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Zombie Infectee
I... I wasn't bitten... Really, I wasn't! You have to believe me...

Ed: What's up with your hand, man?
Pete: I got mugged on the way home from work.
Ed: By who?
Ed: Why?
Pete: I don't know, I didn't stop to ask them!

A Zombie Apocalypse is no fun for anyone; even the zombies are incapable of feeling fun. It's especially hard for the Zombie Infectee; carelessly bitten by a zombie or infected with an early stage of The Virus, they're in for a slow and painful transformation into a monster that will kill or convert their friends and loved ones. The only way out is death, either by suicide or mercy kill, and any miracle cure or even Heroic Willpower is right out the window if you aren't a main character.

So what's a Zombie Infectee to do? Nothing. No, seriously. Any group trying to survive in this apocalyptic situation will always have at least one idiot Jerkass who gets bitten or scratched and refuses to face the truth (traumatic as it is) and tell anyone, knowing full well their silence will cost lives. They don't seek help because they know there is nothing for their condition but a bullet to the head. They tend not to take steps to make sure they at least don't endanger others once they die. A Heroic Sacrifice is the last thing on their mind, and trying the Vampire Refugee route is suicidal in most cases.

The Zombie Infectee is almost certainly (and, in their defense, rightfully) afraid their friends will kill them in cases where the protagonists have figured out that a bite or scratch will pass on The Virus. Fear of discovery means they live their now shortened lives terrified and in denial, and as a result they end up behaving irrationally because of it. Alternatively, they will desperately cling to the hope that they will be the one person immune to The Virus, despite it so far having a 100% fatality and 100% conversion rate — in the most headstrong cases they may try to Resist The Beast.

At this point, the onus, unfortunately, is on the heroes to notice the erratic behavior (for a Zombie Apocalypse, anyway) and take the appropriate and necessary steps. Other people—friends, relatives, lovers—may also sink into denial and try to hinder the heroes from dispatching the walking liability before s/he becomes the walking dead. When they do turn, the Zombie Infectee will almost always infect or kill at least one unsuspecting victim (often the Zombie Advocate, for additional tragic irony), unleash the horde of zombies, destroy all the ammunition or find some other way to cause a really bad day for the remaining survivors.

Note: A few zombie works (movies, literature, etc.) have taken a third option, so to speak. If the point of infection is near the end of a limb (which it often is), that limb can then be removed, a literal Life or Limb Decision. The person may die due to shock and blood loss anyway, but at least he's not getting back up again to snack on your brains. Hopefully.

Obviously, much of this page talks about works in which a Zombie Infectee is kept a secret even from the audience, and thus learning the identity of one prior to experiencing the work would ruin a somewhat major twist. Beware of spoilers from here on.

See also And Then John Was a Zombie. Compare and contrast Secret Stab Wound and Mortal Wound Reveal. Most examples are also Secretly Dying.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • High School Of The Dead has several of these. None so far have tried to hide it, and most of them get put down by the heroes or die by their own hand after expressing a firm desire to die rather than become one of 'them'. The first arc of the outbreak in particular features two infectees (Hisashi and the boy in Shizuka-sensei's office) who are Mercy Kill'd. It's probably happened a few times off camera, though, since we see that "they" have somehow gotten aboard Air Force One.
  • Parodied in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. When a man gets bitten by a zombie, he volunteers to sacrifice himself to distract the zombies. However, he wastes so much time giving final words and requests that he turns before he can do anything useful.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens unknowingly in Garth Ennis'... strange book Crossed. One member of the party is shot (the eponymous Crossed are intelligent, just psychotic), and seems to just be in shock. However, there's quite a Oh Crap moment when a scouting party witnesses a group of Crossed soaking bullets in their semen. Cue rampage. Note that the heat from a gunshot flash sterilizes the bullet. It the reason most doctors leave the bullet in unless it's putting pressure or stuck in something vital.
  • Mostly averted in The Walking Dead. Most survivors are sufficiently paranoid and genre savvy to be on guard, and most infectees either decide to be left behind or take the "third option" described above. On the negative side, it has also been shown that the recently dead can and probably will rise as zombies even if they were not directly infected by another zombie. An interesting variation on the trope has occurred several times, when certain survivors remained in deep denial and refused to distance themselves from their fully infected loved ones.
    • In fact they now operate on the idea that bites DON'T infect them with a zombie virus and that if the wound is treated properly (Which unfortunately in the post apocalyptic Walking Dead verse means amputation) the person bit can live.
  • The Graphic Novel Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection puts a spin on this trope. The novel is presented as the journal of a doctor who survives the early waves of mass infection. Over time he comes to suspect that a food additive put into the products of an enormous Mega Corp. that supplies much of the world's processed food is the cause of the infection, and once the body absorbs a certain amount of said additive, the person begins going through stages of infection that lead into becoming a zombie. It's never shown one way or the other whether he's right, but if he is, everyone still alive is already infected, and every meal they scavenge puts them one step closer to turning...

