The annals of horror history are infested with the living dead. And most movie fans would conjure up the same mental picture of a zombie: slow, groaning, hungry for human brains.
But like anything else – living or, erm, living dead – the zombie comes in many forms. It’s evolved and changed, taking on new traits and characteristics with each new generation of seminal zombie movies.
With Train to Busan released on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD this week, we’ve put together an essential guide for anyone who enjoys a bit of “zombie spotting”, detailing the most common – and rarest – types of undead brain-munchers out there.
“The Voodoo Classic”
As Seen In: White Zombie (1932)
Defining Characteristics: With their cloaks, big moustaches, and pirate-style baggy pants, they look more like extras from a Gilbert & Sullivan production than your standard reanimated corpse.
Natural Habitat: Haiti, where they exist under the control of voodoo master and all-round evildoer Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi).
Diet: Unknown, but let’s assume they’ll have the odd tourist for supper.
Observed Behaviours: Anything from carrying out murders to running the production line of a successful sugar mill. Whatever their master’s bidding is.
Zombie Spotter Cred: Big points for spotting one of these old school beauties. They haven’t been seen for decades.
“The Vintage Romero”
As Seen In: Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Defining Characteristics: A slower, lumbering zombie (though not adverse to bursting into a short run if particularly hungry). They rock a goth-friendly “ghoul” look – pale with heavy eye make-up.
Natural Habitat: Everywhere. That’s the problem.
Diet: Human flesh. And like most living dead thereafter, one bite will transform the victim into a zombie..
Observed Behaviours: More industrious than later generations, these zombies can use simple tools (rocks, gardening equipment) to smash/hack someone to death.
Zombie Spotter Cred: They’re a rare species these days, but easily confused with others. If you see one carrying a trowel or applying eye make-up, you’ve hit the jackpot.
As Seen In: Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Defining Characteristics: The blueprint (and seen in glorious technicolour this time, they are literally blue) for the modern zombie – slow, shuffling, totally brain dead.
Natural Habitat: They’ve taken over the whole world, but are happiest in the shopping mall. Who isn’t?
Diet: As much gore as the special effects budget can stretch to.
Observed Behaviours: Tearing limbs off, banging on shop windows, trying to find a bargain in the sales. You know, that sort of thing.
Zombie Spotter Cred: Low. These are really your common or garden variety, after being ripped by hundreds of inferior zombie films.
“The Toxic Talkie”
As Seen In: Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Defining Characteristics: They look very much like rotting, reanimated corpses (though that doesn’t stop them moving very quickly). Some are little more than skeletons covered in suspicious-looking goo. Can also talk.
Natural Habitat: Brought back to life by a toxic gas, these like to hang out in the cemetery. There’s no place like home, s’pose.
Diet: Brains. Mmmmm.
Observed Behaviours: This lot are relatively quick witted. After eating a paramedic, one zombie is smart enough to get on the ambulance radio to ask if they can send more paramedics for him to nosh.
Zombie Spotter Cred: Spotting a zombie who can hold a conversation is worth extra points.
“The Raging Dead”
As Seen In: 28 Days Later (2002)
Defining Characteristics: They’re super-fast and really, really angry, thanks to contracting a virus that’s like pure, concentrated rage.
Natural Habitat: They must like the countryside because they deserted the capital at the first opportunity. Makes sense – the busy streets of London are a nightmare if you’ve got anger issues.
Diet: Just people. No fussing about which appendage.
Observed Behaviours: Mostly running around and being all angry.
Zombie Spotter Cred: You couldn’t move for them in the 2000s, but they’re rarer these days. Mark yourself down for a decent score if it doesn’t bite your face off first.
“The Retro Shuffler”
As Seen In: Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Defining Characteristics: Made in the mould of Romero’s classic zombie, these lumber around, groan, and look deathly pale. You might even find the odd one with “an arm off”.
Natural Habitat: Never happier than when wandering around the suburbs.
Diet: Humans. Standard.
Observed Behaviours: Trying to get in the pub, or playing computer games with their bessie mates. It might be the apocalypse, but a man’s still got to relax.
Zombie Spotter Cred: Like the Dawn of the Dead zombies before them, the 2000s versions are ten-a-penny.
“The Half-Dead Heartthrob”
As Seen In: Warm Bodies (2013)
Defining Characteristics: Part of a new romanticized generation of zombies, “R” (Nicholas Hoult) looks like a corpse – pale, glassy eyes – but he’s still an absolute babe. Stylish, good hair, chiseled looks.
Natural Habitat: In the hearts and dreams of living women everywhere, particularly R’s love interest Julie (Teresa Palmer).
Diet: Partial to brains – eating them helps him experience the memories and emotions of his victims.
Observed Behaviours: Listening to music, rediscovering human qualities, being all emo.
Zombie Spotter Cred: A zombie who’s more inclined to give you a kiss than eat you is a biggie, quite frankly.
“The High-Speed Chaser”
As Seen In: Train to Busan (2016)
Defining Characteristics: High-speed, highly-infectious zombies. With their whited-out eyes and jerky convulsions brought on by rabid, uncontrollable hunger, they’re distinctly inhuman.
Natural Habitat: This particular species lives in South Korea, spreading their deadly infection on the train ride from Seoul to Busan.
Diet: Train passengers mostly. Like a human snack trolley.
Observed Behaviours: Overwhelming the population with their huge numbers, general manic ultra-violence. They’d be cool if they weren’t so terrifying.
Zombie Spotter Cred: Massive cred, but you’d be better off running the other way. And quickly.
Train to Busan is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD now.