Here's something for horror fans. A while ago*, io9 published a compilation of creepy science experiments. They range from fingers regrown from pig organs to the Stanford prison experiment to optogenetics, and any one of them is excellent story fodder. I won't go into all of them, because io9 does a pretty good job.
I think one of the more relevant experiments to current trends** is the one about the Russian dogs. Who were decapitated. And whose heads were reanimated. And who were also reanimated without decapitation. Wikipedia has more info here, and then there's the video (not for the very weak of stomach).
It's entirely possible this was some kind of hoax. After all, we know of it through Soviet propaganda, which kindly didn't show us the connections between dog and machine. However, I'd like to think there's at least a hunk of truth there, because I read a book last year that mentioned head transplants, among other fascinating topics that will earn it a review here at some point. They've been done with animals, but not with humans, and are horrifically creepy in their own right. ***
Long story short, you don't need a virus or a spell to create a zombie. You just need a mad scientist such as Victor Frankenstein or Vladimir Demikhov. They don't even have to be evil to want to do this. There are perfectly valid medical and scientific reasons to want to reanimate corpses, or stitch them together in creative ways. But when the subjects escape or rebel or fall apart …
*** If you don't believe me, go read the descriptions Wikipedia quotes from the aforementioned book.