In popular culture, zombies are people who have died and been reanimated as mindless, nearly invulnerable monsters that band together and attack the living. They are also known as "the living dead," "the walking dead," or "the undead."
Though many people are familiar with zombies from horror movies, TV shows, and video games, their history dates back hundreds of years, to stories in Haitian Voodoo folklore. In the Haitian culture, there are hundreds of stories of people dying and being brought back to life by a witch doctor; the reanimated person has no awareness of who he used to be, though he is not dangerous to others.
Zombies did not gain a strong presence in American popular culture, however, until the 1968 release of George A. Romero's classic horror film, The Night of the Living Dead. The film featured slow-moving, violent, cannibalistic zombies, and many critics believe that it sparked a new era in horror film-making. Romero has directed numerous sequels to the film, all using zombies to represent a critique of society.
A recent British film, Shaun of the Dead, released in 2004, was a parody of Romero's movies about zombies, billing itself as a "zom-com" or "zombie comedy." Other famous zombie films include Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's Braindead, which was titled Dead Alive for its U.S. release, and a 2004 remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
Zombies have also been frequently used in TV shows, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and frequently appear in many video games. In Michael Jackson's famous "Thriller" music video, he and a large group of corpses become zombies and perform a dance routine — the 14-minute clip is one of the most famous music videos in history. Zombies also have a strong presence in music, with bands like metal group White Zombie and 1960s pop group the Zombies naming themselves for the mythical monsters; the Cranberries also had a popular single called "Zombie."