So I was wandering around on the internet when I suddenly came across Surviving the Dead, by Mike Kloran. He has made an awesome blog with the most awesome images made by himself! He has lots of great and fun information about Zombies. I thought he deserves more followers so you should definitely check it out.
To set things straight I define four basic types of zombies:
1. Chemical Zombies: Those reanimated due to the use of some sort of toxin.
Medical Zombies: Most typical type today. Infection is spread through blood or air born virus to infect the living. (I consider this a subgroup of Chemical zombies as bio-chemistry is simply another branch of chemistry. There is still some debate among scholars however and many consider these a separate group all together.)
2. Radiation Zombies: Zombies reanimated due to radiation. The classic Romero zombies were brought back due to radiation from a space probe.
3. Parasite Zombies: Caused by a worm or other parasite inhabiting and controlling the host body.
4. Supernatural Zombies: These include religious and magical zombies. Those brought back by wizards or gods for whatever purpose.
Other types of zombies, such as Nazi zombies, partials, crawlers, arms, dogs etc. are all variations on these four or five main types.
Whether he was brought back through the use of a chemical or a biological infection, he’s here and he needs to be dispatched. It’s good to be aware of what type zombie you are dealing with so as to reduce the risk of infection to yourself and those around you. Remember how easily the father became infected with “rage” in 28 Days Later? You don’t want that happening to you and yours now do you? No. So do what you have to to keep these zombies at a distance and watch for signs of infection in yourself and those around you.
Tickers: This might sound a bit uncommon as many of the recent zombie pictures focus on disease carriers. This is more a reflection of popular culture as we live in a world where diseases like AIDS, SARS, N1H1, Avian flu and all those good things are in the headlines. This makes it easier to for us to accept the disease zombies.
But when Romero’s Night of the Living Dead came out the world was in the throws of nuclear panic. (Not that we are too far off of that these days either.) After a recent re-watching of the Night of the Living Dead I was reminded that all of Romero’s zombies were brought back by radiation carried from a space probe from Venus. (Thanks NASA.)
So be on the lookout for signs of radiation poisoning, fallout warnings or other signs of radiation. In the event that radioactive zombies do come into being it’s likely that you won’t even realize radiation is the culprit until it’s too late so prepare ahead of time by being informed and knowing what to do in case of radiation.
Creeps: Reanimation by way of parasitic infestation is a terrifying form of zombification though not one of the most common in mammals.
Remember Night of the Creeps? It was a pretty goofy but fun zombie flick back in the 80′s.
The story was based around parasitic organisms from space that entered the human brain, laid eggs, gestated, then burst out destroying the host. If the host were dead, even long dead, the parasitic little slugs would still be able to reanimate the body into a fierce threat. Most of their victims were the recently dead or the unwilling living which is why I noted above that the “Creeps” would likely be the recently deceased. In some cases these creeps were even mistaken for humans.
For more on how parasites can “zombify” the living check out my early post on Zombie snails.
Haitian zombies: One of the underlying problems with zombies is defining why they are the way they are. The movies have given us all sorts of explanations from chemicals to alien slugs in our bodies. The Hatian voodoo zombies were some of the first to be put on the silver screen in 1932′s White Zombie. There, they were recently deceased forced back to life with the help of voodoo and forced into labor. In some stories about them including White Zombie, Haitian zombies aren’t dead, they are simply the mesmerized victims of a voodoo curse. (For more on White Zombie check out my post here.)
By their nature zombies defy logic in that the damage they take from rotting or being attacked would stop any “living” thing. Loss of fluids would mean improper chemical reactions in the body and limited brain activity. Yet zombies keep on going despite all that. It’s an illogical but fun and magical story telling element.
I’ll be honest and say I think magic is pretty much a crock of shit. (And yeah I know how silly it is to be posting that sort of statement on a blog about zombies in the first place.) Regardless of my own biased disregard for the magical or semi-religious, it is a strong element in the telling of zombie tales and like all things religious it’s a great way to explain away all things logical.
Flesh eaters: Zombies are generally grouped into four types based on what reanimated them. Those being chemical/biological, magical/religious, parasitic, and radioactive. Beyond that they may be divided into two main subgroups based on their eating habits. So the question is: What do zombies eat?
The answer depends on who you ask but all zombies are flesh eaters.
When asked, most people, your man on the street, will say brains. How many times have you seen zombies in the media portrayed as walking around moaning Braiiiiinnnzzzzz? Sure, the idea of the brain-eating zombie is a mainstay of modern pop. But zombies weren’t always brain-guzzling ghouls. In fact I would argue that all zombies are flesh eaters but that some zombies have a particular fetish for the consumption of the brain. Take a look at most movies, games, books, comics etc and you’ll find zombies eating people. They might go for the brain, but even in those stories, the zombies will still start biting and trying to eat the flesh and guts of their victims. Take a look at a group of zombies in a brain eaters movie and what do they do? Eat people. They eat the flesh, they bite the arms and necks and they love diving into the guts. It’s not just the brains, though they may be appetizing, but all zombies are going to guzzle down heaps of good flesh.
