We originally titled episode 21 Yawn of the Dead even though we don’t find zombies boring at all. Especially those 28 Days Later zombies which move really fast. Some people get downright rabid if you call those things zombies. Even though they are zombies. From the standpoint of being a dramatic mechanism that is.
What really makes zombies intriguing and creepy? Is it that they’re reanimated corpses? That they like to chew on people? That you need to destroy their brain to kill them?
Or is it that they’re people who are out of control of their body, unable to reason, their individuality destroyed… and it could happen to you.
That is the key to zombies being terrifying and has kept audiences coming back for more decade after decade. Questions of reanimated corpse vs. viral infection vs. ancient magic seem to me to be mere quibbles. Take away the element of a zombie being someone who is a shell of their former self and audiences wouldn’t find them nearly as haunting.
There is a faction of zombie fans, armed with the Zombie Survival Guide, who will chew your arm off if you claim anything other than the George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead style undead are zombies. There’s a whole checklist they will go through and point by point they will tell you exactly why a person infected with Rage Virus isn’t a zombie. But the Living Dead arent aren’t zombies either—they’re the goddamn living dead. A zombie is only truly found within Vodoun religious practices. And more likely in sensationalized fictional dramatizations of said practices. You can rightfully claim that people infected with rage virus aren’t the “living dead”, but there’s no reason to not call them “zombies.”
It’s mere semantics of course. To me any time you have people losing their minds, attacking other people and spreading some kind of infection to their victim, it’s a “zombie” movie. I would even consider Invasion of the Body Snatchers a breed of zombie movie. Chew on that.