March 6, 2010

What Are Zombies?


Although it is a geek's argument without end, I thought that today I'd discuss my personal definition of "ZOMBIE." I tried to do this in a four-part Youtube video series (Part One, Part Two), but I won't be able to finish the remaining segments until the gods grant me a better computer.

So, what do I consider to be a zombie? Well, my definition covers three types of zombie.


A living being enslaved – or a dead body reanimated – by a supernatural force (e.g. voodoo), scientific or psychological procedure (brain implants or hypnosis), or symbiont (parasite) for the primary purpose of (a.) serving as a slave to a more powerfully conscious master or (b.) acting as host vehicle for another controlling being

NOTABLE EXAMPLES:  White Zombie (1932); Creature with the Atom Brain (1955); The Plague of the Zombies (1966); Night of the Creeps (1986); Slither (2006).


An ambulatory dead body reanimated in a corporeal state by scientific or supernatural means that interacts with the world through mechanical or instinctual behavior motivated by a powerful desire or instinct (often violent) that overrides rational thinking. All traces of rational thinking may be absent, but this is not required.

NOTABLE EXAMPLES:  George Romero's Dead series (1968-2009); The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974); Return of the Living Dead (1985); Dance of the Dead (2008); Deadgirl (2008).


A conventionally living organism infected by a biological agent or chemical, subjected to psychological manipulation, or altered by some other condition that produces a consciousness-limiting state that mimics the traits of ZOMBIE SLAVES or INSTINCT-DRIVEN UNDEAD. Infected zombies are clearly mortal and serve no masters.

NOTABLE EXAMPLES:  Rabid (1977); 28 Days Later (2002); I Am Legend (2007); Zombieland (2009).


I believe this definition remains true to the historical consistencies in zombie media history and distinguishes zombies from other more specific creatures (i.e. vampires) and phenomena (i.e. demon / spirit possession).


  1. I think the zombies in the original Romero films were actually caused by radiation from fallen satellites, vaguely remember hearing that. Not sure if its mentioned in any other of his Dead series though. Did they mention in Zombieland how the Zeds came about? Sounds like a good reason to watch it tonight. Nice post

  2. There is talk about a satellite in the original Night of the Living Dead, but it's only ever presented as a theory. There has never been an explanation in Romero's films to explain what causes the zombies to rise.