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File:Zombie-gait 5584.jpg
"How many times have I told you? Dead things don't move fast. You're a corpse for Christ's sake! If you run that fast your ankles are going to snap off."
Jason Creed, Diary of the Dead.
"I can't get over how FAST they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bullshit on that, you know? They're not... ALLOWED to be so fast."
Zoey, Left 4 Dead

Zombies usually shuffle around with both arms out in front of them, groaning "Braaaaaains" or something similar.[1], depending on the species) and theoretical physicist zombies say "braaaaaanes". It's normally brains, though. Or Cerveeaauuuux.

Aside from the groaning, this is not unique to zombies. Mummies usually do this as well, and even Frankenstein's monster has been seen to lurch in this variety of the Unflinching Walk.

Although often portrayed this way in fiction (in fact, it was a fictitious sleepwalker who made this trope), sleepwalkers do not walk like this. They walk with their eyes open. If they did not, they would wake up with a nasty headache, or in the hall after they smack their heads on the nearest sharp corner. There have been accounts of sleepwalkers having held conversations, and sleepwalkers who do chores, get dressed, eat, have sex (an actual diagnosed condition, called 'sexsomnia', often mistaken for rape) and people have even been known to drive their cars while sleepwalking.

It has been speculated that holding out one's arms pointing forward while doing the Zombie Gait derives from the mysticism connected with hypnotism in the past and the fact that to get a person's arm to rise as if without their moving it themselves is one of the easiest suggestions to perform.

This is probably somewhat counter-productive, as moving slowly and announcing your presence is a brilliant way to scare off potential prey. (Although, if a Zombie virus needs a bite or scratch to infect, the best way to transmit that virus is to attract a mob of zombies from all directions. This does not apply to non-virus zombies or omnirevenant zombies however.)

Then again, may be justified as the undead's damaged muscles might make basic locomotion a chore. George Romero in a 2008 interview indicates his reasoning for why zombies are slow and cannot run. On top of that, since zombies can shrug off most things that would incapacitate a normal person and there's so damn many of them that even slow ones can be quite a threat to our plucky heroes (unless, of course, they have Bottomless Magazines).

Nevertheless, these zombies can often jump at protagonists from Behind the Black in a Deadly Lunge. See also and compare Marionette Motion, where a human body (shaped object) moves as if it were a puppet on a string.

Examples of Zombie Gait include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • In Blassreiter, the zombies, called demoniacs, follow this trope straight until they start being aggressive. They then break this trope by running on all fours, run along walls, and to more extremes, merge with vehicles like cars, motorcycles, and later on, Typhoon jets, to go really, really fast.
  • Subverted in One Piece. Yes, they moan and groan like in the movie, but take this example:

 Usopp: We're alright. They just came up from from the ground They can't dash after us. Zombies just move slow and groan. Even walking should be hard for them.

(The zombie horde runs much faster)

Zombies: HOLD IT!

Usopp: THEY'RE FAST!


Comics Edit

  • Zombies in Blackest Night avert this. They're not only fully mobile, they have superpowers!
  • Similarly, Marvel Zombies.
  • Played straight in The Walking Dead, where the zombies are fairly typical Romero-style walking corpses in various states of decay.


Film Edit

  • Trope Maker: Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, although he can run when he needs to, and he is, of course, completely silent.
  • Most zombie movies. It would be easier to list exceptions:
    • 28 Days Later, although they're actually "infected" and not the undead, but close enough...
      • Zombieland seems to run off a similar virus, albeit one that is a mutation of Mad Cow Disease rather than an experimental serum.
    • And the sprinting zombies from the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake.
      • It's also important to note that what we now call "zombie movies" pretty much started with Night of the Living Dead. Before then, zombies mostly shuffled harmlessly around on Haitian sugar-plantations.
    • Or, for that matter, The Return of the Living Dead.
      • Even older example: Nightmare City.
        • Even older example than that: Garden of the Dead
  • Subversion: In Dead Snow, the Nazi zombies are wicked fast. Probably because they're revenants.
  • Most early Mummy movies, subverted in The Mummy (1999).
    • Note that The Mummy also plays it straight at points. Imhotep is fairly slow when first brought back, and only gets up to speed once he's been restored. Similarly, his mummy priests are slow. Otherwise averted, though.
    • In the Animated Adaptation of The Mummy, they perform a Lampshade Hanging. "I thought mummies were slow and dumb!" "Trust me, this one's fast and smart."
      • Doubles as a You Watch Too Much X, because the person who thought mummies were slow and dumb is a friend of Alex's who thought he knew what to do because of the books and comics he'd read. He didn't.
  • Played straight in the Resident Evil movies until the third where Umbrella creates fast zombies.
  • Also been used as a Flanderization--Frankenstein's monster (who is made of corpse parts, but usually not thought of as undead) walks this way in the end of the The Ghost of Frankenstein and in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man because a botched operation has left him totally blind. Thereafter, it became a defining mark of the character, even though later movies returned his sight.
  • Near the end of Friday the 13 th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan Jason develops a Zombie Gait after getting toxic waste hurled into his face - he stumbles around bumping into walls in a pretty comical fashion.
    • Let's not forget that beginning in Part VI, Jason is in fact a zombie, and yet displays very few of the classic traits of the walking dead. He doesn't shamble, he's lethally intelligent, and while he rarely moves at more than a brisk walk, he is clearly capable of superior speed. Pretty much the only true "zombie" traits he follows are the rotting flesh and extreme resistance to/ignorance of physical damage.
  • Played for fun in Shaun of the Dead, where the protagonists mimic zombie gait to fool other zombies.
  • The Missing Link does it in Monsters vs. Aliens, but only because he had just been in the pool and his eyes were burning with chlorine.
    • Dr. Cockroach walks like this for a few seconds after his transformation in the General's video clip.
  • Sometimes played straight, sometimes not in Zombie Blood Bath. Some zombies can only stumble and shuffle around. Others can lightly jog, tackle people, and hop across small streams of water. Basically the zombies acted like average citizens of Kansas City, Minnesota.


