The Undead have our attention, I want to talk about that.
Zombies have infiltrated popular culture and taken over the entertainment industry. From hit TV shows like The Walking Dead to blockbuster films like World War Z, zombies have proven to be big business, generating hundreds of millions of dollars. They have captivated audiences around the world and infected our collective imagination.
In this article, we explore why we can’t stop watching zombies and the fascinations that fuel people’s interest in them. Zombie stories tap into our primal fears of epidemics and pandemics in a unique way. They represent our anxiety about the loss of individuality and free will. At their core, most zombie tales are about humanity and human relationships tested in the face of unimaginable stress and danger. We can’t stop watching zombies because they explore life and death in a visceral, exaggerated way, all while providing drama, action and entertainment. Audiences crave to see human characters they can root for try to overcome the relentless hordes of the undead.
My Zombie Passion started with Romero.
As a lifelong zombie movie fan, my fascination with the undead began in 1978 when I first watched George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I couldn’t get enough of the classic late 70’s and 80’s zombie films after that. Romero’s Dead trilogy and other films from that era like Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 captivated me. I’ve watched Dawn of the Dead at least 20 times, fascinated by its mix of horror, action and social commentary.
These pioneering films ignited my obsession with zombie cinema and led me to explore the evolution of the genre over decades. For fans like myself, the classic Romero-style zombies will always remain the iconic representations of the undead, even as modern zombie films and shows continue to dominate popular culture. The shambling, gruesome ghouls of those early movies define the genre for me.
Over the years, I’ve seen zombie cinema move into the mainstream, but my heart remains with the classics. As much as I enjoy new zombie content, I still revisit Dawn of the Dead and other formative films from that era. They remind me not just of my earliest thrills and chills as a horror fan, but of the power that low-budget, creative filmmaking can have. For this lifelong zombie buff, the late 70’s and 80’s produced a kind of alchemical movie magic that continues to endure and inspire. Those films were the start of an undead obsession that will follow me to the grave.
Why do we love zombies?
We can’t stop watching zombies because they tap into our primal fears and fascinations. Zombie stories play on our deep-seated anxiety about pandemics and the loss of control, as an unstoppable horde of the undead spread like a virus. There is a disturbing thrill in imagining what might happen if the dead were suddenly reanimated with a hunger for human flesh.
Zombies also represent our fears of dehumanization and conformity. Being turned into a zombie strips away individuality, emotions, and free will. We are enthralled and unsettled by visions of loved ones as hollowed-out shells driven by a singular need to feed. The zombie apocalypse not only spells the end of humanity as we know it but the end of human nature itself.
At the same time, zombie tales feed our appetite for drama, action and survival scenarios. We crave stories of human characters banding together to endure against insurmountable odds. Zombie fiction allows us to imagine how we would react and what we would prioritize in the face of such a threat. There is a catharsis in seeing ordinary people transform into courageous leaders and clever strategists trying to reclaim a world lost to the undead.
Finally, zombie stories tap into our fascination with death and mortality. What would it be like to exist in a state between life and death? Zombie cinema lets us vicariously experience the horror of watching a loved one’s humanity slip away up close. And of course, zombies invite us to fantasize about the downfall of society and imagine what might come next after everything has collapsed. Our obsession with the undead is as timeless as death itself.
People are Preparing for the Zombies!
For some hardcore zombie buffs, their interest extends beyond just watching movies and TV shows. They become actively interested in real-world disaster preparedness and survival skills. After all, the zombie apocalypse is the ultimate doomsday scenario. If you’re equipped to survive that, you’re ready for anything.
For these fans, zombie fiction inspires them to take real measures to plan for catastrophes and become self-reliant. They may assemble emergency kits, stock up on food and supplies, learn practical skills like weapons training or wilderness first aid, and make an evacuation plan. While the need to survive a fictional zombie outbreak motivates them, the skills and resources they acquire are useful for any worst-case scenario.
Some take their passion to the extreme, undergoing “zombie survival training” in simulated apocalyptic camps or even building underground zombie-proof bunkers. But for many fans, it’s really just about ‘zombie preparedness’ – finding a fun way to motivate self-sufficiency and be ready for whatever curveballs life may throw at them in a crisis, whether natural disaster or manmade.
Zombie stories envisions a post-apocalyptic world in chaos. For audiences already inclined toward doomsday prepping, this hits close to home and fuels their desire to develop practical skills and have the resources to survive after society crumbles. While the undead threat that spurs them on may be imaginary, their will to endure against all odds is a real source of meaning, purpose and empowerment. Preparing for the end gives them a sense of control over an uncertain world.
There really are zombie survival camps!
For the most dedicated zombie preppers, their passion leads them to want to act out their survival fantasies in real life. This has spawned organized zombie survival events and training camps. In simulated zombie ‘runs’ or ‘races’, participants attempt to navigate a zombie-infested course while avoiding being turned by actors in undead makeup. Paintball events let people live out a zombie apocalypse in a more direct way, arming them with paintball guns to mow down hordes of zombie volunteers.
More intensive are multi-day zombie survival camps where people learn how to endure in a post-apocalyptic environment. Trainers teach skills like building shelters, obtaining food and water, emergency first aid, self defense, and operating firearms. The zombie scenario adds urgency and adrenaline, enhancing the experience. Some camps even hire zombie hunters and have live-actor zombies for attendees to confront.
