Book review: Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead

ZOMBIES. Regardless of the medium, there’s no avoiding them nowadays.

From film to TV, books to video games, the walking dead are everywhere.

However, they weren’t always so prevalent in society – so where did they come from? Where were zombies first mentioned?

Now, thanks to Canadian horror aficionado Jovanka Vuckovic, fans of the living dead have an outstanding reference point that covers everything you could imagine.

Vuckovic, herself, is in the process of putting the finishing touches to her debut film, The Captured Bird.

Named one of the top 13 women in the history of horror, it’s safe to say she knows her stuff – and the detail provided in Zombies! is vast, informative and interesting.

With a foreword from the best zombie film director in the world, George A. Romero, it’s a good start. And things only get better when you delve further into the history of our shuffling, flesh-hungry pals.

Beginning with the origins of zombies in literature from as far back as the 16th century in destinations as far afield as Martinique and Haiti, it covers the alleged use of corpses by ‘sorceresses’ and voodoo.

This section of the book is definitely insightful and gives horror fans background into the monster that is now a phenomenon.

Given Jovanka’s film background, it’s when Zombies! moves into the area of movies that the book really comes into its own.

Moving through the decades from the 1930s to present-day, films like White Zombie (1932) starring Bela Lugosi to The Mummy (1932) and on to Boris Karloff vehicle The Ghoul (1933) are referenced.

Moving on to the humorous additions to the genre in the 40s – The Ghost Breakers (1940), Voodoo Man (1944) and even the brilliantly-titled Zombies on Broadway (1945), the number of early zombie-influenced films is almost overwhelming.

Fast-forward through the 50s sci-fi inspired zombie flicks and we eventually reach the seminal zombie film – George A. Romero‘s legendary and brilliant Night of the Living Dead (1968).

Add to the history of zombie creations from Europe, Hong Kong and even – amazingly – Bollywood, it’s clear no stone is left unturned in the search for films starring the undead.

By the time the book gets to the 21st century, we’ve been introduced to shlock zombie horror such as Re-Animator and the slapstick – but brilliant – Evil Dead series from Sam Raimi.

Beyond the likes of the Resident Evil franchise, 28 Days Later and Spanish films [Rec] and [Rec]2, the book brings new levels of zombie to the debate… including those that no longer shuffle. They run. Fast.

From films, …History of the Undead delves into the world of zombie-based computer games, the relatively new phenomenon of ‘Zombie Walks’ and even graphic-novels, books and music/bands inspired by the dead.

The attention to detail from Vuckovic is almost epic. And the book provides information on the genre that many may not already be aware of.

If you need one place to go for details on the undead, then Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead should be your first choice. In fact, it should be your only choice. Quite brilliant.

Zombies! An Illustrated History of the Undead by Jovanka Vuckovic is available to buy now.

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