Zombies. The stolid proletariat of the horror world. Not so much a threat as a groaning, shuffling depository for your spare bullets. Zombies get kind of a bum deal these days, ranking right up there with Nazis and spiders as “Things That Nobody Cares About When You Kill Them.” It’s not easy being grey. Not for them the sexiness of the vampire, or the power of the werewolf, nor even the dubious charm of the leprechaun. A zombie is just a face in the baying, brain-hungry crowd, destined never to shine as the star of the show.
Well, no longer. Today we acknowledge some of the greatest names in zombie history, and honor those outstanding in the field of groaning.
Most Ambitious Zombie Attack
‘Deep-Sea Zombie’ from Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
Of the various virtues of the zombie, courage is perhaps the least well-remembered. Sure, it may be because they have the self-preservation instincts of a free-basing lemming, but a zombie never runs from a fight– even when they’re up against nature’s most glorious nightmare, the shark. That’s why our plucky hero Deep Sea Zombie gets this prestigious award for displaying a solid (if disgustingly rotted) set of cojones in one of the most ambitious zombie attacks to date. God speed, you shining undead bastard.
Most Creative Zombie Attack
‘Uncle Regis’ from Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Zombies aren’t known for their strategy. The zombie equivalent of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War could be written on a Post-It Note, and would probably read something like “Advance on humans. Eat humans.” Or more likely “Blluuuuurrgh.” Which is why zombie veteran Uncle Regis stands out in his original approach to combat– falling over a stair banister.
Admittedly, falling over a stair banister might not sound like a genius strategy, but think about it– in one fell swoop Uncle Regis overcomes the natural zombie disadvantages of slowness and predictability by utilizing the forces of gravity and inertia. Uncle Regis is like the Angry Birds of zombie warfare, and for this we salute him.
‘Trash’ from Return of the Living Dead (1988)
There are very few pin-ups in the zombie world, and this is only a good thing. Dead people aren’t supposed to be attractive. However, when punky nudist “Trash” gets covered in zombie-making toxic rain, she vies to die as she lived– gloriously buff– and in doing so causes a bout of stiffness that has nothing to do with rigor-mortis.
In this tongue-in-cheek schlock horror, the super-firm body of actress Linnea Quigley brings a much needed dose of vamp to the world of the zombie. Did I say “Much needed?” I meant “Entirely inappropriate.” (kinda NSFWish.)
Most Spectacular Zombie Death
‘Vacuum Zombie’ from Dead Meat (2004)
If there’s one thing a zombie knows how to do well it’s die…again. From falling pianos to the spinning blades of a helicopter, zombies have been dispatched of in every way imaginable, making this particular category the most competitive in the Zombie Awards. And so we turn to a wonderfully practical and inevitably messy method of disposal in the little-known Irish film Dead Meat– in which our gung-ho contender gets his brains sucked out through his eye-socket by a vacuum cleaner. Bravo, good sir. Bravo.
Most Original Zombie
‘Les’ from Brain Dead (1992)
There are as many variants of zombie as there are of people. Indeed they are a rich and diverse ethnic group. However, unlike regular, boring humans, zombies can continue to function long after they’ve sustained drastic anatomy alterations– meaning that fun and larks can be had by twisting zombies into grotesque parodies of humanity. The winner in this always-good-for-a-laugh category goes to Les from Peter Jackson’s classic Brain Dead (Also known as Dead Alive) who makes the grade as the first and last zombie to experiment with rectal/spinal fusion to create what is commonly known as the Abominosaurus. A round of applause please, ladies and gentlemen, for the zombie who gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “having his head up his ass.”
Zombie Personality of the Year
‘Bub’ from Day of the Dead (1985)
It’s not often that a zombie gets to flex his acting muscles past the emotional range of hunger, sadness or hungry-sadness, but Day of the Dead sees behavioral science-experiment Bub slowly unearthing the hidden vestiges of his former humanity. Whether it’s rediscovering the joys of music, friendship or shooting a man in the back, Bub manages to convey a wealth of emotion previously unheard of in the zombie canon– which is to say that he conveys some emotion. For this, we award him Personality of the Year, because he very nearly has a personality.
Zombie (Un)Life-Time Achievement Award
‘Karen’ from Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George A. Romero is justly credited with the creation of the modern idea of the zombie, and without the relentless, flesh-hungry walking corpses debuted by Night of the Living Dead there would have been a lot of awkward silences throughout video-gaming history. However, what Romero isn’t often credited with is the popularization of the Creepy Little Girl– another horror staple that taps directly into our deep-rooted and entirely justified fear of children.
Long before The Exorcist or The Ring, parent-eating zombie Karen was setting the standards for creeping you the hell out, and her dead-eyed expression is still an iconic rallying-banner for terrifying children everywhere.
Oh, well, Steve’s dead now. He had a good run. Why not commemorate his memory by sharing in some Harsh life Lessons learned from Classic Video Games? And check out more zombies with the rest of our Halloween articles.