This makes a lot of sense. After all, the brain is hard to get to. Animals in the wild will eat brains but they are the last things that they can get to. The flesh and muscles, the guts and all that goodness plus the marrow in the bones is what most creatures are after. Why the consumption of the brain would be so appealing is a bit of a mystery though we have a hint when we examine the brain eaters more closely. There is also a bit of a mystery as to why zombies would prefer humans over other animals. In many stories they dive right in and eat animals up just like their human victims but in others they seem to avoid them altogether. In all of these stories though, it is the flesh that is consumed.
Brain eaters: Though most of the movies in the series are pretty bad, Return of the Living Dead is a pretty influential zombie flick from the 80′s. It not only gave us talkers, and fast moving zombies like we had never seen before, it also gave us brain eaters.
As I mentioned in my post of flesh eaters, all zombies eat people and all zombies eat flesh. The zombies in Return of the Living Dead however were the first to specifically go after people for their brains. Keep an eye out though because they don’t just eat brains. They eat flesh just like all other zombies, though they will go after the brain as soon as possible. It was a real shock to hear these previously groany nasties suddenly start talking. And it was all the more horrifying that the one thing they kept saying was how much they want to eat us!
Why the brain should be eaten by zombies is a bit of a mystery though. During the movie one of the creatures says that it eases the pain of being dead, that she can feel herself rot. There is nothing biologically or chemically accurate about the consumption of brains easing pain and seems to be a psychological desire. In Romero’s Day of the Dead it’s pointed out that even though a zombies stomach and guts were removed it still tried to feed. So this need to feed whether on flesh or on brains seems to be purely in the creatures heads. (How appropriate.)
It does seem a bit odd though that the zombies would even be able to get at the brain. It’s harder than it seems though they seem to be really good at biting no matter the state of decay.
Male Before / After: Here’s a good example of what happens to your typical, young, upwardly mobile guy once bitten.
The signs of zombie-ism are readily apparent. His good grooming, regular eating habits and ability to use tools of any kind have all gone out the window. He probably smells terrible and it’s likely he’s paying more attention to your oh-so-tasty flesh than he is to his new iPhone.
Female Before / After: Here’s another example of an easy choice between hot or not. Clearly this woman was a lot hotter before she got bit than after.
Fellas, be on the look out for signs of zombism here! It’s more than just a bad hair day. And be sure you’re not just looking at a meth addict or crack head. A recently turned zombie woman will look just as awful and whorish but will have other signs. Looks for signs of bites, bad ones. Any sort of injury and and an insatiable hunger for flesh.
Shufflers: What we’ve come to regard as the classic Romero Zombies are slow moving flesh-eaters that shamble about the countryside clumsily stalking whatever humans might be unfortunate enough to stumble into their paths. People have joked about these things being so slow that it’s silly no one can get away from them. The trick with them is that they may be slow, but there are a lot of them. You can’t possibly take them all out before they get you.
In my thinking, don’t make any assumptions. Assume they are all high-speed runners and if they turn out to be slow all the better. This zombie is a shuffler. In his case, he’s going to be relatively slow moving regardless. These zombies have some sort of damage to their legs that cause them to shamble and shuffle along at a relatively slow pace. Again, take caution here. Assume they are fast movers anyway just in case. They might be shuffling along more slowly but when riled many zombies have shown themselves to be pretty terrifying. Even the slow ones.
Runners: Runners scare me. Not joggers of course. I mean fast zombies. As a kid I was already scared by the Romero type shamblers and shufflers but once I caught a glimpse of the runners in Return of the Living Dead I was terrified. These days runners seem to have taken over for their shear fear factor. From movies like 28 Days Later to the remake of Dawn of the Dead, fast zombies have become the norm. Fresh ones might look like regular people and in some cases it could be hard to tell a blood covered soon-to-be victim running for their lives from a blood thirsty horror running for your life.
They are mostly terrifying because of how animalistic they are. All the human doubts, questions, hesitations and fears are completely removed. They will jump through windows, run relentlessly and tear themselves apart without slowing or hesitating to get at you. More than simple undead ghouls, they are humans at their worst, and in groups are a wild mob force that will tear you limb from limb. They aren’t content to slowly shamble and bump against a boarded up farm house, they will tear the house and themselves apart to get inside.
Fortunately though, they aren’t any stronger than regular humans and strong barricades that hold out humans should also hold back the undead.
Talkers: When Return of the Living Dead came out in 1985 it changed the face of the zombie-going public in lots of ways. One way was the popularization of talking zombies. In fact, they were not the first talking zombies. Check out 1932′s White Zombie where the title character talks throughout the film even in her zombified state. Granted she was a voodoo zombie not a rotting corpse. A little closer would be Michael Jackson’s singing and dancing zombies in his Thriller video.
What Return of the Living Dead gave us was the image of the rotting corpse speaking to us in our own sort of voice. At one point a partial female zombie is pulled in through a window and asked why she eats people. “Not people,” she explains, “brains.” Eating brains apparently was meant to ease the pain of rotting. A terrifying idea, that you can feel yourself rot. That’s a horror. Since then, the idea of the talking brain-eating zombie has been deeply ingrained in the public psyche.
One thing that would make a bit more sense in the story telling would be if the zombies weren’t so rotted or if they weren’t wise-cracking heads like we saw in Return of the Living Dead 2. A disaster.
