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Technically-Living Zombie

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These guys? Not dead, just insane and very contagious.
"I know there are purist zombie guys that don't like the running zombies, but I dig the infected thing. I think that's a scarier incorporation of an element into the genre."

In quite a few modern Zombie Apocalypse series (and occasionally works about other things that also incorporate Everything's Deader with Zombies), the creator (obviously) wants to have zombies, but would rather not explicitly invoke the supernatural by having them be actual reanimated corpses.

This generally happens because it's somewhat more scientifically plausible — at least broadly speaking — that a plague turning infected people into crazed cannibals (or slow, lumbering cannibals) could exist in reality than that the dead could rise, so it gets past skeptics' Willing Suspension of Disbelief more easily. Or, as with many works featuring fast zombies, it may be used to justify why they don't act like the classic image of moaning, slowly shambling undead. Or perhaps the story simply takes place in a pre-existing setting that doesn't allow for supernatural zombies. If the story was made after the zombie boom of the 2010s, it may also be an excuse to use Zombie Apocalypse tropes without being "just another zombie movie."

The virus responsible for zombification may be a mutated version of a real-life disease; rabies is popular because it already makes people and animals act, well, rabid, as is mad cow disease (and prion diseases as a whole) because one major avenue of transmission is by eating infected brain tissue. If the supernatural is involved rather than a virus, but the zombie is living anyway, it's often the result of possession by some nasty entity such as a demon or an Eldritch Abomination.

Since they are living people instead of animate corpses, these zombies are almost always easier to kill than the undead kind. They may disregard nonfatal (or not-immediately-fatal) wounds, but unless zombification also means becoming tougher, anything that would kill a human will kill them. It does run into a bit of a problem if you want a true Zombie Apocalypse in which the zombies act like classic zombies only driven by hunger. It's easy to handwave a supernatural zombie that's a Perpetual-Motion Monster, but living creatures require food, water, and usually rest. Without those, within a few weeks the original living zombie infectees should be dead (in the permanent sense) as a lack of resources causes their bodies to fail. This can be worked around if living zombies are The Needless or the story has a short timeframe, in which case it's accepted that the zombies will die out shortly, but they're still an immediate threat to the protagonists. In fact, this trait can be even integrated in the story by making the zombie plague a man-made biological weapon designed to rapidly turn the population into a mob of frothing monsters that would tear itself apart.

Zombies that retain enough survival instinct to meet their own bodily needs — functioning more like wild animals that simply prioritize human prey — can be a threat for longer, though why they don't eat each other may need to be addressed and they probably don't move in hordes in the same way.

This is a Sub-Trope of Our Zombies Are Different. It tends to appear alongside Not Using the "Z" Word, but they aren't completely inseparable; zombies-in-all-but-name are often legitimately undead, and Technically Living Zombies are often simply called zombies. The combination of the two has been known to start arguments among zombie fans over whether they're really zombies or not. Which naturally overlooks the fact that the popular, Romero-esque zombies are very different from traditional zombies too, which were basically entranced slaves of voodoo priests, and often very much alive.

This trope overlaps with particularly extreme Hate Plagues, but only if the plague causes its victims to act mindless as well as homicidally insane. Usually are a type 3 on the Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration. See also Mistaken for Undead. Compare the Technically-Living Vampire for another traditionally undead monster that is sometimes living instead. Contrast Ridiculously Alive Undead.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Arachnid, a girl who is a Living Aphrodisiac turns the student body of her school into sex-frenzied zombies to rule over but is killed by the heroine. Afterwards the students remain mindless and are let out of the school to start a massive rape orgy to fulfill the Big Bad's desire of halving the population of Japan once all the infected either die from starvation or are massacred by the army.
  • In Barefoot Gen, after the bomb hits, many of the townspeople of Hiroshima that weren't vaporized became so badly burned (and probably disoriented), that they resemble melting zombies... except that they are still (barely, briefly) living.
  • This is basically the mental effect of Angel Dust in City Hunter and City Hunter Rebirth, making the user extremely aggressive and easily conditioned to obey someone without impairing the ability to use higher skills (and many users have previous military or special forces training), in addition to deleting the ability to feel pain and releasing all limiters on physical strength. This makes the users extremely dangerous opponents, as while they're killed by anything that would kill a normal person they need something that is immediately fatal (such as decapitation, a headshot, or a large grenade in the knee) or they'll come after you until they bleed out. It also means that those who takes it voluntarily are extremely rare (aside for Ryo, who was the test subject, only the Major took it willingly, and that was because he knew he had to kill Ryo before the end of the day or he'd be murdered himself), and very few survive their mission to have it wear off — and if they survive that and the horrific withdrawal, they have then to deal with the trauma of what they did under the effect, dire enough they're known in-universe as "devastated", and possibly to permanent physical damage caused by what injuries they took and left untreated.
  • A story in Franken Fran has an island seemingly suffer an epidemic and the remaining villagers trying to fight off the horde. It turns out that it's just a mutated fever caused by a parasite that attacks the nervous system giving the subject the appearance of a zombie, but otherwise they were still quite alive, human and aware of what's going on but can't communicate to those unaffected.

    Comic Books 
  • The Crossed are a twisted and nasty version of this. Like the Infected from 28 Days Later, the Crossed are also living people transformed into rage-fueled psychopaths by a Hate Plague but unlike them, the Crossed retain human-level intelligence and are able to wield weapons, including firearms, drive vehicles, form hunting parties and set up traps to capture victims and torture them in the most unspeakable and creative ways imaginable. They do engage in cannibalism, solely because they are compelled to carry out the most evil thoughts a person can come up with. While the Crossed will mutilate themselves and kill each other out of boredom, they specifically will attack survivors as they cannot get any satisfaction at torturing fellow infected as they will laugh it off whereas seeing a survivor in extreme pain is what they truly seek. Also, while most of the Crossed are barely intelligible psychopaths, there's been a few "elite" ones who still have their human reasoning and intelligence, but remain incredibly sadistic and evil. One survivor described the Crossed as regular people who have had every redeemable trait about the species stripped away, as they don't really do anything that non-infected humans aren't capable of. One infected was completely unaffected as he was already a murderous psychopath, and he was ecstatic to live in a world where everyone saw things the way he did.
  • Feral, advertised as a zombie comic, has the infected animals suffering from a stronger, more powerful variant of Rabies.
  • Bombie the Zombie from the Carl Barks story "Voodoo Hoodoo" isn't an actual zombie. He's under a spell. Although, in the prequel story from The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck depicting the original encounter between Scrooge and Foola Zoola (the African shaman controlling Bombie), Bombie displays many feats of superhuman durability and persistence.
  • Spider-Man:
    • A famous vampire variation occurs in the pages of Spider-Man and Blade: Morbius, the Living Vampire, who has none of the regular vampire weakness aside from the hunger for blood itself and some very light photosensitivity in lieu of a weakness to sunlight, due to having been transformed by science instead of being bitten by an actual vampire (which do exist in the Marvel Universe as well).
    • The original Carrion, a clone of Miles Warren infected with a virus weaponizing the cellular degeneration his clones undergo upon death, makes his debut in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #25 seeking to avenge his creator's (apparent) death and that of Gwen Stacy. Warren intended to use the clone to wipe out all of humanity, but Carrion emerged from his stasis coffin too soon.
  • There is also N'Kantu the Living Mummy, the slave of an ancient pharaoh who was forcibly given immortality, wrapped in linen and entombed, while remaining alive and conscious for thousands of years.
  • Wynonna Earp: In #4 of the IDW series, Wynonna and the rest of the Black Badges have to deal with a mall full of people who have been transformed into zombies by a Plaguemaster.
  • Simon Dark: Those infected during the cult's plot are not actually dead, but turn pale with sores, gain a degree of super-human strength, and mindlessly viciously attack every living thing in reach until they're put down.
  • Discussed and subverted in Tex Willer: when dealing with a voodoo cult, Tex and his friends are warned about zombies, that a professor explains are allegedly dead people resurrected by a houngan or a mambo but in reality are living people under the effect of a drug... But when they actually encounter one it's a Voodoo Zombie, a dead man raised by the power of the mambo Loa and immune to their guns, that is only stopped when a bullet accidentally hits the charm channelling Loa's power.

