It’s hard to argue that zombies are ruling pop culture. From The Walking Dead to iZombie to any number of zombie movies making their way into theaters each year, the undead brain-eaters are walking taller than ever before. While all of these new entries in the genre owe something to the classic films by George Romero and his contemporaries–and even new franchises like the 28 Days Later films–there’s one surprising reason some creators truly believe everyone loves zombies.
“I will attribute the rebirth of the zombie genre, honestly, to video games,” The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero admits in a digital extra from the upcoming AMC Visionaries: Eli Roth’s History of Horror, which GameSpot is exclusively debuting. “Resident Evil and House of the Dead, think about this. You put a third-person shooter gun into a kid’s hand and he can shoot zombies, that was before Dawn of the Dead. That was even before 28 Days Later.”
Nicotero’s theory is that once the zombie genre of films died off, video games were able to put players in the middle of an apocalypse, igniting a new interest in the undead. “People love shooting zombies,” he says. “Then they make Resident Evil, then they make [the] Dawn of the Dead remake, then Simon [Pegg] and the guys make Shaun of the Dead.”
Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright agrees, adding, “Those games did a very good job of capturing some of the spirit of the Romero films and me and Simon, through talking about the games, started talking about George Romero.” That discussion led to a scene on the British TV show Spaced that saw a zombie video game leading to an actual outbreak, which, in turn, gave Wright the idea to do a full zombie film.
Clearly, a lot of the credit for the popularity of zombies is owed to the film history of the genre. If Nicotero and Wright have any say in it, though, just as much credit will be given to games like Resident Evil–a franchise that continues to revolutionize zombies.
AMC Visionaries: Eli Roth’s History of Horror premieres October 14 on AMC. Fittingly, the first episode of the series will focus on the zombie genre.