The Good, The Bad and The Terrible ; Zombies
Welcome to the The Good, The Bad and The Terrible in this feature we will take a well known horror movie trope and look at the films that excelled and did something wonderful with the concept, those that well, didn’t and those that monumentally cocked it up..Today’s topic is: Zombies
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
This film ladies and gentlemen is the reason why this list exists. Night Of The Living Dead is The definitive zombie film. Originally convinced by John Russo and George A. Romero, the film began it’s life as a script entitled Monster Flick and interestingly enough the original monsters of the film were flesh eating aliens. By 1967 Romero had pared the idea down to reanimated corpses that fed on the living and he referred to them not as zombies but ‘ghouls’. Night is considered to be the film that introduced Zombies to popular culture and most notably to the world of film. The origin of Zombies can be traced back to Haitian lore where a ‘Zombi’ (a creole word) was a reanimated corpse raised from the dead by dark magic; See Weekend At Bernie’s 2 (I’m actually not kidding) its believed that tales from Haiti inspired Mary Shelley in her conception of Frankenstein. Returning to the film Night is a wonderfully paced, taut and frightening (despite the Zombie’s slow speed) film, that teases us with all that Romero was yet to bring to the horror genre. The film was groundbreaking on many levels, the violence, the sustained terror and perhaps most importantly of all the fact that had it an African American actor (the wonderful Duane Jones) playing a lead role, which was all but unheard of in 1968. This element can be seen to add an extra triumph to the emotional punch of the film, and although the racism of the time never becomes a story arc, its tension is felt and Jones in his portrayal of Ben with heroism and strength rises above the stupidity of racism to show that (especially within the fight for survival) we are all equal. And the like ability of his character makes THAT ending jaw dropping.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Tens years after his seminal introduction of the living dead, Romero returned with this tale of a group of Zombie apocalypse survivors hiding out in a shopping mall. The tone is apparently more comedic then that of Night Of The Living Dead because Romero wanted this film to have a comic book feel. Dawn gave us quotable dialogue, plenty of zombie terror and delivered a subversive message about consumerism.
Day Of The Dead (1985)
Yep. its George again! (well this is a Zombie list!) perhaps the least commercially popular of the (early) series (but still popular). Day Of The Dead was commended for its improved zombie make up and remained taunt and suspenseful but had a slightly less comedic tone then Dawn.
Land Of The Dead (2005)
George just made it through to the Good List with this one, personally I was disappointed, I was watching a George A. Romero zombie film and I was bored!! (not good) but I came to realize that judging the film simply as a zombie movie and leaving Romero out of it, it is sufficiently filled with scares, action and fun. It really doesn’t hold up to the original series though due to it’s rather unlikable commercial sheen.
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Hailed now as the saviour of horror comedy, the Spaced team brought us an endlessly funny, surprisingly terrifying spot on Zombie comedy or Rom-Zom-Com as director Edgar Wright coined it. The zombie references were flawless, the gore was exemplary and the jokes were consistent and stand out hilarious. Unfortunately though Shaun of The Dead’s well deserved success led to many awful, sub par imitations, we’ll be seeing some of them later on.
28 Days Later (2002)
Danny Boyle’s visceral horror can be seen to have revived the Zombie genre, though I should note that Boyle went to great lengths to persuade everyone from Hollywood to his neighbors cat that this was not a zombie film. His rather unorthodox approach to the genre paid off splendidly. These zombies did not lurch or groan they ran full speed and traveled together in large numbers. playing on the fear of large uncontrolled crowds. The simplicity of the zombies was genius and they were terrifying.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Gone is the dirty, gritty indie feel of 28 Days Later (though the stellar hand held opening nods to it) as it’s sequel shines itself up for a much more commercial outing, really it shouldn’t work but it does. The Americans storm the Alamo as it were and take over control of a ruined Britain, this should wear away some of the film’s lo-fi brit charm and it does to a slight extent but not enough to effect the enjoyment of the film. And there is one simple reason for that, the Zombies! Their attacks (one of them in the thousands) are breath taking and horrifyingly scary. The sequel takes the audience’s uncomfortable feeling of seeing murderous, crazed crowds attack and beats them to death with it. This film is exhaustingly terrifying.
