Through the process of evolutionary tastes in the movies, the classic monsters many of us grew up with in movies and TV are beginning to be humanized physically for the sake of believability. Not only have we seen the vampire become a modern day version of the disgruntled teen with nothing more than an occasional flash of red eye contacts, we're also starting to see the Frankenstein monster slowly turn into a physical manifestation of anyone we'd see on the street. Eventually, we may see that extend to all other classic monster remakes, right on down to the slightly more human Mr. Hyde.
But one classic monster not originally a part of the Universal roster of old seems to stay the same: The zombie. Ever since the modern movie equivalent of the zombie became a trope started by George Romero in 1968's "Night of the Living Dead", we see the same idea of a dead person reanimated via either a radiation accident or other cataclysm. Along with the much-copied lumbering gait of the zombie in human society, you also have the constant of a movie zombie only becoming truly demised if shot in the head.
Why the zombie stays as a caricature seems to say much about the fear behind them. This extends all the way to the CDC recently convincing the world that zombies could theoretically happen someday. Yet, it's not as if the movies haven't shown the zombie as more of a true, living being, particularly in this creature's original, cinematic guise.
Go back to the 1920 German Expressionist version of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and you see the first real cinematic representation of the zombie by result of hypnotism. It's this form of the zombie that we have yet to bring back to film to be humanized again. In order to make that humanization more powerful, the zombie has to be established as a normal human being first.
We've already had enough remakes of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (including a fairly good independent one in 2006), so perhaps it's time to move the zombie into territory where we can't tell zombie from human. In fact, the viewer doesn't necessarily have to know that the main character is a hypnotized zombie until the end of the film to provide shades of character. If we're gradually becoming used to seeing Frankenstein's monster converse rather than grunt, then the zombie should be able to speak in a way that could be as intelligent as you and me.
Someday, we may get that, though it has to be gradual as we still deal with the terror of the slowly lumbering zombie who perpetually wants to eat our brains. Ever slowly, it's turning into self-parody, particularly when seeing the bit player zombies of the week on AMC's "The Walking Dead." That more human change would heighten the terror if we found out one of the living human beings was really a hypnotized zombie ready to turn on everybody else at a certain date and time.
With NBC humanizing The Munsters in an upcoming pilot of "Mockingbird Lane", we have an interesting template to go on. If we can't completely humanize the zombie, then it might at least be reduced to the basic attributes of a mere scar on the neck and a deadeye expression.