Scream Horror Magazine

Will Zombies in Media Ever Die?

Posted on: May 14th, 2024

It might be hard to believe, but there was a time before zombies were a popular horror trope. Despite appearing in literature as far back as 1687, the walking dead didn’t become popular with the mass media until 1968. It was here that Romero’s Night of the Living Dead pushed zombies into the mainstream, where they experienced a later explosion of visibility in the 1990s.

Today, zombies are some of the most reliable hurdles in horror media. From novels, comic books, TV, movies, and video games, the shambling brain-eaters exist in the top tier of visibility alongside their cousins of ghosts and demons. So what makes them so popular, and will they ever find themselves buried once and for all?

A Foundation within Media
Many key aspects make zombies special, but the fundamental basis is how they can be used as a horrific and appealing blank slate across a huge range of media, not just movies and TV shows. We’re Alive and End of All Hope are great as audio dramas, for example, and books like World War Z have set trends that cross media borders. The same is also true in interactive entertainment, either as big-budget titles or as popular smaller entries in a larger entertainment space.

A prime example of smaller forms of entertainment comes from the slots and games available in online casinos. These types of releases concentrate a huge number of genres in one place, of which horror is a constant source of inspiration. Titles like Undead Rich and Granny vs Zombies lean on the popularity of the living dead to create instantly recognisable games that integrate perfectly with the diversity of options casinos provide. Whether looking at books, casino games, video games, or any other media, zombies have become an indispensable part of the bigger picture.

Guilt and Flexibility
Before exploring this concept of flexibility in more detail, we also need to account for the idea of guilt-free violence. Zombies are almost always displayed as beyond saving, with rotten limbs and exposed flesh preventing any return to human life. They’re essentially little more than dummies, which removes any moral implications of fighting them. Even the biggest pacifists and peace-lovers among us can understand and work within these boundaries, with violence against zombies being as justified as that against the Schutzstaffel.

Flexibility can then be built on this idea thanks to the exact capabilities and threat of zombies being up to the writer. A serious horror story can make them nearly unstoppable, where nothing short of a headshot can put them away for good. They might also be somewhat less serious as extremely slow-shambling idiots, giving space to more comedic stories like Shaun of the Dead. In this way, zombies act as a framework, providing infinite options for writers to probe.

As long as we fear monstrous forms of humanity and the threat of plague, zombies as a horror mainstay aren’t going anywhere. They’re transformed by culture and era, but the fundamental concept is simply too useful to ever return to the grave. The only question is, which avenues of the zombie concept are we yet to explore?

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