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Over the decades, the zombie film has become a cherished American institution. We love the moaning bastards so much that their rotting insides may as well be apple pie filling.

(Warning: Do not eat zombie insides, no matter how delicious. You will become a zombie.)

Like any institution, though, details may change but the core experience remains the same. When the zombie apocalypse comes, they might be fast or slow, the world could be post-apocalyptic or day-after-tomorrow, and the social commentary could be heavy-handed or non-existent, but the people you'll encounter will probably seem pretty familiar. Because if we've learned anything, it's that humans are only capable of six psychological reactions to a scourge of the undead. And here they are.

The Betrayer

Every ragtag team of zombie survivalists will at some point have to deal with betrayal. No, I'm not talking about infidelity, although that too will likely occur (the zombie apocalypse is basically a free-for-all kinky sex-fest). I'm referring to the person who gets bitten by a zombie and neglects to report for immediate deheadification. Torn between fear of becoming a zombie and fear of getting shot in the face by their loved ones, they invariably hide their misfortune until they finally turn into a zombie and get shot in the face by their loved ones. Wouldn't it have been easier just to tell the truth?

Maybe she's a little quirky, but zombie? I just don't see it.

Identifying Characteristics:

*Becomes pale, develops a corpse-like stink and/or requests to have "whichever rations taste most like brains."

*Turtlenecks, scarves or comically oversized watches are usually a bad sign.

Shoot it!

*Claims to "really understand how zombies think. Like, really."

*Offers you admittance to the "Blood Brothers For Life No Shooting Each Other" club they just formed.

*You just saw them have sex with a zombie.

Chances of Survival:

Assuming you don't consider the shambling undead "survivors," nil. Unless the antidote/serum/Z-ray is discovered in the next 24 hours, they've basically bought it. The real question in the betrayer's case is how long they can last. If they're a beloved family member, they'll probably make it right up to the point where shooting them in the face will be most fraught with poignancy. If they're a mysterious drifter who just joined the team, they'll be biting bullet before the end of this reel.

Recommended Course of Action:

Argue heatedly with your companions about whether you really have it in you to kill a fellow human being, all while the human being in debate quietly passes out in the corner. Continue discussions until the infected person leaps at you with mindless hate in their eyes, then reflexively blow their head off. Never speak of them again.

The Dictator

Odds are you're going to run into the Dictator just when you need them most. You'll be cornered, out of ammo and fending off a horde of particularly deadly zombies. Suddenly, and without warning, armed men in riot gear will zipline in, kill every undead thing in a 10-block radius, and invite you back to their base, which they call "the bunker," "the fortress" or "La Fortaleza" if you're in Mexico. Once inside the compound, the Dictator shouldn't be too hard to spot; he'll be the guy with the crazy gleam in his eye who seems more preoccupied with forming a martial junta than the fact that the dead roam the earth.

No, that's just a crazy old guy who broke into a costume store.

Identifying Characteristics:

*If you're in a "social commentary"-type zombie movie, he's the character that prompts us to ask, "Who's the real monster?"

*He's got a Marine Corps tattoo on his upper arm, a shaved head and/or sleeps wrapped in an American flag.

Still no, that's an Abercrombie & Fitch model. They're usually among the first to go.

*All of La Fortaleza's exit signs have been removed, and the only emigration program to speak of is an incinerator chute marked "enemies of the state."

*He swears the chair he presides from isn't a throne, and the only reason it's made out of zombie skulls is because they happen to be more plentiful than wood.

*Movie night is invariably The Road Warrior, and no one cheers for Max.

That's more like it.

Chances of Survival:

Not great. The law of movie irony dictates that this character will be gruesomely ripped apart by zombies so the heroes can make good their escape. Which just goes to show: You can have all the guns, men and fortified super-bunkers in the world, but in the end you just can't beat the moviegoer's desire to see a jock douche get his kidneys eaten from behind.

Recommended Course of Action:

Question the Dictator's authority by trying to leave the bunker. When he (quite sensibly, actually) threatens to kill you to keep you from exposing the bunker's location to the zombies above, tell him he doesn't have the right to keep you against your will.

Hey, it's a free zombie overrun country, man.

He'll say something about the needs of the many. Continue trading pithy barbs about the nature of government and inalienable rights until the zombies arrive. See if you can swipe the Mad Max DVD and book it.

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The Sacrifice

In a zombie apocalypse, everyone's got to make sacrifices. You rarely get to sleep indoors, you sometimes get your face chewed off and the caviar is generally sub-par. But no one sacrifices quite as much as the Sacrifice, that character who utters the immortal words: "Go ahead. Leave me. I'm just slowing you down." Whether they've been bitten, twisted their ankle or are just lazy, the fact is, they're no longer able to outrun the seething horror, and they've made the selfless decision to get eaten to buy the rest of you time. Naturally, you honor their bravery by weeping over them so long that the zombies come bursting in, meaning their gruesome death probably saved you a total of about eight seconds.

"But, uh, thanks anyways guy."

Identifying Characteristics:

*They've been a fifth wheel throughout the entire movie, but aren't actually evil, so this is really the only way to bump them up to the "hero" category.

*In a previous scene, they were seen playing a video game involving shooting zombies.

