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Written by Kat Albrecht

The other day I had a nostalgic urge to watch some zombified zoo animals run amok. Without hesitation, I popped the 2016 film Zoombies into my metaphorical VHS player and settled in to rediscover an old favorite.

Zoombies takes place at an animal sanctuary named the Eden Wildlife Zoo, notable for housing formerly extinct and endangered species of animals, including a number of birds and an especially intelligent Cross River gorilla named Kifo. This tale of animal mayhem follows zoo director Ellen and her young daughter Thea, the zoo security team, and a crop of fresh-faced college interns and their zookeeper mentors. I think you can guess where this is going. What begins with one monkey injected with an illegal life-saving drug becomes an infected animal epidemic across the zoo, as everything from giraffes to lemurs turn on their human keepers.

Now, as I watched this familiar film, I couldn’t help but think that some of the zoombies were much more terrifying than others. Far be it from me to rely on my own opinion (also me: literally writing film reviews), so I decided to crowdsource this problem and survey 100 people to find out definitively which zoombie is the scariest and why.

I selected five of the original zoombies for this analysis: Mr. Koala, Kifo the gorilla, giraffe, monkey, and lion. Each participant was asked to choose the scariest zoombie and explain why they were so frightening. Next, I asked participants to tell me what other animal they thought would make for a terrifying zoombie.

Participants were shown the following photo to make their selections (I know the giraffes are sort of blurry, but you try screenshotting a zombie giraffe in motion).


Gorilla took the crown with 56% of survey takers casting their vote for Kifo. A further 34% voted monkey, while poor koala, lion, and giraffe split 10% of the vote between them.

zoombie survey

Let’s dig a little deeper and look at each zoombie, their kill count, and see what the survey panel had to say.

Koala ZoombieAnimal: Mr. Koala
Kill Count: 0
Are they the scariest zoombie? The answer to this question was overwhelmingly “no,” with 98% of people choosing a different animal. Admittedly, Mr. Koala’s kill count isn’t doing him any favors here. However, those 98% of people are still all wrong. If only I were voting, Mr. Koala would take the crown here because his ferocity is so unexpected. As one of the TWO people who chose Mr. Koala explained:

Well, to see a cute and harmless animal to turn into a zombie is really scary. All the others are aggressive by their nature so it would not be so scary to see one of them as a zombie.

lion zoombieAnimal: Lion
Kill Count: 1 + an entire police security team
Are they the scariest zoombie? Only six people landed on lions as the scariest choice, which is a little surprising given the known danger of lions in real life. As one respondent put it:

Regular lions are scary! Zombie lions? Dear lord!

Lion’s kill count is extremely high given its lack of fear endorsements. Over the course of the film, lions take out an entire elite police security team sent to re-secure the zoo and an intern named Amber. Ever the intrepid scientist, I looked for some factors that could have explained why lion just wasn’t that scary and found a theory pretty close to home.

My mother, who helpfully beta-tested the survey instrument, opined the lion looks like it has cataracts, which is sad. A couple of other survey participants agreed the lion doesn’t look fierce so much as it looks blind. So maybe the aesthetics of it all has something to do with lion’s unimpressive performance here.

giraffe zoombieAnimal: Giraffe
Kill Count: 2
Are they the scariest zoombie? The giraffes are the other animal that don’t inspire thrills and chills in the crowd. The giraffes in the film serve an important role: demonstrating the film is in on the joke, one of my favorite features of the B-movie creature feature. In offering reasons for why the giraffes are scary one participant offered:

They are very big, and they look very angry.

I can confirm, the giraffes in the movie are indeed big and angry. Despite being herbivores in their un-zombified state, these movie menaces managed to eat two college students which is pretty good.

monkey zoombieAnimal: Monkey
Kill Count: 5
Are they the scariest zoombie? Monkey was one of two animals participants agreed is actually pretty scary. Monkey is a solid choice in the filmic world, with five kills over the course of the story. Survey takers gave multiple reasons for their selection, some relying on their knowledge of monkeys as animals and others focusing on the appearance of this specific monkey. One person wrote:

It does look terrifying, but little monkeys are very agile and fast; it would be very distressing getting several bites and being unable to quickly get it off or at least die quickly.

Other respondents had more to say about the fur and eyeball combination on the Zoombie monkeys in particular. One person typified these responses by writing:

I think overall it's the whiteness of the monkeys [fur] plus the clear emptiness of the eyes that freak me out the most compared to the others. It kind of almost looks like death itself.

Some respondents articulated the monkey looks demonic, possessed, or like Regan from The Exorcist. One person did enjoy the color combo though and explained why:

I found number 4 really scary but also felt that the white fur was aesthetically pleasing, it also complemented the zo[o]mbie's eyes.

With a combination of high kill count and 34% of the vote, our dapper little demon monkeys land in a respectable second place.

gorilla zoombieAnimal: Gorilla
Kill Count: 2
Are they the scariest zoombie? If we’re going with the wisdom of the crowd, then gorilla is indeed the scariest zoombie, garnering 56% of the vote. When asked why, participants gave their explanations:

Gorilla is already a very scary animal, but it being a zombie makes it 100x scarier. They're incredibly strong, fast and defensive animals.

I think it's because its mouth looks like it's full of blood. Also, it resembles a human the most.

The humanity of Kifo the gorilla was discussed by several participants and is a key plot point in the movie, so it seems like the filmmakers and the fans are in agreement. As proven by science-ish, Kifo the Gorilla takes the title as the scariest zoombie.

As a bonus, here are some suggestions from the crowd on what animals would make particularly good zoombies. One participant suggested a dog since you would be predisposed to trust a dog and the transition to zombie would be more jarring. Another participant suggested a rat because you wouldn’t hear them coming before they bit you. A particularly inspired choice is the chameleon, which could weaponize its camouflage. Finally, multiple people suggested a goose, which is both hilarious and terrifying.

Until next time, I’ll be here waiting for Asylum Studios to call me about Zoombies 3: The Honk from Hell.

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About The Author
Kat Albrecht
Staff Writer
Kat Albrecht is a legally trained sociologist and computational social scientist studying how complex data can inform policy, with particular emphasis on the nexus of fear, criminal data, and the law. In other words, she’s a college professor who studies horror films sometimes. Her research specialties are practical special effects, creature features, and arguing about the meaning of genre. Kat will gleefully review any film that takes place in the ocean or in outer space and exclusively paints portraits of herself.
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