    Fan Fic 
  • The weird but excellent Zombie Apocalypse/House fic The Rampant Disease features an infectee House refusing to let his love interest kiss him because they know The Virus is spread through bodily fluids. (That the story also contains two of the more egregious instances of Die for Our Ship ever seen detracts slightly, but it's still a great story.)
  • There's a Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic called "Mistakes" where Mustang becomes an infectee after getting bitten on the wrist and refuses to admit what bit him. Despite admitting the truth eventually, Mustang averts the trope by being cured when his totally infected arm gets torn off by the Gate.
  • Happens to several characters during the DC Nation version of Blackest Night, most notably to Troia and Oliver Queen.

    Film 
  • The Resident Evil movies have examples of good and bad Infectees. Notably, a recurring minor character from the second movie, Ethnic Scrappy L.J, is bitten in the third. What's infuriating about this example is that the movie is set well after the zombie plague has swept through the world, so he couldn't exactly plead ignorance; L.J. had likely seen the same thing happen dozens of times. And yet he keeps his infection a secret, even as he begins to sicken. Once he turns (which inconveniently happens during the big zombie attack), he almost kills The Chick while both are locked in a car, and then infects one of the likable main characters, who does the right thing and takes as many zombies with him as possible in a massive explosion.
  • Played with in the character of Shaun's mother in Shaun of the Dead. She waits until just before she dies to reveal she's been bitten, but not necessarily to save her life; rather, she wanted to keep the burden off Shaun for as long as possible, explaining: "I didn't want to be a bother."
    • Whereas Shaun's friend Ed, after being bitten, does a Heroic Sacrifice by staying to hold the zombies off while the others escape.
  • The "Sex Machine" (played by SFX guru Tom Savini) in From Dusk Till Dawn hid his rapid vampirization for fear of being killed. Fortunately he was killed without much problem. Unfortunately he let all the other vampires in.
    • On the flip side, badass ex-preacher Jacob is open and frank about the fact that he's been bitten and doesn't have long, and was pretty emphatic in getting his kids to do him in when the same was happening to him.
  • In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004), pregnant Luda gets bitten. Once her husband Andre discovers the bites turn the victim into a zombie, he sets his wife up in the maternity store, separate from the other survivors. Andre sinks so deeply in denial that he refuses to accept the truth, even when it's obvious The Virus has her; instead he becomes her twisted caretaker. Ironically, Luda doesn't kill anyone, because Andre restrained her when she went into labor (during which she died and reanimated). When Norma discovers zombie Luda, she shoots the undead new mother. Norma and Andre then exchange more gunfire, killing each other. Ana then arrives and shoots Luda's newborn zombie infant.
    • Additionally, Frank, once informed that the bites are going to turn him into a zombie, elects to be separated from the others, knowing he will be killed when he reanimates.
    • Subverted when Michael gets bitten and stays behind, knowing he can't accompany the rest of the survivors beyond this point. It's not quite a Heroic Sacrifice, but he at least displays consideration for the other survivors' safety. It is instead Ana, the woman Michael loves, who goes into denial, insisting she can help him because she's a nurse, even though she knows full well the consequences and wasn't able to do anything for any of the other infectees in their recent acquaintance.
    • In the original version, Roger is bitten and knows full well what is coming. He asks Peter to let him succumb, and then wait and see what happens as he is going to "try not to come back". It fails, and he is killed upon rising.
  • In Land of the Dead not a single infected person hides their status; if they are bitten they commit suicide or die fighting. However, the prize goes to Chollo, who is just about to abandon the city when he unexpectedly gets bitten. He's been on a zombie-killing team for years, so he knows what's coming. His right hand man asks if he wants to be shot or shoot himself. Chollo chooses neither, but instead goes back to Fiddler's Green, intending to take his flesh-eating revenge on his Corrupt Corporate Executive Bad Boss Kaufman. The other zombies have overrun the city by this point, so it's not like Cholo can make things much worse by joining the mob.
  • Averted in 30 Days of Night, when a widower not so slowly turning into a vampire asks to be killed not only to avoid becoming a murderer, but because he can't stand the thought of being immortal and never dying to see his family in heaven.
    • Further averted by sheriff Eben Ouleman willingly infecting himself, and then using Heroic Willpower to fight and kill the vampire leader. Sadly he sacrificed himself by waiting for the sun rather than risk losing his self control and becoming a monster.
    • Played straight however when a man hiding under a house slowly turns into a vampire before finding Eben and trying to kill him.
      • Not exactly. That scene happens fairly early in the movie, when no one, including Eben, understands what they are dealing with. The man hiding under the house DID NOT KNOW he was turning (he got wounded trying to save his wife from the vampires) and was just so relieved to find somebody alive that he trusted. THEN he starts to turn and attacks Eben who kills him in self defense, then runs back to another group of survivors and reports what happened. Getting attacked by the infected survivor is what tips everyone off that victims can be turned.
  • Several people in the Return of the Living Dead series keep their wits about them once infected. They even find ways to stave off the desire to eat flesh well into the transformation phase, so as to not be a danger to friends and loved ones. This, unfortunately, makes them rather attractive to the government.
