About This Item

Unique ID Code: 0000129626
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 19/5/2010 09:31
View Changes

Videos and Info
  • Log in to Add Videos, Interviews, Etc
  • This article is lonely!

    Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Item Images

    This item has no attached images.

    My Top 10 Zombie Movies

    Zombies are dissimilar to other horror icons as they, unlike Dracula or Frankenstein's monster, don't really have any background in Gothic literature. Zombies are strange, shambling and unkempt figures who are really the walking dead. They are the most recent of all horror figures and didn't really feature in movie form until White Zombie in 1932. There were several films that followed but no one really took it seriously until Hammer's Plague of the Zombies in 1966, which depicted the living dead as slave labour, very much like Victor Halperin did in White Zombie.

    Inline Image

    Zombies in popular form changed in 1968 with George A Romero's landmark horror film Night of the Living Dead which pitted a band of survivors against the undead horde. Reflecting the situation in Vietnam, our heroes were ill equipped, had no plan and simply could not cope with the sheer numbers outside.

    What constitutes a zombie is a matter of some debate. The traditional definition is of a corpse that has been reanimated via a voodoo ritual and has become the slave of its voodoo master. This was used in White Zombie and Plague of the Zombies, the latter of which had the walking dead put to use in a tin mine by its landowner, who used a ritual from the Caribbean to reanimate the corpses dug up by him and his slaves in a small Cornish village. Anyway, I digress. The word 'zombie' has come to define any mindless being, any creature or man that moves seemingly without input from its brain. The zombie genre has been expanded to even include people stricken by a virus that turns them into crazed, powerful beings who only exist to feed on the flesh of the living.

    I have been a zombie movie fan, ever since I saw one of George Romero's genre classics years ago and have now seen many more to the extent that I now feel in a position to make my top 10 zombie movies so, without further ado, here it is.

    10. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

    This is a real oddity of a zombie movie. Directed by a Spaniard, Jorge Grau, almost entirely financed by Italian money and with a multinational cast, it was released in the US under the title Don't Open the Window, in Italy as Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, in Britain as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and just about everywhere else Sleeping Corpses Lie. I've only ever used the British title even though it doesn't really make much sense, with no scenes actually taking place at Manchester morgue! Although it is deeply flawed, suffering from the multinational cast which necessitates dubbing and with many scenes that obviously influenced by Romero but coming off second best as a result, this is still a fun and suitably bloody film and anything where the dead are brought to life by a huge machine designed to kill insects is good enough for me.

    9. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

    As a rule I hate remakes but there are exceptions and this is one of them. When I first heard that a remake of George Romero's genre classic was planned, I feared the worst and, when I learned that the director was someone making his directorial debut, those low expectations sunk even lower. He was therefore not only refreshing, but even exhilarating to find that the result was faithful to the original, bloody and scary. Moving away from the traditional shambling zombies that shuffle and amble around to more kinetic and fast-paced flesh eaters proved to be a very smart move as, in this film, the zombies don't hang around and chase the living, sometimes outrunning them for a violent all you can eat flesh buffet. Zack Snyder even threw in something for fans of the original movie with cameos from Tom Savini, Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger. The acting is solid with Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames standing out, the writing is smart and does well to update the original screenplay whilst staying faithful to its roots and Snyder's direction keeps the film tense but with enough humour thrown in amongst the gut munching to stop things become too bleak. It is odd that Snyder has yet to make a film as good as this one, despite the praise lavished on the graphic novel adaptations 300 and Watchmen.

    8. The Beyond

    If someone asked you to name a director who made zombie movies, you'd probably say George Romero and no one would say you were in any way wrong. Despite the great Pittsburgh native making the more well-known and more well-regarded genre films, the Italian director Lucio Fulci probably made more zombie movies, with some of them as interesting as anything that Romero made. One of these is The Beyond, a really atmospheric and tense film that is not bound by logic or its own narrative, but is full of great ideas, memorable set pieces and enough gore to satisfy any horror fan. It's not an easy film to describe as it doesn't necessarily have much internal logic and there is so much going on that it makes a single line synopsis virtually impossible. If Fulci did nothing else in his films, he brought a real sense of visual panache to a screenplay that lurched from one direction to another and knew how to wring the most tension and suspense out of a given situation. He did this as well, if not better, in other films but The Beyond stands up as a fascinating genre piece many years after it was released.

