What type of zombies are in The Walking Dead?
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Zombies are popular. They have been at or near their zenith for a few years now. Movies like Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and now TV shows like The Walking Dead, have made zombies incredibly popular. What was once a horrific nighmarish creature is now shown in prime time, and while still horrific, our sensitivities do not revolt against it, but instead embrace it.
When I first saw Night of the Living Dead, I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. At that point, the movie was 30 years old already – it came out in 1968. It was terrifying, to the point where not only did I have nightmares, but I had difficulty whenever I passed by the cemetery near my house. At the same time that I was traumatized by George Romero’s living dead, I was hooked on the undead creatures that had a compulsion to eat the living, and needed to see more.
Until Night of the Living Dead, which was directed by George Romero, who also co-wrote it with John Russo, the zombie was a creature of voodoo or other mind control. White Zombie, a movie of the 1930s starring Bela Lugosi, was an example of the voodoo zombie. And while Bela Lugosi was an exceptional horror actor, White Zombie does not typically come to mind when someone brings up the subject of zombie movies. Not that it is a bad movie, but when Night of the Living Dead came out, the modern zombie was invented.
After I watched Night of the Living Dead, the obvious movies to watch were watched – Dawn of the Dead (the original) and Day of the Dead. The “Of the Dead” trilogy was very good, indeed exceptional. Romero did with these movies what is being repeated ad nauseum to this day. Night of the Living Dead was remade in 1990 with Tony Todd as the protagonist, who you may know as the CandyMan, and again remade (in 3d) in 2006 with Sid Haig.
Romero’s zombies all followed the same rules, though their causation was the source of speculation (as exploding space probe). The Romero zombie was slow moving, stupid, afraid of fire, and craved living flesh. Any living person who died, whether bitten by a zombie or not, would reanimate as one after death.
Since Romero’s reinvention of the zombie, there have been running zombies (28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake), talking zombies (Return of the Living Dead, which is not a Romero movie), and many other variations on the monster.
The Walking Dead zombies are slow and stupid, like the Romero zombie, but unlike the Romero zombie, they are not afraid of fire and dead people only become zombies if bitten by one. The Walking Dead however, seems pretty true to the Romero zombie spirit. While not spot on, the show was interested enough to ask George Romero to direct some episodes, which he did not want to do (article here).
In fact, George Romero has called The Walking Dead a soap opera with the occasional zombie, which is a reason he would not direct any episodes. Too bad.