What the hell is a zombie anyway?!
Perhaps you’ve shown up on this site because you’ve heard people discussing a zombie apocalypse and you’ve had to pull up google to figure out what exactly a zombie is anyway.
Zombies are not a new concept. They’ve enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years and have become a pop culture staple. Originally though, zombies come from Haitian folklore. In that context, a zombie was a re-animated corpse that was brought back with dark magic via a sorcerer. (It should be noted that the formal voodoo religion denounces the practice.) A zombie in this case doesn’t quite shuffle about eating people but rather acts as a slave to the sorcerer/sorceress and has absolutely no will of its own.
More recently however, a zombie is a very different creature. Zombies are also re-animated corpses but are not called forth by any particular power. Essentially someone who should be dead rises and walks and attacks humans specifically for the sake of eating their flesh. In some folklore they attack specifically for brains but in most cases any human flesh is up for grabs – pun intended.
George Romero is arguably the most famous zombie pioneer in modern times. Although his first film, Night of the Living Dead, never mentioned the word zombie at any point nor was it his intention to portray the creatures as such – he referred to them as ghouls instead – fans everywhere did and he became the godfather of the zombie genre.
Of course, zombies had been featured in literature and movies prior to Romero’s stunning 1968 breakthrough film, otherwise the word wouldn’t have existed to use in this context. Still, he reigns as the zombie champion.
Okay, but what causes these modern-reference zombies?
Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. It’s pretty rare to ever have anyone definitely lay out the initial cause or even to show us “patient zero” in the storyline.
Sometimes we get a hypothesis. In Night of the Living Dead for example, there are news reports on the radio and the TV stating that high levels of radiation from outer space may be the cause. We never get any confirmation though.
Often we don’t even get a hypothesis at all though. Frankly, people who are scrambling to survive without being eaten aren’t going to be asking too many questions about the origins of the insanity around them. Maybe when things calm down they’d ask as they sit around a small fire to stay warm, but we don’t find out for sure.
Radiation? Demonic involvement? Weird stuff being sprayed on our vegetables? A mutated gene by some illness gone rogue? Who knows? There’s actually a super fun YouTube channel called The Vegan Zombie where they go based on the idea that meat was the cause (perhaps all those hormones and antibiotics?), hence the reason they survived.
At the end of the day, the bigger question isn’t how it started, although that could eventually come in handy for stopping the zombie apocalypse outright someday. The important thing to ask is how do you take down a zombie?
Okay fine. So how DO you stop a zombie?
Aim for the head. That’s it. Always aim for the head.