Zombies: Still Undead, And Suddenly Everywhere Zombies, long a horror-movie staple, are taking bigger bites out of pop culture, infecting books, banking, even our vocabulary. Beth Accomando surveys a genre trope that refuses to die.
NPR logo

Zombies: Still Undead, And Suddenly Everywhere

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105510752/106132001" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Zombies: Still Undead, And Suddenly Everywhere

Zombies: Still Undead, And Suddenly Everywhere

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105510752/106132001" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


These days, just pick your media. You won't find a place to hide. You'll find zombies rising from the dead to greet, or maybe eat you. You can kill zombies in video games. You can read zombie poetry, watch Nazi zombies in the film "Dead Snow," and if Bill Murray's your thing, well, you can wait for the fall when he plays a zombie in a movie with the oh-so-creative title "Zombieland." Beth Accomando of member station KPBS reports on the invasion.

BETH ACCOMANDO: Pop quiz, hot shot. What would you do in a zombie outbreak? Don't panic. We have undead experts Kevin Workman and Kirsten Elms here to help. Question number one: How do you become a zombie?

Mr. KEVIN WORKMAN: If you're bitten, then in a certain amount of time, you will die and then you will come back from the dead.

ACCOMANDO: Correct. Second question: How do you kill a zombie?

(Soundbite of movie, "Shaun of the Dead")

Mr. JEREMY THOMPSON (Newscaster): (as himself) By removing the head or destroying the brain.

ACCOMANDO: Very good. Plus, you get style points if you dispose of them with a chainsaw.

(Soundbite of movie, "Evil Dead 2")

(Soundbite of chainsaw)

Mr. BRUCE CAMPBELL (Actor): (as Ash) Groovy.

ACCOMANDO: And what do zombies need to survive?

Unidentified Woman: Brains.

Unidentified Man #1: Brains only.

Unidentified Woman: Yes.

ACCOMANDO: Mmm, brains good, but so are livers, hearts and intestines.

Ms. KIRSTEN ELMS (Horror Screenwriter): Rule one for zombies: You have to want to kill people. You have to just want to rip someone's throat out - it doesn't matter if they're your mother or your kid, you just want to rip them to pieces.

ACCOMANDO: George A. Romero defined the modern zombie in his 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead." Now zombies are mounting a full-scale invasion, shuffling aimlessly into every corner of our pop culture. At Borders, zombie literature runs the gambit from "The Zombie Survival Guide" to "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" to "Zombie Haiku."

Unidentified Man #2: My rigor mortis is mainly why I'm slower, and the severed foot.

ACCOMANDO: Staring out from vacant eyes, these undead provide the perfect blank canvas for social commentary.

Mr. PHIL LUQUE (Programmer, San Diego Asian Film Festival Extreme): If you want to be able to tell somebody, hey, I don't like you and I don't like the way you're running the government, I don't like that you're corporation is doing this, if I can tell it through a zombie movie, they're not going to care. They'll be like, oh, it's just a zombie movie.

ACCOMANDO: Phil Luque points out that Romero uses them to comment on racism in "Night of the Living Dead" and then reanimated them in "Land of the Dead."

(Soundbite of movie, "Land of the Dead")

Unidentified Man #3: Trouble?

Mr. DENNIS HOPPER (Actor): (as Kaufman) In a world where the dead are returning to life, the word trouble loses much of its meaning.

ACCOMANDO: These zombies raged against Dennis Hopper's George Bush-like leader. But zombies took on new meaning in Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" in 2004.

Mr. EDGAR WRIGHT (Film and Television Director): Our zombies are the metaphor for apathy. It's kind of like the great plague is laziness. So it's almost like the zombies represent, like, sloth.

(Soundbite of movie, "Shaun of the Dead")

Mr. SIMON PEGG (Actor): (as Shaun) Look, okay, just get any blunt objects together, all right? If you get cornered, bash them in the head. That seems to work out. Keep together, stay sharp and follow me.

ACCOMANDO: Bashing zombies is a favorite past time of video games such as "Resident Evil," "Left 4 Dead," and "Dead Rising," says Trent Reid.

Mr. TRENT REID: Zombies aren't alive, so anything that you do to them doesn't really matter. You can kill them in the most ridiculous, graphic ways.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

ACCOMANDO: And parents don't complain about the carnage the way they did about killing hookers in "Grand Theft Auto." Now if those had been zombie hookers, it would have been a different story. And watch out for Nazi zombies rising from the grave in "Dead Snow" and "Call of Duty: World at War." But no matter what form these reanimated corpses take, just remember, aim for the head.

For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: And if a Norwegian Nazi zombie movie peaks your interest, we've got a review of it and some clips. Go to our Web site: npr.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.