    Fan Works 
  • The Newfoals in The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum are a magical version of this due to a severe case of Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul. Newfoals feel no emotions other than an artificial happiness, have no will of their own, and will happily throw themselves into the meat grinder on the orders of a native Equestrian. They can also never be returned to the human they once were, as the human's soul is shattered by the potion and bound to Queen Celestia's will, and only death can make it whole again.
  • Principal Celestia Hunts the Undead: There are creatures called brain worms that take over the victim's body and force them to do the bidding of the worms' controller (though they leave the victims' personalities intact), turning the victims into this.
  • Metabolically Extended Citizens in Left Beyond start off as this. Eventually, the technology that keeps their bodies and minds going even though God has sent their soul to Hell improves to the point where they remain functional, albeit emotionally crippled, members of society.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later (and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later) has the Infected, which are living people driven insane by the Rage Virus. The whole movie series is arguably the Trope Codifier. Notably, the Infected do die from starvation and dehydration in about a month, provided they're left alone. Numerous critics have pointed out that pure dehydration will kill a person in a matter of days, though, not weeks. While they do use biting as a method of attack, the Infected are never known to actually devour their victim. Their aim is purely to kill, hence why starvation eventually catches up with them. It isn't clear if the Infected ever attack each other, though they seem to be particularly annoyed at uninfected survivors. The attacks of the Infected are not actually as physically damaging as undead zombies: they're rarely coherent enough to use basic weapons like clubs, but animalistically attack, tooth and nail — they often end up biting and infecting others, but they're not trying to. What really makes them dangerous is that infected bodily fluids are pouring out of all of their orifices, particularly that they regularly vomit up torrents of blood. Simply standing within a few feet of these guys runs the danger of being infected if some of their blood splatters into your mucous membranes. Which also makes one wonder how they take weeks to dehydrate when they appear to be constantly bleeding and vomiting.
  • In the Dolph Lundgren movie Battle Of The Damned, the zombies are also caused by an outbreak of a deadly virus from an illegal laboratory in a South-Asian city. A character even points out that they are not undead, although they are still called "zombies" by everyone. Although one of the robots (yes, there are killer robots too in this movie) mention that they have lower body temperature than non-infected people, and thus quantify them as non-humans. Nonetheless, they are killed as easily as ordinary humans, by droves when it's done by professional soldiers. But they are still fast, and through sheer number they can overpower even them.
  • Black Sheep (2007): The mutagen turns the sheep into these, and they're indistinguishable from normal sheep save for the fact that they pounce on people and try to eat them alive. The Virus was created in a lab, and the sheep will eat human flesh if they get close.
  • Similarly, the zombies in Cannibal Apocalypse are caused by a disease similar to that which occurs in cannibals who eat infected brains. The virus turns a person into a rabid, psychopathic killer who retains all normal human brain functions but loses any capacity for lucid thought. The infected can drive cars, use guns, run as fast as any normal human and—-since, regrettably, many are veterans of an unnamed foreign war—fight and kill with great aplomb. Even worse unlike most Technically Living Zombie viruses, they do not look different than normal, or even lose the ability to communicate, until the virus totally overtakes them and they go insane. The virus was caused by a vet from the war being forced to eat his cohorts whilst held captive by the enemy, causing him to develop the disease and to bring it back with him to civilization.
  • The infected in Carriers seem to act like zombies at various points. This is a strange breed because they only live a few weeks before the virus kills them and they maintain higher brain functions. When infected, many try to hide it and latch on to groups of survivors. They don't actively spread the disease, but do so through their infected breath. Most are interested only in themselves, but an infected doctor met near the beginning and a small infected child still have compassion for others (the girl for her immune father and the doctor for any survivors who manage to find him, he even goes as far to kill other infected that come to him).
  • The 1989 film The Chilling has a freak thunderstorm wreak havoc at a cryogenics laboratory; several of the preserved people are revived, but in a defrosted state that leaves them looking like icy, shambling corpses that begin killing and eating everything around them due to brain damage.
  • In The Crazies (1973), there's a nerve agent airborne virus that turns people into oddly calm psychotics. The virus either kills the hosts or makes them kill themselves, but preferentially makes them target non-infected they have a grudge on.
  • In the remake of the above, The Crazies (2010), the virus that causes the Crazies, is a modified and weaponized variant of rhabdoviridae (rabies is a part of that family of virii) that got into the water supply of Ogden Marsh. It was modified by the US Army at Fort Detrick, with the intention of destabilizing a target population, preferably the enemies'. It was on its way to an incinerator facility in Texas, before a storm caused the plane delivering the virus to its destination; to crash into the swamps around Ogden Marsh. It got into the watershed and ended up contaminating everyone.
  • Spanish sci-fi/horror film The Dark Hour has the Strangers, also infected people that bleed from every orifice but never die and can pass the infection just by touch.
  • The zombies in Dead Air (2009) are infected by a chemical agent spread by terrorists.
  • The Grapes of Death (Les Raisins de la Mort) is similar to The Crazies, with farm chemicals as the cause.
  • Richard Matheson's book I Am Legend (see the Literature section) has been adapted three times:
    • 1964's The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, closer to the original novel, the infection that wipes out humanity turn them into vampire-zombie like creatures. Most of them are undead, but it later turns out some of the creatures are this trope and can be reverted to a human state.
    • 1971's The Ωmega Man with Charlton Heston, the infected here are actually photosensitive mutants and fully functional intellectually, albeit kind of crazy from the change.
    • 2007's film adaptation I Am Legend with Will Smith never uses the Z-word or the V-word, or even the word "undead". The infected (referred to simply as "darkseekers") are alive and explicitly said to be by the protagonist, who is trying to find a cure for the plague. Apparently, it started with a cure for cancer based on the measles virus, but quickly mutated and became airborne. It is later revealed that one of the antidotes that Neville is experimenting with is actually successful and the infected test subject is beginning to transform back into a normal human.
  • I Drink Your Blood depicts an epidemic of rabies.
  • In The Mummy (1999), the plague of pustules is re-interpret as Imhoptep having the power to mind-control everyone infected with such, creating an army of essentially living zombies.
  • The "zombies" in Nightmare City, also known as City of the Walking Dead, are, um, not walking dead at all. They're humans driven insane by a radioactive disaster, who are now driven to psychopathically murder any man, woman or child they see and spread the contamination by mere proximity. However, because of their "molecular structure", they are basically immune to bullets and can only die by a gunshot to the head. The main identifier which separates them from normal humans is that their skin shows signs of extreme radiation exposure — burns, blisters, puss, the whole nine yards. They seem to drink blood and eat flesh to survive, having lost most higher brain functions, but also seem to still have full motor control, can run as fast as a human, have greater strength and endurance and can use weapons. Not surprisingly, it becomes clear if the contamination spreads it'll mean the extinction of mankind.
  • In Night of the Comet, the "zombies" are humans brain-damaged and warped by partial exposure to the comet's radiations.
  • Patient Zero (2018): All the "zombies" in the movie are humans infected by a mutant strain of rabies. They can run, go down from gunshots as easily as uninfected, communicate with each other in their own language, and formulate plans.
  • The eponymous The People Under the Stairs are alive, but due to years of abuse, mutilation, lack of sunlight and basic commodities or medical attention, and been fed with human flesh, look and act like zombies.
  • The Sickos from Planet Terror are normal humans infected with a mutagenic zombie-virus referred to as DC2 (codename "Project Terror") created by an unknown party, discovered by Lt. Muldon and his squad in Pakistan. The infection begins as a series of rashes, pimples and sores appearing across the body resembling fast-growing forms of infections like gangrene. Overtime, the host goes insane and soon is driven either to kill or infect others, usually through bite or exposing them to the infection on-contact. The virus is airborne, the release of it at the beginning of the movie turning all those that do not posses a natural immunity to it with infection, and there is no known treatment for it. Those without immunity to it must have a constant intake of DC2 to stave off later symptoms. Because they are technically living organisms, gunshots to any part of their body can kill them.
  • The infected of Pontypool don't have to bite or even attack to spread the infection. Determining the exact vector by which the infection is spread drives much of the second act. What makes them interesting is that if these infected go for too long without infecting someone, they kill themselves.
  • Quarantine (2008) references rabies. (The original [REC] looks like one of these as well, but ends up going in a different direction.)
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow uses the original, drugged-and-prematurely-buried voodoo (or at least Hollywood Voodoo) version.
  • The acclaimed German Zombie Apocalypse film Siege of the Dead features “zombies” infected with a rage virus like the one in 28 Days Later.
  • Similarly to the above, in Suicide Squad (2016) Enchantress's influence turns the people in the area into Ax-Crazy killing machines.
  • The "zombies" of Teenage Zombies are just poor slobs who have been exposed to a gas that makes them act hypnotized.
  • The zombies in Train to Busan are initially living people. However, like the example above, after a while, they may or may not turned into walking dead.
  • Trench 11: The Parasite Zombies can be killed by the same means as normal men and the dead do not rise.
  • The infected of Warning Sign become gravely ill and seemingly die, but are actually only going into a short coma before returning as murderous psychopaths.
  • World War Z: Despite being describe as undead, is clear that at least at first the virus infects and changes the living. Most likely the issue is that the infected person keep moving after death.
  • There's debate among fans whether the zombies in Zombieland would count. The movie refers to them as undead and some are shown to survive injuries no person could withstand. Nevertheless, a character in the movie makes a reference of a mutated version of mad cow disease as the cause of the outbreak, some zombies are shown feeding from a trash can, and it doesn't appear that either Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain are the only means of killing a zombie.
  • Used in Z-O-M-B-I-E-S (2018), possibly because of bowdlerization (it's a Disney Channel Original Movie, so they'd have to keep it PG). It’s stated that the zombies were created thanks to an accident at a nuclear power plant, causing them to turn into pale-skinned, green-haired cannibals. Their cravings for human flesh are suppressed by special technology, and they're otherwise just normal people, (Fantastic Racism notwithstanding).
  • Despite the name, the "zombie" horde in Zombiez never gives the impression that it consists of anything other than regular human cannibals who talk, use tools and weapons, hold people captive, die from being stabbed in the torso, and panic and flee at the sound of a police siren.

