In the heated zombie debate about fast versus slow, the lines are clearly drawn between fans of what they consider the classic George Romero zombie, and devotees of the new wave of sprinting, living zombies first seen in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later.  But what seems to get forever overlooked is that the first representation of a fast, modern zombie on screen dates all the way back to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968).

In fact, the first ever modern zombie was FAST.

When Bill Hinzman stumbles out from the cemetery shadows in Night of the Living Dead he kills his first victim and then chases the film’s heroine down the road, all the while displaying a speed and dexterity that is in keeping with the most current depictions of zombies.  Hinzman starts by battling a fit young man to the death, leaping about like a cage fighter, and then attacks both sides of a car at full sprint.

What’s more, the Hinzman zombie at one point picks up a rock and tries to bash a window in, and even tries to open a car door using the handle.  This shows greater awareness and strategic thinking than is seen in 28 Days Later, or any other contemporary zombie film in wide release.

So next time someone asks if you prefer slow of fast zombies, don’t pigeonhole yourself.  Say you’re a zombie purist, so you like it all.  Slow, fast, smart, dumb, young, old, short, fat, and everything in between.


  1. Romero said, “The dead can’t run. Their ankles would break. It doesn’t make sense to me. The dead move slowly. But they keep coming.”

    With that in mind, I’m guessing the Bill Hinzman zombie would have to have been just incredibly fresh, where his body and mind hadn’t deteriorated enough to be a shambler.

  2. You should have said, ‘only’ 17 years before. 🙂

    I read, I think in World War Z, where the fresher the zombie, the stronger and faster which makes sense, I guess. I just hope if they ever show up they’re slow and stupid. :p

  3. Many of the Z’s featured in the orignal “Night” displayed characteristics that are often ignored by Z-fanatics, myself included, in later Romero films.

    1 – Hinzman was not the only Z to use tools; Karen kills her mother with a gerden trowel and another Z (I think it may have been the reanimated Johnny, but it has been a while since I’ve watched the film) uses a table leg to try and break down a door. This actually sets the framework for the intelligent Z’s featured in “Land.”
    2 – Many of the Z’s clearly recognize and are afraid of fire, as seen when Ben holds them at bay with a lighted torch as he attempts to reach the truck. The only other time a Z showed fear was when “Big Daddy” was startled by a hanging Z, once again, in “Land.” If this were true in an actual outbreak, a lit fire could be a huge boon to survivors.

    On the subject of speed, I am of the beilef that the transition to the slower, shambling undead is a direct result of Romero’s attempts at inserting social commentary in his films; slower zombies are less dangerous than faster, smarter varieties, and help highlight the idea that it is not the dead that pose the greatest threat to survivors, but each other.

    I also believe that the slower Z’s are somewhat more sympathetic than the running, screaming monsters used in other movies. It is easier to look at them as victims instead of raving beasts, and that adds another emotional level to the movies.

  4. Return of the Living Dead did the sprinting zombies first.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll To Top