10 Great Zombie Movies: a Viewing List for the Apocalypse
Viewing List of the Dead
Zombies are currently enjoying the zenith of their popularity, so what better time to indulge in a little cinema of the living dead?
In fact, with the advent of digital downloads, there's an overabundance of zombie films available to consumers. Unfortunately, not all of them are even remotely good. But, never fear, if you're hankering for a zombie movie, you need not sift through all of the chaff. Here are ten great films (and mini-series) of the genre.
Punk's Not Dead?
10. Return of the Living Dead
In this 1985 black comedy, workers at a medical supply company accidentally release a zombie that has lain dormant in a canister for decades. After subduing the fiend, they take it next door to a mortuary for help with its disposal. Unfortunately, cremating the twitching remains turns out to not be a good idea, and soon a horde of zombies begins to descend upon the town.
This film is of particular note because it introduces the concept that zombies eat specifically brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh. Besides that, it also has a great soundtrack that includes tracks from The Damned, The Cramps, and 45 Grave.
Dead Set IFC Trailer
9. Dead Set (mini-series)
In this five part BAFTA-nominated British mini-series, Britain is overrun by the living dead. Safely cocooned in their house, the Big Brother housemates remain blissfully unaware of this zombie outbreak until eviction night, when the walking dead descend upon the studio. Stranded, the contestants and production staff struggle to survive the undead onslaught.
Interestingly, Dead Set was produced by the same company that produces the real Big Brother show.
In the Flesh BBC Trailer
8. In the Flesh (mini-series)
In the Flesh is a poignant three part BBC mini-series series which aired in March of 2013. It is set during the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Zombies have been captured and treated with drugs and therapy, and now many are well enough to be released back into their previous lives. The series follows Kieren Walker, a re-animated teenager, as he struggles to cope with his feelings of guilt as well as the prejudices of others when he returns to his family and local community.
Although this mini-series's story is complete and stands on its own, a second series of five or six episodes has now been commissioned and is slated to be broadcast in 2014.
Brimming with Campy Charm
Herbert West (played by Jeffrey Combs) is a brilliant but mad researcher studying the effects of brain death. After being dismissed from the University of Zurich for re-animating his dead professor, West moves to New England to continue his studies and rents a room from a medical student named Dan. After Dan discovers that West has re-animated his dead cat, he agrees to be his partner in research to defeat death.
When the two sneak into the morgue to test the reagent on a human subject, things quickly begin to go awry. Matters are further complicated by a rivalry West has with Hill, a professor who is trying to steal West's serum and take credit for his work.
This campy film's popularity has spawned two sequels - Bride of Re-animator and Beyond Re-animator.
Dead Alive: Gore Fest!
Dead Alive - Dinner Scene
6. Dead Alive
Before Peter Jackson was the well respected director that he is today, he was a pushing the boundaries of film as a sick, twisted young film maker with a penchant for gore. His movie, Dead Alive (originally released as Braindead), is an over-the-top riotous black comedy that has been billed as the goriest film ever made.
When Lionel's domineering mother, Vera, is mauled at the zoo by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey, its bite begins to turn her into a zombie. Ever the dutiful son, Lionel does his best to continue to care for her even as her flesh begins to drop off and she starts to murder townspeople.
This film has some of the funniest scenes ever seen in a horror movie. Be warned, it's not for the squeamish!
28 Days Later - DVD Case
28 Days Later Trailer
5. 28 Days Later
In this British film, the zombie apocalypse is brought about by well-meaning animal liberation activists who break into a laboratory and release chimpanzees that are infected with the "Rage" virus. The chimps immediately attack and infect the activists, and the virus spreads like wildfire.
28 days later, Jim, a young bicycle courier, awakens from a coma in a deserted hospital. He makes his way out into the streets, where he soon encounters Rage-infected people, who are zombies for all intents and purposes. Jim joins forces with three other survivors, and together they struggle to stay alive and cope with the loss of their former lives.
As a zombie purist, I feel that a zombie should be slow, shambling, and genuinely dead. However, in spite of the fast zombies and virus origins, this film still makes this viewing list because it is well acted, haunting, and, at times, truly scary.
An Unlikely Team
Zombieland is a tongue in cheek look at the apocalypse.
The United States has been overrun with the living dead, apparently because of a mutated strain of mad cow disease. Among the handful of survivors is "Columbus," a college student, who keeps himself alive with a humorous set of rules he has adopted for coping with "Zombieland." He teams up with "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson), and two girls, "Wichita" and her little sister "Little Rock." Together, they set out on a roadtrip in an attempt to find a sanctuary free from zombies.
Zombieland is consistently witty, sometimes touching, and frequently gross. Whatsmore, it contains a priceless appearance by Bill Murray.
When There's No More Room in Hell...
3. Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead was George A. Romero's second zombie film, following Night of the Living Dead. In it, four survivors of a zombie apocalypse barricade themselves inside a shopping mall. Once they have cleared the mall of zombies, the group enjoys the abundance of goods it has to offer. However, as time goes by, they begin to feel trapped and consider leaving their sanctuary. Eventually, a motorcycle gang breaks into the mall to loot it, allowing in hundreds of zombies, and the remaining survivors must flee for their lives.
Dawn of the Dead was extremely gory and graphic for its time (1978), but still was generally well received, in part because of its complexity. Although a horror movie, and a frightening one at that, it also has other layers, including an underlying social commentary on consumerism in modern society.
2. Shaun of the Dead
Shaun (Pegg) lacks direction in life. After his girlfriend breaks up with him, he drowns his sorrows with his friend Ed at the Winchester, the local pub.
The next morning, zombies overrun his town, but Shaun is initially too hungover to notice. When zombies attack their house, he and Ed decide to seek shelter in the safest place they can think of - the Winchester. They set out to collect Shaun's mum, ex-girlfriend, and friends. After many tribulations, they reach the pub and take refuge within it. However, they discover that it may not be as safe as they thought...
They Won't Stay Dead!
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
1. Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead is the George A. Romero classic that started it all, inspiring an entire genre.
The story follows characters Ben, Barbra, and five other people who are trapped in a farmhouse that is attacked by the living dead.
Night of the Living Dead was extremely controversial at the time of its release. Not only was Ben an African-American leading man in the role of a hero, but the film's violence was considered so shocking that it was condemned as pornographic. The film was terrifying and, since a rating system had not yet been introduced in the U.S., it left many younger children stunned and traumatized, particularly due to its nihilistic ending.
But Night of the Living Dead wasn't just a genuinely scary horror movie. It was also infused with social commentary, including themes of disillusionment with government and media. As Elliot Stein wrote in The Village Voice, "In this first-ever subversive horror movie, the resourceful black hero survives the zombies only to be killed by a redneck posse."
Ed and His Dead Mother (1993)
Honorable mentions go to Cemetery Man and Ed and His Dead Mother. Both are delightful black comedies. Cemetary Man is about a lovesick cemetary caretaker whose clients just won't seem to stay in the ground. In Ed and His Dead Mother, Ed (Steve Buscemi) brings his beloved mother back from the dead but, unfortunately, something about her seems to be not quite right...
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© 2013 Alisha Adkins