  • Able Team #8, "Army of Devils", involves a drug which turns gang punks into enraged killers, resulting loads of gorn, the use of excessive firepower and inarticulately growling attackers who need to be shot in the head to be stopped; it's been described by fans as a zombie story masquerading as an action-adventure novel.
  • In Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, the zombies, or "Changed", are teenagers hit with an electromagnetic pulse that killed most adults, but left them severely mentally impaired. In the second book, it's revealed that the zombies are just as smart as humans are, but with a taste for human flesh. They can use weapons such as guns, can communicate with each other but cannot speak, and are intelligent enough to capture humans to eat later.
  • In Alexei Doronin's Black Day series, some survivors of nuclear attacks (termed "formers", as in "former humans") degenerated to a zombie-like state due to a combination of burns, severe radiation sickness and extreme PTSD (similarly to Barefoot Gen above). Most of them are even violent.
  • In the Black Tide Rising series, those infected by the H7D3 virus are still alive in the biological sense, and can starve to death if left without food for sufficiently long time, but in the mental and emotional sense no longer really qualify as human.
  • In the novel Blood Pact, a Mad Scientist is reanimating the dead because, well, apparently there is a big push in the academic community to be the first to do so.
  • The phoners in Cell, who've had all higher brain function blasted away by the Pulse, at least until some new programming kicks in....
  • The Dinosaur Lords has the hordelings, Raguel's army, who are humans brainwashed down to nothing more than an impulse to kill and eat all non-hordeling humans, behaving much like a Deadly Lunge-utilizing zombies while being as kill-able as humans. How supernatural or how scientific this is is unclear for now.
  • The grown-ups in The Enemy are the victims of an unknown illness, although this doesn't stop the kids from calling them zombies from time to time.
  • The Forged in the Farseer trilogy are a magic-based version of this, overlapping with The Soulless.
  • Herbert West–Reanimator: Dr West's creations are an interesting version, because they actually do start out dead, but his serum does in fact successfully revive the dead by restarting their physical processes rather than just reanimating their corpses. The problem is that they inevitable reawaken as screaming, psychotic madmen who are either mindlessly violent or desperately wants to die again.
  • His Dark Materials:
    • Referenced as a background detail in The Golden Compass. Apparently there's an African tribe which knows how to separate a human from their daemon (soul) without killing the human — just rendering them a mindless, corpse-seeming slave. And it's called a zombi, much like in actual folklore. (This averts the "not supernatural" part of this trope, since this is supernatural from our point of view, and something like mad science in their universe. But, they're not biologically dead.)
    • A troop of them show up in a later book; they are still living, breathing, intelligent humans, but lack a will of their own. They're also immune to the soul-eating Specters.
  • The "vampires" in the proto-Zombie Apocalypse novel I Am Legend. The majority of infected people are still alive. Some of the vampires are actually undead, but when they infect a person, it turns them into a vampire without killing them.
  • In InCryptid, Sarah overwrites the minds of hundreds of Johrlac, leaving nothing but Horror Hunger. They don't even have survival instincts anymore, and their only reaction to being eaten by the Big Creepy-Crawlies that start hunting them is to try and eat them back (since they have humanoid mouths, this isn't very effective).
  • Feral humans in Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse are very zombielike, with their low intelligence, constant moaning, and shambling gait. Their physiology is also altered, making them almost unkillable. While they're extremely interested in living people, when those aren't present, they hunt animals, consume plants and carrion, and will even try to eat each other when hungry enough. They also mate with one another and produce feral offspring. When they are healthy and well fed, they are also calmer, show signs of personality, and can be almost tame. Because of all this, even a hundred and fifty years after The Virus sweeps Earth there are half a billion ferals wandering around — perfect for aliens to abduct, "cure", and press into their military.
  • The zombies from William Bebb's KECK series usually start as this, with The Virus acting as an extreme psychotic Hate Plague in living infected but also reanimating them if they are not killed by brain trauma.
  • In The Maze Runner Trilogy, while Cranks are not ‘zombies’ in the sense of ‘monsters that have died and risen again’, the Flare has eaten away so much of their mental capacity that they have been reduced to animalistic creatures with a taste for human flesh — basically, zombies.
  • Dian Curtis Regan's My Zombie Valentine features a girl and her father who are zombified by a scientist, using a special powder absorbed through their skin (he puts it in their socks), which leaves them moving stiffly and slowly and makes them mute. He also tried to brainwash them after putting them in this state, but it didn't work because he'd put the wrong chemical in the machine, leaving at least Xia as a limited telepath. Switching to clean, non-poisoned socks allows them to revert to normal after a day, and gives them a chance to get rid of the doctor's supply of zombie poison entirely.
  • Mira Grant's Parasitology series has these in the form of humans infected with a genetically engineered tapeworm that starts out as a health panacea Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • The "Clayarks" of the Patternist series are this. The starship Clay's Ark returned to Earth carrying the disease that mutated humans into predatory creatures with heightened physical abilities and an instinctive compulsion to spread the virus. Eventually they destroy civilization, with only the powerfully psychic "Patternists" able to preserve feudal enclaves against constant Clayark attacks.
  • In the Resident Evil novelizations by S.D. Perry, Ada explains in a moment of reflection that, according to a report from Umbrella, the "zombies" are actually the result of the T Virus burning away parts of the human brain while causing the flesh to rot. Basically they look and act just like zombies but are technically alive. Of course, since the report is from Umbrella...
  • The infected in D.J. Molles The Remaining universe are a novel example of the technically living zombie. They are infected by the FURY bacterium and are great examples of what's come to be known as fast zombies in other media. Further in the series the infected evolve into what are called Primals. In the lore, it's explained that these primals reacted to eating raw meat differently than the other infected and have grown supernaturally fast and strong.
  • The Forsaken in The Shadowhunter Chronicles also qualify for this. If you apply the runes that contain angel magic to a mundane, you will suffer terrible pain. In many cases it kills the mundane, but sometimes it also turns into a Forsaken. These are mindless beasts that attack everything around them out of anger and pain.
  • The Shade in Shadow of the Conqueror are murderous undead monsters created by humans exposed to darkness for long periods, but apparently retain the need for food after they turn, judging by the fact that Blackheart had to periodically throw dogs in the cage of the ones he was keeping.
  • In The Ship Who... Searched, Tia and Alex check up on an archaological dig and find that of the two hundred people who'd been there, only about fifty survivors remain and they're shambling about having lost their higher brain functions. Alex dubs them "Zombies". Tia has to guide him as he explores in his pressure suit and finds out that the compound was all stricken overnight, half the population dying immediately, the other half becoming Zombies and suffering from malnutrition and dysentary. The Zombies are terrified of Alex in his suit — he tries to take it off, but Tia stops him. The two manage to trap all fifty in crates in Tia's hold to take them to a medical center. Happily, decontamination procedures are enough to keep the disease from spreading and it's expected that within a year of treatment the survivors will make a full recovery.
  • The "stone men" in A Song of Ice and Fire are humans in the terminal stage of a dreaded disease known as greyscale. They are mad and violent from a rage virus-like effect, covered in stone-like growths and very infectious.
  • The Cleaved of The Witchlands aren't technically dead, but they act like zombies. Fast, superpowered zombies. Fortunately, though, they're Cleaved manually by a Weaverwitch, and don't spread by biting.
  • World War Z: admidst a global zombie apocalypse, there's a fairly widespread phenomenon nicknamed "Quislings": People who, while not infected at all, cracked under the sheer scale and impossibility of the catastrophe. Their minds went completely off the deep end and became permanently warped into the feral mindset of a zombie in an instinctual, last- ditch attempt to survive by imitating them, up to and including attacking and attempting to consume any other survivors they come across. It's said to be akin to Stockholm Syndrome, or how sometimes people in countries that get invaded join the invading army and become even more fanatical than the invaders themselves. Quislings are alive physically, but mentally are no better than the dead. Even after nearly two decades not a single captured quisling has ever been rehabilitated (by comparison, at least some progress was made with feral children). Despite all they gave up, the act never even worked: while to a human they're identical to the undead (without close examination), real zombies aren't fooled and will attack them same as any other living creature. The only subtle differences are that quislings blink if you shine a light in their eyes (zombies don't), they tend to smell worse (their bodily functions are still operating, zombies don't sweat), and blood flows normally from their wounds because their hearts are still pumping. A surviving watchman says quislings created all sorts of new problems because 1 — in the early days of the pandemic, people who got bit by quislings but survived spread the false hope that fake anti-zombie vaccines worked, and 2 — quislings remain active in winter, whereas zombies tend to freeze up in the colder months. It's also explicitly cited that due to "the whole mind over matter thing", the technically living quislings will ignore all pain, so wounds that aren't immediately fatal won't stop them, making them not much different from actual zombies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Apocalypse takes one unsuspecting volunteer and drops him in the middle of a world where bacteria from an alleged set of meteors that hit Earth has infected a large portion of the UK, and then them, into "the infected" as part of an Epiphany Therapy.
  • The Virus in the Community episode "Epidemiology" gives people high fevers that make them act like zombies, complete with spreading via bites.
  • In the fifth episode of Dark Matter (2015), the crew are hired to salvage a supposedly abandoned space freighter full of these, thanks to a virus developed by Traugott Corporation from alien trees, meant to be an Immortality Inducer, that went horribly wrong.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Primords from "Inferno": super-strong, unintelligent and murderous. There is even a sequence in which the Doctor is forced to kill a zombified Benton.
    • The Flood's infected hosts in "The Waters of Mars". Maggie's bio-scan shows the husks now possessed by the Eldritch Abomination exhibit a decreased heartbeat, while electrical activity in the brain (which is implicitly now occupied by the Flood) is "haywire".
    • The "zombies" from "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS", though in context, that arguably makes them more disturbing.
  • In Dollhouse, neural imprinting technology is used to turn millions of people into mindless killing machines called "butchers" in the Bad Future. (And no, this future is not prevented.) This is one of the few types of zombism that isn't either supernatural or a pathogen—it's technological—and it's not contagious in any way. They are simply reprogrammed people (via sound waves transmitted over the phone network that overwrote their memories and personalities), and they can be reprogrammed back, or at least reprogrammed into something else.
  • An episode of Farscape shows an unfortunate Leviathan ship and its Pilot ravaged by zombie-like cannibalistic creatures. They are former Sebacean crewmembers made like that by a Mad Scientist.
  • The Reavers in Firefly are like this, though they retain enough intelligence to operate spacecraft, and are more malevolent than other examples as they live not only to kill their victims but to kill them in the most painful way possible, often raping and flaying them before finishing them off. In fact, it's not until the movie that we get definite confirmation that they fit into this specific trope, having fallen victim to a Hate Plague, and aren't some kind of Ax-Crazy death cult.
  • As mentioned in the Literature section, the television's counterpart Game of Thrones has the Stonemen as well; crazy infected people acting violently and mindless.
  • In Grimm, zombies can be caused by two things; the Yellow Fever when it affects Wesen causing the Hate Plague effect and by a particular Wesen name Baron Samedi making the classic Voodoo Zombie variety, in both cases the victim is still alive but in no control of his/her actions.
  • The "vectors" in Helix are super-strong, super-fast, but alive and killable.
  • Liv, the zombie heroine of iZombie, maintains her intelligence and personality as long as she consumes human brain matter every once in a while, and she even still has a pulse, though much lower than a living person's — 10 beats per minute compared to the normal 60-100 beats a minute. Liv is exceptionally resilient as a result of her zombified condition; when she is shot or stabbed, she feels no pain, loses very little blood and eventually heals from the wound like a normal person would. She also doesn't need to sleep, and her alcohol tolerance is greatly increased. Her condition would certainly make her Cursed with Awesome if she didn't have to keep eating human brains to avoid irreversibly becoming a mindless, Romero-style killing machine.
  • The Rookie (2018): In "A.C.H." a drug affects users' brains by turning them into basically zombies, mindless and prone to attack people so they can bite them. However, this naturally isn't infectious to victims.
  • Sliders had a zombie episode, when the people on a world being infected by mutated bacteria, originally designed to burn fat. Somehow, the infected also gained a sensitivity to light (they didn't burst into flames but couldn't handle direct exposure to the sun). By the end of the episode, the protagonists manage to find a cure.
  • Star Trek:
    • All the unnamed Borg drones behave in this way, despite being a part of a very intelligent Hive Mind. Lacking free will or individual self-awareness, the drones' default goal is to assimilate everything they come across into the Collective, although they'll ignore nonthreatening people walking around nearby if they have something more important to do. They're like zombies IN SPACE!.
    • In one episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, the effects of trellium-D supposedly shut down Vulcans' emotional control and turns them into paranoid killers. After exposure over many months, the Vulcan crew Archer and co. meet are shambling around their ship with lumpy skin and mindlessly violent behavior.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Croatoan", the zombies are transformed by the virus, but do not join The Undead. In season 5, the Croatoan virus is even repurposed by the Horseman Pestilence to create a Zombie Apocalypse on Lucifer's orders.
  • Warehouse 13: One episode focuses on finding an artifact that causes zombie-like symptoms in people. Said artifact is a glass jar that had been filled with money and buried by the Donner Party, with anyone who puts money in the jar inexplicably gaining the symptoms of hypothermia and severe starvation. The pseudo-zombies came about when someone unwittingly used the jar to collect tips at his food truck, leading to a foodie festival descending into complete madness.


