PBS Announces Special Documentary ‘Exhumed: A History of Zombies’ for Halloween Eve Premiere

A report by John Squires for Bloody Disgusting.

Even PBS is getting into the Halloween spirit this year with the launch of Exhumed: A History of Zombies, a new special presented by PBS Digital Studios’ popular series “Monstrum.” The one-hour documentary will premiere on Friday, October 30 at 10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video App.

Exhumed is written and presented by Monstrum’s Dr. Emily Zarka. She’ll take audiences deep into the lore of the zombie throughout American history, examining zombie legends and tales to share what these creatures reveal about shifts in society, history and our deepest anxieties. The series also provides unique insight into America’s dark past of slavery and foreign occupation, as well as modern-day uncertainties about pandemics and bioterrorism.

“We can learn a lot about our culture by exploring the monsters we invent,” said Zarka.“Looking at the portrayal of zombies over the past two centuries, we can witness the evolving issues and anxieties Americans have faced.”

In the special, Zarka interviews experts, spiritual practitioners and academics, uncovering the historical roots of zombie folklore, including African spiritual practices, the Transatlantic slave trade, and Haitian Vodou and Voodoo beliefs. She also explores popular culture to witness how the monster has evolved to reflect different eras of American history as it became a staple of films, television and video games. Zombie stories over the decades represented a range of fears, including nuclear weapons, overpopulation and political uprisings.

Leading into its broadcast special, “Monstrum” will also present three new short-form episodes on PBS Storied, a YouTube channel that’s home to arts and humanities content from PBS Digital Studios. The channel’s mission is to show how we can better understand ourselves through the art and culture we create, from mythology to movies to design and much more. With dozens of “Monstrum” episodes available, viewers can learn more about their favorite spooky creature, from Dracula to El Chupacabra and the Kraken to the Banshee.

Below are descriptions and premiere dates for the upcoming “Monstrum” digitalseries episodes and the one-hour broadcast special:

The Origins of the Zombie, from Haiti to the U.S.

Premieres: Wednesday, October 14 on PBS Storied

Description: In the first episode of our three-part special series, we explore the complex history of the zombie—from its origins in the spiritual beliefs of the African diaspora to the development of Vodou in Haiti. Learn how one of the most enduring monsters in popular culture evolved in the midst of slavery, racism and prejudice.

How Night of the Living Dead Changed Zombies Forever 

Premieres: Wednesday, October 21 on PBS Storied

Description: One of the most influential movies in the zombie canon is George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead. We’re examining the impact of the iconic “Romero zombie,” how it took shape in the racially charged civil rights era and why it altered zombie history forever.

Why Modern-Day Zombies Are So Terrifying 

Premieres: Wednesday, October 28 on PBS Storied

Description: Most zombies today are fast, strong, travel in hordes and continue to terrify us in new ways. In this final episode of our zombie trilogy, we look into how racism along with current fears of pandemics and bioterrorism in our society significantly change the characteristics of the modern zombie in video games, Hollywood—and beyond.

EXHUMED: A HISTORY OF ZOMBIES

Premieres: Friday, October 30 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS

Description: There are few monsters more recognizable or popular than the zombie. The reanimated corpse has been a staple of folklore, film, literature and popular culture for nearly 200 years. In this new one-hour special, Dr. Emily Zarka, who studies literature and film through the lens of monsters and is the host/writer of PBS’s popular “Monstrum” digital series, will deconstruct some of the most significant moments in zombie popular culture over the last two centuries to reveal what these creatures say about us.

Exhumed: A History of Zombies will be available to stream starting Friday, October 30 on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available for streaming on PBS Documentary Channel via Amazon, and available for purchase via Amazon, Apple and Comcast

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