Night of the Living Dread – Zombies

“Sometimes they come back…”

This is true of both trends and the living impaired. Zombies have been enjoying a renewed popularity at the movie theater. And now they’ve gone where no corpse has gone before – romance novels. No kidding, check out Amazon for titles like My Zombie Valentine, Zombie Moon, Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I totally enjoyed the movie Zombieland last year – yet still experienced a kind of creeping unease as I did so. Maybe it’s because I was introduced to zombies when I was very young and I’ve never quite recovered. There was a TV station that showed old black and white horror movies (double feature, no less) every Saturday afternoon. Classic or campy, I watched them all. (Those were the good old days when nobody worried about scarring little kids for life…)

At the tender age of seven, Night of the Living Dead really should have been called “Nightmares for the Rest of Your Life”. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space, arguably one of the worst movies of all time, had enough zombie action to scare me silly. When I was older, I saw Omega Man. What a tagline -- Pray for the last man alive. Because he's not alone. I was totally terrified of the light-sensitive flesh-eating psychopathic zombies.

Incidently, I Am Legend in 2007 also featured light-sensitive flesh-eating psychopathic zombies. They scared me too.

In 2002, 28 Days Later nearly made me swear off the living impaired forever. My teenagers teased me mercilessly because I had to sleep with the light on for the next three nights. (I’m still trying to work up the courage to watch the sequel, 28 Weeks Later.)

But I loved Zombieland. Like Shaun of the Dead, it made me laugh, a nice distraction (like whistling in the dark) from the lurching, rotting, reanimated corpses that still creep me out big time. I'm even looking forward to Zombieland II, in 3-D.

Would I have had to sleep with the lights on if 28 Days Later had been shot with comic lines and sight gags? I’ll never know…

“Are zombies real?”

Yes, no and maybe. Yes, some days a hangover or a headcold can make you feel like one. Yes, many people will testify that some of their coworkers are living impaired. No, nobody is crawling out of the cemetery in search of brains.

Have living human beings ever been turned into zombies? Maybe.

Zombies have their origin in the voodoo or vodoun religion of the Caribbean (esp. Haiti) and New Orleans, Louisiana. Practitioners have immense knowledge of plant- and animal-based pharmaceuticals. In the hands of houngons and mambas (good priests and priestesses), they are used to help and heal people. But a bokor (a sorcerer of black magic) may employ this knowledge for his own gain.

It’s been suggested (though never proven) that zombies might be created using a mixture that includes neurotoxins from puffer fish (those things that’ll kill you in a Japanese restaurant if not prepared properly) and chemicals from a certain type of toad. The story goes that the right proportions of these and other ingredients will induce a coma where life signs are not detectable. After stealing the “body”, the bokor wakes the person and administers a hallucinogenic plant. Now an obedient “zombie”, the disoriented and confused victim is said to provide cheap labor for the bokor.

Whether chemically induced or psychologically suggested, so great is the fear of zombification in Haiti that allegedly there’s been a law against it since 1835. Administering a substance that produces a prolonged period of lethargy without causing death so as to result in the burial of the victim is classed as murder – even if the victim survives. By the way, Haitians aren’t afraid of zombies per se – the fear is that they or someone they love will become one.

And in this country? A teenager’s t-shirt spotted yesterday says it all:

Dani Harper

YOUR TURN – Are you a zombie movie fan? Do you think zombies could exist?

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