Until George Romero’s 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead, zombies were simply thought of as Voodoo-reanimated corpses. A good example is the character (if it can be called one) of Carrefour in Val Lewton’s lyrical I Walked with a Zombie (1943). Then, too, there was Victor Halperin’s early White Zombie (1932) starring Bela Lugosi. Also zombies (or was it vampires?) played a role in Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend.
But it was Romero who really got the ball rolling and transferred the concept from an African or Haitian context to the general population. And the idea took hold, especially among the young who, perhaps, saw zombies as a metaphor for the breakdown of civilization and, perhaps, the mindlessness of an older generation that won’t let the young get on with their lives.
In any case, now that the Twilight novels of Stephenie Meyer have blunted the whole concept of vampires for young males, it is perhaps natural that they moved on to the zombies as the new thing in horror.
It was only a matter of time before the concept of a zombie apocalypse was born. What happens when the zombies threaten to attack en masse? Even the august Centers for Disease Control (CDC) got into the act by issuing a tongue-in-cheek website entitled Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. Actually, it was a shrewd move because, if you are prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you are prepared for any eventuality.
Looking around me at America today, I see little chance of a zombie apocalypse. I think most Americans—even dead ones—are allergic to brains, whether devouring or even using them for anything more sophisticated than supporting a hat.
Photo credit: I hijacked the above photo from a website entitled You the Designer, which has thirty-seven zombie photos for your amusement and delectation.