Zombies are fictional undead creatures regularly encountered in horror and fantasy themed works. They are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh, and particularly for human brains in some depictions. Although they share their name and some superficial similarities with the zombie from Haitian Vodo, their links to such folklore are unclear and many consider George A. Romero's seminal film The Night of the Living Dead to be the progenitor of these creatures. Flesh-eating zombies have a complex literary heritage, with antecedents ranging from Richard Matheson and H. P. Lovecraft to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, all drawing on European folklore of the flesh-hungry undead. The zombie apocalypse, the civilized world brought low by a global zombie infestation, has become a staple of modern popular art. By 2011 the influence of zombies in popular consciousness had reached far enough that the United States government's Center for Disease Control used the idea as a theme to promote disaster preparedness.
Zombies in Cinema History
The White Zombie (1932)
White Zombie is a 1932 American independent Pre-Code horror film directed and produced by brothers Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin, respectively. The screenplay, by Garnett Weston, tells the story of a young woman's transformation into a zombie at the hands of an evil voodoo master. Béla Lugosi stars as the antagonist, Murder Legendre, with Madge Bellamy appearing as his victim. Other cast members included Robert W. Frazer, John Harron and Joseph Cawthorn. Large portions of the White Zombie were shot on the Universal Studios lot, borrowing many props and scenery from other horror films of the era. White Zombie opened in New York to negative reception, with reviewers criticizing the film's over-the-top story and weak acting performances. While the film made a substantial financial profit as an independent feature, it proved to be less popular than other horror films of the time. White Zombie is considered the first feature length zombie film. A sequel to the film, titled Revolt of the Zombies, opened in 1936. Modern reception to White Zombie has been more positive than its initial release. Some critics have praised the atmosphere of the film, comparing it to the 1940s horror film productions of Val Lewton, while others still have an unfavorable opinion on the quality of the acting.On arrival in Haiti, Madeleine Short reunites with her fiancé Neil Parker, with imminent plans to be married. On the way to their lodging, the couple's coach passes Murder Legendre, an evil voodoo master, who observes them with interest. Neil and Madeleine arrive at the home of the wealthy plantation owner, Charles Beaumont. Charles' love of Madeleine prompts him to meet Murder secretly in Murder's sugar cane mill, operated entirely by zombies. Charles wants to convince Madeleine to marry him and solicits Murder's supernatural assistance. Murder states that the only way to help Charles is to transform Madeleine into a zombie with a potion. Beaumont agrees, takes the potion, and surreptitiously gives it to Madeleine. Shortly after Madeleine and Neil's wedding ceremony, the potion takes effect on Madeleine, who soon dies and is buried. Murder and Charles enter Madeleine's tomb at night and bring her back to life as a zombie. In a drunken state, a depressed Neil sees ghostly apparitions of Madeleine and goes to her tomb. On finding it empty, Neil seeks out the assistance of the local missionary, Dr. Bruner, who recounts how Murder turned many of his rivals into zombies, who now act as Murder's closest guardians. The two men journey to Murder's cliffside castle to rescue Madeleine. At the castle, Charles has begun to regret Madeleine's transformation and begs Murder to return her to life, but Murder refuses. Charles discovers he has been tainted by Murder's voodoo and is also transforming into a zombie. As Neil enters the fortress, Murder senses his presence and silently orders Madeleine to kill Neil. She approaches Neil with a knife, but Bruner grabs her hand from behind a curtain, making her drop the knife and walk away. Neil follows Madeleine to an escarpment, where Murder commands his zombie guardians to kill Neil. Bruner approaches Murder and knocks him out, breaking Murder's mental control over his zombies. Undirected, the zombies topple off the cliff. Murder awakens and eludes Neil and Bruner, but Charles pushes Murder off the cliff. Charles loses his balance and also falls to his death. Murder's death releases Madeleine from her zombie trance, and she awakens to embrace Neil.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Birth of the Modern ZombieJust when the idea of rotting re animations were about to go the way of an Ed Wood film, along came a man who would revolutionize the horror genre and breath new life (or un-death) into the zombie. A small budget black and white film titled Night of the Living Dead , written and directed by George A. Romero, hit theaters and drive-ins in 1968. The effects of Romero's ground-breaking treatment of the theme are still being felt today.
From the moment that we heard "They're coming to get you Barbara", the zombie became fair game again, and the gore effect became a staple of the genre.
Golden Age of Zombies (1972-1992)
The seventies were a decade that consisted of a lot of growing pains for the Zombie genre. Filmmakers were not quite sure how to properly utilize this new tool that had been thrown into the horror toolbox. There were a couple of decent attempts such as Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972) and Garden of the Dead (1972). Though not great, they were not that bad either. The better films of the decade seemed to come from the minds of European film makers. Eurohorror produced such gems as Tombs of the Blind Dead (Tombs of the Blind Dead 1971) and Horror Rises From the Tomb (Horror Rises from the Tomb 1973).
Platinum Age (21st Century!)Debatably the best age in Zombie film history! There have been some good films released so far in this decade, notably Land of the Dead (2005), Dawn of the Dead (2004), and Shaun of the Dead (2004). There also been Zombie Land, The Walking Dead but there is also the pitiful Resident Evil.