Zombies are everywhere in pop culture right now — but not all "zombies" are actually zombies. A traditional zombie is a corpse that rises from the grave and mindlessly hunts the living (to eat our braaaaaains). But that can get old after a while. So here are nine popular "zombies" that are actually something else entirely.
Top image: 28 Days Later.
The Vectors from Helix share a lot of characteristics with zombies, but they aren't quite the same. Like most zombie viruses, NARVIK-B has a 100% infection rate. However, the people who get infected don't die. The virus takes over the person, leaving them with nothing but their primal instincts and the desire to spread the virus via goopy kisses. Unlike traditional zombies, they hunt as a group. In the end, it doesn't matter whether Vectors are zombies or not. These black goo monsters are just as scary.
In the Farseer Trilogy, Robin Hobb has created a monster similar to zombies, but even more frightening. The Forged were average people until they were taken by the Red Ship Raiders. Through a process never fully explained in the books, all humanity and emotion were taken from them. The Forged ones can walk and talk, but nothing of who they were remain. They only care about their own survival, and they will attack anyone they see on sight. A Forged person will ignore all personal pain while mindlessly pursuing their goal, whether it is food, clothing, or the death of another person. They roam the countryside striking fear into the hearts of everyone. Surviving friends and family prefer to think of their loved ones as dead, and would rather die themselves than be Forged.
Among the scariest monsters you encounter when playing the Mass Effect video game series are the Husks. Like zombies, Husks bring with them the dread of fighting your own dead comrades. The Husks are the remains of deceased soldiers that have been impaled on spikes called "Dragon's Teeth," which turn them into deadly weapons. They attack anyone who gets near them, emitting a blast of electricity. Later, you fight advanced forms of Husks that explode, or attack with greater power. Created by alien technology and controlled by the powerful Reapers, Husks are more than just the walking dead.
The Flood is an ancient Martian virus that lives in water. In the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars," the Flood infects a group of human scientists and astronauts on Mars. Like many zombie and zombie-like viruses, its main purpose is to spread. Once it realizes that Earth is a planet full of water, the Flood does everything in its power to get there. Victims of the Flood lose their personalities as their bodies are taken over, turning into monsters. Water pours out of their cracked and blackened mouths and their eyes turn a creepy shade of blue.
The Infected of The Last of Us are people who were attacked by the Cordyceps fungus and turned into mindless killing machines. The fungus grows inside the brain, killing the host and erasing all humanity. The Infecteds seek to spread the fungus via spores, and will do whatever it takes to infect any remaining humans. They go through several phases as the fungus grows, including Runner, Stalker, Clickers, and Bloaters. As they progress through the stages they look less and less like walking corpses and more like mushrooms and other fungi.
Like zombies, those infected with the Rage Virus cannot be reasoned with or controlled. Unlike zombies, they aren't actually dead. The virus spreads through blood and saliva, making an infected person's bite just as deadly as a zombie's. Once infected, a person begins bleeding from the eyes and mouth and will attack anyone within sight. The infected suffer from an extreme form of rage, feeling no other emotion or drive. They rampage across England, killing or infecting everyone they encounter. A shotgun blast to the head will stop them — but so will most other injuries severe enough to kill a normal human. They can also starve to death.
The eerie blue-eyed Wights of G.R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones can only be stopped by fire. The Wights, once corpses of humans and animals, are reanimated by the magic of the mysterious White Walkers. Once turned into Wights, the body stops decaying and will move despite any injuries, limb removal, or even decapitation. While not as intelligent as they were in life, Wights can carry out the commands of the White Walkers and will follow them into battle. The show and the book still have so many questions to answer about these terrifying walking corpses — but we can be sure they aren't quite the same as zombies.
They might not be canon anymore, but the Rakghouls are still some of Star Wars' creepiest monsters. Best known from the popular video games Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Rakghouls are fierce enemies based on the planet Taris. Once sentient beings, Rakghouls were created by infection or by proximity to the Muur Talisman. Infected people mutate and bleed, losing all sense of self. They no longer resemble their human (or alien) selves, instead they appear animalistic.
When faced with the possibility of a Reaver attack, Zoe says: ""If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And, if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order." Yes, they are that terrifying. Like many zombies, Reavers were the result of a science experiment gone very wrong. But Reavers are much like those infected by the Rage Virus in 28 Days Later — they feel only primal aggression. They are insane, but retain enough intelligence and knowledge to fly starships and attack space travelers. They collect the skins of their victims, and will decorate their ships with dead bodies.