Life in Missoula, Montana.
The greatest zombies ever, from history, movies, and games
Bill Hinzman - Night of the Living Dead
Any discussion of memorable zombies must begin with Bill Hinzman. In the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead, a woman and her brother are visiting a graveyard, paying their annual visit to their father’s grave. The man teases his sister about unspecified graveyard monsters. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara. They’re coming to get you.” Just then a strange, shambling man approaches. He is pale, with dark eye sockets, and a stiff, awkward gait. The strange man attacks. This strange, unsettling man is played by actor Bill Hinzman, modern cinema’s first zombie. George Romero’s first zombie. Bill Hinzman is not the scariest zombie ever. His makeup and behavior were not the best ever, but he was the first. The original. If you want to track the whole line of stumbling, flesh-eating zombies back to their origin, it all leads back to actor Bill Hinzman.
Sweater Zombie - Dawn of the Dead
Romero’s Dawn of the Dead provided us with some more memorable zombies. Over the course of time, many have pointed out the zombie commonly called “the hare krishna zombie”. He was, literally, a hare krishna, zombified, that stalked the mall where the movie took place. It was a stroke of genius for Romero to make zombies out of people who everyone could identify with. They weren’t just nameless, faceless things, but former people who had lived full, complex lives.
My favorite zombie from this movie, though, was the zombie sometimes referred to as “sweater zombie”. This was a guy in a sweater who kept in zombie character despite finding himself on an escalator. The actor did a great job, and the scene is fun, and funny, to watch. You see sweater zombie in other scenes throughout the movie and he’s always perfectly in character and identifiable. “Sweater zombie” played by actor Clayton Hill, was described by a crew member as “one of the most convincing zombies of the bunch” citing his skill at maintaining his stiff pose and rolling his eyes back into his head even while heading down the wrong way on an escalator.
Bub - Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead featured another memorable zombie. This one was named Bub and he was the subject of research by the movie’s scientists. Bub got a lot of camera time. He managed to learn and adapt. He almost showed a certain melancholy emotion, as if he knew all that he had lost. The scene when Bub chases another character, shooting at him with a pistol, is a favorite of many of the movie’s fans.
Mum - Braindead
Braindead’s most memorable character and protagonist is Mum, the main character’s mother. Her character in life is selfish and domineering, providing much of the tension and plot of the story. Mum would have been a memorable character if it stopped at that, but as a zombie, she becomes something so much worse. Then she goes from zombie to huge, gross, zombie thing. If you see Braindead, you won’t forget Mum.
Tarman - Return of the Living Dead
The first zombie we see in Return of the Living Dead is also the most memorable. This zombie is one of the best (or worst) looking zombies in any movie. He’s almost skeletal with bulging eyes and melted skin, and he appears to be covered with a thick, black, substance that looks like tar. In short, Tarman is gnarly and very cool. He’ll also be remembered as the first zombie to cry out for brains. For his look and his unstoppable clamoring for brains, Tarman gets high marks as one of zombiedom’s best.
Aquatic Nazi Zombies - Shockwave
The truly frightening aspect of Shockwaves was its eerie tone, its atmosphere of evil. The zombies in the movie fit that tone perfectly. Picture Nazi-clad zombies, stoic and unflinching, walking right up out of the water. First their evil, dead faces are seen, then the rest is revealed, bit by bit, as they head toward shore. The effect was great and very creepy. Their ability to live underwater, without the need of oxygen, meant that they could hang out beneath the surface and suddenly grab victims and strangle them. Super creepy, and some jump scares. What more could you want?
Zombie T.K. Baha- Borderlands
T.K. Baha was a character in the video game, Borderlands. He was a funny, oddball, blind man who needed the player characters to perform some tasks for him. Eventually T.K is killed by bandits and becomes a zombie. Zombie T.K. Baha then becomes a character who needs players to bring him brains, lots of brains, in exchange for rewards and experience. Zombie T.K returned in Borderlands 2 in a Halloween-themed add on to the original game. In both regular and zombie iterations, T.K. was a unique, quirky character that perfectly fit the game’s sense of humor.
Clairvius Narcisse - reality
Clairvius was not a zombie from movies, books, or video games, but a real person who once lived in Haiti. In 1962 he was admitted to the U.S.-run Albert Schweitzer hospital in Deschapelle. He died in the hospital three days later, and his sister verified the event and authenticated it by providing her fingerprint for the death certificate. Eighteen years later, Clairvius showed up on the streets of the town. His sister came face to face with her brother who had died and been buried so many years earlier. Clairvius was able to give an account of how he had been buried alive, exhumed, beaten senseless, and drugged. He recalled being in his coffin, unable to move, but able to hear the dirt piled above him. He even recalled (accurately) the words spoken by some of the mourners at graveside. The investigation into the zombification of Clairvius Narcisse was the basis of The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Mailer - 28 Days Later
Here’s one of the scariest, meanest “zombies” you’ll ever see, a red-eyed beast with nothing but murder on its mind. Mailer is a rage-virus infected creature chained up in a courtyard. He’s sort of an amusement to the soldiers who live there, until he gets loose …
Herzog - Dead Snow
This scary Nazi bastard has superhuman strength, no conscience, and a total commitment to his cause. He also commands a whole army of Nazi zombies. His make-up is scary and unique including a partially missing face. He’s one zombie you would never want to tangle with.
For more on famous zombies, plus zombie anatomy, self-defense, movies, books, games, and more check out the The Ultimate Guide to Zombies at Amazon.com