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Zombies – Horror or SciFi?

The first time I recall being terrified by zombies it was a horror flick that had something to do with Voodoo. Once upon a time, zombies fell clearly in the realm of supernatural horror. They were the dead, crawling up out of the grave in search of tasty brains. Now days they are more often the afflicted, dead or otherwise, a result of a virus or bio-weapons or science gone wrong.  Which is scarier? I think they are both scary in their own way.

Horror Zombies
The original horror zombies can usually be attributed to the supernatural or occult religions. In that Voodoo movie I mentioned, the zombies were just people who’d been drugged, then buried alive. Victims, really. Being buried alive is pretty scary.  But if you want a chilling look at zombies as the dead brought back to life by blood and magic check out Those Who Seek Forgiveness by Laurell K Hamilton, rereleased in her Strange Candy collection of short stories.  This was the story that introduced Anita Blake and Animators Inc of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels. This story takes a deep look at death, grief, and loss. 

SciFi Zombies
One of the most successful zombie franchises (games, movies, books) has been Resident Evil and the zombies created by the Umbrella Corporation’s mutated T-Virus. In this, as in many zombie stories, the scariness is twofold. There is the fear of being overwhelmed by large numbers of shambling witless dead and eaten alive and then there is the fear of becoming a zombie. In The Walking Dead, AMC’s recent TV hit, based on the comic series, the dead are again scary because of their numbers.  One on one, the characters will defeat the zombies, but stumbling into a large group—or attracting one—is deadly. If you ever find yourself in this type of zombie uprising, keep in mind the tips in my post on Ten Things I’ve Learned from the Walking Dead. These not so smart zombies are also the type most often found in zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead.

Scariest Zombies of All
My personal favorites are the zombies in the We’re Alive audio drama. These zombies are far from the shambling brain eaters. They are strong and fast with heightened senses. Some are smart enough to plan traps and organize others. The worst of all possible worlds and very scary.

So do you prefer supernatural or SciFi? What do you think are the scariest Zombies and why?

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18 thoughts on “Zombies – Horror or SciFi?

  1. Maybe I *don’t* want to get “We’re Alive.” That kind of zombie scares the bejezus out of me.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no preference for SF or supernatural zombies. The ONLY good zombie is a dead zombie.

    But I do enjoy a good zombie flick, no matter what the cause of zombification. I am partial to the funny ones, like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland.”

    @Bella–my 14 y.o. daughter is a huge fan of such games (“Chop ’til You Drop” and “Dead Zone”) but hasn’t tried the “Resident Evil” ones yet. Also having read “World War Z” and “The Zombie Survival Guide,” she is my go-to girl for what to do in case of a zombie apocalypse.

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    • LOL The young do have a lot of knowledge on Zombies!

      I think it takes a mix of different kinds of people to survive. Everyone has different skills to bring to the table.

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  2. I just found your site today thanks to We’re Alive (great interview with Claire, by the way – I can’t wait for Riley’s back story)! I love that this exists.

    Anywho, I like the Scientific Zombies best. They’re most terrifying because I could see botched experiments actually causing such a catastrophe. Also, there are real parasites that are known to affect smaller animals (and insects) in such a way. I recommend National Geographics’ “Zombie Alligators” doc for a real life story of complex animals being affected.

    By the way, your earlier story involving Voodoo wouldn’t be ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’, would it?

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    • Great to meet another WA fan. Claire was so awesome to do the interview. I can’t wait to see where the show goes.

      ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ – Yes! I’d forgotten the name. Now I’ll have to go watch it again.

      Thanks for the article suggestion and the movie name!

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  3. The most important point in my personal definition of a zombie is that it must be brainless… so if a zombie can organise themselves and go on missions, it feels very weird to me :/

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  4. I’m not a fan of zombies, at all really, but I don’t think they belong in SF. They should stay in the horror shelves. Although comedy crossovers, like Shaun of the Dead are amusing. I just don’t see them as worthy of science fiction and fantasy. Just my two cents.

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    • When you say zombies and fantasty, please whisper. We don’t want anyone getting that idea. Pride and Prejudice was wrong enough. 😉

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  5. I honestly like both kind of zombies. I don’t think a book containing zombies should immediately be classified as horror, especially with their growing popularity. I agree that the scariest kind of zombie is the one who can move and think! The Infected (I don’t know if they are technically zombies, but they are what I think of automatically) are the scariest to me. They’re fast, they just want to infect, but on the plus side they do eventually die.

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