The Walking Dead, developed by Frank Darabont, based on the work of Robert Kirkman
I really wish this wasn't so easily and obviously the only real entry under TV. Oh, I'm sure there are probably episodes from The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Dark Side, and Tales from the Crypt, but there is clearly nothing even close to The Walking Dead when it comes to its contribution to the zombie zeitgeist (which sucks; Zombieland was conceived for TV and would have been awesome, with the zombie kill of the week intended to be a weekly gag; and World War Z would have been infinitely more compelling had it been stretched into a TV series instead of smushed into a movie - it could've been our M.A.S.H.).
If only based on its staggering popularity, the AMC ratings monster would demand a spot on this list. But it's actually really, really good. And bright in a way that I'm not sure even most of its most ardent fans give it credit for. The questions it asks of our society as we know it, and the remnants of it that would carry on, are disturbing to say the least. Plus, [semi-spoiler alert] the twist when the barn is opened in season 2, is one of the single most affecting moments in the nearly 50 year history of flesh-eating-swarm zombie fiction. Typing about it gives me goosebumps.
Video Games:(the series), created by Shinjin Makami
Resident Evil doesn’t get the credit it deserves. That’s unfortunate. Although the video games from the series, as well as the films, have all been commercially successful, they aren’t typically regarded with the same type of critical affection as their more literate zombie kin, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, or even Fido. However, there is almost no chance that the zombie renaissance as we know it (there’s nothing else to call it), to say nothing of the survival horror video game genre, would have occurred if millions of us hadn’t taken that first unpleasant trip to Raccoon City. Resident Evil did a lot more than prove that video games could be scary, though; it also helped reshape the way that we conceive of narrative. By offering players multiple endings based on choices they made while playing, Resident Evil helped usher in the age of video games that operated more as non-linear, interactive fictions than simple stories that players followed from start to finish. And they did it while making zombies scary (and cool) again.
My memories of playing Resident Evil in 1996 aren’t as clear as I’d like them to be, but I distinctly recall Resident Evil 2 scaring the shit out of me, even as a “macho” high school football player. These games, with their dicey controls and sometimes hilariously cheesy dialogue, were frightening in a way that zombie narratives hadn’t been in a very long time. Zombies had been fun in the 80s, and kitschy cult cool, but they probably hadn’t been really terrifying since Dawn of the Dead. As part of this project, I’m going to revisit these games, to try to pinpoint what made them such the perfect vehicle to remind us how awful the walking dead can truly be.