Great Zombies Of Science Fiction

Illustration for article titled Great Zombies Of Science Fiction

When you think zombies, you think weird magic. But really, a lot of the greatest zombies in movies, TV and books have resulted from pure science. Okay, maybe not "hard" science, but at least some kind of scientific process involving lab coats. We list the greatest zombies of science, below the fold.

Commenter OMG-Ponies proclaimed the other day that the only true zombies come from "voodoo or Jesus," not science. But as champions of a rational, scientific view, we disagree, of course. And here's the list to prove it:


Reanimator. A mad scientist, Herbert, invents a "re-agent" serum that brings the dead back to life in this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. It starts with cats and devolves into zombie heads and rampaging corpses. Here's a gross and possibly disturbing zombie head scene:

World War Z by Max Brooks. A plague causes a zombie outbreak, which starts in China and spreads around the world. At first people think it's a type of rabies, but they soon realize it's an unstoppable pandemic that resurrects the newly dead.

Fido. This 2007 movie never really explains how the zombie plague happened, but it's definitely science fiction. The last survivors of humanity live in fenced-in bubbles of normality and turn zombies into their slaves using electrical collars. The collars neutralize the zombies' aggression and turn them docile and obedient. It's this weird paternalistic 1950s pastiche where your newly dead loved-ones become your mindless servants. There may be some social commentary buried in there.

28 Days Later and I Am Legend. Two movies with slightly different takes on the same premise: well-meaning scientists create a plague that turns people into monsters. They're not technically undead, but they growl, eat human flesh and rampage just like zombies. In 28 Days Later, their bite turns you into one of them, which is much more zombie-like. In both cases, it starts in the laboratory and ends with pale mutants biting you.


Night of the Living Dead. This one's a bit iffy. At one point, a scientist suggests that radiation from a returning Venus probe may be responsible for the zombie outbreaks. But director George Romero later disavowed this explanation.

Planet Terror. The better half of Grindhouse (sorry, Quentin) features a toxic gas called DC-2, aka Project Terror. A bioweapon deal gone wrong releases some of the fumes onto a sleepy town in Texas, and soon everybody is turning into horrendous zombies. A few people are immune, and you can delay the effects of the process by exposing yourself to the gas again.


Zombie Prom. A lovestruck teenager throws himself into a nuclear cooling tower, only to return as the Atomic Zombie. Reunited with his sweetheart, he wants to attend the high school prom, but principal Delilah Strict (RuPaul!) harbors anti-zombie prejudices. This musical short film is yet another 1950s pastiche, possibly harboring more social commentary. Here's the trailer:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The monster is a collection of dead body parts, and Victor Frankenstein zaps him to unlife using a modern science, including electricity and chemistry, mixed with old-school alchemy. Okay, so the monster doesn't go around turning others into zombies, and he's conscious and intelligent in the book. But he acts quite zombie-like in most of the movies, except Kenneth Branagh's. Call him a zombie outlier.


Resident Evil. In the movies, at least, the evil Umbrella Corp. creates viruses to use as biological weapons. The deadly T-virus is later turned into a cosmetic cream to restore your dead skin cells, which has the unfortunate side effect of turning tons of people into contagious zombies. And cosmetics company Olay recently started marketing a rejuvenating product that looks just like it.

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Ed Grabianowski

Return of the Living Dead 3 is one of the finest zombie movies ever. []

Yes, there, I said it. I love that movie. And when I say it's a Good Movie, I say it in the way some people say American Beauty is a Good Movie.

Hm, Trioxin. So all it takes to make zombies is three oxygen molecules?