From their beginning in the thirties, zombie movies have always been more of a niche in the horror movie genre. But with higher production values (Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil), TV series (The Walking Dead) and even zombie comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland) zombies have gained more and more popularity in recent years. Zombies also have been the center of research in the fields of film studies and anthropology and even in modeling of disease outbreaks.
Nowadays, even the US Center of Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips on how to survive a zombie apocalypse.
But what is it that makes zombies so interesting?
If we look at the movies one thing becomes very clear: We sure love to see these mindless creatures die! Among other things it has been argued that seeing zombies getting killed allows us to embrace our aggressive emotions that are usually not accepted in society. Because zombies are essentially already dead and they are intrinsically evil we can enjoy watching these (ex)-humans being slaughtered in various ways without feeling ashamed.
Prof. P. Dendle argues that the zombie stands opposite to everything our multitasking society stands for. “The zombie is slow, mechanically inept, it can barely use tools …” explains Dendle. The live of a zombie is simply based on craving and impulses and this is why we are fascinated as well as repulsed by them.
A. Vidergar from the University of Stanford makes the point that after the events of World War II – including nuclear warfare – the interest in the end of the world has increased. Fictional zombie outbreaks can – in this context – be used to create extreme situations in which “the ethical decisions that the survivors have to make under duress and the actions that follow those choices are very unlike anything they would have done in their normal state of life.” This gives the viewers the opportunity to reflect on difficult ethical dilemmas and on their own behavior in extreme situations.
So fascination with zombies may stem from multiple sources from ethical questions to pure bloodlust and it is probably very different for different people.
So what is your personal fascination with zombies? Or do you find them fascinating at all? Let us know in the comments.
– David Huesmann
 P. Munz, I. Hudea, J. Imad, R. J. Smith? When zombies attack!: Mathematical modelling of an outbreak of zombie infection. in Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress. Nova Science, Hauppauge 2009, S. 133–150. (http://mysite.science.uottawa.ca/rsmith43/Zombies.pdf)