger, a horse, and I love the absurdity of this. These are also smart zombies. They accept tributes as peace offerings to pass through Las Vegas, and they have rituals for how they infect other people. Some are given to the King for them to become Alphas, but then others just become generic zombies.
There’s also some biological functions to them including, for some bizarre reason known only to the brain of Snyder, procreation.
Honestly, the movie has great setpieces, the team (I love Mickey in particular) are fun and entertaining, but the plotline, Batista, and pretty much everything else sucks. This would have functioned better as a game. Oh wait…
2. The Dead - Dead Rising
Dead Rising 2 is basically what Army of the Dead borrows from. Vegas setting, swarms of zombies, there’s even a tiger! Granted it’s not zombified, but I digress.
The hordes in Dead Rising are infinite, and you have the ability to use anything around you as a weapon, and even combine them together to make brutal (and funny) combinations. It’s a fantastic zombie sandbox franchise.
When you delve a little deeper into the origin of the zombies, you find out that the origin comes from a species of parasitic wasp, and their goal is to infect more people so they can be hosts for more wasp larvae. Some zombies are engineered to be Kings, and wander around with huge growths and swarms of wasps around them. Though they can be killed by killing the Queen nearby. What’s proven time and time again is that this wasp is weaponised by the governing bodies and inflicts torment on a lot of people.
The in-universe medication, known as Zombrex, can be used to prevent a person turning into one of the dead, however, once they turn, they can’t be recovered (I don’t care if Frank does it). In Dead Rising 3 people are implanted with Zombrex chips that are turned off without their knowledge. Which causes the Los Perdidos outbreak.
1. Zombies - Call of Duty
I know people weren’t expecting this, but hear me out.
The zombies in Call of Duty don’t infect or turn others like others, they just want to kill and eat. These zombies are at the control of a master. The entire lore of Call of Duty’s zombie mode centres around Element 115, known as Divinium. Through lots of experiments, the Nazis manage to raise the dead as super soldiers, but become unable to control them.
There’s a lot more lore than that, but it’s incredibly complicated and involves a girl called Samantha, nonetheless, the corpses are at the beck and call of Samantha. She particularly has a fondness for zombie dogs, and utters the now iconic line “Fetch me their souls” whenever it’s a dog round in the game.
Even the godfather of zombies himself, George Romero, appears in the game as a zombie king. The worst part of the whole scenario is that whoever can control the zombies, can essentially control the world.
Zombies are ten-a-penny. Their presence in modern media is highly saturated, however, it must be stated that there are unique examples out there if you can find them. If you disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments! Fetch me their souls.
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