Zombie apocalypse


A group of actors dressed as zombies for a film

Zombie apocalypse is a genre of fiction in which civilization collapses due to overwhelming swarms of zombies. Typically only a few individuals or small bands of survivors are left living.

In some versions, the reason the dead rise and attack is unknown, rendering the whole situation inexplicable. In others versions, a specific parasite or infection is known to be the cause, framing events much like a plague. Some stories have every corpse rise, regardless of the cause of death, whereas others require exposure to the vector of infection.

In either scenario, this causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading "zombie plague" swamps law enforcement organizations, the military and health care services, leading to the panicked collapse of civil society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain. Basic services such as piped water supplies and electrical power shut down, mainstream mass media cease broadcasting, and the national government of affected countries collapses or goes into hiding. The survivors usually begin scavenging for food, weapons and other supplies in a world reduced to a mostly pre-industrial hostile wilderness. There is usually a 'safe-zone' where the non-infected can seek refuge and begin a new era, usually held by other survivors or the government.



An early inspirational work of the genre was Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954), which featured a lone survivor named Robert Neville waging a war against a human population transformed into vampires.[1] The novel has been adapted into several screenplays, including The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price, and The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston. A 2007 film version also titled I Am Legend starred Will Smith, in a more contemporary setting.[2] George A. Romero began the idea with his apocalyptic feature Night of the Living Dead (1968) from Matheson, but for vampires he substituted shuffling ghouls, identified after its release as zombies.[3]

Thematic subtext

[4] The narrative of a zombie apocalypse carries strong connections to the turbulent social landscape of the United States in the 1960s when the originator of this genre, the film Night of the Living Dead, was first created.[5][6] Many also feel that zombies allow people to deal with their own anxiety about the end of the world.[7] Kim Paffenroth notes that "more than any other monster, zombies are fully and literally apocalyptic ... they signal the end of the world as we have known it."[8]

Night of the Living Dead established most of the tropes associated with the genre, including the unintelligent but relentless behavior of zombies.[9]

Story elements

There are several common themes and tropes that create a zombie apocalypse:

  1. Initial contacts with zombies are extremely traumatic, causing shock, panic, disbelief and possibly denial, hampering survivors' ability to deal with hostile encounters.[10]
  2. The response of authorities to the threat is slower than its rate of growth, giving the zombie plague time to expand beyond containment. This results in the collapse of the given society. Zombies take full control while small groups of the living must fight for their survival.[10]

The stories usually follow a single group of survivors, caught up in the sudden rush of the crisis. The narrative generally progresses from the onset of the zombie plague, then initial attempts to seek the aid of authorities, the failure of those authorities, through to the sudden catastrophic collapse of all large-scale organization and the characters' subsequent attempts to survive on their own. Such stories are often squarely focused on the way their characters react to such an extreme catastrophe, and how their personalities are changed by the stress, often acting on more primal motivations (fear, self-preservation) than they would display in normal life.[10][11]

Generally the zombies in these situations are the slow, lumbering and unintelligent kind first made popular in the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.[9] Motion pictures created within the 2000s, however, have featured zombies that are more agile, vicious, intelligent, and stronger than the traditional zombie.[12] In many cases of "fast" zombies, creators use living humans infected with a pathogen (as in 28 Days Later, Zombieland, Dying Light and Left 4 Dead), instead of re-animated corpses, to avoid the "slow death walk" of Romero's variety of zombies. It is disputable whether cases featuring living humans suffering the effects of a disease should technically be considered zombies, since they have never died.

In addition, ‘special’ zombie types may also be included, depending on the genre, either as unexpected mutations or superior classes compared to standard zombies, boasting special abilities or heightened skills such as strength, speed or ferocity, as seen in video games such as Half-Life 2 and The Last of Us.


Academic research

While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often.

— Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad, and Robert J. Smith? [sic],
"When Zombies Attack!" (2009)[13]

According to a 2009 Carleton University and University of Ottawa epidemiological analysis, an outbreak of even Living Dead's slow zombies "is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly." Based on their mathematical modelling, the authors concluded that offensive strategies were much more reliable than quarantine strategies, due to various risks that can compromise a quarantine. They also found that discovering a cure would merely leave a few humans alive, since this would do little to slow the infection rate.

It was additionally determined that the most likely long-term outcome of such an outbreak would be the essential extinction of humans with the global human population either succumbing to the epidemic, being killed by existing zombies, or experiencing other fatal events. This conclusion stems from the study's reasoning that the primary epidemiological risk of zombies, besides the difficulties of neutralization, is that their population is subject to near-constant growth: generations of surviving humans would likely maintain a tendency to feed zombie populations, resulting in gross outnumbering and largely continual growth of the infected population, a phenomenon which would only cease with the infection or death of all surviving humans. The researchers explain that their methods of modelling may be applicable to the spread of political views or diseases with dormant infection.[13]

The Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies (ZITS) is a program through the University of Glasgow. It is headed by Dr. Austin. Dr. Austin is a character that has been created by the university to be the face of ZITS. The ZITS team is dedicated to using real science to explain what could be expected in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse. Much of their research is used to disprove common beliefs about the zombie apocalypse as shown in popular media. They have published one book (Zombie Science 1Z) and give public "spoof" lectures on the subject.[14]


On May 18, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse providing tips on preparing to survive a zombie invasion.[15] The article does not claim an outbreak is likely or imminent, but states: "That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this...." The CDC goes on to summarize cultural references to a zombie apocalypse. It uses these to underscore the value of laying in water, food, medical supplies, and other necessities in preparation for any and all potential disasters, be they hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or hordes of ravenous brain-devouring undead.