Literature Edit

  • Lampshaded in Max Brooks' novel World War Z - the groan of a zombie attracts other zombies to living humans - who, once they hear the groaning and sense the presence of living humans, also begin to groan, thus attracting more. This can have the effect of attracting hundreds, thousands or even millions of zombies to one position, depending how the chain-reaction of groaning travels and how many zombies are in the vicinity and able to pick up on it. Despite their traditional slow-moving walk, this also has the result of effectively destroying the morale of any defenders and causing complete panic; you might deal with the zombies right in front of you, but there could be the zombified converts of an entire city's population right behind them.
    • The same applies in Mira Grants' Feed. The "zombies" moan deliberately in order to draw more zombies to the "meal".
  • When Windle Poons becomes a zombie (an intelligent one) in Reaper Man, he just feels like walking with his arms out in front of him, though he doesn't know why. It is explained why he walks with a slow, shuffling gait though: all the things his body used to do automatically he now has to control conciously, including his leg muscles.
  • Used with plant zombies in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. The eponymous creepy, flesh-eating plants not only walk with a slow, shuffling movement, but have a sort of stick-and-drum arrangement capable of producing a rattling noise... which, you guessed it, calls hordes of other Triffids.
  • Zombies in Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? shuffle around until they sense food, at which point they start to sprint.
  • Diario de un Zombi has this as both a good and bad thing. Good for the humans, but bad for Erico, a thinking zombie whose trying to ferry said humans out of Barcelona.


Live Action TV Edit

  • Zombies in the horror/comedy series Death Valley move fast shortly after they've become infected, but they develop a slow gait the more their bodies decay. There are corpulent zombies in the series who shuffle at a snail's pace.
  • In an episode of Mr. Meaty, a horde of zombies advance on the eponymous fast food restaurant, substituting "meat" for "brains". The same scene also parodies this.

 Hippie Zombie: Tofuuuu... I mean, meeeat...

  • While not exactly zombies, the Borg of Star Trek fame play by many of the rules of zombies, including continuing to walk slowly no matter how many of them get shot, never using weapons other than their Virus nature, and ignoring the good guys until they take at least one drone out.
    • Having fifty pounds of electronics enmeshed with their muscles and organs probably makes movement a little bit awkward, too, and any Hive Mind will usually suffer from multitasking or attention-span problems. To their credit, they can afford to be like that because of their personal shields and tendency to keep moving when injured (as opposed to lying down and yelling for a medic).
    • Averted in the Elite Force games, in which the Borg attack without provocation, move much more quickly, and shoot (at least in some missions), and their Assimilation Tubes of Doom don't follow the Virus trope.
    • The Borg were originally conceived as being more insectoid than anything else. When budgetary restraints dictated that they be played by humans in costume, a different way to make them scary and "inhuman" was needed, so the writers settled on zombie behavior.
    • At least one fan says that Borg are more like vampires than anything else, given that they produce "bite marks" on the necks of their victims (from the Assimilation Tubes of Doom) and all die if the "head vampire" (Borg Queen) is killed. Ironically, both of these characteristics were introduced in First Contact, in which Lily (in a Critical Lampshade Failure) refers to them as "those bionic zombies". Also ironically, this was when the Borg's appearance was changed from looking pale but young and healthy (like a vampire) to looking discolored and gross (like a rotting zombie).
  • Done with Vampires in the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lampshaded in the director's commentary on the DVD.
  • A suspect in Law & Order: Criminal Intent started to walk like a zombie just before he died. In fact, witnesses described it as walking like a zombie. Also, the detectives were investigating a woman who practices voodoo.
  • In Deadliest Warrior [Vampire vs Zombie] the Zombie's slow speed [2ft per second to 3mph] was a serious disadvantage to the Vampire's superhuman speed [about 100ft per second]. Because of this, the Zombies had to outnumber the Vampires 63-1 to make a fair fight. The fight scene showed that in lesser numbers, the Vampire would not be overwelmed by the Zombies and would kill them one at a time with great ease and speed.
  • The Walking Dead, being a show about zombies plays with this. While an average zombie can only shuffle or, at most, break out at a disjointed jog, and therefore be outrun, the main problem is they do not get tired. In late season 2, Andrea is overcome with exhaustion and jumped by a single walker, after being forced to fight and flee for hours on end.