Carriers: Is it unfair to list the infected in with zombie types? I don’t think so. These people are just zombies waiting to happen. Should this woman be excluded from a group of survivors? No, no. She’s fine. She said she was fine!! Didn’t you hear her the first time!! What’s wrong with you people!! AAAAAAAAGH!
Yeah, that’s right, she’s as bad as typhoid Mary. She’s a carrier and the person best suited to the name, the living dead! Carriers are the infected, either having contracted the condition through blood, bites, worms, radiation or whatever magic seems to be working on them. In this case, the classic zombie situation, this woman has been bit and is actually trying to cover up the fact that she is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.
It’s horrible, it’s hard, but carriers need to be dealt with the same way we deal with zombies. Don’t prolong their suffering or cause more by letting them continue in your survival group.
Coughers: As noted above, zombies come in all sorts of forms. Some reanimated as the result of a virulent disease. It’s also possible however that some zombies are carriers of other diseases, either ones they were infected with before they died or something they picked up later on from feeding or as the result of something growing in their bowels or on their skin. It’s possible as they walk around they spread that disease to the living and so pose the additional danger of sickness on top of the the general horror of consumption. The big difference between the infected and coughers is that when we talk about the infected we generally mean people who are yet to become zombies whereas coughers are full blown zombies walking around spreading disease and not necessarily the disease that turned them into zombies.
Survivors: Recently the BBC stepped up with a new Zombie series that really blew me away. In the Flesh is a fantastic story about the aftermath of the zombie outbreak, it’s about how people move on with their lives, or try to, after things go wrong. It’s well worth checking out for the effects and the story telling and I don’t want to give too much away except to say the basic premise is that the humans survived the zombie apocalypse and found a cure of sorts which allows the zombies to be returned to consciousness. They have to be heavily medicated and will never be normal again but they are trying to reintegrate back into society.
The story follows one zombie “survivor,” Keiren as he struggles with memories of what he did in his undead state. The first series is a short run of just three episodes and well worth every minute of watching. Think of them as a great opening movie leading to series two coming soon.
Recently turned: Now the one thing I want to point out with this zombie is that there could be some variation depending on how long it took the person to turn. For example the natural color might be less pronounced if they took several hours and their blood has started to pool. They probably wouldn’t also be bleeding if their heart had stopped. With this particular type we assume that the cause of zombieism is such that they person immediately turned upon being bit or infected in some other way. In this illustration I’ve stuck with the bite. Call me a traditionalist.
That being said, the danger posed by this particular type of zombie is that we might not even realize that she is a zombie until it’s too late. Take a look at the zombies in the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Early in the movie when the little girl Vivian bites Ana’s husband, he turns into a walking killing machine right away not unlike the woman in today’s illustration.
Bloaters: Dead bodies stink. One reason is all the gas they produce as they break down. Loads of gasses build up and the body gets bloated. The thing is, that gas has to go somewhere which leads us to bloaters.
Zombies that move around are more likely to start popping that gas out whatever holes there are in their skin. And silly as it sounds it’s not at all unlikely that they would be shambling burping farting stink bags. Bodies that end up bloated have likely been sitting around for a while. Once they get up and start moving, the gasses start coming out and the stink could be unbearable. Best thing to do? Cover your face with a wet rag and dispatch that thing as soon as you can.
Drippers: I thought about calling these slimers because they are so slimy. But that suggests that they are producing more slime, like a worm or something. In the case of these zombies, they’ll run out of juice fairly quickly. If you’ve ever gone for a long run you know how dehydrated you get and that’s just from losing some sweat. These things are losing all their fluids plus whatever nasty crap they were soaking in.
These are some really nasty things. For whatever reason, some zombies end up a lot wetter than others. Maybe their skin broke down faster in the heat, or they died in water or oil or something like that. They might even have been trapped in a barrel for years and years like Tarman in the Return of the Living Dead. Whatever the case, these are some of the nastiest, dirtiest, smelliest and most horrible things our there. They suggest the rot and disease associated with death. That even being near them or being touched by one would somehow foul everything around them.
They’re just GROSS!!
Swimmers / Floaters: See something horrible bobbing in the water? Does it stink?
Well, you might have floaters!
Floaters are that special brand of zombie that for one reason or another have ended up in the water, either having drowned or been knocked off a boat, whatever. Once in the water though, they pose much less of a threat. Despite what you might have heard, it’s hard to walk on the bottom of a lake or other body of water without weights to keep you from moving around uncontrollably as the water currents move around you. Plus a person’s natural buoyancy makes it even harder. Sure zombies don’t have much air in their lungs but there are plenty of gasses all through their bodies to keep them from walking smoothly along the bottom. Zombies are also notoriously uncoordinated which gets even worse in the water.
The most dangerous types of floaters are those that make it to shore where they can stand up again and threaten people on shore. At that point they would be more of the “dripper” type. Any that have clothes on are going to be less of a threat but as those clothes get tugged off by the water they’ll be lighter and a bit more mobile, so look out for those skinny dippers!
Mudders: Mudders are regular zombies who have become stuck in the mud. They’ve appeared several times on the Walking Dead but in one case they appeared en mass. This is a real danger, when a group of them are stuck together. Eventually the weather will change, the rain will come and they’ll get free. Until then, they are just waiting to get out and get you. The good news is that they are easy to pick off and a moat of mud isn’t too hard to make. Get one set around your house and you’ve got a great way of slowing down the zombies and leaving them easier to take out. Just be careful you don’t get stuck in the mud yourself.