    Tabletop Games 
  • There are some variants of this sort in a few of the various worlds of All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Since zombies are there to be slaughtered in AFMBE, and these guys are technically human, the gamebooks including technically living zombies admit that some players might have an ethical problem with killing them, and suggest that the Zombie Master include ways to cure and save the zombies in this sort of situation.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 1st edition AD&D has "pseudo-undead": living humanoids who, due to congenital abnormalities, resemble some form of undead, zombies included.
    • The 2nd edition module Thoughts of Darkness features enthralled slaves of the Mind Flayers who have the stats of ordinary zombies (including the immunity to mind-affecting spells) but are still alive.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • There are Zendikar's nulls, which are basically vampire rejects (Zendikar's vampires are alive, not undead), while Innistrad's skaabs may or may not be undead, as their creation method is seemingly a life-inducing formula (and, accordingly, they are associated with Blue mana rather than the usual Black mana for zombies).
    • As a variant of this trope, vampires can either be true undead or undead-like living, depending on which plane of the multiverse one looks at (planes with living vampires include Innistrad and the aforementioned Zendikar). This is a vital distinction in regards to becoming a Planeswalker, as the Spark that grants Planeswalkers their Dimensional Traveler powers can only be developed within a living soul; Sorin Markov of Innistrad is able to become a vampire Planeswalker because Innistradi vampires are not truly undead, not like vampires on many other planes.
  • Pandemic: In Pandemic: Legacy Season One, victims of the COdA supervirus become "the Faded", super aggressive zombie-esque creatures.
  • Red Markets: The first stage of Blight infection, also known as the "Vector", is still alive but in a berserk state that drives them to chase after the uninfected and try to bite them. After several hours they keel over from internal hemorrhaging or external injuries (i.e. hail of bullets) and the Blight begins to grow into the corpse until it can jerk it about like a puppet.
  • "Undead" in Shadowrun are infectees of the various strains of the Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus (HMHVV), a magical virus that drains the body of Essence, but leaves the victim clinically alive. HMHVV strain I renders the victim ageless and able to regenerate but in constant need of replenishing their Essence by feeding on the living (by explicitly attacking a living, sentient victim and draining their Essence). Strains II and III re-wires the digestive system to only accept raw metahuman flesh. Again, depending on the strain, agony of infection and other side-effects (the most common strain of HMHVV, creating ghouls, also leaves the victim permanently blind and re-wires their brain into "predator mode") often drives the sufferer "feral".
  • Those who fail to master the Training from Hell of Ler Drit in Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game but who aren't lucky enough to die burn out most of their minds and souls, rendering themselves in mindlessly violent near-automatons called "Revenants". Master Bison uses them as Cannon Fodder because they don't feel pain, don't think for themselves, have no morals or ethics, and eliminate themselves by erupting into ghostly blue flames that leave only ashes or a scorched skeleton behind upon losing consciousness
  • The nanovirus-infected crewmembers in the Transhuman Space scenario Orbital Decay.
  • Warhammer 40,000 The lore mentions a number of ways that living creatures can become zombie-like creatures that were still alive, including the mind-controlling Catachan brainleaf and Tyranid cortex leeches, or the victims of an Aeldari device that ramped up life force until people with otherwise fatal injuries could be roaming, insane and violent but unable to die. One old issue of the Games Workshop magazine White Dwarf had rules for using such creatures in a game.
  • The Lich Priests of Nehekahra in Warhammer Fantasy found ways to prevent their souls from leaving their bodies and thus never really dying per se, letting them "live" for millenia. But they still look, feel, and are treated by the game as any other kind of Undead.

