Open main menu

A zombie apocalypse is a particular scenario within apocalyptic fiction. In a zombie apocalypse, a widespread rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization.

In some stories, victims of zombies may become zombies themselves if they are bitten by zombies or if a zombie-creating virus travels by air, sexually, or by water; in others, everyone who dies, whatever the cause, becomes one of the undead.

In some cases, parasitic organisms can cause zombification by killing their hosts and reanimating their corpses, though some[who?] argue that this is not a true zombie. In the latter scenario zombies also prey on the living and their bite causes an infection that kills.

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.




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 substituted vampires with shuffling ghouls, identified after its release as zombies.[3]

Thematic subtextEdit

The literary subtext of a zombie apocalypse is usually that civilization is inherently fragile in the face of truly unprecedented threats and that most individuals cannot be relied upon to support the greater good if the personal cost becomes too high.[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 elementsEdit

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 and Left 4 Dead), instead of re-animated corpses, to avoid the "slow death walk" of Romero's variety of zombies.

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 researchEdit

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. [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, 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 examplesEdit





Video gamesEdit

  • Zombie Apocalypse, released as a downloadable title for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade is a shoot 'em up title. The player takes control of four survivors and may fight against hordes of mutated zombies as a team, rescuing other survivors and investigating the cause of the infection.[55]
  • Zombie Panic features a human and a player-controlled zombie team fighting against each other in a zombie apocalypse.[56][57]
  • ZombiU, a first-person shooter/survival horror game wherein the player assume the role of a survivor during a zombie outbreak that decimates London.

Role-playing gamesEdit


  • 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.[61]
  • 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.[62]
  • 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.[63]
  • Songwriter Jonathon Coulton's 2006 "Re:Your Brains" satirizes office culture and buzzwords using the zombie apocalypse theme. Incidentally, 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, and are 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 legends Cannibal Corpse.
  • Death metal band Mortician released their Zombie Apocalypse EP in 1998, best known for its namesake, "Zombie Apocalypse".

