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How zombies went from fringe flicks to pop culture heroes In Focus – By Richard Crouse Metro Canada June 19, 2013

brad_pitt_world_war_z_movie-wideZombies are the most recent and most unlikely pop culture heroes.

On TV the recent Walking Dead finale drew almost 13 million viewers. At the movies the zom com Warm Bodies made still hearts beat again and outdoor recreation retailer REI even bandwagon jumped with their “13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak” campaign.

This weekend Brad Pitt battles the undead in World War Z, an action thriller set against the backdrop of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. The movie has the highest ratio of zombies to humans of any film this year, but don’t ask its star why these cannibalistic cadavers are so trendy.

“As for why zombies are so popular,” said Pitt, “I really have no idea.”

Pitt may not be able to out his finger on it, but academics suggest a variety of reasons. Audiences are interested in zombies in times of crisis, when we feel disempowered, says one, while another writer proposes that they offer something more primal—that the zombies represent an example of control over death.

Whatever the reason, filmmakers have been capitalizing on these cool corpses for years. Some, like Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead are classics, others, like the stranger-than-usual Zombie Honeymoon, aren’t.

The grand-ghoul of all weird zombie movies is 1968’s Astro Zombies. Starring horror legend John Carradine and cult star Tura Satana, the story of superhuman monsters on a killing spree has inspired two sequels and a song of the same name by the Misfits.

The mockumentary American Zombie’s tagline is, “We’re Here. We’re Dead. Get Used to It!” Documenting the everyday “lives” of a community of zombies in California, it’s a fake undead propaganda film that echoes the struggles of many minorities who have had to fight for human rights.

Fido, a Canadian film starring Billy Connolly and Carrie-Anne Moss, is set in a world where humans won the zombie war and, as victors, have made the undead their domestic servants. Funny rather than scary, this one is worth a look to see the usually motor mouthed Connolly in a fun, shambling and wordless performance.

Strangest of all the non-mainstream zombie movies? Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, a movie musical about a fast food chain called American Chicken Bunker whose meals turn diners into chicken zombies. Gross, gory and gratuitous, badmovienight.com called it “one of the sickest, most depraved, movies I’ve ever seen.”

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