    Video Games 
  • In The Adventures of Lomax, the zombies you encounter in the second world are actually lemmings magically turned by Evil Ed into monsters. They are blue and do the Zombie Gait at first, but start running angrily when hit once, and turn back into normal lemmings when you hit them the second time.
  • In addition to the traditional walking corpses, Cataclysm includes ferals: infected humans who haven't died, but have been driven insane by the infection. Ferals are smart enough to use melee weapons, throw rocks, and open doors, and they're faster than the zombies. Zombies and ferals won't attack each other, and will work together to fight survivors.
  • Darkest Dungeon II: the Flagellant has been wrecked, with most of his body decaying. His skill lineup includes names like Fester, Sepsis and Necrosis, and he actually looks worse than some of the ghouls you run into on the road. He's only alive because when Death showed up to take him, he refused to go, and sometimes on a run she'll come back for another try.
  • The Zombies in Dead Island are the result of a mutated strain of Kuru (a real disease associated with cannibalismnote ) and the game goes into fair detail about it. Unless you're one of the lucky few who's immune, getting scratched or bitten will infect and turn you within 72 hours. A note found in Escape Dead Island suggests the zombie virus concentrates living cells around the spine and nervous system while allowing everything else to die off, indicating the zombies are basically rotting flesh attached to a still-functioning motor system.
    • What's interesting about the zombies (though game mechanics are partially to blame for it) is that they cannot crawl on the ground. They're instinctively driven to stand up before they attack you. They don't instantly die from a headshot (though humans still do), and even though their blood coagulates and allows them to live with half their chest ripped off, they can still die of blood loss, puke up their own guts in response to poison, and even drown to death in water.
    • Most people get turned into what are called "walkers", shambling zombies who are slow to respond to your presence. Some get turned into "Infected", who have no trouble sprinting towards you. The less fortunate are mutated with various degrees of Body Horror. "Suiciders" bloat up with explosively deadly gas. They're still aware of what they are, and moan "Help me" as they approach you, but they're instinctively designed to explode when they get too close to you.
    • The worst seem to be the aptly named Butchers. These people are driven into what appears to be a chemically-induced rage, to the point that they've broke the bones in their own arms to fashion into shivs to carve into new victims.
  • In the final level of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you fight crazies which move and attack like zombies. The zombie-like behavior is caused by hallucinations from the vagus nerve being overstimulated by the biochips implanted in them, which is in turn caused by a signal released by Hugh Darrow in an attempt to show why human augmentation is bad.
  • Weepers from Dishonored are late-stage Plague victims, who are described as "Nothing more than moving corpses full of disease and insects." They are accompanied by swarms of flies, and attack by puking on Corvo. However, the game's Karma Meter still counts them as people, so killing them is just as bad as killing a watchman, Overseer, or bystander, taking away from the Guilt-Free Extermination War most games featuring zombies Invoke; this, in fact, ends up justified when one of the possible ending outcomes has a cure developed outright.
    • Dishonored 2 introduces Bloodflies; hyper-aggressive mosquito/wasp hybrids the size of small birds that attack in swarms and have the ability to turn their still living victims into so-called Nest Keepers. Nest Keepers serve as living hosts to Bloodflies, with the latter laying eggs in the former, and are mindlessly devoted to protecting Bloodfly nests, referring to Bloodflies as "[their] lovelies" and, judging by voice lines such as "They need your blood. So I'll just draw it." and "I'll use your bloody guts to hatch new little babies.", attack people to use their blood to feed the Bloodflies, similar to how some real-life parasites can alter the behaviour of insects, albeit in an exaggerated fashion.
  • The Zombies and Z-Sec in Doom³ are at least partially comprised of these, since they are created by Demonic Possession and Hell doesn't need its victims to die first before it converts them from humans.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, husks/thralls are of this sort. Whereas normal undead are reanimated corpses (or parts of one), husks and thralls are converted from currently-living beings by exposure to some of the nastier randomly-generated evil clouds. While this means it can still die (and retains a few conventional vulnerabilities zombies lack), they also retain the skills they had in life, and retain their equipment because they didn't drop it all via dying first.
  • Dying Light's Harran Virus creates zombies who are still alive, and can be killed through any means that would kill a normal human being. The more mutated Elite Zombie enemies faced in the game are somewhat more difficult to destroy, because their mutations make them tougher than an average person. They still aren't undead, however. Although there are hints in some background dialogue that they are dead on a cellular level and reanimated decaying corpses, but the Virals are definitely a case of this, as Jade turns into one without dying first after her infection overtakes her.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, victims of the Corprus Disease are this. Corprus victims are still living and, in-fact, are The Ageless and have Ideal Illness Immunity. As the disease progresses, their bodies mutate and their mental faculties devolve to animalistic levels, driven to attack those who are not afflicted with the disease. The Nerevarine is technically one of these, as they still have the disease but get the negative effects cured. There are actual undead zombies in the game as well, but they are known as "Bonewalkers" by the Dunmer people. (Elsewhere in Tamriel, they are actually referred to as zombies.)
  • Fallout:
    • The ghouls are a somewhat different example from the usual strain, because (excluding the ferals, who act like typical zombies) they're basically regular people with a really bad skin condition and biological immortality. It's brought on by being exposed to a huge amount of radiation and not dying from it. And maybe a radiotrophic virus created by the military, depending on what version of the Backstory you believe. The feral ghouls whose minds have been deteriorated by radiation are a more typical example, acting like mindless animals. The Feral ghouls are also far more visibly decayed and mutated than the normal ones, as they often dwell in highly radioactive areas where their bodies keep soaking up radiation, to the point that their bodies are falling apart.
    • Fallout: New Vegas brings us two new variants: Marked Men and Ghost People. Marked Men are almost-feral ghouls who inhabit the Divide who constantly have their skin flayed from their bodies but can't die due to the sheer radiation permeating the Divide. Ghost People are the previous inhabitants of the Sierra Madre who got caught in their hazmat suits while trying to protect themselves from the Cloud, with... limited success. Unlike the other quasi-zombies of the series, the Ghost People have a Healing Factor that will continually revive them unless decapitated, dismembered, or disintegrated.
    • An aversion are the Lobotomites from Old World Blues, who basically are cybernetically reanimated zombies, having had their brains (and then some) replaced with Tesla implants that allow them to perform basic motor functions and tasks. The player character even gets turned into one, but it's specifically noted that surviving the two gunshot wounds they took to the head at the start of the game allowed them to retain their higher brain functions after having their own brain removed and replaced because the initial programming for the AI doing the surgeries had an error. The non-typical, bullet-scarred brain forced the AI to go into diagnostic mode to check for an error in the scanning, which resulted in it finding and correcting the error in the procedure.
    • Fallout 76 has the Scorched, Hive Mind Plague Zombies created by the Enclave that function similarly to the Divide's Marked Men.
  • Girls' Frontline has ELID (Euroky Low-Emission Infectious Disease) infectees, humans who have been exposed to the strange Precursor substance Collapse Fluid. Most people die shortly after exposure, but those with some degree of resistance will find their skin silicified and their higher brain functions eroded, until they are left as nothing more than a shambling husk. Some of them retain just enough intelligence to operate firearms, much like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. example below, while others mutate into gigantic monstrosities that can shrug off tremendous amounts of firepower.
  • In Grim Dawn, the Occultist (read: witch) has a spell called "Bloody Pox," which simply inflicts Plague on enemies, causing damage over time and status debuffs. Its upgrade "Fevered Rage," causes them to go violently insane and attack everyone they can get ahold of, and its capstone "Black Plague" increases their aggro range (and causes them to start attacking each other if you didn't grab FR). It also causes their insides to liquefy. Lorewise, this skill tree is why Occultists get burned at the stake.
  • Depending on whether the people taken over by the headcrabs are living Meat Puppets or corpses, the headcrab zombies from Half-Life may or may not count. It's not made very clear, but evidence is in favor of them being alive; corpses probably wouldn't have the inclination to shout muffled but clearly agonized cries for help. Also, when you shoot them in the body, the body will fall down dead, but the headcrab will be perfectly fine, popping off to seek a new victim. Putting it all together does imply the body is still alive in some capacity, although how much intelligence or consciousness they have left is unknown. There's no known way to safely remove a headcrab without killing the body, too.
  • You would think that this wouldn't apply in a game called The House of the Dead but no, the creatures are actually very much alive vat-grown clones. Accordingly, they're all near-human in intelligence, being able to wield weapons and use vehicles for their drive-by kickings. More advanced ones wield supernatural powers and can even monologue more coherently than actual humans. Oddly enough getting killed by one can resurrect you as an actual undead zombie, though. OVERKILL and (the this time consistently named) Zombie Revenge do have the undead as their main enemies.
  • Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing with the "Modern Zmobie" (a "fast zombie"). One of its miss messages has you questioning whether it's actually a zmobie or just a human with a weird diet. It gets too confused to attack you.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Rakghouls are horribly mutated monsters that spread via a disease. A single scratch can cause someone to turn. But despite their appearances and ghoulish mannerisms, they are still alive. This becomes a plot point three hundred years later in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Rakghouls spent the time since the fall of Taris breeding, and are now the dominant life form on the planet. And yet, they still carry the Rakghoul plague and can infect anyone who tries to fight them.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Darth Sion. The only measure keeping him from death is the pain and hate within him, fueling the Dark Side of the force within him, and keeping his broken, scarred, decaying body from falling apart. He eventually lets go of the force and dies, after being defeated multiple times by the Exile in their final duel.
  • The Last of Us uses a mutated cordyceps fungus that takes over the brain, making people "infected". While they display the typical traits of zombies, such as an uncontrollable urge to eat humans and the ability to spread their virus through bites, they are indeed still "alive", and thus anything fatal to normal humans will be fatal to them as well. Notably, the developers have said that while the infected are a threat, the primary antagonists are other survivors.
  • Left 4 Dead's Green Flu doesn't immediately kill its victims. According to promotional materials, it is a mutated strain of rabies. As its name suggests, in the game world it was designated a form of influenza by CEDA, though this was more of a cover-up than anything. The disease does prove to be eventually fatal, judging by the fact that a few zombies will collapse on their own. It's also said that children simply die instantly from the disease to explain the absence of child zombies. Officially, the victims are called "Infected"; that doesn't stop everyone non-official from calling them zombies and referencing zombie movie tropes. In-universe, the survivors referred to the infected as both zombies and infected.
  • Husks in Mass Effect, who are captured humans that were forcibly implanted with Reaper technology. Mass Effect 3 shows the Reapers have created Banshees, Marauders, Brutes, and Ravagers out of huskified asari, turians, krogan/turian hybrids, and rachni, respectively.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has a local-scale Zombie Apocalypse when Ocelot attempts to disconnect his soldiers from the System that monitors and controls the emotions of all PMC soldiers in the area. The result is brain damage that causes them to mindlessly swarm you in packs, though "mindless" doesn't mean "emotionless" since, if you scan them with the Solid Eye, you can see their emotional states are spiking through the roof — unquenchable anger, hyper-hysterical mad happiness, bottomless sorrow and blinding terror; basically, all the emotions their nanomachines were repressing suddenly being reintroduced and overwhelming them. There's even a use of "Not Using the "Z" Word" since Otacon calls the zombies "Those... things!"
    • Metal Gear Ac!d has Brainwashed "ACUA Troops" who have been overdosed with the drug ACUA and are under the control of a psychic Hive Queen nicknamed "the Mind Bender". These troopers supposedly have only limited emotions and intelligence (they can still be distracted by Books, though) and perception of pain as well as greatly enhanced strength, resistance and bloodlust, and are bad enough that the mercenary leader who hated Snake up until that point is willing to form an alliance with him in the hope of surviving. They are blatantly described as 'zombies' by several of the characters.
  • Some people addicted to Mother Russia Bleeds's Nekro devolve into looking and acting like violent shambling zombies. The first boss of the game is an even larger, faster and more aggressive variant, with a grotesquely muscular physique and constantly shooting up with more Nekro during the fight.
  • While victims of the plague in Pathologic and Pathologic 2 don't live for very long, they rapidly lose most of their senses and appear to begin seeking out uninfected individuals to spread it to, similar to some of the parasite-inspired examples listed here. It's actually supernatural in origin, a sort of Gaia's Vengeance that can use the town itself as a vector; in the second game, it even 'speaks' to those it infects.
  • The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment has Resurrective Immortality that still leaves him with the scars from all of his lives. He is so Covered with Scars that he has no actual skin anymore. His body is so badly ruined that items that normally only work on The Undead work on him.
  • Basic Redlight infectees ("Walkers") in [PROTOTYPE] are for all intents and purposes living zombies; except instead of being mindlessly driven by hunger, they are puppets for their "mother" Elizabeth Greene, or other advanced infectees ("Runners").
  • In Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy Jov Leonov's mind-controlled Meat Puppets behave in a rather zombie-like manner, shambling mindlessly toward their enemies while ignoring injuries.
  • Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare features both living and undead zombies. While the curse reanimated dead bodies, and being bitten by a zombie causes you to turn into one yourself, the process itself does not kill you. This becomes evident at the end of the game, when Marston breaks the curse and the infected zombies revert to their old selves, while the undead ones merely drop dead again.
  • Resident Evil: The Ganados and Majini in the Resident Evil 4 and 5 count, as they're infected with a parasite that takes control of the still-living host. The zombies of earlier in the series are also suggested to be this. While the graveyard areas in 3 and Code: Veronica seemingly prove that the T-Virus does in fact kill and then reanimate, supplementary materials and Word of God claim that these zombies were not actually dead but simply assumed to be dead due to symptoms of the virus and then buried alive. The G-Virus (RE2's final boss) and C-Virus (RE6) are the only ones capable of actually reviving the dead.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, an aircraft crashes into one of the smaller islands making up Steelport, which is the site of a chemical plant containing canisters full of a volatile and dangerous chemical. The crash causes the chemicals to be released into the air and turn all the citizens there into zombies. The next mission has the player going there to deal with the chemical and is slightly affected themselves due to a faulty gas mask, but once they get it patched up, they're perfectly fine, and with said chemical pushed into the water the player can travel back there whenever they want with no ill effects (other than being attacked by the zombies, since they continue to infinitely respawn).
  • Despite their name literally meaning "dead person" the Shibito from the Siren Games are not actually undead, just mind-controlled immortal humans. Averted in the sequel in which the Shibito really are corpses possessed by dark spirits.
  • In S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Psychic Powers such as those from Controller mutants and Kaymanov emitters strip people of their higher brain functions, turning them into zombies (yes, it actually calls them that) that are hostile to everything but other zombies, psychic mutants, and Monolith members. Unlike most examples, psi zombies shamble slowly as they go and can only moan incoherently like a classic Romero zombie, and are equally resistant to any damage but a headshot; their main threat is their retained ability to use their firearms, and even then they're not exactly accurate due to their crippled brainpower. In Call of Pripyat, these zombies can sometimes be found gathered around a fire pit, engaging in a incoherent conversation and even stick out their hands into the heat in order to keep warm, suggesting that they still hold some trace of their former self.
  • In They Are Billions, backstory reveals the Infected are actually still alive. A mutated degenerative neural disease similar to rabies spread quickly through the megacities, helped along by the use of foodstuffs produced from "undesirable" citizens.
  • In Warframe, the Infested are victims of the Technocyte virus, a highly-virulent plague that twists them into horrific abominations. Most of the time, the process leaves the victim mindless and feral, but a few have been left with their minds intact, albeit subverted by the greater Hive Mind controlling the rest. The virus was apparently created by the Orokin as a weapon against the Sentients, but it failed abysmally and had to be sealed away. Then Dr. Tengus discovered it and tried to weaponize it for the Grineer, only to accidentally unleash it upon the solar system. And most recently, Alad V's experiments with the virus have created a new strain capable of infecting machines. The Warframes themselves are Infested puppets who are remotely controlled by the Tenno through a psychic link.
  • WildStar has the Mordesh, a race of aliens plagued by a flesh-eating, insanity-causing disease christened the Contagion. They are still alive, and rely on Vitalus serum to keep from devolving into the usual flesh-eating Not Zombie. (By the way, they do not like being called "Space Zombies.")
  • In Withstand, the island you explore has infected people on it. They will charge at you and attack if they see you.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Visual Novel I Walk Among Zombies has some interesting variations on this. The first is the MC, who is regarded as dead by the other zombies and can walk freely among them, but is very much alive. The second is intelligent zombies, who have eaten so many humans that they have some semblance of self-awareness. While the first game ends with them only aware enough to try and emulate their pre-zombification life or setting traps to hunt humans, it's strongly implied they can become fully sentient this way.
  • In NomnomNami's universe, Undeath is an incurable illness caused by a virus that infects witches and feeds on their magic, causing their body to rot and fall to pieces until they eventually die. It makes its first appearance in First Kiss at a Spooky Soiree, while Astra's Garden goes more into detail about its effects.
  • Perseverance: The initial test subject and those infected after are still alive, but they don't act very human anymore.