    7. Shaun of the Dead

    Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright burst onto the scene with this brilliant parody and one of the few films to successfully marry comedy and horror to what they describe as 'RomZomCom' or, to put it into proper English, 'a romantic comedy with zombies'. Before making this film and entering into feature films, Pegg and Wright had carved out a cult following with their Channel 4 comedy series Spaced and brought much of the same humour, and cast members, along with them. As you can guess by the title, the film is inspired by George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and the loving parody of that movie and the genre form the backbone of their feature film debut. This is a very cleverly plotted film and one of the few that benefits immensely from repeated viewings. Pegg brings a great everyman quality of the titular lead character and his off screen friendship with Nick Frost is clear on screen. This friendship is at the heart of the film and the brilliant performances by Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy are just the icing on the cake. For fans of Spaced and British TV comedy, there is a terrific cameo sequence with the likes of Matt Lucas, Jessica Stevenson and Reece Shearsmith to go with the raft of British TV talent involved in the film.

    6. Zombi 2

    Prior to 1979, Lucio Fulci was largely unknown outside of his native Italy but all this changed when he made a zombie movie called, predictably enough, Zombi. In order to capitalise on the success of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (released the year before), the distributors decided to rename the movie as Zombi 2 to suggest that this was in some way a sequel to Romero's film. As one of the few mainstream zombie films to actually go back to the roots of the zombie mythos, this begins when a boat, seemingly abandoned, drifts into New York Harbor and, when the Harbor Patrol investigate, they find a man on board who appears to be and decomposing but isn't dead and proceeds to bite one of the man before he shot and falls into the harbour. The authorities trace the boat back to the Caribbean island where it was being used as a base for research and it isn't long before the dead rise and a begin feasting on the intruders. Zombi 2 has everything you want from a zombie movie: a decent story, reasonable to very good acting and plenty of gore with extremely good special make-up effects on the undead. Fulci must have something about eyes as several of his films feature people have something rather nasty done to their eyeballs and this is probably the best of the lot, with a zombie reaching through a boarded up window to grab a woman by her hair and pull her excruciatingly slowly forward to impale her eye on a broken piece of wood. This is a film that I can return to any time and enjoy it as much as I did the first time I saw it. It's not the most accomplished film, but it's just about the best that Lucio Fulci made and established him as a horror icon.

    5. City of the Living Dead

    Speaking of Lucio Fulci as a horror icon, this atmospheric, moody and gory zombie movie isn't your traditional genre movie as it ignores many of the things that make a zombie movie a zombie movie. There is no voodoo ritual or an infection that is spread through blood, especially bite wounds, nor are the living dead mindless creatures whose raison d'être is the consumption of human flesh. Eschewing these genre staples in favour of something more abstract, City of the Living Dead begins with a séance in New York where a young woman, Mary, sees a priest, Father Thomas, hang himself in the cemetery in the small New England town of Dunwich. This sacrilegious act opens the gates of hell (the American title was Gates of Hell) and, as is prophesied, the living dead will rise on All Saints' Day and it is up to our plucky psychic and a reporter who saved her from being buried alive to travel to Dunwich and save the day.

    I only watched City of the Living Dead for the first time just over a week ago and it has firmly cemented its place as one of my favourite genre films of all time -- quite a feat! Catriona MacColl is excellent in her first film for Fulci and shows why she is regarded as one of the great 'scream queens' of not only Italian horror cinema, but the entire horror genre. This is certainly a film that improves with every viewing and, now I'm over the marathon viewing session that I put in prior to reviewing the title, I can sit back and watch it for my own enjoyment -- something I intend to do many more times.

    4. Day of the Dead

    It was only a matter of time before a George A. Romero movie appeared on this list and the first one is the last of Romero's highly regarded Dead trilogy. Probably the most downbeat and nihilistic of the three films, this sees Romero at his most angry and disillusioned, passing comment on the increasing militarism of the US under Ronald Reagan. Designed as a zombie epic, the equivalent of Gone with the Wind with zombies, Romero had to scale back his ambitions as the film would never have secured an R rating the added financial benefits that would have brought. Knowing he would have to release it unrated and therefore without much in the way of newspaper advertisements or showing in major theatre chains, the whole project had to be scaled back. The massive planned outdoor scenes virtually disappeared with only an opening sequence as a helicopter flies over Florida and lands in a deserted town to find it full of zombies remaining. This sequence is just about the only part of the film takes place in daylight, somewhat strange considering the film is called Day of the Dead.

    As an exercise in claustrophobia, atmosphere and tensions between characters, Day of the Dead introduces a new factor which really escalate things: the characters are virtually stuck underground in a huge missile silo, some of whom are scientists, about half are in the military with a couple of loners (an electrician and a helicopter pilot) trying to keep themselves to themselves and away from the increasingly fractious relationship between the scientists and soldiers. Although this is my least favourite of Romero's Dead trilogy, I think it is a great movie that is very intelligently written, directed with real flair and is well acted by the principal cast. The star of the show is Tom Savini whose special effects make-up is probably the best he's ever done, with a headless corpse, intestines aplenty and tremendous amounts of gore when the proverbial s*** hits the fan and the zombies -- including the iconic Bub -- take on the humans underground.