  • Averted in Grindhouse: Planet Terror. Cherry is attacked by zombies who bite her leg off. After getting medical attention, she proves to be immune to the neurotoxic agent causing the zombies, as are most of the other leads. Others, not so lucky, are infected not through bites or scratches, but through the infected smearing bodily fluids on them. Ew.
  • Mostly avoided in Diary of the Dead. Everybody who gets infected has the wisdom to blow their brains out before they can rise. There were only two straight examples in the entire movie where characters rose after death.
    • The very beginning. Gordo gets bitten, and dies. His girlfriend is of course in shock, and claims he might not rise. The group doesn't believe her, but this is the beginning, so they aren't sure, and they leave her to grieve. He does eventually rise, but she reluctantly shoots him in the head instantly, before he cause any trouble.
    • Jerk Ass Ridley, who was in the horror movie at the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse they're blog-documenting, is seen early on partying with his girl. He invites the film crew to come join him because they're perfectly safe where he is. By the time Jason and company get to him, he's all alone and acting erratic, even for him. Only when Deborah convinces him to tell her where everybody else is does it become obvious that he's infected.
    • A third example comes from one of the video asides. A team of armed soldiers raid a house where a live family is storing their infected relatives. Over the family's protests, the soldiers open the room where they've been storing the zombies and shoot them, but the father's interference causes the sergeant to be bitten. Incensed, he deliberately shoots the living family members in the hearts so that they will "wake up dead."
  • While not a zombie plague, in Blade II one of the vampire strike team, Lighthammer, gets bit by one of the "super-vampires" and covers it up (surprisingly well considering he's one of the most underdressed members of the team), until he predictably turns and starts gobbling up the rest of his team.
  • Although not technically zombies, the 'Rage' victims in the 28 Days Later movies deliberately avert this trope; the virus infects and converts its victims within 30 seconds to a minute, thus preventing them from concealing their condition from those around them. It also ups the tension, as the non-infected have to deal with the victim immediately in order to save their own lives.
    • The first movie also offers a potential inversion; after butchering a number of infected, one of the characters discovers that he's somehow received a cut. As there's so much blood — both his and theirs — it's unclear as to whether he's actually been infected. This doesn't stop one of the other characters from instantly butchering him with a machete.
  • In another vampiric variation, Montoya in John Carpenter's Vampires also hides his own vampire bite. His subterfuge does not really matter, as he gets bitten again later in a less discreet place.
  • Quarantine involves a news crew and a group of firefighters locked into an apartment complex with a bunch of other people and a zombie infection. They store the infectees in the same room that most of the living people are congregated. Guess what happens?
  • Averted, then subverted in Zombieland. Little Rock appears all too willing to take the bullet to avoid being a danger to other survivors but it was just a con to let her and Wichita steal the guys' car and guns.
    • Played straight, however, with 406, but to be fair nobody knew about zombies or The Virus. She just thought some crazy homeless guy attacked her. Plus she only says he tried to bite her, not that he actually had. Considering everyone seems aware of how zombies work, she might have been afraid of being shot for this very trope.
  • As the title might suggest, this is the entire point of the movie Carriers. While you don't turn into a zombie, the plague's extreme contagiousness makes you just as much of a threat. After being infected, Bobby plays this trope painfully straight, until being abandoned with a little water and directions by her boyfriend. When he in turn is infected, he initially forces his companions to carry him, and then makes his brother shoot him when they try to escape, rather than leaving him to die a slow death.
  • This was why they needed to Shoot the Dog in Old Yeller: the title character became a Rabies Infectee.
  • Subverted very humorously in Dead Snow: One of the characters gets bitten on the arm. He knows what he has to do, so he slices off his arm with a chainsaw to stop the infection from spreading to the rest of the body. After a really painful looking scene and a sigh of relief, another Nazi zombie pops his head up from the snow and bites him on the crotch. He kills that zombie and looks back to the chainsaw in horror.
  • Amusingly averted in Flight of the Living Dead, when one of the protagonists gets munched on by a little old lady zombie. It looks like the story will go this way, as the character is a criminal out only for himself, but the aversion comes in when it turns out the biting zombie doesn't have her dentures in and didn't penetrate his skin.
    • A similar aversion in Juan Of The Dead with Lazaro: he reveals fairly quickly that he's been bitten, and then he and Juan spend the night sadly waiting for him to turn.. only to belatedly realize that, thanks to the ill-fitting wetsuit Lazaro always wears, the bite didn't actually break the skin.
  • Dog Soldiers has three werewolf infectees each with different reactions.
  • After a zombie spits blood in his face, the protagonist of World War Z runs to the edge of the rooftop, prepared to throw himself off if he's infected so he won't attack his family. He's not. Later on a special forces captain realises he's been bitten and says so on his radio. A sniper offers to shoot him, but the captain replies that it's been taken care of, and can be seen putting his pistol to his head just before walking offscreen.
  • The short film Cargo (can be watched here) plays this to devastatingly tearjerking effect.

