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Zombies Exposed

People can’t seem to get enough of zombies lately. Zombies are a hot ticket item with hit releases such as movie Zombieland, and upcoming zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead 2. Not to mention the onslaught of other zombie games from Plants vs. Zombies, Fort Zombie, Zombie Driver, to Zombie Apocalypse.

Zombies have graced popular culture and interested the masses since the 1968 release of horror classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Where do zombies come from?

Zombies, also known as reanimated corpses, jumbies (West Indian term for ‘ghost’), and nzambi (Kongo word for “spirit of a dead person”), originated with stories from the Afro-Caribbean belief system Vodou, where people could be controlled by powerful sorcerers. The word entered the English dictionary in 1871 and is derived from the Louisiana and Haitian Creole “zonbi”, which is a person who has died and been brought back to life. Once brought back, they became slaves to the sorcerer who brought them back to life, as depicted in old folklore and spirit-cult myths. Other cultures suggest the living can be transformed into zombies with magical potions. This was portrayed in the 1932 movie White Zombie (which was based on a 1928 play titled Zombie, and is considered to be the first zombie film). People turned into zombies by a potion can be released from the effect upon the death of the “master”.

Modern zombies, however, differ from these “voodoo” zombies. There are many Hollywood variations of the zombie, some returning from the dead for revenge, others converted by magic or evil, science experiments gone wrong, and sometimes even turned by Aliens. Since the 1970’s, zombies are portrayed as mindless creatures, which may have evolved from the trance-like states that characterized old fashioned zombies, and are not capable of rational thought or higher thinking. They travel in mobs, and attack in waves, with no directive other than to feed on flesh. These zombies’ bodies also show signs of decomposition and death. There is no coming back to life for these reanimated corpses, but they can become dead again with a little help from your Boomstick. Zombies “reproduce” by contaminating live people with bites and scratches, who are then turned into zombies themselves.

Zombie Characteristics

Though zombies can vary in different mediums, some of the most common zombie traits include:
1.    Can’t Speak –  Zombies can mumble on par with Kurt Cobain, but their brain functions only go so high, some are known to speak one or two words
2.    Move slowly –  Being dead…then not being dead can do that to a person.  (note: These zombies are also incapable of fatigue)
3.    Desire to Eat People/Brains – Zombies immediately have a burning desire to consume flesh/eat people’s brains
4.    Violent – They want your brains and they will stop at nothing to sink their teeth into some warm fleshy flesh
5.    Superhuman strength – Having supernaturally risen from the dead, is it really unthinkable that they would possess supernatural strength?

How to Survive a Zombie Invasion

Now that we know how to recognize zombies…what do we do in case of a zombie infestation?
1.    Fire power – It is of utmost important to have guns (and any other weapons) available in case of a zombie attack. Zombies are also susceptible to fire.
2.    Go to the mall – Chances are, the town has been deserted. Less zombie savvy people have succumbed to the bloodlust and are more than likely zombies themselves. Malls are great choices for zombie hideouts, they provide a complicated terrain for the “mindless” zombies to navigate, and also provide ample hiding places and supplies!
3.    Aim for the head – Zombies must be shot in the head, or decapitated to die. Body shots won’t do anything!! Zombies = Dead. Taking off limbs or blowing holes the size of bowling balls into their guts ain’t gonna stop the wave. Instead, one must deliver a blow to the head or fully decapitate them to sever their living tie.
4.   Avoid Loved Ones – More than likely you believe safety is in numbers. This is not true in the case of a zombie apocalypse. The bigger group you are in the great the likelihood you’ll be seen/heard/caught by the zombies. Loved ones often are not as educated in the ways of zombies as you are. They may try to rescue zombified children, make lots of noise and draw the zombies to you. Plus, if they get bitten, you’ll have a hard time putting one inbetween their eyes, therefore lessening your chance for survival.

If you are bitten, or have an exposed wound come in contact with zombie goo…game over.

Where can I find zombies?

Zombie movies were popular since Night of the Living Dead in 1968 through the 1980’s. They lost popularity in the 1990’s, but have since made a comeback with hits such as the Resident Evil series, Shaun of the Dead, and 28 Days Later.

And after years of research (a week), and numerous compilations of the internet’s Top 10-20 zombie movie lists, intense debate and a lot of long, sleepless nights, we will be counting down our top #20 zombie movies one movie a day until Halloween!

And our TOP 20 Zombie Movies

20. Zombieland (2009) Not only does it have rules to live by in case of a zombie apocalypse, it’s freaking hilarious. Though it’s the best zombie film I’ve seen in a LONG time, it’s #20 because it is still in theaters. Being so new makes it hard to compete with the classics, but with the amount of gutbusting I did it HAD to make the list.