    3. Night of the Living Dead

    I'm not sure, but I think this was the first of George Romero's films that I saw. There's something about a monochrome film that, when the subject matter is grim, the black-and-white images emphasise the bleakness of the situation. Released two years after Hammer's Plague of the Zombies into an America bogged down in Vietnam, Night of the Living Dead was a very different kind of film as it was made on a shoestring budget with many of the investors and members of the crew appearing in front of the camera as either named characters or members of the zombie horde that descend on the small farmhouse where a group of survivors take refuge.

    This isn't a fun film as it isn't exactly a bundle of laughs; it starts with a drive to a cemetery where a couple of bickering siblings are set on by a strange shambling man who attacked one of them, Barbra, and when her brother, Johnny, comes to the rescue, he is wrestled to the ground and killed. There isn't anything expansive about Night of the Living Dead which is no surprise as it was made on a fairly limited budget by a group of inexperienced filmmakers for what they lack in knowledge and financial in depth, they make up for in unrelenting tension, atmosphere and extremely competent direction. As the film is basically in the public domain, it has been much imitated and even subject to a remake, the 3-D treatment, colourisation and even a butchered 'reimagining' for the 30th anniversary where new scenes were completely unnecessarily added in. Whatever they do so this film makes the original cut seem even better and it's just a shame that no one has managed to give it a high definition release it deserves.

    2. 28 Days Later

    This isn't strictly speaking a zombie film, but it is generally regarded as such due to the appearance and modus operandi of the creatures within so I've decided to include it and it's my list, so I make the rules! Proving that Danny Boyle can turn his hand to just about anything, the Manchester filmmaker began his career with the black comedy Shallow Grave, followed up with another John Hodge screenplay, this one based on Irvine Welsh's cult novel Trainspotting, then took on a big budget Hollywood film with The Beach (he kept himself grounded by making TV movies in Britain) before making of a film that was very, very different. 28 Days Later wasn't just a horror film, it was one of the first mainstream movies to be entirely shot entirely on digital video. Some of the scenes are breathtaking, especially those in central London which is completely empty, showing how the outbreak of the Rage virus had virtually wiped out the population.

    Those infected with the virus are basically zombies as they are mindless creatures, no longer human, who exist only to feast on the flesh of the living but, as they are 'infected', they aren't the shuffling, shambling type ghoul of Romero's zombie films but are extremely fast on their feet and scary in a very different way. With an excellent soundtrack and terrific performances by Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris and Brendan Gleeson to go with the inspired direction, this is a very special film and one I could watch over and over again. Its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is a very interesting film that follows on the story well whilst not being as tense or taut as Boyle's film. I don't think it is good as Day of the Dead, but it's damn close and is a thoroughly enjoyable watch. If I had to choose between the two, I'd watch this one and that's why it placed so highly.

    1. Dawn of the Dead

    I think that this is most people's favourite of Romero's Dead trilogy as it is, as Romero says, a 'party film' with plenty of social commentary, gore and humour. An attack on the rampant consumerism that was so prevalent in the late 1970s (and is still the case now), Dawn picks up where Night of the Living Dead left off and has a small group of humans, a helicopter pilot, a runner on the news station that he works for and to disillusioned members of the SWAT outfit that was wiping out the zombie hordes, who take to the air looking for somewhere safe. Finding a shopping wall in the middle of nowhere and realising that they could board up the doors and survive there, they clean up the shopping centre and have the place to themselves before a biker gang finds the mall and, in the process of breaking in, allows the ghouls congregating outside to make their way inside and a three way battle between the zombies, bikers and our heroes to break out.

    Dawn of the Dead is, as far as I'm concerned, the perfect zombie movie. It has everything you would want: a sense of desperation and disillusionment, a small group of central characters who you get to know and empathise with, memorable zombies, great special effects make up, and bizarre humour to stop things from becoming too heavy. Where else would you have a pie fight about two thirds of the way through a zombie movie that actually works? Such a sequence could seem ridiculous but it suits the situation because of the anarchic nature of the biker gang. It also has a great tagline: 'When There Is No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Walk the Earth' and so many memorable images to go with the great performances by Ken Foree, David Emgee, Scott Reiniger and Gaylen Ross.

    If I had to watch one zombie film, it would be Dawn of the Dead -- in my opinion the best film that George Romero has made and just about the perfect ghoul movie.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Be the first to post a comment!