  • In El Goonish Shive, "animating the dead" is said to be "impossible" but other" methods are mentioned as ways a "zombie" could be created.
  • There's a group of zombies in Sluggy Freelance who were given a very zombielike immortality by black magic, including their bodies rotting at least cosmetically even in the best cases, but never actually died.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The author has made several statements concerning the fact that the Plague Zombie monsters in the setting need minimal nutrition to sustain themselves. In addition to this, the second adventure introduces a magic tracking system in which people venturing into a dangerous area leave a personal item that will magically bleed upon their death at a checkpoint. The checkpoint's keeper, when asked about the still-intact item left by a person who isn't immune to The Plague, heavily implies that the item being intact only means its owner isn't dead and does not guarantee that said owner didn't turn into a Plague Zombie themself.
  • String Theory (2009): The fungal bioweapon that depopulated Chicago turned its victims into zombie-like entities. They're not sentient individually, but can communicate through spores to form a rudimentary Hive Mind.
  • The zombies of Zombie Waffe are infected with a new form of rabies which results in fast plague-zombies.

    Web Originals 
  • CollegeHumor: In "The Six Monsters You'll Have as Roommates" sketch, the "zombie" is not actually a zombie, but a lazy, messy person (who is probably stoned, sleep-deprived, or both).
  • Hamster's Paradise: The harmsters are plagued by a disease called Severe Infectious Harmster Transmissible Tumor (or SIHTT for short), which is actually a form of transmissible cancer that is spread by either biting or by eating the flesh of the infected (which is fairly common among harmsters). It causes cauliflower-like growths to emerge on the victim's face as well as allowing bacteria to breed in the harmster's body which causes them to lose their fur and even makes them start rotting alive, resulting in them resembling walking corpses. However, they're still alive and will usually die after several months when their body finally gives out. After the Second Harmster World War, an even more deadly Neuro-Ocular strain (NO-SIHTT) emerges that infects the victim's brain to make them disoriented and aggressive, allowing it to propagate even further, eventually resulting in a massive Zombie Apocalypse that destroys the weakened harmsters, rendering them extinct.
  • Taerel Setting: Well, Technically Living Vampire, in this case, Kin'toni. The kin'toni are living beings infected with a virus/malformed prion of sorts that turns them into blood-thirsty sun-fearing beings who drink blood They are able to be killed like living beings, the wiki has kin'toni die of such things as sickness, bloodless and one who died of a heart attack. Spread like a zombie outbreak though.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: The orderlies at Litchfield Asylum fall into this category. They have little apparent cognitive function, but are nonetheless alive. However, they behave more like automotons than animals.
  • The Zombies from We're Alive need to breath (homemade chloroform knocks them out), eat (they keep piles of flesh from humans and other zombies outside their "nest" at the Arena) and die from wounds other than headshots like shots to the chest or bleeding out from amputated limbs.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: A number of Dentist Clowns and Clown Dentists were banished to the forest after their business model was found unsuccessful. (It Makes Sense in Context... kinda.) They contracted rabies and became aggressive and bite-happy.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Mind Pollution", the crowd of Bliss addicts Skumm sics on the Planeteers aren't undead, but they act a lot like zombies, blank-eyed and moaning (about Bliss rather than brains or flesh) and use brute force rather than tools or cunning to get past blockades most of the time. Wheeler actually calls them "zombies."
  • Code Lyoko: In "Attack of the Zombies", XANA unleashes a plague on the school that turns people into zombies. They take a few cues from classic depictions of the undead (green skin, white eyes and Zombie Gait), not to mention they can transmit the possession via biting, making the nomenclature spot on.
  • Kaeloo: In the Halloween Episode, Kaeloo and Quack Quack are turned into zombies after they are bitten by zombies. At the end, they are restored to normal after they throw up.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "28 Pranks Later" has the entire town turned into rainbow mouthed cookie addicts that shamble around demanding more of the dye-bomb cookies that turned them. As the title suggests, it's the nuclear option in a Prank War between Rainbow Dash and the rest of Ponyville.
  • The New Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show: The Zombies in "Scooby-Doo and Cyclops, Too" are people under the hypnotic spell of the Cyclops.
  • Emperor Belos from The Owl House is eventually revealed to be a Lich in all but name other than the fact that he isn't dead yet. After realizing he could never accomplish his goals of mass Witch genocide in a single lifetime, he started stealing and consuming Palismen to stay alive, which had the side effect of causing his entire body to necrotize. By the time the show starts, Belos has been alive for over 400 years, and while his Glamour makes him look like a normal old man with a skin condition, he has become fully dependent on consuming Palismen Souls to retain his form, which is in truth a massive rotting skeletal aberration. Further still he is able to "survive" getting splattered across a wall and regenerate himself from a single glob of goop by consuming woodland creatures like rabbits and deer after "infecting" them with himself. Later on, it is shown that if he goes too long without draining the life essence of others, his body will collapse.
  • A tragic example from Primal (2019) in the episode "Plague of Madness". A peaceful Argentinosaurus becomes infected by a flesh-eating disease (which seems to be a prehistoric version of rabies) and goes into a murderous rampage and kills its entire herd. Notably, none of the deceased rise up despite several of them being horribly bitten. It then chases Spear and Fang until eventually they come across a Lava field and it falls into the lava and is finally destroyed.
  • The Simpsons: This shows up in "Don't Have a Cow, Mankind", in which a zombie outbreak started when Krusty made a new burger which was made from a cow that cannibalized another cow. Kent Brockman took a bite out of one and instantly turned into a "muncher", and bit Krusty who started biting other people, soon almost everyone in Springfield were turned into munchers.
  • The Smurfs (1981): Smurfs bitten by the gnap fly turn purple and become mindless and aggressive. The condition can be spread to other smurfs by biting their tails.
  • The Zoners in Spiral Zone are like this; ordinary people turned into mindless slaves infected by the villains' Synthetic Plague.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Once Bitten", many people who are bitten by Gary think he has mad snail disease, and that it will turn them into zombies. It turns out that the mad snail disease is just a myth, and they just think they're zombies because Patrick says they'll become such.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Second Contact", the mindless, growling "zombies" are living people who are infected by the Hate Plague. Their skin tone becomes a pallid grey, Tainted Veins appear, and they spew Bad Black Barf. The virus is spread when a diseased individual bites someone to consume their flesh.

