Halloween is upon us and, once again, zombie-mania continues to reign supreme. From so-called, community “Zombie Walk” events to AMC’s season premier of the “Walking Dead” boasting the highest-rated cable television show in history, Americans certainly seem to be zombie-obsessed. But why; what is it about an animated, decaying corpse that seems to capture people’s imaginations and gets them to shell out millions of dollars in search of the next big zombie fix?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word, “zombie,” has its origins in West Africa, but the concept of the animated corpse most likely comes from Haitian folklore. Legend suggests that the dead are raised by magical means to walk the earth again and do the bidding of the one who performed the revival ritual, as a sort of creepy slave.
Zombies first appeared in American popular literature as early as 1929, then shortly after, actor Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of “Dracula,” starred in the film, “White Zombie,” which introduced the familiar personification of the creature. The modern American zombie pop-culture most likely took hold after the release of George Romero’s 1968 film, “Night of the Living Dead,” although they were never actually referred to by that word in the movie.
Zombies in modern tales aren’t usually created by magic, but science. Today’s authors have penned a more realistic origin for what has become known as the “zombie apocalypse.” In most current story plots, a rogue virus escapes to the population, infecting everyone and turning them into, essentially, zombies. Instead of one or two slave zombies on the loose, entire populations of walking dead murderously meander across the globe, destroying civilization as they consume the living for sustenance; right, whatever.
Really, except for the fact that they’re pretty gross to look at and can sneak up on people, as far as monsters go zombies are probably the lamest (pun intended) and least scary creatures ever dreamed up. Think about it – re-animated dead people, hobbling along with one foot dragging behind them and moving so slowly, any granny on a walker could whiz past. What’s scary about that?
These monsters have no motive for being bad and there is no end goal or desire for world domination. They’re just hungry. They wander the night, aimlessly, hoping only to happen upon a fresh brain to consume.
And would someone please explain why they even need to eat anything? They’re dead! What possible nutritional value could there be in anything for a zombie? And why are they bleeding always? Does it need to be pointed out again, they’re dead – there shouldn’t be any blood pumping.
Add to that killing them is really a piece of cake, depending on which version of zombie lore you adhere to. In the modern, “Walking Dead” style, all you need to do is smash in their heads or decapitate them or something. But, according to Haitian lore, the goal was not to destroy them but to release these poor souls from their magically-induced, wandering purgatory and there were several methods available to do that, like pouring salt on them.
In any case, zombies are just not all that intimidating compared to vampires or werewolves (ignoring the Twilight-styled, sparkling, Calvin Klein model types). And yet, inevitably, story protagonists nearly always get caught by the marauding zombies and get their brains eaten. Really, how dumb does someone in a monster movie need to be to actually get caught by a crippled, decaying dead guy?
So, here is the best possible advice for escaping zombies – run! Or, just walk fast; it’s not that hard to get away from zombies. Just be sure to sacrifice the comic relief character first, giving you extra time (not like you need it).
If for some reason the zombie gets too close, and yes, that will be because you are really, incredibly stupid, just grab the arms and pull them off – how hard can it be? They’re dead and decaying, right? Hopefully the zombie fascination will diminish soon, leaving room for even more ridiculous obsessions, like brooding, teenage werewolves. Oh wait, that’s been done already too. Oh well. Happy Halloween!
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is a production of GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. More at gerydeer.com.