Zombies have seen something of a resurgence recently. Driven by the sympathetic treatment that vampires now receive, a niche has opened for a classic remorseless vessel of evil and death, and zombies fill that void quite nicely.

But we’re fully of the opinion that zombies don’t run. A recent trend for more action oriented horror movies has resulted in several films (most famously 28 Days Later) in which the zombies, far from being barely animated corpses, are able to run, jump and climb with surprising agility. With such fine motor control, it’s surprising they’re not more talkative, too.

The problem with an athletic zombie is that it misses the point about what actually makes zombies scary. The threat from a fast zombie is really no different to that from a vampire or werewolf. But the threat from slow, shuffling zombies is not in their individual potency, but in the sheer numbers. Every zombie story worth mentioning pits just a few survivors against an outbreak that has infected the whole of society. Ten zombies are easy to deal with; ten thousand are not.

It’s that inexorable onslaught which is the real threat from zombies. The heroes can slay the undead time after time after time, but still more will arrive. And at some point the heroes have got to sleep…

It turns out that one of my favourite books is a zombie story – I just didn’t realise it until recently. John Wyndham’s classic 1951 novel, The Day of the Triffids, actually hits the survivors with a double-whammy of shuffling creatures. The immediate threat is that of a world population blinded by a meteor shower. Awkwardly making their way through the streets in search of food, many of them are keen to capture and enslave anyone who can still see. Subsequently the perambulating, poisonous, carnivorous plants of the title appear on the scene. They are a much bigger threat in the long-term. Whilst the blind will mostly starve or become triffid food, the triffids themselves will continue to multiply and attack in never ending numbers into the future.

The irony is that this zombie-less zombie book of slow moving, shuffling threats was actually the inspiration for 28 Days Later — although I don’t remember any of the triffids learning how to run…

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↓ Transcript
Grey: Oh crap! Zombie!!!

Zombie: [Thinking] Note to self: stay calm. There’s no need to panic. Yes, there’s a maniac with a baseball bat coming at you, but his reaction is quite understandable given the circumstances.

I am, after all, a reanimated corpse. I don’t understand how or why, but something has caused me to come back to life in this rotting frame. Although my mental faculties are fully intact, my limited physical control must make for quite an intimidating sight.

I just need to communicate with him. I need to tell him that I’m not like all the other zombies. That I’m lucid and coherent, and mean him no harm. I’ll just start with a simple “Good afternoon, my name is Ralph” and take it from there…

Zombie: [Speaking] Braaaaiiinnnns!!!!