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Types of zombies in horror films

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The world’s fascination with the monster known collectively as a zombie continues to grow, with movies, television serials, novels, comics, video games, and other media forms creating new and distinct types of this creature. This continued fascination perhaps can be explained by our modern, technology-driven world. One definition of “zombie” is “a person whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote.” If you have ever watched today’s teens in a group setting, with very few interacting with each other and most self-absorbed with their electronics, the term “zombie” seems most apropos.

As more and more creative people explore the world of the zombie, more and more types of zombies have begun to emerge. This list chronicles just five types of zombies. These types are perhaps the most popular or most used types of zombies.

Voodoo Zombies
Voodoo Zombies Universal Television

Voodoo Zombies

Considered the original zombie, the voodoo zombie is basically a human corpse that has been reanimated by a sorcerer (or more aptly, a necromancer) known as a bokor, one who practices the religion known as Voduo (or voodoo).

Voduo can be traced back as far are the 16th century. African slaves brought to Haiti were forced to convert to the religion of their “masters.” However, African slaves melded their traditional beliefs with those of Christianity. The results were various types of new religions, which some collectively call Voduo.

The traditional zombie has no mind of its own—it simply follows the commands of the bokor. Myths and folklore state that these zombies are used as workers. Traditional zombies have appeared in numerous movies, such as White Zombie, King of the Zombies, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Serpent and the Rainbow.

Romero Zombies
Romero Zombies Strike Entertainment

Romero Zombies

In 1968, writer and director George A. Romero (along with writer John Russo) would forever change the zombie with the creation of Night of the Living Dead and its sequels. No longer tireless workers, zombies instead became reanimated creatures hungry for the flesh of the living. Slow moving but deadly in numbers, these modern zombies captured the fancy of the world, and to this day this type of zombie continues its apocalyptic attack upon the living.

Romero’s zombies have no distinct origin, with the first movie hinting at radiation from a space satellite that fell from the Earth and subsequent sequels showcasing scientists befuddled as to how the living have come back to life. What makes Romero’s zombies so frightening is their singular purpose of feeding on the living just enough to turn the living into the walking, meat-eating dead.

The Crazed or Infected Ones
The Crazed or Infected Ones DNA Films

The Crazed or Infected Ones

Although Romero is best remembered for his creation of the modern-era zombie, he is also responsible for another distinct offshoot of zombie, the crazed or infected ones. In 1973, Romero unleashed his film titled The Crazies, which was also known by the title Code Name: Trixie. The movie tracks the effects of an accidental release of a military biological weapon. Those who inhale the intoxicant “Trixie” become crazed killers. Much like the zombies in Romero’s Dead Films, the infected do not fight each other but collectively attack those who are not infected.

In 2010, Romero participated in a remake of this cult classic, with Breck Eisner taking on the directing chores and Romero given co-writer credit (as well as executive producer). Another movie that capitalized on this concept was 2002’s 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle. In this movie, a contagious virus (known as the “Rage Virus”) is accidentally released in Britain. The infected behave like crazed killers. 28 Days Later led to a sequel titled 28 Weeks Later, as well as a novel and a comic-book series.

Intelligent Zombies
Intelligent Zombies Laurel Entertainment Inc.

Intelligent Zombies

Although zombies for the most part lack any intelligence save the most basic, motorized instincts (walking, eating, busting down and clawing at doors), Romero was perhaps the first to begin exploring the notion of intelligent zombies with his 1985 movie Day of the Dead. In this movie, one Dr. Logan manages to “teach” or perhaps “reanimate” a zombie’s brain. This zombie, known as “Bub,” begins to understand abstract concepts, such as music. Moreover, Bub also recalls his past life as a solider, which brings with it knowledge of firearms.

The same year that Day of the Dead was released, Dan O’Bannon created his own breed of intelligent zombies, showcased in the movie The Return of the Living Dead. In this movie, zombies developed as “supersoldiers” are released from their chemical vats. These zombies are infectious, spreading a toxic gas that transforms others into zombies. Moreover, these zombies lust for human brains (not just human flesh) and can actually speak and use technology (say, use a police radio).

Nazi Zombies
Nazi Zombies Euforia Film

Nazi Zombies

This particular type of Nazi perhaps has its origins in the link between Nazism and the occult, rumors of which began in the late 1950s. One such occult rumor is the development of “supersoldiers” using advanced science and perhaps factions of the occult. Such soldiers would be able, for example, to withstand damage and perhaps even temporarily cheat death.

The 1977 film Shock Waves was one of the first to feature Nazi zombies. Other films, like Oasis of the Zombies, Horrors of War, Outpost, Dead Snow, and War of the Dead have continued to explore the idea of Nazi zombies. The types of zombies in these films vary, with some zombies acquiring intelligence while others remain mindless automations who blindly obey their commander.