Music Videos Edit

  • Completely subverted in the music video for Thriller.
  • The zombies of Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains" are well-spoken and intelligent, but are still quite insistent about eating your brains. (There is at least one zombie groaning and mumbling in traditional fashion during the chorus, but even he manages to keep in tune.)
  • Fridge Brilliance on LMAFO's "Party Rock Anthem" video, which presents the band's song infecting people a la a zombie apocalypse. Every day, they are shufflin'!
  • The dance for 2PM's song "Heartbeat" combines Zombie Gait with Marionette Motion.


Tabletop RPG Edit

  • Walking Dead in Deadlands RPG are smarter than they look (being demons from hell animating corpses). So they pose as slow, stupid zombies... And then they eat your brain out.
  • The last time rules for zombies appeared in Warhammer 40000, the zombies would always move as if they were going through difficult ground to represent this gait.
  • In older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, zombies (but not most other undead) tended to be specifically slower than living beings, which was reflected in such zombie-specific rules as always losing initiative or only getting partial actions each turn. Even in Fourth Edition, which mostly does away with these special-case rules, humanoid zombies tend to have a lower base ground speed than the living -- though it's worth noting that for example the gravehound from the Monster Manual, basically a zombie dog, still runs just as fast as a living dog or wolf.
  • In Feng Shui, most supernatural creatures (except for ghosts) explicitly appear to shamble, lurch or hop along slowly, but can actually move at their full speed. It's referred to as "deceptive speed."


