Undead in the West:
Vampires, Zombies, Mummies & Ghosts on the Cinematic Frontier

The frontier has long been framed as a landscape of life and death, but few scholarly works have ventured into the realm where the two become one, to explore portrayals of the Undead in the West – the zombies, vampires, mummies, and others that have lumbered, crept, shambled, and swooped into the Western from other genres. This sub-genre, while largely a post-1990 phenomenon, traces it roots to much deeper hybrid traditions of Westerns and horror or science fiction, and yet, shows ties to the recent A- Western renaissance. The seventeen essays in this volume explore the intrusion of the undead into the cinematic West, from Curse of the Undead and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula to the Dusk Till Dawn trilogy and Jonah Hex. Classic films like Once Upon a Time in the West, low-budget genre romps like The Quick and the Undead, and television series such as The Walling Dead and Supernatural all get their due. Topics range from the marketing of Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, through the significance of the saloon in undead Westerns, to the cannibal horrors of Ravenous as a critique of Manifest Destiny.


“So This Zombie Walks Into a Bar …:” The Living, the Undead, and the Western Saloon
Cynthia J. Miller

“Hey Sammy, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore:" The Frontier Motif in Supernatural
Michael J. Klein and Kristi L. Shackleford

The Whore with the Vampire Heart: Frontier Romanticism in John Carpenter’s Vampires
Lindsay Krishna Coleman

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula: The Old World Meets the Old West
Rachel E. Page, Robert G. Weiner, and Cynthia J. Miller

The West – Re-animated and Regenerated: Hollywood Horror and Western Iconography in Gore Verbinski’s Rango (2011)
Sue Matheson

Frontier Values Meet Big City Zombies: The Old West in AMC’s The Walking Dead
Shelley S. Rees

Savage, Scoundrel, Seducer: The Moral Order Under Siege in the Dusk ‘til Dawn Trilogy
A. Bowdoin Van Riper

Blood on the Border: The Mexican Frontier in Vampires (1998) and Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)
Thomas Prasch

Colliding Modalities and Receding Frontier in George Romero’s Land of the Dead
Outi J. Hakola

Zombie Nationalism: Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as Immigration Satire
Christopher Gonzalez

Undead and Un-American: The Zombified Other in Weird Western Films
James Hewitson

Hungry Lands: Conquest, Cannibalism, and the Wendigo Spirit
Robert A. Saunders

The Ghost from the Past: The Undead Avenger in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West
Matthias Stork

Moving West and Beyond: Life in the Midst of Death in Purgatory
Hugh H. Davis

"You Nasty Thing from Beyond the Dead": Elvis and JFK vs. The Mummy in Bubba Ho-Tep
Hannah Thompson

The Subversive Jonah Hex: Jimmy Hayward’s Revision and Reconfiguration of a Genre
Michael C. Reiff

Queer Justice: Supernatural Foreigners and Different Conceptions of Law and Punishment in Two Horror Westerns
Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns


Notes on Contributors

From the Cover

"The Western is long gone, dead and buried, but its ghosts still haunt the popular imagination. As this impressive volume amply demonstrates, the genre has been reanimated in recent years and repopulated with a ragged motley crew of specters. The editors are to be congratulated on having pulled together a marvelous phantasmagoria of views on the new mutant pistol opera."
-- Peter Stanfield, author of Horse Opera: The Strange History of the 1930s Singing Cowboy

There are things beyond what you can see in the vastness of the West, and you can't know what's there. You can almost believe that it's other-worldly. I grew up in Texas, where I found my own myths among the legendary characters of the West. They are 'undead,' you see, and will be for as long as we speak of them."
-- Joe Lansdale, author of Bubba Ho-Tep, Dead in the West, and The Magic Wagon

"The Old West is the perfect place for vampires, ghosts, and zombies. In the classic Western, there's such a focus on death -- they're always killing people, everybody's dying. So, undead Westerns are a natural fit, all those dead people from all those old movies get a chance to come back. Years and years from now, they'll still be making those films -- and they'll still be looking at this book when they talk about them."
-- Billy Drago, actor (Pale Rider, 7 Mummies)

"I hope that genre mash-ups like these bring a whole new generation of fans to the Western. My grandfather would have thought it was great!"
-- Brendan Wayne, actor (Cowboys and Aliens) and grandson of John Wayne


My co-editor, Cindy Miller, discusses Undead in the West on Sci-Fi Pulse