*They've injured themselves, but not in a way that would prevent them from screaming or shooting at the zombies as they get eaten.

*Government forces are mere minutes away from rescuing you.

*You just had a quiet, bittersweet conversation, and string-heavy music is beginning to swell. Slow motion is likely.

Chances of Survival:

Again, not that great. After all, it's hardly a sacrifice if they live, right? If they've agreed to buy the group time by fighting off the zombies, they can expect a swift and hideous death. On the plus side, there's a fairly good chance they'll come back as a zombie later, and an even better chance they'll be most people's favorite character.

Recommended Course of Action:

If they're really dedicated to staying behind, there's no sense arguing about it. Leave them a half-loaded pistol and get out of there.

"Yeah, you're a goner. Well, see ya!"

If you want to truly honor their sacrifice, make the most of the time they've given you. Maybe find an abandoned mini-golf course and play a few holes, or catch a late movie.

The Expert

For some people, surviving in a world of the living dead just comes naturally. In the small amount of time that zombies have existed, they've already mastered the fine art of dispatching them, down to subtle details like "shoot them in the head" or "they tend to stop biting when you remove the jaw." Whatever badass line of work this person pursued before Z-day, now they're full-time zombie murderers. And, luckily for you, their stubborn moral compass just won't let them turn a bunch of unprepared assholes like yourselves away without coming along for the ride.

Identifying Characteristics:

*Some kind of attractive facial-scar obtained in a bar fight, on an oil rig or during a fight in a bar on an oil rig.

*They claim to have a keen sense for the undead, or the ability to smell their approach. They even claim to "almost respect the sumbitches" just before twisting one's head off with an industrial winch.

*You stumbled upon them in the woods, hills or a shack, and were nearly killed by some kind of devious trap they'd set to catch undead who might wander by.

*They've survived primarily because of an ingrained mistrust of other people, yet within a few minutes have taken you aimless yokels under their protection.

*They're wearing a leather jacket with "I Kill Zombies" embroidered on the back. When asked about it, they claim it refers to an unrelated incident.

Chances of Survival:

Pretty damn good. The only way the survival expert is going to die is if they turn out to be the Sacrifice in an attempt at super-ultra-double poignancy. Otherwise, the last you'll see of them is when they tromp off into the wilderness, grinning through their mountain-man beard at the thought of all the zombies between here and Hell.

Recommended Course of Action:

The Expert is a valuable resource, and you'll definitely want them on your side. Avoid doing anything that would make them think you're on the zombie's side, like having sex with one, trying some brain "just to say you had" or walking around moaning in torn clothes as a clever joke. And remember, the Expert, though rough and rugged on the outside, is at heart a softie. Presumably you'll have a bunch of recently dead relatives or friends to whine about; start the waterworks and next thing you know you'll have the ultimate wingman in your corner.

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The Innocent

Every zombie story needs an annoying escort component, and this is yours. Whatever form this little package of utter uselessness takes--be it a younger sibling, a senile grandmother or litter of puppies--it's your job to watch over it and keep its precious innocence intact as it witnesses hundreds of grisly murders and shits on the rug (although that only applies the grandmother and puppies). Let it die, and you're an asshole. And before you say, "Yeah, so what?" and drown it in a stream, you should be aware that assholes almost never survive past the second act.

"Go ahead and abandon me, see what happens."

Identifying Characteristics:

*Little, blemishless faces that seem to say, "Pwease don't wet duh zombies eat me, mistuh."

*Tiny fragile bones that shatter at the slightest impact.

*The ability to drop out of the story entirely for large chunks of time, returning only when their existence is most burdensome.

*They have the whole audience's sympathies.

*A patented "doe-eyed" look they whip out whenever you loudly consider throwing them to the zombies as a distraction.

You manipulative wench.

Chances of Survival:

Astronomical. Only the darkest filmmaker is going to let the Innocent get their brain eaten out. Sadly, this doesn't guarantee your safety in the least, since nothing says "Oscar" like the hero dying in the process of saving the life of an Innocent. But directly threaten the Innocent, and you might as well walk around with the top of your skull sawed off spooning sugar onto your frontal lobe. The key is to find the perfect balance between "selfless hero putting the lives of others before their own" and "child-abandoning murderfaced fucknut."

Recommended Course of Action:

Honestly, your best survival option is to be the Innocent. But if that proves impossible, try picking up the Innocent up waving it in front of you as you slowly back out of the film.


The everyman. The average Joe. You (unless you're a zombie-killing badass, in which case see above).

Identifying Characteristics:

*Was never much of a hero before this whole "global zombie outbreak" thing.

*Maybe, just maybe, has the right stuff to see this thing through to the end.

*Is physically attractive. This is still a movie, after all.

Chances of Survival:

Hard to say. The rate of hero survival in these types of situations is at best a risky venture. And every summer, it seems more directors think the key to giving their zombie flick deeper meaning is to cap the hero in the final scene. But hey, at least you're guaranteed to live until then!

Recommended Course of Action:

Read as many informative articles like this one as you can find. They may not actually prepare you for the zombie apocalypse, but they will entitle you to act like a smartass know-it-all when the shit hits the fan.

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