Partials: I’ve mentioned partials before but haven’t posted a specific illustration of them. There are a lot of different kinds of partials in that any zombie which is missing parts of its body are considered partials. Though generally this refers to limbs or part of the head or body as missing fingers or toes don’t have too much of an effect on the creature itself. So if you take a look at the skeletals, and crawlers you’ll find they are also in the general category of partials.
Nice and simple right?
Crawlers: Crawlers are some of the most disturbing zombies in pop culture. From the brilliant half-bodied redhead who came in the window in Return of the Living Dead to the half creature Rick encounters in the premier of The Walking Dead. The very fact that large parts of their bodies are missing is freaky as all get out.
The danger posed by these nasties is that they could be in a lot of places you wouldn’t expect, small crawl spaces, under cars, hidden in tall grass where you can’t see them. Fortunately with large parts of their bodies gone, their mobility is seriously cut down and it becomes a lot easier to take them out.
I noted above that this crawler’s hair is falling out but that’s more of a general rule for zombies as they go along. Though crawlers may be fresh, a lot of them have been around for a while and the loss of their lower halves has happened over a period of time. Any zombies that have been around for a while are likely to have thinner hair as whatever gets pulled out or falls out isn’t going to be replaced by fresh hair growth. This is one of a long list of symptoms you’ll notice for older zombies like a larger number of open cuts and scratches, the fact that they’re dirtier and their teeth are much worse for wear.
Heads: Heads are part of a subcategory of zombie called partials. This means that some part of the body, usually a limb, is missing. However in extreme cases the entire lower half or large parts of the body could be missing. Heads are the extreme case gone even further. They are all that’s left when a zombie has been decapitated. They typically don’t last long and as I’ve labeled in the illustration they aren’t very good biters since they are missing most of their muscles which would control the movement of the jaw. Though they are less dangerous than full bodied zombies or even other partials, they are still more dangerous than one might thing. All it takes is one clumsy idiot playing around with one, getting all cocky and screwing up to the extent that he get’s himself bit. You don’t want to be that guy, do you? No. Didn’t think so.
Also, watch out for these guys being kept in jars. Some power hungry survivors make a habit of keeping nasty things like these around the house. Definitely NOT your grandmother’s preserves.
Skeletals: The big thing about skeletals that makes them stand out is how bony they are. With parts of their bodies missing they have bones sticking out all over the place.
These guys are really at the end of their run as zombies. They are super freaky to look at and pose a little less harm than some other zombies might. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security though. These things are still zombies after all and they’re still dangerous. They’re just going to move a lot slower than other zombies.
One of the dangers they pose is that, being smaller and lighter, it’s a bit easier for them to be hidden where you wouldn’t expect. They could get into crawl spaces, under beds, small areas where you might not think they would be lurking. *Compare these to crawlers as they have a number of similarities.
Growers: One of the few things The Walking Dead has really done right in season 4 is showing the further deterioration of the world around the prison. At the point in time when the story takes place, the walkers have been around for a while and nature is starting to encroach on the cities in small ways like vines and plants growing rapidly. Which in an environment like Georgia would happen super fast.
There were two great scenes where we saw what I’d call growers. One where we saw a real, full on grower in the woods. A camper who had died under a tree and had rotten away quite a bit. Moss was growing on him and he seemed to be becoming part of the tree and the land around him. Oddly enough I found that idea rather comforting in a way.
In another scene we see zombies emerging from, and hung up in a patchwork of vines. The level of deterioration and integration with the plants is quite different but in both cases we have zombie which have been in a place long enough for plants to grow up around them and ensnare them or become virtually inseparable from them.
Arms: I hesitated for only a moment when adding these zombies to the “Zombie Types” section. Honestly, this isn’t a type of zombie, it’s more of a trait. But until I make a whole new section of zombie traits, this is sitting pretty right here.
One thing zombies are known for is reaching. They are constantly reaching out to grab their victims. They reach through windows, doors, into cars, all over the place. They don’t stop. The sounds they make as they scratch and claw and pound on doors is a real horror and can drive some survivors mad. It’s bad enough if you hear a prowler outside in your yard or banging on your door, but when you know it’s the undead it’s so much worse.
The arms of the zombies reaching in at you are often a real source of terror and a great sudden scare moment in lots of movies and games. But really you shouldn’t be scared. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be terrified, but fear in the face of zombies leads to accidents.
First of all make sure you know how to drive a nail and don’t board up your windows like this idiot above. I have storm shutters on my windows which won’t last forever but are a big big help. Second, when you see the arms reaching in, break them! One of the best ways to make sure zombies aren’t going to hurt any one, short of destroying their brains is to break their arms. Even breaking a finger or two with a good hammer blow is a great start. They won’t stop coming, but it will reduce their effectiveness, big time!
Diggers: These are some of the most iconic zombies out there though also the most unlikely. We usually see them digging their ways out from their graves and springing up to take the living by surprise. If you’ve ever walked through a graveyard at night you’ve probably thought about these things springing up to get you.
In most cases though coffins are pretty tough things to get out of. Not only are they pretty robust boxes, but they are bolted shut. That alone reveals some of the cultural superstitions surrounding the dead. Plus in many cases, coffins are lowered into concrete vaults.
