Where Did The Original Zombie Go?

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Reflections, Scary Stuff, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve been done one way for too long. Ugh!

In 1968, George A. Romero introuduced the concept of a zombie apocalypse created through a pandemic illness in his famous movie Night of the Living Dead. Although the term “zombie” was never used in the movie itself but was applied by fans who saw similarities between the flesh-eating undead of the film and the zombies of mythology, the idea stuck, and has grown over the years until every zombie novel, movie, and television series out ther either involves a zombie-creating virus or the cause of the zombie pandemic is not explained.

Although I have been horrified and fascinated by this type of zombie like any other type of horror fan, I also feel it’s being overdone in this day and age. It’s like vampires–the market’s too saturated with the same old drivel under different names and different faces. It’s enough to make you get out your stake and you automatic weapon.

It also makes me wonder, does anyone care about the original zombie? And by that, I don’t mean a zombie whose body is so rotted that there’s barely any rotted skin left on the corpse. I mean the zombie that wasn’t created via science gone wrong, but by magic gone right. Remember that zombie? The result of a voodoo curse? Yeah, that was actually a thing, based on actual Vodun mythology, and there were several famous zombie novels and a few films based on that kind of zombie well before Romero came along with Night of the Living Dead. One of the first novels about the supernatural zombie was The Magic Island by William Seabrook in 1929, which is believed to be the first timethe word “zombie” entered our lexicon. Then in 1932, Bela Lugosi starred in the Victor Halperin horror film White Zombie, which permanently cemented the word “zombie” in the English language.

Poster for “I Walked With A Zombie” in 1943

Other films that have included the supernatural type of zombie is 1943’s I Walked With A Zombie and 1988’s The Serpent and the Rainbow, but not much else. The most recent entry into supernatural zombie lore is Drums, a four-issue comic book series that ran in 2011. Unfortunately, almost all of these examples are very old and might not appeal to the SFX and CGI-addicted audiences today. And the series Drums has had mized reviews, with the first issue getting strong reviews but some thinking that by the end of the series, it seems to be “laid out like a bad SyFy movie”. That’s quite the insult right there.

So can there be an original take on the supernatural zombie that doesn’t suck? I should hope so. At the very least I have an idea for such a story that I’ve been saving for a very long time, and I may write it one of these days. However, that might not be for a couple of years, so that leaves plenty of time for other storytellers out there to steal my idea come up with something on their own that doesn’t suck or seem like the same old story retold in a new way.

What would such a movie or novel look like? I’m not sure, but I do know that sort of story carries with it different intricacies and challenges. For example, how does one become a zombie, and can it be transferred to the living? If so, how is it transferred? Can there be a Frankenstein’s monster-twist in the story? How do you defeat a corpse infused with supernatural power, if guns or machetes aren’t enough? Do these zombies need a food source, or is magic enough? And can creating a zombie through magic cause other strange things to occur, whether intended or not? And if other strange things occur, what will they be?

A traditional zombie in a cornfield. Freaky in profile, right?

You see how many questions a storyteller has to wrestle with in creating this sort of story? It’s very different from a virus-type zombie story. And I hope somebody realizes it someday and sees the possibilities and potential in such a story. Whether that’ll be my zombie story or someone else’s zombie story, I hope somebody does. I’d pay good money for that sort of story given a modern take, especially if it’s well done.

Would you like to see a zombie story using supernatural zombies? What kind of story do you think it’d be?


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