The Walking Dead is the new hit AMC television show, home of such Emmy Award winning programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Fans may refer to The Walking Dead as a drama or a thriller, zombie soap opera or perhaps scare sci-fi, but whatever the chosen genre name, the Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) produced TV show is gaining new zombie crazed fans.
Before the highly stylized reanimated corpses which make “The Walking Dead” so fun, zombies weren’t exactly the shambling, disgusting dead dudes we know and loathe. They weren’t the life of the party, but their zombie state was attributed to arcane sorcery or chemistry, courtesy of evil wizards or witch doctors called bokur. The mythology stems from West Africa, and those enslaved into a zombie by a witch doctor become mindless slaves, not flesh hungry ghouls. George Romero’s landmark indy horror classic “Night Of The Living Dead” is credited with giving modern zombies ghoulish behavior. It also employed a science fiction cause – a radiation effect, or by contracting a devastating rabies like virus.
Old school zombie movies deal more in creepy atmosphere, than blood splattering gore or decayed corpses needing a brain buffet fix.
White Zombie (1932)
Starring vampire actor Bela Lugosi (Dracula), White Zombie is looked upon as the first feature length zombie film. Lugosi had starred in the classic vampire movie the year prior. Here instead of a bloodthirsty count, he’s a maniacal Voodo master who controls a hoard of zombie servants. Upon its release, the movie got mixed critical reaction, but turned a nice profit. Today, hardcore horror fans admire the movie’s atmosphere, and can’t deny its landmark status which kicked off a zombie movie parade.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
This was famed producer Val Lewton’s second film, and was ranked fifth best zombie movie in film history by Stylus magazine. The film’s story is inspired by the classic novel Jane Eyre, and overflows with great atmosphere and a most creepy Voodoo vibe.
A.K.A. “Zombie 2”, this Italian horror movie neatly joins the two “zombie schools” of philosophy – by using a ‘curse’ as reason the dead are attacking the living. It seems the island of Matool is a cursed territory, where Zombie attacks are happening more and more. When released, the movie was highly controversial due to its explicit violence and gore. Perhaps most famously of all, the Conservative British Parliament denounced the flick for “extreme bloody content.”
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Based on real life experiences of Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis, and directed by horror master Wes Craven (Scream), this movie is a harrowing look at how zombies could be much more than mere scary fairy tale. Bill Pullman plays a fictionalized version of Davis, as he battles an evil bokur, or witch doctor, in Haiti. The movie is a wonderful expression of myth vs reality, and just how much the power of suggestion can influence the world around us, and even attack a fragile human mind.