Video Games Edit

  • Played straight and subverted in the Disgaea series. While visually the zombies in the games have all the appearances of a stereotypical zombie (rotting flesh, holding arms out, shuffling walking animation), the very first zombie encountered (Zommie) is not a mindless monster and not even an enemy, he's just really lazy and generally unhelpful (though when he does decide to help he's actually really powerful in a fight). Other zombies encountered in game play the trope mostly straight, and it is never really revealed why some are sentient and others aren't.
  • Course the zombies in Dead Rising features this. but Frank can Also do this to keep zombies from bothering him. Course it slows him down and doesn't work on human enemies.
    • In Dead Rising 2: off the record. Frank Includes Completely deadpan "Brains, gimme brains"
  • The Resident Evil series plays this trope completely straight... up until Resident Evil 4. Los Ganados can run, use weaponry, and speak in complete sentences, and are much more interested in killing Leon than eating his flesh. Justified in that Los Ganados are not actual zombies, but parasite-infected villagers controlled by the leader of an evil cult.
    • Also, the first Crimson Head the players encounter in R Emake, which also scatters the powered-up zombies about Crimson Heads are made if the zombie was disabled but not killed. Only headshots with a shotgun or lighting a zombie's body on fire will prevent a Crimson Head from forming.
    • A few of the zombies in Resident Evil 3 Nemesis can move at a brisk pace.
  • The MMO Urban Dead both plays this straight and averts this - zombie characters walk only half as fast as human characters until they buy the Lurching Gait skill.
    • Urban Dead also plays the zombie groan straight. Feeding Groan is a purchasable skill that can only be used while in the same room as human characters, and is heard farther away when more humans are present. The most common use of it is to alert other zombies as to the whereabouts of juicy brains.
  • The ReDeads of Zelda franchise (most notably The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, and their reincarnations, Gibdos, in The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask) both play this trait straight and avert it: they walk slow as molasses, usually accompanied by a low kind of thrum sound, and then they SHRIEK and as you're paralyzed, they reach and set about apparently RAPING you.
  • Ordinary Sims allow commands to walk, run or skip to a certain location. In The Sims 2: University, Sims that have been brought Back From the Dead as zombies can only "shamble."
  • Half Life's zombies follow this trope; in HL2 however they do have fast zombies along with the slower types.
  • In the recent zombie invasion stage in World of Warcraft, players infected by the virus become zombies...who move very, very slowly. However, they do have an ability, "Lurch!" that removes snares and other movement-speed reducing effects, and allows you to run for a short period of time. Additionally, they have "Zombie Groan!" which draws near-by NPC zombies to you, as long as they are not in combat.
  • Subverted in the game Left 4 Dead. EVERY zombie can sprint at you with considerable speed (* slightly* faster than players...). Unnerving with the regular hordes, pants-wettingly terrifying when the muscle-bound super "tank" zombie sprints at you -- and knocks over several vehicles en route. Again, though, these are Infected and not undead. If you observe an Infected that hasn't spotted you yet, however, they do shuffle around like traditional zombies up until the moment they make a dash for your face.
    • Interesting side note: If you watch them shuffle around long enough before they spot you, some will just lie down and die, right there.
  • Subverted in Dead Space, where the Necromorphs move really fast, even if you cut their limbs off. The twitchers (soldiers with time-altering gear who got turned into Necromorphs) amp things up to Super Speed. Ouch. Probably NSFW.
  • Played with in Stubbs the Zombie, where the protagonist and his horde are surprisingly fast despite their haggard stride.
  • The zombified Stalkers in STALKER - Shadow of Chernobyl are slow, but still remember how to use their assault rifles and are annoyingly accurate with them.
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem plays it not too over-the-top. But that doesn't change the fact that it's not a relaxing experience having it forced upon one of your many playable protagonists as his story arc progresses.
  • The ghosts of people you killed in Metal Gear Solid 3 during the Sorrow's battle do this.
  • Averted in Halo. The Flood are scarily swift and agile. They're also smart enough to drive vehicles, even complicated ones such as Covenant carriers.
  • Both Diablo games feature varying classes of zombies that fit the trope perfectly. In Diablo II, some of them will poison the player with each hit and/or release a cloud of poison gas upon death, though this poison will not turn the player or his/her minions into zombies.
  • Doom 3 features a wide array of zombies, most of which fit this trope perfectly (minus the braaaains). A few are faster than the rest (speed shambling) and usually either wield chainsaws or have been set on fire, but otherwise exhibit similar behavior. Zombie Commandos move quickly (no shambling), don't moan or grunt, and often wield guns and hide behind cover; however, they also don't look human and aren't the result of being bitten by another zombie, so they're arguably not so much an aversion of the trope as they are zombies In Name Only.
  • Played generally straight in Plants vs. Zombies, with a few exceptions. Many zombies would rather rely on trickery than speed, such as pole-vaulting over your defenses or riding on dolphins. Others prefer brute force, like the giant zombie who smashes defenses flat with his road sign/powerline pole/other zombie or the Zomboni, who as his name implies, runs over your plants with a magic zamboni that leaves a trail of solid ice behind him that cannot be planted upon and summons a zombie bobsled team.
  • Zombies, shambling with arms outstretched, appear in some of the Army Men games.
  • Averted in the Darkstalkers games. Leilei and Lord Raptor can run, jump, play basketball, and damn near everything else.
  • Used in Fort Zombie extensively. Most zombies have an awkward shuffle that you can outdo with a jog -- besides these, there's football player zombies that can manage a brief tackling charge, and "fast" zombies in tracksuits that can manage roughly a jog. They also can't get over obstacles nearly as well as your character. It's highly recommended you use this to your advantage, especially in the early game before you have many weapons or other survivors.
  • Most of the zombie-type enemies in City of Heroes have a hunched-over stance before being aggroed, and do a running shamble towards you when they are aggroed. However, whether this subverts the trope (as they are not slow) or follows it (as they can easily be outrun) is another matter.
  • The zombies in House of the Dead both play this straight and completely subvert it. Most will move toward you slowly but shoot them in a way that isn't a headshot and they will rush up to you to attack.
  • The Sonny games subvert this, at least with the player character and his party (with the obvious exception of Roald). They run and perform athletic feats just as well as living humans (though Sonny's speed during battle is dependent upon where the player allocates his/her stat points and what items are equipped).


Web Comics Edit


Web Original Edit

  • The zombies in I Am Not Infected exhibited the traditional Zombie Gait until recently, which stopped them from being threatening. Lately they've learned to run.
  • Mocked in Unskippable during the Left 4 Dead 2 cutscenes

  I like that, just as in old zombie moves, the only way to make slow zombies viable is to pit them against the stupidest, most lethargic humans ever.

  • Inverted on We're Alive. Most zombie move relatively fast, while some can run at incredible speeds.


Real Life Edit

  • People have been known to organize "Zombie Walks" for charity and/or fun, where people dress up as zombies and shamble through the streets.

Notes

  1. The groan depends on the zombie; vegetarian zombies usually say "graaaaaains", for instance, while zombie plumbers say "draaaaaains", zombie jockeys say "reeeeeeins" (or lots of hideous laughter

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