Zombies: the real story of the dead

Not invented by movies
Posted Thursday, November 4, 2010 - 5:36pm

We’ve all seen at least one movie that features a zombie, which has gone onto take the meaning of reanimated dead. The history of zombies wasn’t invented by moves like “Night of the Living Dead,” although these movies did make them popular. These rotting, killing machines have a long and religious meaning in some cultures. In others, zombies have become a staple of the horror movies and video games.

Where did our fascination for the living dead begin? Like a good myth, it has its roots in another taboo subject: voodoo. The first myth of zombies came to be in South Africa when a sorcerer would take a person’s soul. These people would have no will of their own and become the mindless slaves to these sorcerers. The sorcerers would later store the person’s soul in glass vials and would sell them to others for good luck. The various experts believes these effects of this voodoo is linked to drugs, made with poisonous parts of animals, like puffer fish, and given to the victim. This would give the victim a feeling of death, and the often would find themselves waking in a grave in a psychoactive state.

The zombies we know today are actually wildly different from what they once were, the source of an evil magician. Our zombies were produced by an infection spread through blood, bite or another type of viral infection.

The first tale of a group of infected dead going after the living comes from something no one would expect. The show “The Smurfs” actually features the first case of zombies as we know them. During the episode “The Black Smurfs,” a regular Smurf is bit by a black fly. His skin turns black and he begins to bite other surfs, spreading the infection. In the end there is one lone survivor, Papa Smurf, who has barricaded himself in his house. Unlike some movies based on zombies Papa Smurf manages to not only survive, but find a cure for the infection.

Now we get into our modern day zombies with Romero’s first foray into the horror genre with “The Night of the Living Dead,” a black and white movie featuring shambling corpses that changed the way we saw zombies forever.

The zombies in that movie were slow, shambling corpses that don’t seem to pose much of a threat until they swarm. They were stupid, mindless eating machines with no feeling of pain and with one method to kill them: destruction of the brain. Romero’s movies also show the negative aspects of human nature. No matter how terrible our inevitable fate is, we always end up becoming our worst enemy.

Movies are not the only media to incorporate zombies; video games, board games, books and even collectable card games. No form of media is safe from the living dead. Video games in particular are benefiting greatly from the zombie craze with several games featuring a zombie outbreak through the eyes of the survivors. “Left 4 Dead,” a four-player-squad game pits players against an overwhelming horde of zombies. Like any good zombie movie, you have to cooperate or you will be overwhelmed and killed.

The zombie craze is in full force and we won’t be seeing an end to it anytime soon. It may be cliche but, America has been infected with the concept of zombies.

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