Zombies generally aren't regarded as the most athletic of film monsters. Relentless, yes. Single-minded, yes. But for most of their 45-year history on-screen, the modern image of the flesh-eating ghoul from beyond the grave was shambling and slow-witted, succeeding solely through overwhelming numbers and gross human error. But thanks to a variety of recent interpretations of the hungry dead, our view of zombies as rotting gluttons barely able to keep themselves together is beginning to change. Films like "World War Z" and series like "The Walking Dead" show off zombies in enlightening new ways and raise new possibilities for just what these zombies are capable of. These days, some zombies can run, other zombies can climb and still other zombies can actually ask for their favorite meal by name (Brains!). To honor the diversity and breadth of accomplishment in the current world of the undead, we humbly present the first Zombie Olympics. The winners get gold medals; the losers get shivved in the brain pan.
The event: Team gymnastics
The medalists: Zombies of "World War Z"
Teamwork is not usually a cherished zombie trait. More often it's every ghoul for his or her self. But the infected creatures of "World War Z" show a willingness to work together to achieve their goals that would make team gymnasts everywhere proud. Witness their ability to form into a human pyramid during the film's Israeli section. Drawn by the sound of singing on the other side of a wall, the zombies pile on in a gold-medal-level display of teamwork, coordination and balance.
The event: Dressage
The medalists: Zombies of "The Walking Dead"
Zombies don't usually get to display their ability with animals. They're generally fixated on the flesh of living Homo sapiens. But in the first episode of AMC's hit drama series, the undead showed the best way to train a horse. Forget using a harness or a carrot and stick. Instead, surrounding a horse through overwhelming numbers can provide ample incentive to get the horse to go wherever you need. Granted, a zombie dressage event will most likely end with horse guts strewn about the field, but for a beautiful (if temporary) collaboration between horse and zombie, these shamblers are the best in the biz.
The event: Synchronized swimming
The medalists: Zombies of "Thriller"
True, the zombies in director John Landis' epic music video for Michael Jackson never go near water, but come on, they're dead bodies! Floating is second nature. What's most important is that these walking corpses show the kind of impressive coordination that would make most breathing men and women jealous. These creatures are smooth.
The event: Football
The medalists: Infected of "28 Days Later"
OK, let's forget all that inspirational Coach Taylor pep talk stuff about teamwork and aspiring to be better people. The successful football player is the one who can aim to take out a rival player without fear for his own safety. And the rage-infected men and women of Danny Boyle's 2002 thriller are the perfect specimens for this task. They're willing to run and tackle, and they have just the right amount of patriotism for America's favorite televised sport (their eyes are bright red; that's a third of the American flag).
The event: Judo
The medalists: Zombies of "Dead Alive"
Peter Jackson's 1992 comedy horror film features all manner of bizarre zombie mayhem, including a creature with a lawn gnome for a head. But the scene that highlights these creatures' athletic potential the most is their face-off against Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie), a man of God who turns out to be as highly skilled in the martial arts as Chow Yun Fat. While most zombies would be no match for a man who "kicks ass for the Lord," these zombies manage to use their ability to successfully fall apart to maximum effect, crunching him on the neck with a head that had been kicked off into the sky.
The event: 50 meter dash
The medalists: Zombies of "Dawn of the Dead" (the remake)
George A. Romero's zombies were slow and stumbling, but in the 2004 remake of Romero's classic film, director Zack Snyder's zombies were as fast as Usain Bolt. Even as star Sarah Polley pulled out of her overrun neighborhood in a car, her recently zomibified husband could keep up with her – and he was barefoot! Granted, these zombies are easily distracted (there's always some nice living flesh to go after), so a short intense sprint would be perfect for these slavering beasts.
The event: Freestyle wrestling
The medalists: Zombies of "Zombie"
One of the most famous scenes of Italian director Lucio Fulci's 1979 "Zombi 2" (released in America as "Zombie"), features a zombie on the bottom of the ocean taking on a shark. Interestingly, the outcome isn't so clear-cut. While the zombie does manage to take a hunk out of the oceanic predator, the shark takes off the zombie's arm. In a normal wrestling match, the loss of a competitor's arm would be the end. But not with a zombie. This creature manages to walk away from the face-off to terrorize again. Imagine if these two were paired off with judges assigning points? Not even the famously over-the-top WWE would ever attempt something this outrageous.
The event: Live coverage
The medalists: Zombies of "Return of the Living Dead"
Who better to provide color commentary for the Zombie Olympics than zombies themselves? And though most zombies can do no better than a grunt or a moan, the zombies of Dan O'Bannon's 1985 horror comedy and its subsequent sequels had a little more on their minds. Instead of flesh, these zombies craved brains and weren't afraid to ask for them by name. Additionally, they were able to manipulate the living and actually beg, finagle and whine for their precious brains. Who else would be good behind the microphone?
The event: Shooting
The medalists: Bub the zombie from "Day of the Dead"
Romero's zombies generally didn't have a lot going on upstairs, but Bub the zombie in the director's third zombie outing demonstrated some ability with more than his jaw. As the kooky Dr. Logan's pet zombie in the underground military bunker of the film, Bub appeared to retain some memories of his past life and even showed an aptitude with a gun, which he used to take down the crazed military bad guy, Rhodes, in the film's climax. Not everyone can be trusted with a gun, but Bub proved that zombies can be crack shots.
The event: Cross-country skiing
The medalists: Nazi zombies of "Dead Snow"
The evil Nazi zombies of the 2009 Norwegian horror comedy have spent the decades since the end of the war traipsing about the Norwegian mountains, doing awful things to unwitting campers and hikers who happen to cross their path. But because of the snowy nature of this part of the world, these Nazi monsters have gotten quite skilled at getting from point A to point B despite a heavy dusting of powder on the ground.