"Head Shots" for Zombies -- Origins?

How long has this meme been around :

“To kill a zombie, you have to destroy the head”
I know that modern-day movie/comics/TV zombies are nothing like the zombie of actual folklore, who would rebel if given salt in their food (if my memory is accurate), and were not generally seen to be dangerous to living people, otherwise.

Any info would be appreciated!

I think that the original Night of the Living Dead created much of modern zombie lore, including the “head shot” kill method.

“Ya gotta shoot 'em in the head”

If you have a question about where did a given bit of modern zombie lore come from, the answer will be one of three sources:

  1. Night of the Living Dead (headshots, flesh eating, spontaneous reanimation)
  2. Return of the Living Dead (braaaaaaaaaains)
  3. A misinterpretation of one of the above (bite-spread plague)

So, when one of your group gets bit during a mass zombie fight, you don’t have to shoot him?

Return of the Living Dead zombies are also pretty much the only ones who eat only brains as opposed to flesh in general. It was Dan O’Bannon’s way of making the film less gory to ensure an R rating. Headshots not killing zombies (along with hall body parts being seperatly animated) was a deliberate choice to subvert the audience’s expections (“You mean the movie lied?!”). Zombies being able to talk & reason was pure comedy.

By Night’s rules:

Chances are he’ll die, so, you probably will.

The thing is, the same goes for the one who died of tetanus after stepping on a rusty nail, and the one who hung himself because he couldn’t take living in a zombie apocalypse.

By Return’s rules:

He will have been infected by the bite, but any other exposure to Trioxin would have done the same thing, not just the bite.

In a Romero zombie flick anyone who is bitten will succumb to infection and rise as a zombie. Of course anyone who dies with their brain pan intact will also rise as one of the living dead with cannibalistic urges.

Romero zombies have a rudimentary ability to use tools. In the first movie the little girl uses a trowel to stab her mother to death. In the beginning of the movie the graveyard zombie picks up a rock to bash a car window in.

I thought the line was “Kill the brain and you kill the ghoul”.

I assume over the years people have noticed head shots worked best for stopping zombies. The first person to reduce this to rule is probably lost in the mists of time. We’ll never know who figured out how to kill a werewolf with a silver bullet either. They must of tried bullets made from every available material and fired at werewolves until one of them died. I pity the guys who had to figure out how to kill a vampire. I don’t know how many must have died while trying to hammer a carrot or icicle into a vampire.

Thanks for the info!

It is interesting how zombies, and the various other horror move monsters, have evolved through time…

Both are used IIRC.

Which reminds me, who decided that the ghouls in NotLD were zombies? They were called ghouls in the movie and had practically nothing in common with earlier zombies, folkloric or fictional (or real for that matter), and much in common with earlier ghouls.

I believe Romero refused to call them zombies right up until Land of the Dead. (Dennis Hopper’s character says ‘I hate zombies’, at one point, which may be the only time in the original Romero series the word was used.)

As to who decided they were zombies, not ghouls, I’ve no idea.

In D&D, ghouls are much worse than zombies. :slight_smile:

“Just one hit die worse, that’s not much worse…”

“It is when it means that ghouls have double the hit dice of zombies.” :smiley:

Ah, but a large, woody frozen carrot…


In Dawn-- “there’s going to be a million zombies in here These guys will be too busy to worry about us.”

Clearly, I need to rewatch the original trilogy.

<deadpan> Oh. The suffering. </deadpan>