Who’s ready for some brains?
DG has been in horror mode since late September but as Devil Night approaches we are going full tilt boogie until November 1st (ish). Out of all the sub-genres beneath the horror label, zombies are hands down my favorite. I just dig the hell out of those lumbering bastards. While the past few years have been a boon for lovers of the undead, we have seen a lot of crap (I’m looking at you RESIDENT EVIL) and not enough cool stuff (DEAD SNOW). Too many people picking up a camera and grabbing some cash to turn a quick buck before ever thinking about stories.
Zombies have been hitting the theaters since the 1930’s. We have seen the idea move from voodoo-enslavement to the Romero inspired zombie we see today. Whichever way you prefer cannibalistic cadavers, when done right you just cant beat a classic zombie film. So here is another DG list dedicated to all the filmmakers getting it right. This is by no means a definitive list, instead its my own personal favorite zombie flicks boiled down into a Top 10.
10. BURIAL GROUND (1981)
A professor unleashes evil from beyond the grave which causes the dead to rise and munch on some fancy-pants vacationers. The make-up work in this film ranges from bad to brilliant and it’s full of “WHAT THE FUCK!” moments including one scene that is full of nipple-ripping glory. Oedipus would stand up and cheer for this Italian grindhouse classic.
9. SHOCK WAVES (1977)
Four words: Indestructible zombie storm troopers. This is the CITIZEN KANE of Nazi zombie films and features not only some great creature work but also classic performances by horror legends Peter Cushing and John “I never say no to a script” Carradine.
8. ZOMBIE (1979)
The godfather of Italian horror films and still one of the top grossing Italian films of all-time. Lucio Fulci was a spotty director and although he “borrowed” heavily from Romero he managed to create some incredible shots that remain horror classics, in addition to some amazing zombie work. You just can’t say no to a zombie Vs. shark throwdown.
7. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Far from the first zombie apocalypse film (see our #5 pick) but one of the best. Before this film zombies were slow moving creatures that apparently liked to travel in packs. Boyle gave them speed and smarts. These zombies were active predators looking for the next bite. Here’s to Danny Boyle for making the undead scary again, SALUTE!
6. DEAD AND BURIED (1981)
While Dan O’Bannon is best known in zombie circles for his directorial debut RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (which just missed the top 10), I think after his script for ALIEN this is his best work in both the horror and zombie genre. DEAD AND BURIED was ignored on its release but thankfully people are catching up to this flick. It plays almost like a homage to zombie films of the 30’s. Bill Lustig said this was one of the best horror films of the 80’s and he’s 100% correct.
5. WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
This is the first feature length zombie film ever produced and has one of the best openings of any film on this list. Having just turned down the role of FRANKENSTEIN, Bela Lugosi was anxious to jump at the next offering that sounded like a hit. It did well enough to make some cash but the critics at the time didn’t dig it. This eventually has come to be respected though not without an asterix or two such as the over-acting which can sometimes step on any moment of true horror. The Halperins followed up this film with a pseudo sequel called REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES which should be avoided at all costs.
4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
Originally, Director George Romero and Writer John Russo were going to make a horror-comedy about a monster from outer-space. I don’t think I have ever been more thrilled that a project didn’t pan out. Though it’s #4 on our list, this is the grandaddy of the modern zombie film, the king, the don, bow down and kiss the ring but first check the area for walkers. Entire books have been written about this film and there isn’t much more I can add, except a thank you to Mr. Romero. This is flawless independent filmmaking.
3. DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)
Of all the films on our list, this one probably gets the biggest bum-rap. In fact, it may be one of the most under-appreciated films in horror. It’s dismissed as “talky” and “slow”. Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars and said that Romero “should quit while he’s ahead.” This film is bleak, it’s a bit of a downer, but its also more thought provoking than it’s predecessors and makes you think about the course humanity seems so intent to be stuck on. This flick doesn’t skimp on the gore either, it has blood by the gallons. In fact, DAY OF THE DEAD probably has the best effects in the entire series (and some of the best in the genre for that matter). There’s a reason this is Romero’s personal favorite.
2. I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
Made when Val Lewton was head of RKO’s horror division this, in my humble opinion, is Jacques Tourneur best film. I know there are a lot of CAT PEOPLE fans out there but this has one of my all-time favorite moments in film as a zombie slowly follows, though never attacks, Frances Dee through a corn field. Try doing a corn maize after watching this flick, I double dog dare you. Val Lewton never liked horror films and the combination of his attempt at a different take and the hiring of Tourneur to make what was intended as an interpretation of “Jane Eyre” created a masterpiece that is as equally patient and as it is horrific and unnerving. This, like our number one pick, is a flawless masterpiece.
1. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
The great debate among the Romero faithful rages on. This is my personal favorite of the original trilogy if for no other reason than it’s the first one I saw. Shortly after I caught this at home on the VCR, I went Christmas shopping. I arrived at the store late, couldn’t find what I was looking for and was reminded by the lady on the loudspeaker that the store would be closing in ten minutes. Five minutes later half the lights went out and I was instantly back at the Monroeville Mall with a strong desire to grab the closest thing to me so I could get the hell out of there.
That’s what a good film can do, stay in your sub-conscience and play with your emotions or let you consider the “what-if’s”. DAWN OF THE DEAD does that for me. Like most of Romero’s films it never gets old. It is shot so creatively, it makes the largest environments claustrophobic, it may be gory, but it’s more psychologically terrifying than anything else. This film, like DAY OF THE DEAD, has a lot to say but it never beats you over the head with it, it just nibbles at your brain instead… your delicious brain.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD – HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY – CREEPSHOW – ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST – DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS – SHAUN OF THE DEAD – NIGHT OF THE CREEPS – HARD ROCK ZOMBIES – INVASION OF THE FLESH EATERS – ZOMBIE VS. NINJA – ASTRO ZOMBIES – FRIDAY THE 13TH (think about it) – THE FOG (I know Carpenter has said these are ghosts but ghosts aren’t water logged and covered in maggots) – WAR OF THE ZOMBIES
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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