    Literature 
  • World War Z makes these a larger threat than the living dead. A zombie is not particularly dangerous to anyone with a gun, but the infrastructure behind an army - zombie-hunting or otherwise - does not cope well with things like mass panic and refugee columns that contain an unknown number of infectees unaware of or unable to cope with the facts. (A bonus: imagine the rumor mill about immunities and cures.) Dogs can smell The Virus, and it freaks them out. In a controlled refugee situation, anybody a dog reacts badly to is taken aside as infected... often to the loud and increasingly histrionic protests of the infectee in question. Uncontrolled versions feature a lot of improvisation, but one option is to separate the zombies and the uninfected with a mass nerve gas attack.
    • The nerve gas attack "separates" the infectees out because while the gas kills everyone, only the infectees will stand back up... Ugh.
      • Arguably a case of Truth in Television: Some people in the Middle Ages would protect themselves from the Plague by finding a remote hideout and shooting anybody coming too close with a crossbow in order to avoid contact with potential infectees.
    • When the militaries of the world finally started clearing towns, the most dangerous zombies were those that had been "kept" by their families. These Zeds were usually inside of closets or wardrobes in otherwise safe towns and could create a very nasty surprise for a soldier with slow reflexes.
    • Further, in an aversion, people could become infectees completely by accident or unfortunate happenstance; and would do the right thing. One soldier knew he had to be put down because someone shot a zombie. The bullet went through the zombie, then into the soldier, bringing the infection with it. in Russia this becomes the responsibility of army chaplains, one thing leads to another and the country ends up a theocratic empire.
    • Averted when one interviewee tells of a buddy who was bitten and turned into an instant emotional wreck, knowing full well he would have to be put down, making no attempt to avoid the reality but is simply unable to take it standing up. It turns out the biter was a Quisling, someone who lost their marbles on the face of the Zombie Apocalypse and acts like, but is not, a zombie. The victim breaks down crying in relief. Ironically, he nearly dies from a Staph infection from the bite.
    • There were rumours of cures, and immunity - mostly fueled by the Quislings, and the fact that it was possible to survive being bitten by one of those, but not by a real zombie. Early in the book, one of the interviewees - a guy who dealt in smuggling people across the borders, mostly by car - mentioned that he suspected a lot of outbreaks in other areas were caused by infected getting out of China through the smuggling routes he and people like him used and then going to ground in the ghettos in other countries. He mentions that he regrets letting them get through, on his watch, and that he believes that most of the infectees (and their families) were trying to get out and find a cure - not because they actually believed there was one, or because there was any rumour that one existed, but because they were desperate and clinging to any straw of hope they could find, that they wouldn't have to take that final option.
    • Of course the cure rumors weren't helped by the fact that the zombie virus did have a drop in number infected the first winter of the crisis, a corrupt businessman linked it to his placebo antivirus (it was just vitamin pills) which created a false sense of calm. In reality the drop was due to the colder weather making zombies in places like northern Europe freeze solid for a couple of months and by limited operations from military commandos to slow down the rate of infection. Unfortunately government budget restraints stopped the U.S. (and presumably most other nations) from starting a dedicated offensive until it was too late.
  • Near the end of Stephen King's short story Home Delivery, itself an homage to the films of George Romero, a member of a group of zombie hunters who help protect a small island community realizes he's having a fatal heart attack, and demands that his fellow hunters shoot him in the head (after he completes the Lord's Prayer) so that he doesn't rise immediately after he dies.