Digging one’s way out of that would be pretty tough for an able bodied person. For a frail corpse weakened by whatever killed it to slowly tear it’s way out of all that would be even harder.
Despite all that though we could still assume that depending on ground conditions, burial practices and even the weather it might be possible for some zombies to find their way to the surface and start terrorizing the living.
Kids: Maybe it’s just me but kid zombies are extra creepy. They are also a bit controversial. For a while the makers of some video games like Biohazard (Resident Evil,) were reluctant to put kid zombies in their games because violence towards children is something we really don’t want to promote or support. Nonetheless, creepy undead kids in movies have been around for a while. You have seen the Shining right?
Child zombies like this little girl are a real source of dread. Our natural revulsion against striking or harming kids totally works against us when they attack. It’s possible for these little tykes to quietly move up on us unawares and they can fit into all sorts of small spaces. This girl has a little teddy bear clutched in her hand. I thought it was good to illustrate that kids might have something like that with them.
This raises the general question about zombies retaining something of their former lives, learning to interact in the world again or at least holding onto something of their former lives. Some stories run with that, and others get as far away from it as possible. I’m a bit torn so as I think it depends on the kind of story being told.
Twitchers: Twitchers come in a wide variety of styles. In this case I’ve shown a full bodied twitcher but virtually any zombie can become a twitcher. Twitchers are the result of not properly destroying the brain of the zombie. This usually results from the attempted destruction of the brain going somehow awry and should serve to remind survivors that it’s important to finish the job. Some notable twitchers appeared in the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Remember the guy in the fountain?
Wasters: Zombies eat. Let’s face it, that’s their primary goal. With all other forms of humanity stripped away they have one animalistic goal. To consume. In some cases they have been shown to be flesh eaters, and at other times, more selectively and bizarrely as brain eaters. I tend to lean towards the flesh eaters side of things. And considering their inability to think and reason (in most stories,) or at least their clouded and limited ability, it’s likely they would eat just about anything. A horse, a dog, a bird, or whatever happened to be around. Like predatory animals though, they are more likely to go after the best game, the living.
But what happens when they don’t feed? They waste away. All that rage and power, the relentless drive pushing them to get more food, the constant hunt, drains them. They aren’t solar powered perpetual motion machines. Eventually they run out of power. They wear out. And if pickings have been slim it gets harder and harder for them to hunt. They may take more damage in their more and more desperate attempts to feed. They could be very similar to the skeletals which are also last stage zombies. Wasters still have some chance to feed and thus recover, though as food dwindles that chance also drops.
Chubbers: Chubbers are zombies who were pretty hefty in their lives before turning. They pose all sorts of problems as their shear size and weight give them the momentum and force to break down doors and do some real damage. Being heavy-set in life doesn’t mean being weak. After all it takes a lot of strength to move those extra pounds around. As chubbers go through the process of putrefying they are sources of disease and horror that can bring down even the staunchest of survivors.
One thing to look out for with chubbers is that they have the potential to stick around for quite a while. Skinny people who turn are going to lose fluids and dry out pretty quickly but chubbers won’t. As long as they feed, the rate at which they drop off the excess pounds through the loss of tissue, fat, and fluids will be greatly offset.
Beware the well fed dead.
Brutes: Brutes are a hell of a thing to deal with.
Walk down the street and you are going to see some BIG people. And I don’t just mean fat people, I mean great big tall huge people with muscles. Now if one of those guys decided to drop a fist on your face you’d drop in a second. Now consider if that giant guy then proceeded to eat your face! It’s hard enough to hold off an attacker in regular life, but an undead monster attacker who wants to devour you? You’re in big trouble there. Want to be able to get away, defend yourself or your friends? Time to get into the gym, practice that cardio and watch your caloric intake!
Beauties: I think a great name for these zombies would also be sirens because they tend to have a strong attractive effect on men. They tend to be young, beautiful women who have recently reanimated and in several cases run around cemeteries naked. The image above is a poor rendering based on the incredible Anna Falchi who I had a HUGE crush on when I was in University. I’ll have to redraw this one day because I really just did not do her justice. She really is the most incredible . . . see! They really do have that effect on men!
One other great example would be Linnea Quigley’s character in Return of the Living Dead who tears off all her own clothes before being torn apart by the reanimated dead. Watch out guys. These girls pack a serious bite.
Leaders: It’s rare but there are zombies who manage to rise above their undead state and become leaders. These characters are pretty common in the Romero zombie stories. In Dawn of the Dead we saw Flyboy suddenly become a leader when, as soon as he turned, he lead the zombies in the mall through the false wall to where the other survivors were hiding. Romero seems to grant his zombies a high degree of tool use and intelligence. It also seems in the later movies that the zombies are somehow growing and developing. They are starting to come back to themselves in some ways. And so Big Daddy comes along and leads an all-out assault on the survivors city with weapon in hand. He calls out, well he moans out battle cries and even instructs other zombies in what to do. He showed compassion by trying to help the other zombies and keep them from getting killed. This level of intelligence is something more befitting a monster than a zombie yet there we have it in the heart of zombie country.
