With the resumption of season 6b of Fear the Walking Dead – watch it now on Neon – Daniel Rutledge revisits the always pleasant pastime of watching humans kill zombies. Sit back, relax and enjoy the catharsis of this small collection of 10 of the greatest zombie kills ever put to screen.
There have now been 153 episodes of The Walking Dead and 76 episodes of Fear the Walking Dead. That all adds up to what is estimated to be more than 5000 onscreen zombie deaths from this absolute powerhouse of a brand. Any TV show—or set of shows—that goes on this long naturally has good phases and bad phases, but you have to hand it to this franchise for giving us more onscreen undead kills than anything else ever.
Yes, I said “estimated” because nobody online has had the sheer tenacity to sit there and record every single death from the roughly 230 hours running time of the shows so far. And trust me, the folks at the Walking Dead fan wiki are bloody tenacious. There are various counts around the place, including this YouTube clip that reckons 15 primary characters have collectively killed 5278 walkers over ten seasons of The Walking Dead. Who knows the real exact number, but we can safely say the two shows have definitely provided us with thousands of zombie deaths to enjoy.
Given the state of the real world over the last few years, there really is something to be said for sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the catharsis of seeing zombies die in savagely gory kills.
As the next eight episodes of Fear the Walking Dead are about to hit screens in Aotearoa via Neon, it’s a good time to celebrate all that wonderful walker carnage, along with some of the greatest old-school zombie deaths in film that paved the way for these TV shows.
Here’s a small collection of 10 of the greatest zombie kills ever put to screen.
‘Party’s over’ scene in Braindead
This is still the greatest film to date from New Zealand’s own Sir Peter Jackson and it’s chock full of hilarious, inventive, spectacular gore. The ridiculously blood-soaked climax is what people normally refer to as ‘the lawnmower scene’, but that foolishly overlooks the food processor element, which is a crucial part of the fun. Zombie massacres simply do not get better than this.
The Walking Dead: First child zombie kill
Violence against children used to be a fairly serious onscreen taboo. There have been various films that broke that taboo over the years, but in the last decade it’s pretty much been normalised by mainstream stuff including The Walking Dead. In the debut episode way back in 2010, Rick has to waste a pre-pubescent girl who has become zombified. After a half-hearted attempt at running away, he does just that, with a bullet from his .357 Magnum right smack bang in the centre of her forehead. Brutal.
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The shark in Zombie
One of the most formative zombie movies of my early years was Lucio Fulci’s 1979 classic, known as Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombi 2 or simply Zombie, depending on the video store you hired it from. A particularly savage bit of eyeball violence is perhaps the most memorable scene of the film, but the shark scene may just be the most iconic. Sure, the effects don’t hold up so great, but the soundtrack absolutely owns and seeing a shark bite a zombie’s arm off in a 42-year-old movie should make anyone reading this smile from ear to ear.
Dawn of the Dead helicopter head shave
When you were little but old enough to grasp the concept of helicopter blades, you thought about what they’d do to a body, didn’t you? We all did. After play-acting this very thing out with my G.I. Joes countless times, it filled me with glee watching helicopter blades come into contact with a dumb zombie’s head in George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. This particular ghoul is attracted by the engine sound of the chopper, but climbs over some boxes to get to the tasty human—meaning the spinning blades slice the top of its noggin off. Nice!
The Walking Dead: Daryl crushes heads on car
In S3E10 of The Walking Dead, we see dreamboat Daryl do what he does—save people using violence. Despite the complaints of his scumbag brother Merle, this southern gentleman leaps to the aid of a group of strangers, in the process dishing out two incredible bits of zombie head trauma in quick succession to save a mother and her baby trapped in a car. First Daryl uses the stock of his crossbow to smash a head into the car’s window, then he drags a second walker back through the car so its head is underneath the boot, which he then slams shut to bash that skull into a squishy red mush.
Dawn of the Dead (2004) famous kills
I couldn’t believe how good this remake was, coming out in a time when remakes were exclusively shitty; but damn, this early Zack Snyder movie was fun. It still stands up today as a good watch and one of the more memorable scenes is this little bit that’s about the fun you might create with your mates in a post-apocalyptic world. If you’re killing time killing zombies, why not make a game of it? Here they do just that by picking off zombies who look like famous people—Jay Leno, Burt Reynolds, etc. Having a laugh while making headshots, what’s the harm?
Record biffing in Shaun of the Dead
This 2004 British zombie comedy has an army of fans for a very good reason—it’s superb. This early scene has our heroes Shaun and Ed take care of a couple of zombies with what they have lying around their flat: cutlery, a toaster, an ashtray, a cricket bat and a crate of records. The lads discussing which records can be hurled at the zombies and which can’t is just eternally delightful.
Fear the Walking Dead: Splitting the bullet
Of all the zombie kills in history, this double would probably give physics students the biggest headache. It’s so campy and absurd you have to hand it to Fear the Walking Dead‘s showrunners for having the audacity to throw it in there. Basically, John Dorie pulls a ‘San Antonio Split’—firing his rifle at an axe blade so it splits the bullet in two and proceeds to land two headshots with one shot. Totally possible!
28 Weeks Later helicopter massacre
As somewhat of a tribute to the classic Dawn of the Dead helicopter scene, in this 2007 film a chopper’s blades are used to wipe out an entire horde. Most of it is a CGI blur, but it’s still a well-constructed scene filled with blood and an example of filmmaking one-upmanship that works as great fan service. Sure seeing chopper blades take the top of one zombie head off is cool, but seeing a chopper used as a blender to make a massive zombie soup? Truly inspired.
Zombieland: Double Tap kill of the week
American zombie comedies generally haven’t been as good as the greats from New Zealand and England, but the Zombieland movies are endearing enough and do deliver the goods with some lovely kills. In the sequel, a farmer named Dave Sanderman of Riverside, Iowa uses his crop harvester to chop a zombie into little pieces and turn it into a hay bale. It’s a well-deserving ‘zombie kill of the week’, which is one of the many fun little ideas in the Zombieland films.
Who knows what memorable all-time zombie kills we’ll get in the new episodes of Fear the Walking Dead? We’ll find out April 12 when they start streaming via Neon.