To celebrate the US release of Zombieland, on Wednesday i began with A Brief History of the Hollywood Zombie Part One, and yesterday looked at the film that changed the genre, Night of the Living Dead. Today i conclude my piece with Part Two, beginning with the 1970’s.


Romero’s follow up to Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, was released in 1978. Arguably the best of Romero’s zombie films, the US is still in the midst of a zombie plague. Two swat team members team up with workers at a television station, one of them a helicopter pilot. They fly to a mall to get supplies, but end up being trapped there. Again, it’s a story of a group of people holed up together, trying to survive waves of zombie attack and the inevitable in-fighting. The zombies were created by a plague of unknown origin, not the radiation of night of the living dead. The group are holed up for several months. One is bitten, and eventually turns – he is shot by one of the others. The apocalypse seems to be getting worse – where they were updated on the countrywide situation via radio transmissions at the beginning, now there are none. They are eventually found by a biker gang, who attack, and all hell breaks loose. The idea that zombies have memory of their previous life is introduced in Dawn. The zombies are instinctively performing actions they used to in their life, and when one of the group is turned into a zombie, he leads hordes of the undead through a false wall he built when he was human.

1979’s Zombie 2, by Lucio Fulci, returns somewhat to the mysterious island idea. a yacht arrives in new york, carrying a man with a tropical disease. The daughter of the boat’s original owner, a reporter and a seafaring couple travel to the island to look for the girls father. On the island the dead come back to kill the living. The seafaring couple escape, and start back to New York. They find out over the radio that Zombies are rampaging through the city – the man with the tropical disease has started a plague in the US. Again, the idea of a communicable disease spread through biting is used.


The 1980’s began the proliferation of Zombie movies, and zombie movie franchises. 1981 saw the foundation of a new franchise, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, starring cult hero Bruce Campbell. This time, a group of people find a tape with incantations on. They play the tape, which causes an evil power to begin possessing them one by one. The only way to stop a possessed person is by dismemberment. Evil Dead was a very violent, bloody film. It doesn’t directly follow the zombie rules of Romero’s series, instead making up it’s own mythology. At the end of the film, the ‘zombies’ are stopped by Ash burning the Book of the Dead. The evil then comes for Ash to take him over. The third of Romero’s Dead films was released in 1985. The zombie apocalypse continues, as a group of people in an underground base experiment on the zombies to try to learn more about them. The scientist clash with the military protecting the compound, and again all hell breaks loose. The idea of the zombies retaining memory is also furthered here.

1985’s Return of the Living dead was a comedy/horror, in which a man and a group of punks defend a town from a horde of zombies. It presents the idea that Night of the Living Dead was a true story, and that the zombies were created by a government synthesized virus. A leak accidently occurs in a medical supply warehouse in a small town. Some employees, and a group of teenagers try to survive the outbreak. The idea of Zombies eating not just humans, but specifically the brains is popularised in this movie. Also in 1985, was Stuart Gordon’s Re-animator. A medical student returns from Austria after working in regenerative experiments with a well known reanimatorscientist who died under mysterious circumstances. He enrols at Miskatonic University where he begs to differ with his professor on issues of the time of death, and eventually enlists his roommate to help him continue experiments on re-animating the dead. Based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. Again, the film is characterised by extreme gore. Again, the idea of remembered behaviour is introduced, as one of the undead is talked round by his daughter and stops his attack. Evil Dead 2 in 1987 rehashed the story of Evil Dead one, then continued on from Ash’s possession. A bloody comedy/horror, Ash is possessed then returns to normal, and it is debatable whether you can really class The Evil Dead franchise as true Zombie movies from this point on.


In 1991, Bride of Re-animator was released, following on from Re-animator. Two doctors experiment with the re-animation serum of the first movie, on the dead soldiers of the Peruvian civil war. They re-animate body parts, and try to create a being from different body parts in the style of Frankenstein. The Re-animator is a throwback to earlier Zombie movies, as the ability to control the re-animated corpses is used. Evil Dead 3, named Army of Darkness and released in 1993, saw Ash in the middle ages battling the undead.

1993 also saw Peter Jackson’s Braindead released. A woman is bitten by a wild Rat-Monkey, and dies of the sickness. Subsequently coming back to life, she starts to attack and infect the rest of the town. The woman’s son tries to stop his undead mother, and the rest of the undead hordes He desperately tries to keep them hidden away from the world, and, more importantly, his girlfriend. Again, the communicable disease element is enforced.


In the last 10 years the floodgates have opened. The biggest evolution of Zombie law is easily 2002’s 28 days later. The zombies were still under the influence of a virus, and scientists were still trying to come up with a cure. 28days1There was again a small group of survivors fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse. But this time, the Zombies could RUN. Fast. The virus was given a name, the Rage virus. An experimental virus being tested on primates, it is released accidently by animal activists. The virus is transferred through he blood or saliva. 28 days later, and it’s 2007 sequel 28 weeks later, were arguably the first big Zombie evolution since Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The zombies violently attack anyone they find at great speed. In Weeks Later, one of the infected develops an immunity to the Rage virus.

Another new idea was the first ever Rom Zom Com, 2004 ‘s Shaun of the Dead. Paying a heavy debt to Romero, it made humour from all the zombie conventions of Romero’s series. A group of survivors, trying to seek refuge from hordes of zombies in a confined area, in this case, a pub. Dawn of the shaunofhtedead1Dead was remade in 2004, and actually wasn’t too bad, as remakes go. Romero himself re-entered the fray with Land of the Dead, introducing the idea of the Zombies being able to communicate with each other, and use weapons, continuing the evolution of Romero’s world.

2007’s Spanish Rec, remade in 2008 as Quarantine in the US, and 2008’s Dairy of the Dead, another Romero film, all used handheld shaky cam/documentary style footage akin to the Blair Witch Project and this year’s Cloverfield. As an experiment, it was hit or miss. The shaky cam style approach can help build fear and thrills, but Diary of the Dead was considered a flop. Following a group of students who decide to film the outbreak and subsequent Zombie attacks as a documentary, it was more of a re-invention of the franchise than a sequel. On the other hand, Rec is widely rec1revered, with it’s gore and genuinely scary story. A reporter is followed by her cameraman, as they go follow the night shift at a fire station. They are called to a situation at a residential block that turns out to be a zombie attack. They become trapped in an apartment building with the other residents as the nightmare begins. The remake follows the general story of Rec quite closely, but is considered a far inferior film.

The Resident Evil franchise, based on the videogames, managed 3 entries in the 2000’s, 2002’s Resident Evil, 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and 2007’s Resident Evil Extinction. The Resi franchise deals with a virus released by a large corporation by accident. Those exposed become flesh-eating creatures of all different types. The virus is constantly mutating, as teams of commandos fight to stop the spread. The Resi films are certainly different, and far more over the top in the action stakes than the previous incarnations of the Zombie film, but are very poorly scripted.

It’ll be interesting to see which, if any, of the zombie conventions Zombieland follows. Will the zombies shuffle, or run? Will they be able to use tools, weapons, or communicate with each other? Are they voodoo, atomic, or are they carrying a government designed virus? It looks from the trailer like they are following the comedy route. Maybe Zombieland will begin a Zombie mythology of it’s very own, with a whole new list of rules. You never know, it could be the next great evolutionary leap of the Zombie movie.

Zombieland is released in the US today, Friday 2nd October, and next Friday 9th October here in the UK. You can read our review here.

You can find A Brief History of the Hollywood Zombie Part One here, and a review of the revolutionary Night of the Living Dead here.