Rec (2007) /Rec 2 (2009)
The original Rec was a credit to both the Found Footage and Zombie genre, mostly improvised and filmed entirely on location, the film is chillingly realistic and thus utterly terrifying. Made by the same team of film makers as the original, Rec 2 picks up seconds after Rec and the transition is seamless, it retains the original’s terror and suspense, which is not something you can say about many sequels.
Dead Set (2008)
This Channel 4 produced mini series (not technically a film but needed to be mentioned) was shown over five consecutive nights (on UK television)leading up the final installment being aired on Halloween night (it aired in 2010 on US cable network IFC). Charlie Brooker’s zombie masterpiece is a wonder to behold, the humor is black as coal (which is the only color Brooker’s humor comes in) and the gore is exceptional. The zombies are clear cousins of 28 Days Later (fast,mob like animals) and they are terrifying. What makes the piece standout though is it’s character development and exact attention to detail when it comes to constructing it’s world. Its brutal, horrifyingly fantastic and an absolute must watch for all horror/Zombie fans.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
It gladdens my heart to be able to put a good remake on this list and I think few could argue that it belongs anywhere else. With wonderful music queues, twisted dead pan humor and enjoyable characters, this remake tips its hat respectfully to Romero’s classic and delivers flawless entertainment. The notable change to the zombies, updating them to wild full speed running manics, helps to define the remake as a horror film in itself rather than simply a retread of a classic. Still one of the greatest remakes out there.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Though not referred to as a Zombie film, the story gives us re animated corpses who aren’t very friendly so it fits within the genre. Unlike many of Stephen King’s Horror adaptions, the story made a very successful leap to the screen. The film is haunted by the permanence of death but never weighed down by it, it’s an enjoyably spine tingling romp and I don’t think any of us are going to forget re animated Gage in that creepy velvet number, any time soon. *shudder*
Zombie Honeymoon (2004)
If Horror comedy is your thing, then I highly recommend this fun gory indie movie. It follows a honeymooning couple who face martial problems when the groom becomes undead..its worth bearing in mind that the film was made on a near non-existent budget and is not very polished but it is clearly made with love.
The Crazies (1973)
Playing on real and current paranoia of the time Romero’s ‘not a zombie movie, but yeh it is really’ tale of a town overrun by a virus that causes its inhabitants to slip into a zombified state and commit acts of murder, deserves much credit for doing something original with the genre. The remake was harmless enough but just a little too polished to deserve its own place on the list. Btw thats the last you’ll see of George on the ‘Good’ list I’m afraid (he was hogging it anyway)
With it’s tongue pressed firmly in its cheek, this brilliant comedy horror rose above the Shaun Of The Dead imitators and with sheer humor and creativity rightfully claimed its place as the Zombie Comedy to see. It was perhaps a little low on horror but with fantastic writing, enjoyable characters and mad cap devices, this really didn’t matter. Shame about the awful (short lived) T.V Show.
This oft overlooked gem, presents its premise which is that of a boy and his pet Fido who happens to be a flesh eating zombie, with a totally straight face,which makes this story of a boy and his zombie all that more endearing, while also being gross and funny.
City Of The Living Dead (1980)
Yes its a blatant Romero rip off and is highly ridiculous, but thats where the charm of this Italian language film lies. It was clearly made by a director who is fan of zombies and its just mental enough to be enjoyably silly!
Burial Ground (1981)
Another Italian horror that gives us a Romero robbing, flesh ripping, zombie good time. Wild and ridiculous, it also belongs on the ‘Good List’ because of its clear enthusiasm for the genre. Blood splattering fun!
Juan Of The Dead (2011)
This underground festival favorite is not the direct rip-off you’d think it was from it’s title. Its actually a smartly woven epic that manages to bring a lesson about dictatorship to the madness of zombies.
A film that deserved all the praise it received, the story puts a whole new spin on zombies. These are not zombies like you’ve ever seen before, though it should be noted that the director prefers to refer to them as ‘conversationalists’. Its a wonderful premise that presents the effects of a devastating virus in the style of George Orwell’s The War Of The Worlds. From within a radio station recording booth we hear descriptions of the horror taking place outside. As there are not many ‘zombie’ appearances on screen, the film deals more with the building madness and impending doom of approaching death as the zombies invade, which in itself proves to be scary as hell.
Peter Jackson brought us the craziest of crazy Zombie movies with this cult classic about a Sumatran Rat Monkey and its zombifying ways! The fact thats its difficult to look directly at it just adds to the film’s charm.