For those seeking an even greater thrill, ‘zombie experiences’ let you be turned into a member of the undead. A team of makeup artists will zombify participants, who then get to shamble around and frighten unsuspecting bystanders with their gruesome appearance. It’s the ultimate immersion into a zombie apocalypse scenario.
Some see these zombie survivalist events as extreme and silly, but for fans they are passion projects and fantasy fulfillment. Being able to physically act out their skills and courage against zombies, even simulated ones, lets them feel more prepared for any real-world disasters. The popularity of these events demonstrates how deeply ingrained the zombie archetype has become. While the undead threat begins as fiction, for some the need to survive and defeat that threat has crossed into reality.
Let’s look at one of the survival camps.
I’ve checked out some of these zombie adventures, training camps whatever you want to call them and it’s a real thing, one such place is zombie survival camp dot com.
The zombie survival camp is advertising itself as offering a unique hands-on survival training experience. By calling itself the “Original Zombie Survival Camp” and “one of a kind,” it is positioning itself as the premier institution for this type of disaster preparedness instruction. They mention fully equipped facilities, sleeping and dining quarters, implying a comfortable immersive experience.
They claim to teach skills relevant for any disaster situation, but use the popular cultural fascination with zombies as their main marketing tool and metaphorical disaster scenario. The types of skills they mention, like first aid, self-defense, and firearms training are broadly applicable for many emergency scenarios and natural disasters. However, by framing it around zombie survival, they are tapping into a particular interest group and popular fascination that makes for an engaging experience and theme.
They encourage you to bring others along with you to share in this survival learning experience as a team-building or bonding exercise. The invitation to “come alone and make some new friends” also reveals that the social aspect is an important part of their program. They seem to recognize that for some, the interest in zombies and survival training ties into a desire for community and relationships built around shared interests. Overall, the camp appears to provide an interactive disaster preparedness experience centered around the popular cultural metaphor of the zombie for those who want to gain survival skills and bond with others.
The Hollywood Crowd has cashed in on Zombies.
Hollywood has cashed in big on the zombie renaissance, with no signs of the undead trend slowing down. The blockbuster success of films like 28 Days Later in 2002 and Shaun of the Dead in 2004 showed there was a huge appetite for zombie stories. This led to smash hits like Zombieland in 2009, World War Z in 2013 and the cultural phenomenon of The Walking Dead TV show, which first aired in 2010.
The Walking Dead in particular has been a ratings juggernaut, with its season 10 premiere drawing over 6 million viewers. The show has spawned video games, theme park attractions, spinoff shows, and mountains of merchandise. Its success demonstrated that zombie tales could sustain an ongoing long-form story.
Romero’s classic Dead films were made on small budgets but spawned a multi-billion dollar industry. The zombie video game market has boomed, with franchises like Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead selling tens of millions of copies. Zombie runs, obstacle courses and virtual reality experiences draw huge crowds. According to studies, the total zombie industry was worth over $5 billion in 2016 and has grown substantially since.
The zombie renaissance shows the mainstreaming of a once niche genre. While early zombie films were low-budget gorefests, today’s big-budget blockbusters have taken zombies into the mainstream. Celebrities vie for cameo roles to get in on the undead action. Zombie stories that were once shocking are now family entertainment. They pervade gaming, TV, theme parks, publishing, and streaming services hungry for the next hit zombie show.
Once a fringe fascination, the public’s appetite for the undead seems limitless. The crowds of fans and fortunes being made proves that our zombie obsession will continue as strong as the hordes of zombies themselves. The influence of this once obscure monster has spread like a virus, infecting every corner of culture. Zombies as a metaphor for societal anxieties is more relevant than ever, guaranteeing this genre will endure for generations to come.
Zombies will live forever
Zombies have risen from obscurity to dominate global culture. They tap into our deepest fears and fascinations, envisioning a world in chaos that we can’t look away from. Zombie stories provoke us with visions of societal collapse while allowing us to fantasize about survival and heroism.
For me, a lifelong fan, zombie films ignite my sense of wonder and adventure. They transport me back to discovering the genre as a child, curled up watching grainy VHS copies of Dawn of the Dead. While hollywood has now mainstreamed the zombie archetype into blockbusters and family fare, the scrappy creativity of those early films still endures.
No matter how far into the mainstream zombies penetrate, they will always remain chilled eternity for doomsday preppers and subcultural thrill-seekers. For some, preparing for the fictional zombie apocalypse is a passion that enhances life with purpose and community. From interactive events to modding vehicles into zombie-proof transports, fandom takes many forms.
Zombies give us a glimpse into human nature at its rawest. They show us society unraveled to reveal the best and worst of humanity. At their core, the best zombie stories have always been about human relationships, courage and morality tested under duress. Why we can’t stop watching them is no mystery – in a world of chaos, we yearn to see ordinary people become heroes. We hunger to imagine survival.
The undead rise eternal, and their reign is just beginning. Zombies will continue to spread through culture, evolving with society’s fears and feeding new nightmares. Hollywood and doomsday preppers alike ensure that no matter what dangers may come, zombies will endure. Our fascination with the end of the world as we know it will keep us glued to screens and flocking to any chance to live out survival fantasies, real or imagined. Zombies may be fiction, but our obsession with them is all too real.
Founder and Lead Developer for Horror Facts independent horror magazine.
Husband, Sailor and Independent Writer