Zombillies: Zombillies are a fun type of zombie that you’ll find in the Rockabilly world. A great movie for examples of Rockabillies is Fido. I’ve actually already blogged about one particular zombilly, Tammy. Not only a sexy zombilly chick from the movie Fido but also a Lolitaesque love-slave zombie. (More on Tammy here.) Zombillies are the result of a zombie outbreak in the 1950′s. They wear the clothes and respond to the styles and fashions of the time. Zombillies may look like pinup girls, rockers, bikers, or even the King of rock and roll himself, Elvis Presley. In this case we have James Dead, oops. James Dean.
Nazis: I’m including Nazi zombies as an example of a gimmick. A lot of filmmakers, game designers and storytellers want to sell tickets, games and to spread their ideas. So they try to find ways to make their zombies even more wretched and horrifying than everyone else’s. this has lead to the rise of the zombie reich.
Frankly speaking it’s just a cheap gimmick. This is just a normal zombie that happens to be wearing a Nazi uniform. Wecould classify it as a “partial” since it’s arm is missing but beyond that it’s just a zombie. Nazi zombies are sort of a popular go-to bad guy in movies like: Outpost (brilliant,) and Dead Snow (less so.) They are also huge in the video game arena.
But despite whatever fears or thoughts they might stir up because of their frightening footwear and imposing uniforms, zombies are just zombies without any human beliefs or biases regardless of what they are wearing. (In most stories anyway.)
What I want to note hear is that whether a zombie is in clown suit or a Nazi uniform,(same thing pretty much,) it’s still just a zombie. Whatever horror that brought it back to shambling animation aside, it’s a zombie. In most stories they don’t retain knowledge of their previous lives and only in the really horrible demonic stories are they here exacting vengeance for whatever purpose.
In the end, they aren’t the people they used to be before they died. So don’t hesitate to destroy them and don’t be thrown off by simple costumes.
Flamers: A lot of zombie movies and games feature the zombies fear of fire. The flames seem to speak to their most basic instincts which after all, are all that’s left to them.
Whether they are scared or not zombies on fire pose a heightened though short lived danger to those around them. They may set off secondary fires or cause your farm house or strong hold to go up in flames.
It also makes getting close to them virtually impossible. Personally I recommend keeping your distance from all zombies at all times but if all you’ve got is a bat or a club you’re going to need to be within a certain range that the flames make nearly impossible to get around.
Crispies: Crispies, also called smokers are last-stage zombies who have burned up. There are two subtypes but they are nearly indistinguishable. One is a human who has burned and turned, the other is a zombie which has been burned up and is still moving around. (See flamers.)
The level of threat posed by crispies is directly proportional to how badly they have been burned. Lightly burned zombies might even be called toasties. The point here though is that the burning of flesh tends to shorten tendons and muscles leaving curled hands, feet or limbs. This makes it much harder for the zombie to remain mobile or to grab hold of it’s victims. The zombie I’ve illustrated above got away from the flames with her hands in tact so there is still some threat posed there. She’s lucky too in that she is still able to shuffle about a bit. But no matter what, the end is near for this little lady.
Crackers: In the movies and on TV shows like the Walking Dead people pop off head shots like it was the easiest thing in the world to do. Within minutes of picking up a gun for the first time they are able to pop multiple zombies in the head while running backwards down a hill carrying a wounded friend. In the real world it’s a bit harder to hit those head shots every time. So although a good shot to the head is still the best way to deal with zombies it’s not the only way, which brings me to crackers.
There is an old saying, I don’t know where it’s from so I’ll leave it to you to Google it, that goes: If your enemy can’t see, he can’t fight; If your enemy can’t breath, he can’t fight; If your enemy can’t stand, he can’t fight. Breathing isn’t really a problem for zombies and blinding is a lot harder than it seems. You can’t keep throwing sand in zombies eyes forever after all. But a good solid crack to the shins will make it impossible for them to stand making them a lot slower, more vulnerable and easy to take out. A single shot to the head with a bat or club may or may not do the trick as some people have quite strong skulls. But if you aren’t able to take out the zombies head in one blow, a good smashed jaw will sure make it a lot harder for it to bite anyone.
Swingers: These are for the most part regular zombies, however they pop up in movies all the time. In Romero’s Land of the Dead there is a scene where one of the survivors is found having offed himself and once cut down starts terrorizing everyone around him. Where these zombies are a bit less dangerous than many other types, they are still extremely dangerous. After all, you are probably looking low, checking for crawlers, and walkers but how often do you expect an attack from above? Not often!
That being said it’s pretty easy to underestimate how dangerous they are. Due to hanging they will likely be unable to grab or bite as effectively as they would if they got down.
Husks: You don’t see them often but there are some truly nasty zombies whose guts are either hanging out or totally gone like they’ve been shucked out. What’s left is an empty husk, a rib cage with nothing in it. In most cases these things are just crawlers having had their lower bodies totally blown off. But you’ll see some nasty looking things still running around like the guy above.
It basically defies all logic that this thing would be able to keep moving along though since all the muscles of it’s body and the connections from the brain aren’t getting any farther than the spinal cord if that is even in tact. But most things about zombies defy logic and understanding anyway so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. When you see one of these things, treat it like any other zombie, stay safe, destroy the brain.
