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There are mild spoilers for The Last of Us and The Girl With All the Gifts in this post.
Zombies are my favourite scary monster.
I know a few of my readers are grossed out by them, so I picked the least graphic stock image of one I could find and will not go into gory details in this post.
They deeply frighten and fascinate me because there are no mystical rules controlling where they’re allowed to go or what they’re allowed to do. Unlike the vast majority of other monsters, zombies are 100% unaffected by:
- Holy water
- Wolfsbane or other herbs that can harm, say, a werewolf
- Garlic, onions, or any other food
- Whether or not you invited them into your home
- Having a wooden stake thrust into any portion of their body
- Silver bullets
- Prayers of any sort
- Excommunication by a priest, pastor, or other religious leader
- Unfinished business from their previous lives
- Any sort of disturbance of their gravesite
- The presence or absence of a full moon
- Where they died (unless they’re trapped there…for now)
- If their soul has found peace after death
- Any attempt to communicate with them, whether in person or through an Ouija board, psychic, etc.
- Whether or not they have food, water, shelter, medical care, weather-appropriate clothing, oxygen, or sleep
- How much sage you burned to cleanse your house and keep them away
A zombie will chase you until it gets distracted by someone else or it can no longer physically move due to being injured, stuck, etc. Unless you’ve destroyed their brains, they can wait as long as is necessary and under any circumstances before you can no longer outrun them or they meet their next victim.
That’s so scary to me that I only watch or read this sort of story in broad daylight. I love the tingly sensation of being scared silly occasionally, but I do not want to bring certain images into dreamland with me.
In some modern retellings of this monster like The Last of Us or M.R. James’ The Girl With All the Gifts, there can be people who are only partially affected by the zombification process. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for those who aren’t familiar with those worlds, but having characters who have one foot in each camp adds all sorts of creative twists to how this sort of story usually goes.
I prefer zombie fiction that has realistic (ish) explanations for how these creatures were created and that focuses more on people fighting zombies and figuring how to survive than in humans fighting each other.
Zombies are scary enough in and of themselves if you ask me. It’s hard to defeat a foe who has so few weaknesses, after all.
It’s interesting to me to see how people react to this threat and how well they do or don’t work together once the plot speeds up and the living dead outnumber the living.
You can get a lot of memorable character development from those sorts of situations if you have the right storytellers and a decent storyline to work with. My favourite versions of these tales are the ones that gently poke fun at the silliest parts of the horror genre in a way that invites the audience to laugh along and agree that trope X was good in the past but is now overused, trope Y is as ridiculous now as it was back in the 7os, and trope Z is woefully underrated.
I find zombie fiction even more fun when I get to mix a little critique into discussions about them.
So that is why zombies are my favourite monster and why I enjoy this sort of storyline ever so often.