See alsoEdit

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


  1. ^ Clasen, Mathias (2010). "Vampire Apocalypse: A Biocultural Critique of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend". Philosophy and Literature.
  2. ^ "One for the Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead" — Night of the Living Dead DVD, 2008, Region 1, Dimension Home Entertainment
  3. ^ ZRS Staff. "Romero Invented Flesh Eaters". Zombie Research Society. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Christopher T. Fong (December 2, 2008). "Playing Games: Left 4 Dead". Video game review, San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  5. ^ Adam Rockoff. Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978–1986 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002), p. 35, ISBN 0-7864-1227-5.
  6. ^ "Zombie Movies" in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, ed. John Clute and John Grant (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999). p. 1048. ISBN 0-312-19869-8
  7. ^ Cripps, Charlotte (November 1, 2006). "Preview: Max Brooks' Festival of The (Living) Dead! Barbican, London". The Independent. UK. Retrieved September 19, 2008.
  8. ^ Kim Paffenroth. Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006.
  9. ^ a b Brian Cronin (December 3, 2008). "John Seavey's Storytelling Engines: George Romero's "Dead" Films". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Todd Kenreck (November 17, 2008). "Surviving a zombie apocalypse: 'Left 4 Dead' writer talks about breathing life into zombie genre". Video game review. msnbc. Archived from the original on December 19, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  11. ^ Daily, Patrick. "Max Brooks". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved October 28, 2008.
  12. ^ Josh Levin (March 24, 2004). "Dead Run". Slate. Archived from the original on October 14, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  13. ^ a b "When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection Archived February 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine", by Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad and Robert J. Smith? [sic]. In Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, eds. J.M. Tchuenche and C. Chiyaka, Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Archived March 17, 2014, at the Wayback Machine] pp. 133–150, 2009. ISBN 978-1-60741-347-9. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on August 23, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2017.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  14. ^ "Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies". 2011. Archived from the original on December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  15. ^ "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse". May 16, 2011. Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  16. ^ "CDC Zombie Preparedness articles". May 16, 2011. Archived from the original on December 9, 2017. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  17. ^ Pentagon document lays out battle plan against zombies
  18. ^ CONOP 8888
  19. ^ a b Morris, Casey. "How To Weather the Zombie Apocalypse". Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  20. ^ "The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse". Archived from the original on January 28, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  21. ^ Dawn of the Dead on IMDb
  22. ^ "TheMovieBoy Review – Dawn of the Dead (2004)". March 20, 2004. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008.
  23. ^ "Zombi 2 – The Deuce". January 15, 2009. Archived from the original on March 10, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  24. ^ Mark Kermode (May 6, 2007). "A capital place for panic attacks". London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on May 13, 2007. Retrieved May 12, 2007.
  25. ^ "Stylus Magazine's Top 10 Zombie Films of All Time". Archived from the original on February 18, 2008.
  26. ^ "The Zombie Diaries press kit" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 5, 2007. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  27. ^ Pascal. "Fido Movie Review". Movie review. Movies Online. Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  28. ^ ""Grindhouse" double feature a gloriously entertaining contrast". Scene Stealers. April 6, 2007. Archived from the original on September 9, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2009.
  29. ^ Quint. "Updated! GRINDHOUSE news from Comic-Con! Snake Plissken to be Tarantino's villain! Plus more!!!". Ain't It Cool News. Archived from the original on June 4, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2007.
  30. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 4, 2007). "Grindhouse (2007)". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 3, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  31. ^ Michael Brookes: "Review: Colin" Sight and Sound 19:10: November 2009: 52–53
  32. ^ "Nowhere Fast Productions – Colin". Archived from the original on December 27, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  33. ^ Carroll, Larry (March 4, 2009). "'Zombieland' Monster Maker Has Emma Stone, Mila Kunis Eating Brains". MTV Movies Blog. MTV/Viacom. Archived from the original on March 10, 2009. Retrieved March 29, 2009.
  34. ^ "American Zombie". March 28, 2008. Archived from the original on December 15, 2006 – via
  35. ^ "Deadworld – Information about the comic series from Caliber Comics". Caliber Comics. Archived from the original on June 18, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  36. ^ Jeffrey Bloomer (June 12, 2009). "Zombie-Ridden Post-Apocalyptic Graphic Novel Gets Film Treatment". Paste. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2009.
  37. ^ WEEK OF THE DEAD I: Robert Kirkman Archived November 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Comic Book Resources, May 19, 2008
  38. ^ "Gyo v1 Review - manga reviews, manga news, manga information, manga comics, manga webcomics, manga artists, Dark Horse, TokyoPop, Viz, Digital Manga Publishing, CMX, CPM, Central Park Manga, Broccoli Books, Del Rey". October 22, 2007. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  39. ^ " - Tales from the Longbox!". Archived from the original on February 2, 2009.
  40. ^ "HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD story by Daisuke Sato, art by Shouji Sato". Yen Press. Archived from the original on August 16, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  41. ^ a b Bertschy, Zac (June 14, 2011). "High school of the Dead BLURAY – Complete Collection – Review". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  42. ^ Richards, Dave (June 23, 2009). "Marvel Zombies: The All-Star Return!". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  43. ^ "Exclusive Interview: Max Brooks on World War Z". Eat My Brains!. October 20, 2006. Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2008.
  44. ^ Currie, Ron (September 5, 2008). "The End of the World as We Know it". Untitled Books. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved September 21, 2008.
  45. ^ "Zombies Rise in Teen Lit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 26, 2009. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2009.
  46. ^ Grossman, Lev (April 2, 2009). "Pride and Prejudice, Now With Zombies!". Time. Archived from the original on April 4, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  47. ^ "Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion :: Books :: Reviews :: Paste". April 26, 2011. Archived from the original on March 12, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  48. ^ Kirkman, Robert. "The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor on Amazon". Retrieved February 27, 2012.
  49. ^ "SFX interview with Charlie Brooker". October 22, 2008. Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  50. ^ Dance of the Dead on IMDb
  51. ^ David Bullshit (November 29, 2010). "Dead Nation Hits Playstation Store this Week, Eradicate the Infection!". Official US Playstation Blog. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  52. ^ Jeff Cork (September 24, 2010). "Dead Rising 2 Review: The Apocalypse Shouldn't Be This Much Fun". Game Informer Magazine. Archived from the original on October 25, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  53. ^ "The Zombie Survival RPG". The Indie Stone. Archived from the original on July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  54. ^ [1] How adventure games came back from the dead
  55. ^ "Zombie Apocalyse at Konami". Konami. October 16, 2009. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  56. ^ "A Half-Life 1 & 2 Modification". Zombie Panic. Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  57. ^ "Zombie Panic: Source mod for Half-Life 2". Mod DB. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  58. ^ "All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG homepage". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  59. ^ "Yellow Dawn RPG homepage". Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  60. ^ "Dead Reign RPG homepage". Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  61. ^ "The ZomBeatles: All You Need Is Brains Tastes Funny". Fan Cinema Today. March 24, 2009. Archived from the original on March 28, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2009.
  62. ^ Burkart, Gregory S. (December 8, 2008). "Behold Metallica's "Nightmare" Zombie Apocalypse!". FEARnet. Archived from the original on December 12, 2008. Retrieved December 8, 2008.
  63. ^ "Zombie EP". Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External linksEdit