Now-a-days people tend to think that you can take a big red rubber stamp that says “Undead”, smack something with it, and voila- you’ve created a zombie. However, having been a staunch Romero follower since as long as I can remember, there are some rules and guidelines which must be followed in order to obtain zombie status.
Let’s go ahead and get the biggest and most glaring problem out of the way. It hurts for some people but you all know it’s true: Zombies do not, cannot, and will not run. Part of the zombie ethos is that a zombie is afflicted by the post-death syndrome of “Rigor-mortis” which Wikipedia defines as such:
Rigor mortis is one of the recognizable signs of death (Latin mors, mortis) that is caused by a chemical change in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to become stiff (Latin rigor) and difficult to move or manipulate.
Now, obviously if affected by this, it would be incredibly difficult for a zombie to move at anything faster than a crawl. Ergo, if it runs, it is not a zombie. Ok, let’s let that one simmer. Many people will abandon this article at that point and refuse to acknowledge that a being greater than them dreamed up the perfect monster (George Romero).
Another rule of zombies, they are extremely moronic but NOT unintelligent. In George Romero’s Day of the Dead, scientists were studying a placid zombie named Bubs. He – over time – gained the capacity to understand very simple things. Later in the progression of Romero films, the zombies began to learn that they would not drown, or they can use tools and/or weapons. That being said they never graduated to complex physics or theoretical mathematics but they can do simple things.
Zombies are driven by a hunger for brains. They can smell human flesh and that drives them to a location. Their senses work, and they can hear a human as well as we can, so any sound out of the ordinary would give a person’s position away.
Zombies do not have brute strength because they don’t need it. One of the key things about the zombies is not their ability as a singular zombie, but as a functioning horde. The zombie threat comes from the fact that there is a huge possibility for extreme widespread outbreak. The numbers alone are enough to cause a generous amount of anxiety in any believer. If you attack a tank with one person the tank would win, but if you storm a tank with 1000 people it wouldn’t be long until those people flipped that tank on it’s head.
While I’m trying to clarify what does and does not pass for a zombie, I’m in no way discrediting movies that have “zombie-like” creatures. Some of those movies rank very highly on my favorites list. 28 days later, 28 weeks later, and the Dawn of the Dead remake are some just to name a few.
My goal with this post is simply to clear the air. So next time, when one of your friends comments about a zombie on television you’ll have the knowledge and know-how to check and see if what he/she has seen really is a zombie indeed.