When I began this page, I had actually seen relatively few zombie films, and almost exclusively ones from the last 30 years or so. Because of this, my picture of a "real" zombie was largely based on their portrayal in Night of the Living Dead. When I began writing reviews, I decided to review only those films where the zombies had actually died and come back to life. I have to admit that this was in part so that I could narrow the field. I wanted a page that would be comprehensive, and I was somewhat daunted by the task of reviewing all the films that had any connection with zombies, so I winnowed a few out by being selective about what actually qualified as a zombie.
That was not my complete rationale, though. Part of me really felt that the zombies created through voodoo, that is to say, those who had not actually died but were merely drugged or hypnotized in some way, were not as deserving of the title. Having recently watched White Zombie, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and The Plague of the Zombies (as well as Revolt of the Zombies, but I don't want to credit that film with making me think anything), I've had reason to reconsider.
Originally, when I thought of zombies dying and coming back to life, I pictured this in the most literal sense, where any corpse, whether it was fresh or hundreds of years old, could get up and start walking around. What I'm starting to realize is that this is simply classic voodoo taken to the extreme. In classic voodoo, people who are intended to become zombies will appear to die. Their life signs stop, their family mourns them, and they are buried. For all intents and purposes, they are dead. When they come back to life a short time later, they are mindless and clumsy, and generally unaffected by damage done to their bodies when they are attacked. It is quite easy to make the jump from this to zombies that have been resting quietly for centuries in their graves.
There are some zombie films (for instance, the above-mentioned Revolt of the Zombies) in which the zombies don't even appear to die, but are merely under control through some drug. One might think that I would still discount these as true zombie films, and I guess in my heart I do, but in the interests of fairness to all interpretations of what a zombie is, I include them as well.
As I mention in my history of zombie films, it is interesting to see the evolution of zombies over the 20th century from magical voodoo slaves to modern-day radioactive brain eaters. Once the idea of zombies had taken hold in the public mind, the way that they were created was merely a sign of the times. It is simply enough to see the walking shell of someone who once had thought and self-will to send a shiver down the spine.