Whenever I watch a zombie movie, the very first thing I notice is the sounds emanating from those vile beasts. If I hear cricking and cracking, then I know I have a winner on my hands. It’s those movies where the undead lurch but remain silent that I think why hadn’t the director thought of what real corpses sound like and insert those effects into the picture. Monday Mayhem is all about zombies, and today I want to spend some time on zombie sounds. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
In my previous posts Rising from the Dead and Indestructible Zombies I detail the various states of human decomposition. One of the phases that a body goes through once it dies is Rigor Mortis. In this state, the body stiffens to the point of rigidity whereby muscles harden and become difficult to move by an external force. Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy depicts a perfect example where someone attempts to compel a body to do what it can no longer do due to stiffening. In Frenzy’s case, the murderer attempts to retrieve a lost object but then has difficulty doing so because of the body’s inability to bend like it did when alive.
That’s why the movie The Mummy has a certain appeal. Throughout the entire film, the mummy, which is nothing more than a glorified zombie, cricks, cracks, spurts, and oozes all sorts of noises toward its transformation to becoming human again. Why don’t all zombie movies sound like that?
Imagine if you will a horde of the undead giving chase. You hear the dragging. You hear the hauling. You hear the moaning. Wouldn’t it be all the more terrifying to hear their bones snapping back and forth on their way to making their victim their supper?
There’s a saying: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. What if the saying went: Where there’s cricking and cracking, they’re zombies. Wouldn’t that be something?
I suppose the sound of zombie cartilage readjusting is impossible in a movie where a virus takes over the victim. After all, depending on the virus, the victim hasn’t really died—at least not in the traditional sense of the word. They’ve only changed to become movable corpses. And if an antidote exists for zombies in the form of changing them back to their former selves, then by all accounts, they never really died in the first place.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
If they never died, there’s no opportunity to make the sounds I wish they could make. The only way that could happen is if zombies rise three hours after death just when Rigor Mortis had set.
Then again, zombies could rise during that sweet moment after death with bodies unaffected by the decomposition phase. In that instance, you will not hear them coming. In a sense, they could appear and eat you while you’re still alive.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hear them coming.
What do you think? Should future zombie movies have the undead sounding like an army of breaking bones as they march for the attack? Or would you fear them more silent?
15 thoughts on “Zombie Sounds”
I give you props for mentioning a neglected Hitchcock Classic Frenzy! “LOVELY!” “LOVELY!” I assume your talking about the 1932 Universal Mummy Film above? The same Actors, (David Manners, Edward van Sloan etc..) and same basic plot as Dracula in 1931, just instead of a vampire you have Imhotep! Love the way Universal recycles their product!
I see you have given a great amount of thought to this…very interesting.
I remember the first time I watched Return of the Living Dead when they were discussing this and I thought, man that sounds gross, lol.
Being a zombie fan from way back…I will have to check out your other posts you have linked to 🙂
If you had a whole chorus of clicking from a horde of zombies I’d say that’d be pretty scary on top of the other noises – on the other hand maybe silent would be scarier because you could never be sure if they were around.
Like the cemetery shots. They remind of the opening scene from Night of the Living Dead, I guess because of the stark black and white tones.
I’d rather hear them coming too:) great post
How about the Game of thrones version? The ice zombies. Those were a rather interesting twist to the usual zombie visuals.
I’m all for interesting twists in the genre. It’s make for some interesting plot twists, for sure!
For me, the most scary sound associated with zombies is the slow dragging shuffle as they work their way slowly but inevitably towards you. Try it. Go outside stand in the dark and get someone to shuffle up behind you and just listen as the noise gets ever nearer.. You’ll feel your flesh creep even if you try not to!
In terms of rigor, you can actually break rigor pretty quickly by massaging the dead muscles. As a result, I suspect if someone in rigor decided to get up and look for a snack, they may well work off the rigor pretty quickly, and much more quickly than if they remained in their grave. This means the snapping of bones and the grinding of broken ends against each other might slowly be replaced by the sound of loose limbs dragging dangling feet through the dirt as they regain some of their flexibility.
Over time, this would presumably morph into sloshing and squelching as they rot and decay from the inside out, and the belching of fetid gasses which will build up inside.
Lots of fun noises!.
So true, Colin! In other words, they’d be squishing their way to us!
I think the sounds are vital to building that surreal atmosphere of terror. I think that zombies would continue decomposing over time. Maybe when they first became zombies, depending on how fast the change, there wouldn’t be any noise made by decomposing bones and cartilage. But as they continued to decompose, it would most definitely become a one-of-a-kind sound.
I like how The Walking Dead this season has made the zombies significantly more decomposed than they were in previous seasons. It drives home the fact that they are, in fact, dead and can only continue to decay. I haven’t noticed a sound though. I’ll have to pay better attention. 🙂
Absolutely! That’s how the survivors would be able to tell how long the zombies have been around by the sounds they make. The more noise, the younger the undead, since Rigor takes place between 3-24 hours after death.
Yes, I’ve noticed their decomposing appearance, too. I wonder just how old they are considering how they’re almost falling apart in some cases!
That’s a good point. I guess it depends on the stage of decomposition that they’re held at when zombified. If rigor is in full swing then I do think those noises should be included and it would be scary. The shuffling is one thing, but it’s subtle. A snapping and crackling noise coming closer would set off more fear. In my mind, I would a swarm would resemble the sound of an approaching wildfire and most living things have that natural fear of fire.
Although, I read once that rigor ceases after a few days, so would that negate the bones breaking?
Good point, Charles. Rigor typically happens between 3-24 hours after death. Secondary Flaccidity, when the body goes limp a second time, happens soon after Rigor. The only sweet spot, if I could call it that, when the zombie would dare make that cricking and cracking noise is only during Rigor. Would it be terrifying hearing an army of the undead snapping to your location?
It wouldn’t even have to do with bones breaking either. It would simply be the limbs bending in the natural spots and the sound would reflect that movement!
What do you think?
That would a terrifying sound to here. Here’s a thought: many zombie movies and books have zombies of various ‘ages’. One would expect some to be silent and others to be cricking and cracking. With such large swarms, it would be ridiculous for all the zombies to be in the same stages of rigor. So, you would still get the noise from a good percentage of the zombies. Guess I’m saying your initial statement still stands even if it the noise isn’t being made by all zombies. Love these zombie posts.
Agreed! Thanks for chiming in! 🙂