    • Head? No, that wasn't sure enough for him. He arranged for them to shoot him in all vital organs SIMULTANEOUSLY.
  • In George Romero's short story Anubis, plunging a knife into the brain of a dead person is part of the funerary rites— note that Romero revenants are not infected with a zombie "virus", it's just that the bite of a zombie is fatal, and everyone who dies rises.
  • The rabies variant shows up in The Call of the Wild. At one point, the group is attacked by a pack of rabid dogs, but apparently make it out alive. Some time later, one of the sled dogs goes mad and has to be put down.
    • Although when you consider the fact that all of the sled dogs get pretty roughed up in the attack (including Buck himself) but only Dolly goes mad, it seems likely that only one or two of the aggressive pack were rabid.
  • Day By Day Armageddon: A man leaves Hotel 23 to go hunting, gets bitten, hides it, and comes back. Guess what happens that night.
  • This is the entire point of the "Zombie Noir" Undead on Arrival. The protagonist gets bitten in chapter 1 and spends the entire book trying to hide his condition from those around him until he can track down the person responsible for the bite.
  • In the Newsflesh world, everyone is carrying a load of Kellis-Amberlee (the virus that causes zombies in this universe) and any mammal over 40 pounds can be expected to reanimate on death. To make matters worse, spontaneous "amplification" is possible in a living carrier, which results in a living person or animal going straight to chompy zombie.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in the Community episode "Epidemiology" when a zombie plague hits the campus. Rich (a doctor) hides being infected among the main characters and doesn't reveal it until he starts turning, as he thought he "was special." A jealous Britta then reveals she was bit too and immediately starts turning as well.
  • Subverted in In The Flesh, where the only Zombies to exist were individuals who died in the year before the Rising. However, due to multiple zombie tropes being ingrained into people's heads through pop-culture, there is a widespread belief that anyone who died during the Rising will come back as a Zombie (they don't) and you can become a Zombie after being bitten (you can't).
  • In Season 4 of Misfits, Curtis gets the power to bring people back from the dead as a zombie, ranging from killing machines, to regular people who just have the need to eat flesh. He uses this to bring someone back to life, and they end up biting him. He successfully hides it until Rudy sees him eating a rat. Rudy tries in vain to kill him but can't make himself do it. Curtis eventually shoots himself.
  • Played With in Helix, which revolves around a CDC team sent to contain an outbreak of the The Virus in a Research, Inc..
    • In "274" Zigzagged when CDC team member Julia goes into denial after her infection by Patient Zero and Plague Zombie Peter. When team leader Alan finds her in the shower, she claims she passed out from fatigue, and tries to psych herself up, insisting "You. Don't. Get. Sick." A test initially and inexplicably clears her of infection, while she begins to project, accusing coworker Sarah of being infected. But when Julia witnesses a Vector attack a security tech and coughs, she Subverts it, showing her mucus covered hand and insisting she be quarantined. Later she realizes her swab still reads clear, so the rapid response test used to diagnose her and dozens of others doesn't even work.
    • Also in "274," the trope is Exaggerated when an escaped Dr. Bryce is discovered attacking a lab door with an ax while demanding a cure, and upon confrontation, still insists he isn't infected.
    Dr. Bryce: "I'm not even infected!" *swings ax, coughs Bad Black Barf* "Or at least I wasn't until you threw me in with the rest of 'em!"
    • Then, Inverted in "274," when Julia's psychological projection causes her to accuse coworker Sarah. Though she exhibits a prominent hand tremor, that symptom is from another medical condition Sarah is keeping secret.

