Remaking A Classic – Part 2 (More Zombies)
Last week I went through some ideas on how to change up the bog-standard zombie. It was fun, and I’m on holiday, so we’re doing it again, but weirder!
It’s quite a memorable moment in the Resident Evil series when T-Virus infected dogs burst through the window, in fact zombie dogs have popped up a few times in various forms, but that’s about it outside of applying templates to creatures in RP games. Rarely you’ll see an undead cat, and of course there’s the infamous infected horde in Black Sheep.
Here’s a thought I’ve toyed with lately:
How do you kill a zombie? Typically by removing or destroying the head.
What happens if you remove the head of a hydra? Of course we all know two or more grow back.
So what happens if you raise a hydra from the dead?
Terrifying zombie sharks, elephants: the stampeding dead, giraffes infecting those hiding in trees or on the second floor of a building, swarms of inescapable undead insects, intrusive zombie rats, or pigeons, undeath from above. Plus, if the dead are rising from the grave, are we likely to see the dinosaurs pull the same stunt?
Funny how once you’re dead wild bodily mutations become less of an issue. Massive limbs, claws, distended jaws and insanely long tongues throw some interesting twists into the body of the horde. Left 4 Dead did this best, although never really explained why a Tank is a Tank or a Smoker is a Smoker.
The T-Virus and its’ manufactured relatives did a fantastic job of creating a wide variety of weird and wonderful unique monsters, that wouldn’t look out of place in John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Then of course there are those little imperceptible changes, like those zombies that are faster than the others, or that can leap and climb like their Spider-Man. And while we’re on the subject, Marvel Zombies as a whole presents a battery of creative foot-draggers, from Wolverine who no longer heals, Hulk who keeps eating bits of himself to stave off hunger, and the now legendary Headpool!
The gradually advancing horde is never an effective strategy, never. Sorry Space Invaders, but high-score holders around the world have proven me right. Zombies usually have numbers on their side and that’s it, perhaps they’ll be faster than normal, or have some other secretive tactic, but your normal Sean Of The Dead style groaner wouldn’t actually spread to apocalyptic proportions; more like a bad epidemic until guys in armoured hazmat suits and automatic rifles show up.
What zombies rely on is people’s obliviousness to their nature. Watch Dead Set if you can find it to truly understand how these things begin, patient zero wanders into a crowd of people waiting outside the Big Brother house, and thus the first wave spreads far and wide. People embrace their loved ones “You look sick, should we get you to a hospitaaaAARRRGGH”.
Alternatively, if you’re creating a zombie-based game, perhaps you can plant your horde a little more carefully. Have them spring from unexpected places, like loft hatches or shipping containers. Maybe sheer resilience is the key to the spread of the plague, or simply spreading the virus by something other than bite, like a cloud of fungus spores, or even a slight scratch.
Vulnerabilities: The head, sure, but, what else? Does fire do much to your zombies? Do they have a glowing weakspot you can hit for massive damage, such as a small tank of glowing chemicals, or some centre of magical animation? If they’re magic zombies, does a counterspell just put them back down? Or can nothing stop them but patience, as even headless and smouldering bodies still shamble around until decay renders them inert?
Now For Something Completely Different
Not completely, just a list of comedy zombies I thought of when I was coming up with this article:
- Mariachi zombies – Because nothing says festive like a sombrero.
- Zomble – A zombie-womble, found gathering leftover chunks of people on Wimbledon Common that the everyday zombies left behind.
- Rockabilly zombie – Carries a banjo full of severed fingers, strumming ineffectually at it.
- Confectionery – The zombies from the first episode of adventure time, the undead candy-people
- Animal Mascot – Desperately trying to bite people through a massive cartoon animal head.
- Squirrel – Squirrel
I enjoyed writing this article. If you enjoyed reading it I’d invite you to suggest other zombie types, or suggest another monster or cliché I could rethink. Join me in the comments below, or on Facebook. I shall be with you when I get back from holiday.