Preggers: This is really a two for one deal as I’ve also included this baby zombie at no extra cost! Some things about this zombie type should be pretty obvious. The pregnant zombies are only female and the babies themselves are harmless, not having teeth, muscular development or the size to do any harm. The female zombie may show signs of pregnancy like an enlarged midsection or enlarged breasts due to the child. This might not be readily apparent however.
Ok, this is one of the most horrifying zombie types there is. In Dawn of the Dead, Romero introduced a character who was pregnant who existed as a constant backdrop of tension. Viewers were always waiting for something to go wrong or something bad to happen to her. When the remake came out they filmmakers revisited that character and took it to it’s obvious conclusions.
It freaked me the hell out to be honest.
One fascinating thing about this zombie is a real-world phenomenon called coffin birth in which the child is birthed after the mother and child have died and begun to rot. The gases and pressure built up in the rotting corpse force the baby out.
Popsicles: When he wrote World War Z, Max Brooks did a great job pointing out what would happen not only to survivors in cold weather areas but zombies. I find it a particularly interesting point that the cold would tend to have a slowing effect on the zombies as that doesn’t often get covered in most fiction. In fact one of the disappointing things in the Walking Dead series is how they completely skipped over winter though they do mention it.
The danger frozen zombies pose is that they could stick around for quite some time. If conditions are right, if they thaw, or if the disease they cary with them survives for any length of time, it would be possible for multiple outbreaks to happen over the years with zombie numbers surging seasonally. Fortunately though the cold damages flesh and whatever brain is driving the body.
Dogs: Animals tend to be interesting in zombie stories. They are completely ignored by zombies in the Romero classics like Dawn of the Dead. (Remember the dog in the basket?) They are open to be eaten like the horse and the cow in the Walking Dead. And they can even become zombies themselves or at least carriers like the monkeys in 28 Days Later and the dogs in Resident Evil.
There are some who would argue that animals cannot become zombies, and others who would. Frankly that depends on the story teller, but it also depends on the cause of the zombieism. Ask yourself this question: What caused the zombieism in the dog? Was it radiation? Then it’s a radiation zombie. Was it a plague or chemical? Then it’s a chemical zombie. This is why I don’t count animals in their own category of zombie. Zombies are classified according to what caused the reanimation. And regardless of what brought this pooch back, it’s here and it’s dangerous and you have to put it down as quickly as possible.
Dog zombies have appeared in movies from Night of the Creeps, (parasitic zombies) to video games like Biohazard / Resident Evil. The thing with these creatures is that they were generally already scary and dangerous before they turned. Take away the infection and the dogs in Resident Evil are just scary dobermans. That’s it. You can make the whole argument that they are man’s best friend and beloved pet yadda yadda yadda, but when it gets right down to it they are animals and they react on more of an instinctive level than humans already.
The one thing to be certain of is that they are likely to be faster than humans if they are in good condition, once they take damage they are just as likely to keep coming after you until you destroy the brain. One of the dangers in the zombie age is that there are certain to be packs of wild animals out there that are roaming around wild. They might be carriers or they might just not be infected. Either way they could pose just as much of a threat without even being zombies.
Birds: This is a follow up to my post on zombie dogs. In this case I’ve extended my thoughts on zombie animals to include the crow.
If you’ve seen the Biohazard / Resident Evil games, you know what a menace even a small group of these things can be. No wonder a flock of crows is called “a murder of crows.”
Jesus: The way we categorize zombies is based on what brought them back and they can be put into four main groups: Chemical/Medical, Radioactive, Parasitic, and Religious. There is, admittedly, something rather unscientific about the entire concept of zombies. They are dead for a reason, something doesn’t work, either because of physical damage or because of disease, the body stops working. So in humans, if the heart is destroyed, blood doesn’t pump and the body stops. Somehow magically, most zombies manage to keep functioning without that problem and even in the face of horrible damage and decay can keep going. This is why we say zombies of all types defy logic no matter how fun they are.
I’ve previously posted about Haitian Voodoo zombies and how they are magically brought back. Jesus is just the same to me. He’s a magical incarnation of a human and he promotes the drinking of blood and eating of flesh among his followers. Growing up catholic I was always told about the process of transmogrification. This means that during the catholic mass, the wine is literally turned into the flesh of christ and the wine is literally turned into the blood of christ. Not figuratively mind you. We were taught it happened literally.
Now honestly, would you believe that?
Demons: I think it’s debatable whether or not demons really are zombies or not. If they are, they fall under the category of magical religious zombies because they are created from dead bodies which have been reanimated by some sort of evil spirit or evil power. Now, of course a lot of demons in mythology appear simply as their own sort of creatures either alive or dead and are sort of like angels only evil. So when I say demons here I’m referring to a very specific kind of demon, an evil power or force that is disembodied but has inhabited the body of a human.
The image above is from the Evil Dead series. She’s the Henrietta zombie which was basically a woman whose body was possessed by a supernatural force and deformed because of the demonic evil power. Throughout the Evil Dead series the bodies of the deceased are reanimated by evil powers and forced to fight against the living.
Most zombies have something sort of magical about them. The very fact that they are dead and moving around defies logic and science and tends to lend itself to the magical or religious aspects of the dead.
