The term “zombie” has been used to refer to so many different kinds of entities and social dynamics over the past 40 years that it is now hard to rein it in with any specificity. By one film critic’s account, Johnny Depp starred in the top-grossing zombie movie of all time, 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Pearl raked in more than $650 million worldwide and has spawned a number of highly profitable sequels. The only problem is that it clearly isn’t a zombie movie, as any five-year-old who’s seen it can tell you. There is not a single creature in it that remotely approximates a zombie in any way, shape, or form.
There are instead cursed pirates who must return the lost treasure they pillaged before they can enjoy any measure of human comfort. They are immortal, look like skeletons in moonlight, and can’t drink, eat or sleep. But their condition can be easily reversed, they are not dead or undead, and they aren’t relentlessly aggressive or contagious. They’re just unlucky for having stolen the wrong chest of gold! At one point Depp himself gets briefly made immortal because he momentarily swipes some booty.
Meaningless generalizations like this make us want to pull our hair out, so we’ve started a new “Not Zombie Movies” category on the ZRS Blog. We will regularly feature a new movie that is often mistakenly classified as a zombie film, even though no zombies ever appear on screen. Some will be obvious. Some will be surprising. And some will be controversial.
Look for more Not Zombie Movies coming soon.