What is it about the living dead?
When George Romero created Night of the Living Dead (and accidentally forgot to copyright the film, thus making the original print in the public domain), he was making a subversive statement about our society in the late 60s.
At least that’s what historians write.
I think it was just the beginnings of a terrifying genre of horror film.
Personally, as I’ve written before, I used to have terrible nightmares based on the Dawn of the Dead film by George Romero. Suffice to say that all the nightmares revolve around me being safe somewhere until some idiot lets in a horde of zombies that outnumber me and…well…they try to eat me.
I’ve figured out the cause of the nightmares; too many things going on in my life. Upon waking, I generally set about ‘eliminating’ tasks and soon..POOF!…no more nightmares.
I write all this to tell you that I’ve been having fun with zombies lately.
I have purchased from the talented artist and graphic designer, Abi Post, a painting of a Zombie Bride (it was between that and the Zombie Nude (see below), but couldn’t figure out where I would hang a painting like that…dangit. Love the toe tag and wrist band!). Plus, I helped build the site for her. MUCH fun!
Then today, I discover my girlfriend’s oldest son has been having zombie movie marathons at a friend’s house. Well… Resident Evil movie marathon’s, anyway. Not really zombie movies, but fun. Who DOESN’T like seeing Milla Jovavich kick some mutant dead? Hmm?
I told him I was a big fan and he asked me which ones he should watch.
Which brings me to the point of this blog…finally.
ERIC’S TOP 10 ZOMBIE MOVIES (plus some)
A quick run down and brief description of the movies in order I would suggest watching. You know? To get the full FEEL of the genre. And like a good film, break it up with a bit of humor and different tone from time to time.
At the end, I will mention a few other things for my zombie lovin’ friends and fellow graphic designers! (Hmmm….they’re ALL graphic designers now that I think about it. Weird.)
As described above, the granddaddy of them all. New audiences may find it a bit lame compared to the effects and gore of today’s films, but you just have to remember about what people had been exposed to at the time.
10 years past before the sequel was made. Tom Savini makes his zombie makin’ debut with this film. You might recognize him in many other movies as well. Additionally, this movie takes place in a shopping mall. And we all know, if it’s the end of the world, there would be NO better place than the free run of an entire shopping mall!
The last of the ‘Dead’ trilogy (at the time). This one is more bleak, taking place in an underground army bunker. However, the coolest character in the movie is Bub. Bub is dead. Well, undead. And a really ‘smart’ scientist is trying to teach him to be domesticated. Sprinkle in a handful of mindless army goons and you’ve got all the ingredients for your hidey hole to soon be an open buffet.
Written by the recently deceased author, Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Total Recall, and two Heavy Metal segments), this will give marathon viewers a breather with some much needed humor. Bonus: the origin of why the common belief is held that zombies crave ‘brainzzzzzzz.’
While I like the original version better, we get a little better effects, but generally the exact same plot and dialogue. Things seem a little out of time, but going through the remakes of Romero’s films will keep the zombie enthusiast ever evolving with the genre. You MAY decide to skip this film, but be SURE to catch number 6 on the list. BONUS: Tony Todd (The Candyman) in one of his early films.
By far an excellent entry, AND quiet frankly a disturbing change in zombie behavior: running. While running zombies was sort of alluded to in another movie of this time (see #9 below), the fact that you couldn’t simply run from zombies anymore really freaked me out. Anyone else out there? Regardless, this film by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) is a MUST see in the zombie genre. Don’t plan on sleeping tonight. And watch all the credits to remind yourself, “There ARE no happy endings when zombies are involved.”
A comedic masterpiece. One I proudly have in my collection and have watched a dozen times. The dozens of subtle jokes can only be caught with repeated viewings. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright co-wrote the movie. Pegg (Scotty on the new Star Trek) is Shaun, an average guy with an obnoxious best friend, girl trouble, and a propensity for hanging out at a local pub called the Winchester. A whole day goes by before Shaun and his friends even know something is amiss and the dead walk the streets of London. BONUS: Bill Nighy as Shaun’s step-dad.
While not actually a zombie movie, it injects the genre with a new twist: rage. Directed by the amazing Danny Boyle, we find poor Jim (played by Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Dark Night, Red Eye)) waking up in a hospital completely alone in the city of London. When he finally finds someone in a pile of bodies in a church, he realizes something terrible has occurred. Here, again, are the fast moving ‘dead’ who are really people filled with a super virus that brings out rage in people and chimps, apparently. Again, while not a zombie movie, it set the tone for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, in my humble opinion.