Celebrities: As you explore the world of zombies, you may occasionally come across, on very rare occasions mind you, a celebrity zombie. Michael Jackson’s Thriller video was a massive hit during the 80′s zombie boom and is a great reflection of the pop culture of the time. A couple years ago I did the illustration of Michael below. Michael’s zombie can also be spotted in the background of a scene in the horrible Return of the Living Dead II. My favorite celebrity zombie has to be Bill Murray’s not-a-zombie in 2009′s Zombieland.
One thing to note about these zombies, as I pointed out on the card above, is that most of them aren’t actually zombies at all but just actors pretending to be zombies. If you’re in the middle of a zombie outbreak though, the smart thing to do is to take them out anyway. Better safe than sorry.
Superzombies: A few years ago Marvel introduced a zombie themed story line in which all the major characters got turned into zombies. It seems like it was a hit as there have been several follow ups and a lot of the artwork is great. I’m not a big fan of Marvel though so I can’t say I’m big into the super zombies. In this case, Zombie Spiderman here falls into the category of magical zombies. That is, zombies with supernatural or magical powers like Hatian zombies and zombie Jesus.
These sorts of zombies are all over video games and stories in an attempt to make the zombies more horrible or threatening. Frankly I think it’s more likely to see a regular zombie in a spiderman costume than it is to see a super powered zombie but since that type of zombie has become so popular in video games and even some movies it’s worth noting that they are out there and it’s a good representation of a general type of zombie.
Experimentals: These rare horrors aren’t often encountered but when they are, they are often accompanied by some sort of military unit. It may be that these creatures have been engineered or created to work as bio-weapons by the military. In this case the zombie is shown in an exo-suit similar to that hooked up to Riverman in Return of the Living Dead 3.
An important thing about these things is that although they are modified in some sense, and possibly armored, destroying the brain should still work on them. It’s also worth noting that these guys are going to kill everyone in the room. If you encounter a mad scientist who is absolutely sure and confident that he has the thing under control, get out of there FAST! There is about a hundred percent chance that these things are going to get out, the controls will break or snap or the seemingly sedate creature will bite you as soon as his controls have been loosened. Remember, the government wants to use them as weapons for a REASON!
Historics: Historics are a rare but fun type of zombie that pop up once in a while, usually in comedies. There’s actually an episode of the Simpsons where zombies attack and Homer shoots, zombie George Washington, Einstein and Shakespeare. In this case I’ve gone with the ever-hilarious zombie Abe Lincoln. For some reason zombie presidents seem to be really popular.
Historics fall into the larger category of religious / magical zombies because it’s unlikely that much of anything would be left of people from the ancient past other than bones as their skin and tissue would have completely rotted away or become too brittle to move. Any truly ancient zombies would be incredibly rare and would be more like mummies or the soft tissue bodies found in China; Xin Zhui, aka Lady Dai.
So whenever a big horde of zombies starts running around in a comedy, keep an eye out for these rare horrors.
Mutants: Popular in video games like Biohazard (Resident Evil), mutant zombies are a bizarre outgrowth of the zombie phenomena that are really more like monsters than true zombies. They are essentially dead bodies that have been changed horribly during the process of reanimation or living people who have been similarly altered and in the alteration have died. (If they aren’t dead, it’s hard to think of them as zombies.) In a lot of cases these creatures have gained some sort of special powers or super strength. I’d like to say these are rare types of zombies but they seem to be becoming increasingly common so be on the lookout and aim for the eyes.
Hordes: It’s your greatest fear. An entire horde of zombies. Even a small group of shufflers can be dealt with on your own. With fast zombies, you stand a chance in a one on one fight. Maybe you can even take out a few if you have the right weapon or the right position. But it’s not like that with hordes. Hordes are an animal all their own. In large groups the zombies seem to get agitated and the chances of survival plummet. Hordes are made up of a variety of different types of zombies,
These groups get harder to take out for a number of reasons.
First it’s hard to shoot more than one zombie at a time. Yeah if you are lucky enough to have a massive machine gun with unlimited ammunition like in the video games you might be able to blast their feet and limit their mobility. Or if you have a few grenades laying around, they might help, but that’s not likely to be the case. If you have a weapon and if you are any good at using it, you’re still going to have a hard time blasting a lot of moving targets in the head, and trying to reload.
Hand to hand combat doesn’t work out well in hordes. The number and variety of the zombies means you’ll be exhausted in just a few minutes.
You could take them out from a distance. Like the survivors in Dawn of the Dead trapped inside the mall with a horde of creatures outside, you could sniper them or drop bricks on them from a roof. You could even rope a few, pull them up and pop them in the head. Each of these methods poses it’s own problems though as you’ll run out of ammunition and could end up getting pulled over yourself if you try roping them. You might try burning them but fire is wildly unpredictable and before you know it you cold end up with a flaming horde on your hands and a hide out burning to the ground with you stuck inside. Whatever you do is going to take great physical effort and a great deal of time as well so take care.
With hordes, your best bet is to get away from them. Stay low. Let them disperse. If you can quietly take out a few to thin out their numbers great but keep a low profile and survive.
Well who hasn’t felt like a zombie at the end of a long work week. I usually get to work at 9:30 in the morning and catch my train home at about 9:40 at night so if you see me walking around looking like a zombie, don’t be surprised.
The fun thing about the word zombie is the way it’s written in the dictionary. Check out the usage note about it at the bottom of the entry.
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