    Real Life 
  • In Real Life, rabies can cause zombie-like behavior because of the brain damage inflicted by the disease. However, it doesn't incubate quickly enough or spread readily enough to cause a Zombie Apocalypse, and the symptoms are somewhat different (most obviously, it doesn't cause the victim's flesh to rot). Also, humans rarely bite each other, even when brain damaged, so human-to-human transmission is largely unknown outside of a few cases of infected organ transplants. On top of that, there is a vaccine, which is always readily available to those bitten. You can even get it before you get bitten, such as if you are a veterinarian, a spelunker, or are going to an area where there will be many wild animals.
  • One version of African zombie legends operates this way: living people can be turned into zombies using certain substances. It's commonly believed that tetrodotoxin is used to induce a state of paralysis that resembles death, after which the victim's relatives bury them and the responsible sorcerer digs them up as the toxin is wearing off and slips them a hallucinogenic to make them think they are mindless walking corpses.
  • Parasitic fungi in the genus Cordyceps will alter the behavior of the host insect in order to facilitate its own spread. In ants, this behavior is so alarming that any individual exhibiting it is carried very far away from the colony and left to die.
  • Cordyceps isn't alone in nature, there are lots of parasites out there that are capable of modifying their host's behavior. And it's not just limited to other animals, some studies have suggested that Toxoplasmosis can cause psychiatric changes in humans that are infected. Granted, it doesn't create zombie-like behavior, but it is certainly possible that there's an organism out there that can.
  • Namely, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii — a parasite mainly found in cats and mice — has been observed in rats to make them seek out places that reek of cat urine, instead of avoiding it like a normal rat. Such behavior would ensure that the rats get eaten by cats with high probability, which would allow the parasites to move on to the next stage of its development, which takes place in cats' digestive tracts. Studies on humans have so far implied that humans infected with it have slower reaction times, and that it possibly can "be a causative or contributory factor in various psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia."
  • Rob Zombie is technically alive. In a subversion to the standard cannibalistic tendencies, he is an ardent vegetarian.
  • Also, Mark Callaway, a.k.a. The Undertaker; in a case of Life Imitates Art, as he's aged and changed his style and exercise (not to mention injuries) he's gone from bulky and wearing makeup, to wiry and downright creepy looking. Sumbitch even said it in a promo spot: "I may look like the walking dead, but trust me, I am still very much alive!"
  • On a chemical as opposed to biological vector, the news has (as of 2012) been awash with reports of zombie-like behaviour from the users of a drug colloquially known as "bath salts", to the point that one user was shot by police while in the middle of feasting on a homeless man. Subverted or possibly even averted as the suspect in question was already crazy and it was determined that "bath salts" had nothing to do with the crime or was not even in his body to begin with. The reason it's uncertain as to whether bath salts were present is that at the time, they were more difficult to detect.
  • On a related note, many of the physical and neurological symptoms of methamphetamine abuse bear a striking resemblance to the Hate Plague version of this trope: Degraded motor skills, increased aggression and/or paranoia and chronic self-neglect to name but a few.
  • It's possible that zombie tropes may be partially rooted in events during The Black Death or similar plagues. Mass graves were used at times, and high fevers can cause delirium or even brain damage. So if someone was buried haphazardly but recovered from the plague enough to free themselves, witnesses would see an inarticulate, clumsy person covered with sores leaving a graveyard, which would look a lot like a "zombie" even before the trope existed. In fact, plagues and zombies are inextricably linked. If a horror movie starts off on an epidemic, go "All In" on zombies. There may have even been plague victims supposedly "attacking" random people, uninfected or not, though this is all likely due to severe hallucinations and clumsy walking. And of course, no plague-infected people would actually eat people they came in contact with. This is what inspired the legend of the Revenant. If they made a full recovery, it looked like they beat Death at chess. Of course, they never died at all, just got really sick and got mistaken for a zombie after their coma broke.
  • The disease known in Papua New Guinea as kuru. Like mad cow disease, it is caused by a prion (a misfolded protein that causes all sorts of damage). In the early stages, victims suffer from confusion, malaise, and ataxia. As the disease progresses, mental capacity deteriorates to the point where sufferers are almost completely unresponsive to their surroundings. People primarily contracted the disease when they ate deceased members of their tribes as part of their funerary rites: specifically, infected nervous tissue. With cannibalism of the dead being banned in the late 1950s, the disease has been pretty much eradicated, with the last deaths being in the late 2000s from latent cases.
    • The end-stages of many other neurodegenerative disorders, such as CJD, BSE, and Alzheimer's disease often have zombie-like effects as well.
  • The case of Peter Porco, who was attacked by his son with an axe while sleepingnote . The attack severely damaged his neocortex — which controls thought and reasoning, while leaving the paleocortex — which controls instincts and second-nature habits — intact. As a result, he was able to get up after the attack and carry out his morning routine, completely unaware of his injuries until he collapsed and died of blood loss.
  • The alcoholic drink known as "the zombie" is called this because it is (as its name would suggest) such a strong drink that those who drink it are said to become "zombie-like" (i.e. lethargic and clumsy). The name could also be a reference to the Voodoo Zombie, seeing as the main ingredient in the various forms of the drink is several different kinds of rum. The drink is so strong that the bar where it was invented established a 2-per-customer limit. (Most people, however, can only handle one, if that.)
  • During World War I, the Russians were holding Osowiec Fortress. On August 6, 1915, the Germans fired deadly chlorine gas into the Fortress to kill the defenders. The Germans advanced, but some of the defenders who survived the gas attack, heavily scarred by the chlorine gas, and coughing up blood and their own lungs, launched a surprise counter-attack. The Germans saw what appeared to be living corpses, causing the attackers to panic and retreat. This was later titled "the Attack of the Dead Men" and immortalized in a Sabaton song of the same name.
  • Smaller, simpler animals can potentially survive a surprisingly long period of time without their head, as long as enough of the brainstem is still intact in the neck area. Mike the Headless Chicken is the most famous example. (While headless, Mike still had part of his brain left, which enabled him to say alive.) Fish have been known to survive up to several weeks with either most of their body bitten away, or with their heads missing.
  • There's an age-old thought experiment called a "philosophical zombie", which is a creature that looks and acts just like a real human (and is biologically the same), but has no actual thoughts or feelings. The main "problem" such a concept poses for philosophy is that there would never be any way to prove such a being didn't actually have any thoughts or feelings, unless we someday invent Mind Reading.
  • On a more terrifying note, there was a man, Rudy Eugene, who ate another guy's face in Miami, Florida. You'd think he was an actual zombie or a living zombie anyway, but he's neither. It gets worse though. Many claim he was on bath salts, however when an autopsy was done on him, nothing of the sort was found in his system. No one actually knows why he went bonkers.


Video Example(s):


Peter Porco

Forensic Files explains how a murder victim went silently shambling around his house half-dead with half a brain.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TechnicallyLivingZombie

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