Night Of The Living Dead (1990)
This film makes it onto the ‘Good List’ for it’s effort. Interestingly enough this was not your usual remake, in that a lot the original film’s team were behind it. George A. Romero commissioned the film and put famed make up artist Tom Savini in charge of directing duties. The production was unfortunately quite rushed which could be what led to the film falling a little flat and receiving mostly negative reviews .The rush was due to Romero wanting to get a new version of the film out there before his ownership on the rights ran out (which were close to expiring) and he no longer had control over the idea. A noticeable difference in this film to the original, is that Barbara has become a lot more competent and gustier. Unfortunately Romero’s fears of having his idea ruined by a sub-par remake still came true in 2006 when the truly awful Night Of The Living Dead 3D was released
World War Z (2013)
Yes I went there, I put what is apparently the most expensive zombie film ever made on the ‘Bad List’. I did this not because World War Z is a bad film (its not) but because it is a bad zombie film. As an action adventure its great it ticks all the boxes – until big rolling masses of CGI show up. No I’m sorry, no to CGI zombies, it doesn’t work, its not frightening, its just distracting. I also truthfully have a lot of trouble forgiving the film for squandering/ignoring the books wonderful premise which was a zombie apocalypse told in retrospect from eye witness accounts.
Resident Evil (2002) (and its many sequels)
The original Resident Evil almost made it onto the ‘Good List’ because it had potential (which it later beat to death with countless sequels) but then I remembered the game on which it is based and the potential that it had. Anyone who remembers staying up all night playing the game and scaring themselves shitless, will I think have to agree that the film did not translate the abject terror that the game could induce onto the screen. And oh my God stop with the terrible, pointless sequels already! Good God!
Diary Of The Dead (2007)
Hello again George, its terrible to meet again in a place like this but Found Footage is always a gamble and this time it just didn’t pay off. Romero tried to update his formula by injecting a bit of Youtube youth culture into it but he can do better which he has already more than proved.
Warm Bodies (2013)
2013’s second zombie novel adaption unfortunately fell flat, the premise of a zombie story from the zombie’s perspective is a fantastic one but the film just didn’t deliver on its promises, it succeeded as a rom-com but the zom lagged behind. Number One rule of Zombie movies.. ‘Thou shall not make Zombies boring’
Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012)
Oh dear another Shaun Of The Dead imitation offender, go stand in the corner with Lesbian Vampire Killers.
Day Of The Dead (2008)
This terrible remake should never have happened and thankfully it received little marketing and sank into obscurity pretty quickly. It relied heavily on awful CGI and was effectively a waste of 90 minutes, for shame!
This insulting remake of fantastic Spanish shocker Rec, does little to excuse its existence, lacking suspense, coherency and most importantly genuine scares. I’ve lived a happy, peaceful life by avoiding its sequel.
Flight Of The Living Dead (2007)
Once you’ve read the title and gotten the pun, then trust me its time to move on, seriously keep walking.
Route 666 (2001)
(Un) Dead ghost zombie convicts are chasing Lou Diamond Phillips and he doesn’t even mange to utter a single ridiculous quotable catch phrase, GAH! Next time Lou just say no.
Gangs Of The Dead (Last Rites) (2006)
Yep They’re Zombie Hoodies. this happened. *facepalm* But wait till you hear what made the gang members into zombies ; a meteorite. Man, I wish I had some of what the films writers were smoking (there’s four of them) FOUR people couldn’t come up with a better idea than this. *double facepalm*
Zombie Nation (2004)
A murderous cop is attacked by the (now zombie) women he has killed, in this straight up AWFUL film that reminds us just how badly some female actresses out there are being exploited in the name of horror..
Zombie Strippers! (2008)
Speaking of exploitation, someone tricked a bunch of attractive ‘actresses’ into thinking they were going to make a Grindhouse film (they weren’t) then they tried to trick the audience (with throwback posters that are 7,00000 times more impressive then the film) into thinking they were going to watch a Grindhouse film (they weren’t). Oh and Jenna Jameson was there, for two obvious reasons..Oh and Robert Englund because he’s into that sort of thing now… One night after I’ve enjoyed a few Vodka Cranberry’s I’m going to do a dramatic reading of the script, here’s a taster from the actual script;
Jimmy ; Whoa that’s interesting your tongue is so dry!
Kat : Then get it wet!
What do You Think? Let Me Know In The Comments!