Zombieland follows the quest of four characters, brought together by circumstances and named by their hometowns, as they seek survival, an amusement park, and a Twinkie.

19. Land of the Dead (2005) – The fourth of Romero’s six Living Dead movies, Land of the Dead was a success in its release in 2005, grossing over $40 million.

The film takes place in Pittsburgh, PA where a feudal type government exists. A past catastrophe had left much of human civilization in shambles, and for some unknown reason, the dead were returning! Soon the dead outnumber the living. The city is guarded on three sides by a river, an electric barricade on the fourth, and is one of the few sanctuaries left against the zombies.

Humans go out to gather supplies by using Dead Reckoning, a huge armored truck with a fancy fireworks display which the zombies oogle over and somehow miss the fact that their Happy Meals are walking right by them. Also, zombies resume some humanly aspects.

The city loses its sanctuary status and the main characters fight for survival.

18. Fido (2006) – The Canadians finally get in on the zombie movie action with this zombie comedy film.

The film takes place in a 1950’s type alternate reality where radiation from space has turned the dead into the undead. Never fear, corporation Zomcon keeps communities gated and zombies collared in order to control them. In fact, somebody decided that zombies would make great pets!

Housewife Helen buys her family a zombie, and son Timmy names him Fido. When the collar malfunctions and Fido snacks on the neighbor, the fun begins. Timmy is forced to kill the now zombified neighbor to cover up Fido’s tracks. The murder is discovered and Fido gets sent to Zomcon to be terminated. Timmy finds out that his beloved Fido is being used for manual labor and sets off to rescue him.

17. Diary of the Dead (2007) – Yet another George Romero zombie movie. It is the fifth in his Dead series, though not considered a “direct sequel”. It was independently produced and spent little time in the theaters. This movie appears to take place in the same timeframe of the original. This is the first movie that shows the “outbreak” as a global incident and not just local and has a bit of a twist as it follows a group of people making a horror movie when the first outbreak occurs.

The movie begins showing footage from a television news station following a story of a murder. In the background you see the bodies being loaded into an ambulance when suddenly one of the bodies moves! The EMT tries to resuscitate the person and gets bitten! Cut to the University of Pennsylvania where a group of film students are filming their horror movie. They hear on the radio the reports of murders and cannibalism. A couple of people break off from the group, determined to film the outbreak. They hook up with the girlfriend of one of the guys and go in search for her family. The movie follows their journey and of course, zombie encounters.

16. Day of the Dead (1985) – Yes, another George Romero film. Day of the Dead is George Romero’s third film. He describes this film as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society”. It was filmed in Romero’s favorite location Pennsylvania, and also in Florida. Extras, aka Zombies, were paid $1.00 each and given hats that read “I was a Zombie in Day of the Dead”. Sweet gig if you ask me.

This film takes place during a zombie apocalypse (surprised?) in which human survivors have taken cover in an underground military establishment. They are charged with the task of studying the zombies; scientists in charge of finding a cure or resolution to the zombie epidemic, soldiers in charge of protecting the scientists and civilians ordered to serve both the scientists and soldiers in every day needs such as communication, food prep, etc. After the government stops sending orders (it may not even exist) the stir-crazy parties debate on whether to abandon their holed up existence and brave the outside world (and the zombies).

15. Night of the Living Dead (1990) – This is not a George Romero movie. Yet it is a remake of George Romero’s first zombie film, the 1968 Night of the Living Dead. Tony Todd (Candyman) was cast as Ben. Several scenes had to be cut from this version to avoid an X rating. I’m told that some of these cut scenes can be found on the DVD, though.

The storyline in this remake is essentially the same as the original; humans hole up in a Pennsylvania farmhouse and fight off the zombies, hoping to survive until sunrise.

14. White Zombie (1932) –  White Zombie is your classic voodoo zombie movie. It is credited as the first zombie movie, and stars Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula). It’s based on the 1928 play titled Zombie). This was also the inspiration for band name, White Zombie.

White Zombie takes place in Haiti where plantation owner named Murder (Bela Lugosi) uses his supernatural, voodoo powers to enslave natives and make them do his bidding. A couple travelling to Haiti to get married find their coach being followed by what the driver calls, zombies. They arrive at the house of Charles Beaumont, where they plan to be married, when Beaumont falls in love with the girl. He goes to Murder for help, who in turn gives him a potion to turn her into a zombie and break her love for her fiance.