Time again for a short comedic break with this independent film starring the incredibly talented Carrie Ann Moss (Trinity from the Matrix), Billy Connelly, and Dylan Baker. It’s a world where the clothing and family life from the 50s and 60s thrive and the zombies have been domesticated with shock collars to keep them from feeding on people. Instead, they handle shopping carts, simple chores and even act as pets. They also make great company and beat out any ole collie a boy might own. A MUST see.
Why DOES Romero take zombies so seriously? While not available for home viewing yet, this film set a new standard for the ‘buddy movie’ meets ‘zombie’ genres. Did I mention Woody Harrelson is one of the stars? I can see this film having a sequel or more. Zombieland is like a video game where you figure out ways to get rid of the walking dead. If you missed it in theaters, be sure to get the dvd or blu-ray. Oh…and don’t forget to have some Purell handy.
PLUS SOME MORE
There are a few more to mention in the genre OR they are part of the heritage that has been created. I make a note of what MUST be seen, and what you can pass on if you just don’t have the time.
Okay. Really. You could skip this one. While it’s based on Romero’s Day of the Dead, I didn’t even know it existed. In fact, I think I caught part of it on a Sci-Fi Saturday night movie once and didn’t even realize what it was. Actually, it may have been direct to video. It’s a Steve Miner (House, Lake Placid) film starring Mena Suvari and, strangely Ving Rhymes who was in number 6 above in a completely different role. 4 out of 10 stars on IMDB. Just checked, and you can watch it on ‘Instant Play’ on Netflix.
Not a bad movie. However, it introduces some new ideas about zombie that I just don’t believe belong in the genre. Romero did pull off getting Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo in the film. And don’t forget Asia Argento! Rowr! Um. Oh yeah…Walled City. Rich people vs. Poor. And the new idea? That zombies just want a home to go to. Like…they migrate. BONUSES: Water doesn’t really stop a zombie AND Simon Pegg and Edger Wright cameo as the “Photobooth zombies.” Not in my top 10, but definitely worth a viewing.
Zombies meet Cloverfield. Nuff said. Okay. I’ll say more. Shot on a video camera throughout most of the film, it does have some humorous twists. While ‘filming’ a zombie film, a group of film students discover zombies are really out to get them. Some of the same ends are met in ‘real’ life as would have happened if they had made their film. Romero wrote and directed this film. IMDB gives it 6 out of 10. Rumor mill has it that a prequel is in development for Night of the Living Dead: Origins in 3D (esplatter.com).
This was a cool follow up to Danny Boyle’s original film. A great cast too. Six months after the virus hit, the United States is helping secure England bit by bit. Unfortunately, things go awry. SURPRISE. Again, not a zombie movie, in my opinion, but if you watched the first movie, you owe it to yourself to see this one.
We go a little retro here, but this is a cult classic. Based on the creepy H.P. Lovecraft story, a college student is obsessed with re-animating dead tissue. Humor and gore abound. Jeffrey Combs, a sci-fi favorite, heads the cast and shows up in the sequels (still being made!)
Planet Terror (2007)
Part of the Grindhouse films if Robert Rodriquiz’ Planet Terror. The film was designed to look like a “B” movie with choppy cuts, mis-spliced film and over the top effects. Things go from bad to worse as gas is released and people die only to come back to life with a craving for flesh. But the humans in Planet Terror won’t go down without a fight. Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriquez, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Bruce Willis and Naveen Andrews all star.
ERIC HASN’T SEEN, BUT I’VE HEARD THESE ARE ALSO GREAT…
One of Peter Jackson’s (King Kong, Lord of the Rings) early films. From IMDB: A young man’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.
Apparently this movie has quite a following. There are MANY clips online for viewing and a gross movie poster. From IMDB: Strangers looking for a woman’s father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately searches for the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.
This Japanese film popped up on SEVERAL other ‘Top 10’ lists I came across. I can’t tell you much about it, but on IMDB, one of the characters is listed as “Yakuza zombie in alligator-skin coat.” HOW COOL IS THAT? A MUST see, I’m thinkin.’
LAST BONUS FILM
Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2: In Shocking 2-D (1991)
Remember me mentioning that George Romero didn’t copyright the first prints of Night of the Living Dead? Well, James Riffel, decided to wipe the soundtrack clean and add his own dialog over the film. Plus a few well placed intermissions. What results seems really stupid, but after awhile you can’t help but laugh. Especially when Barbara is exploring the old farm house and Riffel adds in an unexpected sound of a duck quacking. Barbara wheels around and the new voice over says, “uh…uh…was that a …d…d…duck?” Hmmm. Have a few drinks before you start watching, or start the movie very very very late.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please chime in on your favorites, or if I missed something glaring. And, no, as much as I’d liked to add it in, Army of Darkness doesn’t count. Even if they are and army of the undead. Where’s my boomstick?
Okay….you can watch it. =)