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Zombie Research

Early Zombie Movies

  In 20th century American culture, the idea of zombies has traditionally been portrayed almost exclusively through the medium of film. The prototype for early zombie movies was White Zombie (1932), which took its subject matter directly from the zombie myths of Hatian folklore. White Zombie, one of the celibrated horror films of the "Universal era" (which also included important versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and The Mummy) starred Bela Lugosi as a rich Haitian businessman who had taken upon himself to win the hand of a lady by turning her husband into a zombie. He had hoped that, by doing this, he would be able to rid her of her connection to her husband and thus clear the way for she and his romantic union.

  Other zombie movies of the 30s and 40s followed suit insofar as they generally portrayed zombies as they existed in Haitian folklore: as beings whose brains had been zapped by some "master" who was then able to control their actions. Many of these pictures, such as The Voodoo Man (1944) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943) maintained that zombies were directly rooted, geographically and thematically, in Haitian myth. Other films, such as Revolt of the Zombies (1936) and Zombies on Broadway (1945) kept the theme but altered the geographic location. Also, while some of these films reinforced the idea that zombies were, in fact, the reanimated dead, some films portrayed zombies as being the products of a sort of malevolent hypnosis. In such films, the monsters were not "dead" at all, but merely humans who were reduced to a trance-like state and who were, again, controlled by a "master."

   During the "Hammer Films era" of the 1950s and 1960s, zombies began to a adopt a more sinister air. Films such as I Eat Your Skin (1961) and The Plague of the Zombies (1965) offered zombies that were forced to maintain their posthumous existence by actually consuming human flesh. This version of the zombie was generally still "controlled" by a "master," but was awakened from its deathly state by some sort of supernatural or otherwise extraordinary force (satanic incantation, etc.). Here we see the invention of the "zombie-as-cannibal" type that was to characterize the genre for years to come. Virtually any given zombie from one of these movies was little more than "an utter cretin, a vampire with a lobotomy." (Twitchell, 265).



Zombie History

by Zombie Todd on June 19, 2009

in Zombie Research

Where do zombies come from?  Here’s a little lesson in Zombie History.

Zombie History and Haitian Folklore

zombie history - haiti map

The origin of the concept of zombiism stems from Haitian Voodoo culture. The word zombie–in Haitian it is “zombi”–means “spirit of the dead.” Voodoo folklore contends that Bokors, Voodoo priests that were concerned with the study and application of black magic, posessed the ability to ressurrect the deceased through the administration of coup padre–coup padre is a powder that is issued orally, the primary ingredient of which is tetrodoxin, the deadly substance of the notoriously poisonous fou-fou, or “porcupine fish.” According to lengend, “a zombi(e) is someone who has annoyed his or her family and community to the degree that they can no longer stand to live with this person. They respond by hiring a turn them into a zombi(e).” (Keegan,

Once they had been issued the coup padre, the subjects being prepared for their descent into zombidom would appear to die insofar as their heart rate would slow to a near stop, their breathing patterns would be greatly subdued and their body temperature would significantly decrease. The public, thinking that the person was dead, would bury him/ her as if they were a corpse. They would then be exhumed, still alive, by the Bokor and, although their physicality remained intact, their memory would be erased and they would be transformed into mindless drones. “Though still living, they remain under the Bokor’s power until the Bokor dies.” (Keegan,