13. Re-Animator (1985) – Based on HP Lovecraft’s “Herbert West: Reanimator“, this film follows medical student expellee Herbert West’s transfer to Miskatonic University from Switzerland. He has been working to develop a formula to revive the dead. Like some of its other list brethren, the Re-Animator and its many sequels have a substantial cult following.

This extremely gory, yet (at times) humorous film, follows West’s quest to bring the dead back to life (without all those nasty side effects).

12. 28 Weeks Later (2007) – Sequel to the popular 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later takes place 28 weeks after the events of 28 Days. Britain has been declared relatively safe as most of the infected have died from starvation. The tentative clean-up process begins, and a re-introduction into life in Britain is orchestrated. Things begin to go downhill when two kids wander away from the safe zone and bring back their infected mom.

The sequel was filmed in the same manner as its predecessor and does not contain any of the characters from the first film.

11. Evil Dead (1981) –  Sam Raimi (Spiderman), and Bruce Campbell’s campy cult classic. It was an extremely controversial film due to the violence, graphic nature and gore, and was turned down by nearly all US distribution channels. It was finally purchased by a European company and released October 15, 1981. Even after its success, it is still favored by a cult following.

The film takes place in an isolated cabin in which an audio tape is found. Little did the group of campers know that the audio tape unlocks evil spirits!

Evil Dead was followed by Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.


10. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – The Serpent and the Rainbow is a Wes Craven film based loosely on the book with the same title. This film is not the traditional zombie apocalypse film that had become popular in the 70’s and 80’s, and instead follows more traditional zombie lore.

Harvard researcher (Bill Pullman) travels to Haiti to procure a secret voodoo powder that places people into a state of simulated death (turns them into zombies). His investigation into the world of black magic grows increasingly dangerous until he’s caught in a living nightmare: a potentially deadly predicament that inspired the film’s advertising tag line: “Don’t bury me… I’m not dead!”

The author of the book, Wade Davis, lamented that his book had been turned into one of the “worst Hollywood movies in history”. Bad as it may be, The Serpent and the Rainbow kicks off our Top 10 Zombie Movies.

9. Return of the Living Dead (1985) – This is yet another American zombie comedy horror film. The film is known for its hardrock/punk soundtrack.

The film ironically starts off at a medical supply warehouse where one employee informs another that the movie Night of the Livind Dead was based on true events when a gas called 245 Trioxin was released in the morgue of the basement of a Pittsburgh, PA VA hospital, causing the bodies to jerk around as if they were alive. When the other worker doesn’t believe the story, he is taken to the basement to see the barrels of the ture-to-life toxin. Unfortunately, the clumsiness of one of the workers when slapping the barrels (to see how reliable they were) releases the gas and allows it to escape. The workers eventually fall victim to the toxin and are zombified!

The film follows a team of teenage punks and how they deal with a growing zombie infestation.

8. Dead Alive (1992) –  AKA Braindead, Peter Jackson’s gory interpretation of a slapstick zombie film is known for topping lists of ‘goriest films ever’.

On a quiet street in a small town pure evil has come to stay. An innocent young man, Lionel,  forced to care for his domineering mother finds the task a whole lot more demanding after she’s bitten by the cursed sumatran rat-monkey. She is transformed into a zombie after the bite (a hungry one, at that) but Lionel is determined to care for mommy dearest. After attempting to anesthesize her, which was considered unsuccessful after she started escaping and eating the townspeople. He tries to conceal the evidence of this (the other zombies) by collecting and tranquilizing the growing zombie population.

7. Resident Evil (2002) – Loosely based on Capcom’s popular zombie series, Resident Evil, this movie follows new heroine Alice and the S.T.A.R.s through Umbrella’s “hive” which has been shut down by supercomputer controller the Red Queen. Despite some negative reviews, the film was successful in the box office grossing $102,441,078 worldwide.

Upon entering the Hive they quickly realize it was shut down because the potent T-Virus was released, turning all of its inhabitants into the evil undead, and all of its experiments loose.

It was followed up with sequels Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction and upcoming Resident Evil: Afterlife.

6. Zombie (1979) – Also known as Island of the Flesh-Eaters and Zombi 2 (though it was not a sequel to the movie Zombi), this was the film that made Lucio Fulci a horror icon. It was also scorned for being overly gruesome.

An abandoned yacht floats into the New York Harbor. When a zombie is found onboard, the daughter of the boat’s owner is questioned. After finding a note with her father’s location and learning that he has come down with a strange disease, Anne Bowles and reporter Peter West travel to the island of Matool to find him.

5. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – A horror remake of George Romero’s classic, this Dawn of the Dead is considered a reimagining of the original. It is one of the few zombie movies to make over $100 million at the international box-office. The similarities end with a shopping mall and zombie outbreak.

This new Dawn of the Dead is focused purely on horror, and does not include the subtle social commentary that George Romero films are known for.


4. 28 Days Later (2002) – Another British outbreak movie. This fits into the scientific experiment gone wrong category.This movie was shot almost entirely on digital video and is commended for its stylistic approach. It was highly successful in the box office and may even become the first of a trilogy with the release of the sequel 28 Weeks Later, and upcoming release of 28 Months Later.

The movie starts showing the “rage” being released when a group of animal activists break into a lab and free an infected monkey. Infection is instantaneous.

Twenty-eight days later we follow the journey of Jim (Cilian Murphy from Batman) trying to find some sanity and regular people in a world full of “rage”.


3. Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Shaun of the Dead is a romantic zombie comedy (who would have ever thought the three would go together?) by English director Edward Wright. Comedy in a time of an onslaught of zombies is always a good thing.

The main character is Shaun. Shaun’s only goal in life is to hang out at the pub, until his girlfriend becomes dissatisfied. She wants more to life than just hanging out and drinking, so Shaun decides he will change. His determination to turn his life around couldn’t have come at a worse time, however, a time of a zombie uprising.

All’s well that end’s well though, months pass and zombies become a part of every day life; being used for cheap labor and entertainment.

2. Dawn of the Dead (1978) – George Romero’s second zombie film, but is not any type of sequel to his hit Night of the Living Dead.

Here is born the “shopping mall survivor” legend. In this movie a plague (of unknown origin) is turning citizens into zombies. A group of survivors camp out in a mall to rest and refuel, andto pick up a little firepower. They are able to survive months in the mall, awaiting rescue.

And HyTek Gamer’s #1 Zombie Movie….

1.  Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Night of the Living Dead is George Romero’s film that made zombies a pop culture hit. It is also credited as being the first of its kind in the “zombie apocalypse” sub-genre and is also credited for modernizing zombies. Though it was criticized at its release for its explicit content, it was placed in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999 as “historically, culturally or aesthetically important”.

This independent black & white film shows a night of horror and survival in a small Pennsylvania farmhouse as mysteriously reanimated ghouls converge upon the protagonists Ben and Barbra as they wait until morning for escape or rescue.

What?! 20 zombie movies isn’t enough?? Ok…ok…


Pet Sematary (1989) – Pet Sematary is based on the Stephen King novel with the same name.The screenplay was written by Stephen King himself and he even makes an appearance in the film as a minister at a funeral.

When a cat buried in the pet cemetary is magically revived and brought back from death; a family mourning the loss of a son decide to move the body to the pet cemetary to bring him back to them. The cat, and the boy, do not come back right though.

This chilling tale explains in horrific detail why the dead…should stay that way…

Zombie Strippers (2008) – Zombie Strippers stars Robert Englund (aka Freddy Krueger) and Jenna Jameson…need we say more?

Jenna Jameson stars in this thrilling zombie adventure. In the not too distant future a secret government re-animation chemo-virus gets released into conservative Sartre, Nebraska and lands in an underground strip club. As the virus begins to spread, turning the strippers into “Super Zombie Strippers” the girls struggle with whether or not to conform to the new “fad” even if it means there’s no turning back.

They’re not just strippers…They’re Zombie Strippers !!

For further zombie education, check out these books:

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

World War Z: An Oral History of Zombie War

And if you need some practice killing zombies, try these video games:

Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360)
Zombie Apocalypse (PS3, Xbox 360)
Plants vs. Zombies (PC)
Fort Zombie (PC)
Zombie Driver (PC)
Dead Space (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Dead Rising (Xbox 360, Wii)

I’d also like to mention that Amazon is having a KILLER sale on horror movies until Halloween itself, October 31st.

Also, see Minnesota’s finest zombies and check out pictures from the 5th Annual Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl!

So mix yourself a zombie (cocktail created by Donn Beach popularized after the 1939 New York World’s fair) and prepare yourself for a night of the living dead.

Zombie Cocktail Recipe

1.    Mix Light Rum and Dark Rum in a shaker
2.    Mix pineapple, orange, and lemon juice in the rum mixture, still in the shaker
3.    Pour mixture into tall glass (Collins glass) on the rocks
4.    Float Bacardi 151 on the top of the mixture (poor onto spoon and dip gently under the surface of the drink)
5.    Garnish with cherries, lemon or mint

(you can Google this for recipe variations)