Movie Monsters in Literature: Zombies

With Halloween quickly approaching, we have monsters on our minds. Several creepy creatures have become prevalent in modern culture only after evolving from roots in classic literature or ancient indigenous belief. In this Oct. 27-31 series, Movie Monsters in Literature, we will feature our favorite beastly brutes by examining their origins and their influence in literature, film, and popular culture.


Cultural References:

Many cultures and religious groups have different beliefs as to what happens to the mind, body and soul after death. Wealthy Egyptians used mummification to preserve their bodies for the afterlife. In Norse mythology, the Vikings and noblemen who were buried with their treasures, who would come back to life, were known as draugar. According to Haitian Vodou (or voodoo), the soul has two parts. The gros bon ange (big good angel) is our life force. It is connected to our biological tasks, like breathing and blood flow. The second part of the soul, the ti bon ange (little good angel), is responsible for your personal qualities. It is the cause of your dreams and is the soul that leaves the body during rituals of possession. Haitian voodoo was the inspiration of the first zombie film White Zombie (1932). Since then, hundreds of zombie films, shows, and books have entertained us with the unnerving question of what happens to us after we pass.

Zombies in Literature:

World_War_Z_book_coverWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks

An amazing take on what happens during a zombie attack. Set after the zombie war, World War Z is a collection of stories and interviews compiled by an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commissions. The stories are colorful, and Brooks does an amazing job of bringing every character to life. From patient zero, the young boy infected in China, to Israel’s nationwide quarantine, the stories portray the different aspects to a worldwide catastrophe. You learn about a suburban mother in California who, as her kids recall, went “Buffy” and ripped the head off a zombie to protect them. Celebrities get together and board themselves up and do the only thing they know how to do: They watch the world collapse on the news as they film themselves, and broadcast it like they’re on a reality show. An astronaut explains how he and his crew were stuck orbiting Earth on the International Space Station, doing everything they could to keep satellites from entering Earth’s orbit. Starving and not knowing when they’d be able to return, they watched Earth battle against the zombies as fires burned across the world. These and countless other stories involved politicians, soldiers, and civilians from all different parts of the world. Brooks also previously wrote The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, which gives a brake down on the dos and don’ts of surviving a zombie attack.

Weird_Tales_March_1942Reanimator, by H.P. Lovecraft

It wasn’t until recently that zombies have become popularly introduced into literature. One of the earliest is H.P. Lovecraft’s short story Herbert West–Reanimator, written in 1921. A medical student and his girlfriend get involved in a crazy affair when a new student arrives and starts bringing dead bodies back to life, wreaking havoc. Although the story did not do well during its original release, it was widely popularized by the 1985 film Re-Animator and has even become a musical.


Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion

A love story loosely (and by loosely, I mean it’s pretty dead on) based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. A young man, “R”, shuffles through his post apocalyptic life as a zombie. Without an identity of who he once was or what his new purpose in life is, R begins to develop an odd relationship with a human girl, Julie. Warm Bodies was made into a movie staring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer.


 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a farce/ parody novel based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Following the plot of Austen’s original, Grahame-Smith does an amazing job fitting in the zombie mayhem. Fans of Jane Austen and/or zombies will enjoy this one. A movie version is currently in production, staring Doctor Who‘s 11th Doctor, Matt Smith.

A few other honorable mentions:

Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy) by Mira Grant

Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter

Films and TV featuring Zombies:

Paranorman, rated PG (2012)

A young boy, with the help of his friends, tries to save his town from an evil curse. It’s a great zombie movie for kids. Some younger kids may find the zombies and ghosts a little much.

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White Zombie, (1932)

Produced in 1932, White Zombie is the first feature length zombie film.  Madeleine travels to Haiti to be reunited with her fiancé Neil. The couple falls into bad company when the plantation owner where the couple is staying, turns to a Haitian voodoo master to try and win Madeline over.

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AMC’s The Walking Dead, rated TV-MA

Based on the best selling graphic novel, The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors trying to make their way during the ongoing zombie apocalypse. Viewers learn that zombies are the least of their worries, when the real threat is other survivors. Viewer discretion is advised, due to the amount of violence.

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For more Halloween fun or to learn about other books that were made into movies, be sure to peruse Learning Liftoff  and share your feedback below.

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