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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Being the gorehound and horror expert of the Boatright family, my parents once asked me “Are there any zombie animals?” It was a tough one, but the first three instances that came to my mind were Return of the Living Dead (RLD), Resident Evil (RE), and Black Sheep. Are these truly instances of zombified animals? Not necessarily. The latter is not of zombie origin but more rather genetic engineering, but they still fall in the realm of horror. Resident Evil is more along the lines of zombies but do not exactly qualify as zombies. In fact, very few films actually do exhibit true zombie like characteristics. Most are either genetically modified organisms (GMOs) via various mechanisms, acts of nature, or a combination. I’m going to mention a few creature features that may touch on zombified animals and conclude at the end.
So what qualifies something as a zombie? Well surely it must be dead and then come back to life with a taste for blood, brains, and destruction. The question of it’s ‘aliveness’ or morals after death is arbitrary. Such as the zombies from 28 Days Later are not zombies, but merely infected. Therefore, we will say that these animals must have already been dead to qualify as a zombie.
The only reason RLD came to my mind immediately is because, well, it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Early in the film and after trioxin is released, we see a specimen dog, cut in half– reanimated. It’s the only presence of zombified animals in the movie but it still qualifies. In RE, the Doberman Pinschers make a brief appearance, and it is clear that they are not your normal puppies. The dogs have been infected with a T-virus. Thus, making them GMOs. This is a tricky situation because we are unaware how they have come to be. Were they dead? We can say that they are most likely infected based off the effects on humans. Therefore, the Dobermans from RE are not zombies.
I want to mention that there are A LOT of movies out there. All the films I’m mentioning are those I can attest to, have seen, and remember well. Don’t yell at me for not including your favorite and probably obscure film that features a zombie animal in it.
The act genetic engineering (GE) alone specifically, hasn’t been touched on much without some aiding and abetting. The mechanisms always vary to some degree. Black Sheep, Piranha (’78 & ’10), and Deep Blue Sea are a few notables. There’s also any combination–and cross– of sharks, octopuses, alligators, and crocodiles fighting each other in the low-budget realm. I have seen a few of them, and I can personally say just how entertaining they are! Snakes on a Plane would have been the result of GE but the snakes were actually just interacting with a pheromone, along with the sharks from Shark Night 3D, both were just regular animals. Nothing too controversial there.
Now we have the older films and classics that include horrific or otherwise monstrous animals. I’m not going to touch on them because I don’t particularly enjoy watching them, but I will acknowledge the noteworthy ones: Jaws, King Kong, The Birds, Cujo, Planet of the Apes, and Them! Take note, that none of these animals were zombified in any way.
There also those creature features that are simply frightful due to their numbers such as Arachnophobia (’90), Strays (’91) and maybe Willard (haven’t seen it but appears so).
In contrast to the zombie animals in horror films, we have simply the monstrous animals. These are those with exaggerated features, most commonly body size and deformities. These include: Mosquito, Mimic, Lake Placid, Anaconda (are they really that big?), and The Fly (’86 & ’89). Below you will see the wonderful Brundlefly.
In addition are two moments I am unfamiliar with. I cannot attest to them but during my research I came across them, and they appear promising: zombie poodles from The Boneyard (’91) and the butchered animals from Deadheat (’88). Come on, a zombie poodle?
There are many others that are just as horrific but are more along the lines of zombies such as the cat from Re-Animator (’85), and the dog from the Thing (’82). Other than that for mainstream movies, there aren’t many animals being zombified. So to answer the question of “Are there any zombie animals?”. Simply put, there aren’t many but yes, they do exist. Do I want to see more? Please!
Qualifications and genres aside, here are my top 5 favorite films that include zombie or monstrous animals:
5. Black Sheep (’06)
4. King Kong (’05)
3. del Toro’s Mimic (’97)
2. The Fly (’86)
1. Return of the Living Dead (’85)