    Video Games 
  • The player character acts like a werewolf version of this in the worgen starting zone in World of Warcraft. After getting bitten by a worgen, you get a debuff 'worgen bite', which is described (at first) as 'probably nothing'. (Checking back on this debuff every so often reveals that it's slowly getting worse.) Your character doesn't mention anything about this wound to anyone until you transform and go nuts. Unlike most examples of this trope, you get better - an NPC gives you an experimental treatment that restores your human mind inside a worgen body. Later, thanks to intervention from night elf druids (and an artifact previously thought lost), you gain better control over your worgen powers, which provides your racial abilities.
  • Subverted in The Walking Dead video game, when Kenny Jr., aka Duck is bitten, no one hides it. It's less of an issue of denying the bite, but rather the parents coming to grips with the fact that they're going to have to kill their son.
    • The player can hide the identity of the next bite victim from the group or not because the infectee is the protagonist, Lee. In what is one of the biggest heartwarming moments in the game, if Lee reveals the bite, it can convince Christa and Omid to come with him to rescue Clementine.
    • Becomes a major plot point in the first episode of Season 2. Clementine receives a rather nasty bite injury from a dog, but other survivors mistake it for a zombie bite and believe she's one of these.
  • Various characters in the Dead Rising series, particularly after the second game reveals the existence of the costly anti-zombification medicine Zombrex. Interestingly, few if any infectees try to hide it. Most notably, Katy, daughter of Dead Rising 2 protagonist Chuck Greene; Katey's a sweet girl who's quite unhappy that her Healthcare Motivation causes Daddy so much trouble.
    • In the original, Frank West himself is infected in Overtime Mode. He survives by developing a delaying medication, and appears in updated version of 2 with a supply of Zombrex on hand.
  • Sam in The Last of Us. Provides a Downer Ending for the "Summer" portion of the game, since they have to be killed just when everyone thinks they've gotten away safely. Tess too, earlier in the game, but they own up after a couple of hours and decide to go down fighting a You Shall Not Pass moment rather than turn.
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