The CDC also published a graphic novel, Zombie Pandemic, alongside a series of related articles.[16]

In the unclassified document titled "CONOP 8888," officers from U.S. Strategic Command used a zombie apocalypse scenario as a training template for operations, emergencies and catastrophes, as a tool to teach cadets about the basic concepts of military plans and disaster preparation using its admittedly outlandish premise. [17][18]


On October 17, 2011, The Weather Channel published an article, "How To Weather the Zombie Apocalypse" that included a fictional interview with a Director of Research at the CDD, the "Center for Disease Development".[19] Based on a seasonal attraction in the Atlanta area called The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Weather.com interviews "Dr. Dale Dixon" (subtle references to characters in AMC's "The Walking Dead") asking questions about how different weather conditions affect zombies abilities.[20] Questions answered include "How does the temperature affect zombies' abilities? Do they run faster in warmer temperatures? Do they freeze if it gets too cold?"[19]

Genre examples


  • Anna And the Apocalypse 2017 During this time, a zombie infection starts spreading completely oblivious to the zombie chaos around them
  • Cooties 2014 Shelley ends up infecting Dink, who spreads it throughout the playground by scratching the majority of the children.
  • Zombieland (2009), a comedy where the United States is ravaged by a zombie plague caused by a mutated form of mad cow disease, but a small group attempts to survive while traveling across country to an amusement park in California.[32]
  • Cooties (film) (2014), a comedy where school learners get infected with a virus named "cooties" - a zombie-like virus that only infects minors. The movie centers around a group of teachers and surviving learners during this plague.
  • World War Z (2013), based on the book by Max Brooks.[citation needed]
  • American Zombie (2007), a mockumentary about the daily lives of a small community of zombies who make their home in Los Angeles.[33]
  • Shaun of the Dead (2004), a British parody of the genre: By morning, a zombie apocalypse has overwhelmed London.
  • Juan of the Dead (2010), a Cuban parody of the genre
  • Train to Busan (2016), takes place on a train to Busan, as a zombie apocalypse, caused by an accident at a nuclear power plant, suddenly breaks out in the country and compromises the safety of the passengers.
  • Miruthan (2016), an Indian Tamil language flim starring Jayam Ravi
  • Go Goa Gone (2013), an Indian Bollywood movie based on a Zombie Apocalypse caused by drug in Goa, starring Kunal Khemu, Saif Ali Khan, Vir Das, Puja Gupta and Anand Tiwari in the lead roles
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (film) (2016) A quaint English countryside is plagued by zombies.
  • Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) the protagonists find themselves right in the middle of a zombie Attack
  • Life After Beth (2014) A young man's recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead
  • Detention of the Dead (2012) in the school corridors the group discover a wide-scale zombie outbreak with all the other students now undead.
  • #Alive (2020 film) when a mysterious disease that causes those infected to attack and eat uninfected people breaks out in the news and around him.
  • One Cut of the Dead (2017) when they are attacked by real zombies.
  • Night of the Living Deb (2015) Deb is ushered out the door into a full-scale zombie apocalypse.
  • Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven
  • Seoul Station (film) (2016), the government struggles to shut down the area around a zombie outbreak.
  • The Dead Don't Die (2019 film) Centerville, an ordinary and peaceful town, starts experiencing a zombie apocalypse
  • KL Zombi 2013 A hockey-playing pizza delivery boy finds himself transformed from zombie slayer during an outbreak of the undead in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Office Uprising (2018) A laid-back worker at a weapons factory discovers a military energy drink is turning his co-workers into zombies.




Video games

Tabletop Role-playing games


  • The zombie parody of The Beatles, the Zombeatles, began in 2006 with the song "Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead" and are set in a world where the zombies have eaten all the remaining humans.[63]
  • Technical death metal band Brain Drill's 2008 album Apocalyptic Feasting has cover art and songs depicting a zombie apocalypse.
  • All music, lyrics and imagery surrounding metal/hardcore band Zombie Apocalypse revolve around the idea of a zombie apocalypse.
  • The 2008 Metallica music video for the song "All Nightmare Long" features the Soviet Union using a spore found after the Tunguska event on the United States to covertly create an army of zombies, and then openly destroy all of them, in order to take over the US.[64]
  • Metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada released their Zombie EP on August 24, 2010. The five song EP is about an impending zombie apocalypse, derived from lead vocalist Mike Hranica's strong interest in the subject.[65]
  • Songwriter Jonathon Coulton's 2006 "Re:Your Brains" satirizes office culture and buzzwords using the zombie apocalypse theme. This song can be played on the various jukeboxes found in Left 4 Dead 2. As it plays, a zombie horde is summoned.
  • Send More Paramedics were a horror film-influenced crossover thrash band from Leeds in the north of England. The band played in the 1980s crossover style, what they described as "Zombiecore...a fusion of 80s thrash and modern hardcore punk", with lyrics about zombies and cannibalism, heavily influenced by zombie movies. On-stage, they dressed as zombies.
  • The zombie apocalypse is frequently depicted in explicit detail in songs by death metal band Cannibal Corpse.
  • Death metal band Mortician released their Zombie Apocalypse EP in 1998, best known for its namesake track, "Zombie Apocalypse".

Immersive theater experiences

  • www.zombieinfection.co.uk - Zombie Infection UK, established in 2014 at the Newsham Asylum in Liverpool, England. These two hour theater experiences place guests in an apocalyptic situation fighting the undead across the UK.[66][67][68]

See also

  • Zombie Squad, a non-profit charitable organization that uses an upcoming zombie apocalypse as its shtick


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External links

  • US Centers for Disease Control – Zombie tips
  • Hilarious quick walk through CDC's key prep for Zombie defense
  • The LF Audio Podcast ep07.1 – A discussion about the zombie apocalypse
  • The LF Audio Podcast ep07.2 – Surviving the zombie apocalypse