Zombie query

So, I’ve actually gotten into the whole zombie-movie thing lately. I’ve sat down to watch Quarantine, Night of the Living Dead, both versions of Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. I’ve recently seen The Omega Man and I Am Legend and Day of the Dead, not to mention the spooky French movie They Came Back (Les Revenants). Now I’m opening the floor up for suggestions. This is a rich and complex genre. It is both the last genre where pure, unspeakable horror is possible, and, paradoxically, the genre most capable of making broad statements about civilization and its fragility. That is, it is both the dumbest and smartest of genres. I haven’t ventured very far outside of acknowledged classics, and barely at all into the realm of low-budget exploitation (the closest I’ve come to that is Robert Rodriguez’s gonzo tribute Planet Terror). I saw one Robert Fulci* (*I mean Lucio Fulci, obviously) movie a long time ago, but otherwise have not seen a foreign language zombie movie and wouldn’t know where to start. I ask my strong-stomached readers to recommend their favorites.

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83 Responses to “Zombie query”
  1. swan_tower says:

    Maybe one of your readers can remember for me what zombie movie I saw a few years back that was hilariously over-the-top. I believe it was Australian; to pick one memorable bit, there was a moment where the crazy hick zombie hunter pulled a gun out of . . . somewhere . . . while stark naked.

    Somebody? Anybody? I quite enjoyed it — part of a friend’s yearly Easter Sunday zombie movie marathon — but have no idea what it was.

  2. gummitch says:

    Coincidentally, I re-watched Shaun of the Dead at the weekend. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s both a good comedy and a good example of the zombie genre.

    • Todd says:

      I saw it when it came out and immediately recognized it as a bold new direction for the genre — a zombie movie both genuinely scary and genuinely sweet. I should see it again.

      • mrmihocik says:

        Yes you do. I just re-watched it last week and couldn’t believe how great it still was. Also if no-one has mentioned it yet, read “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z”

  3. Shaun of the Dead
    Fido
    Zombieland

  4. voiceofisaac says:

    I would assume that “Army of Darkness” qualifies more as an action/comedy than a zombie movie, even though a Rampaging Horde Of The Undead is a major plot point.

    “Evil Dead 2”, on the other hand, probably works a little better for what you’re talking about.

  5. xnbach says:

    I’d also recommend Fido and Undead/Dead Alive (Peter Jackson’s zombie movie), as well as Shaun of the Dead if you haven’t seen that.

    Another of my favorites is Cemetery Man/Dellamorte Dellamore.

    If you ever get a chance to catch the short German film Arbeit fur Alle (Full Employment), that’s a hilarious little zombie romp.

    Another indie movie I love (though it is a bit flawed and drags in the middle) is Wasting Away, which is a zombie flick from the zombie’s perspective (they think that they are fine and talking normal, while everybody else has become infected with something that makes them freakishly fast and violent).

    • planettom says:

      I’ll second the 1994 Michele Soavi-directed movie CEMETERY MAN, loosely based on the Italian comic book DYLAN DOG that started in 1986, by Tiziano Sclavi. It’s got Rupert Everett as the protagonist, a neat bit of casting because the creator of the comic book envisioned his character as looking like Rupert Everett in the first place. There’s another movie in the works based on the DYLAN DOG comic books, DEAD OF NIGHT, filmed in New Orleans and starring Brandon Routh.

  6. It’s been mentioned already, but in terms of layered social commentary, Fido blew my mind.

  7. gillan says:

    Oof, recommending horror movies is always a dangerous proposition. Especially if you’re a genre fan recommending to a non-genre fan.

    I’ll second Shaun of the Dead if you haven’t seen it yet.

    I’ll also recommend Mulberry Street. It’s a fantastic movie where the monsters aren’t traditional zombies but you should be able to see the connections. Some great characters and some interesting things going on below the surface.

  8. spiralstairs says:

    Give ‘World War Z’ a read. It’s an oral history of the zombie wars inspired by Studs Terkel’s ‘The Good War’ written by Max “Son of Young Frankenstein” Brooks. It’s heavily researched to determine how each country would deal with the zombie outbreak, which starts as a kind of disease in China like bird flu, piggie flu, or one of the usual seasonal ailments, and it all gets fucked up after awhile, nearly destroying humanity in the process. My hometown is the site of a very poorly staged attempt on the Americans’ part to counter the zombies coming out of Manhattan.

    It also gave me nightmares for weeks and had me going about my business in that time always thinking about where I could get a weapon if something happened, where was the emergency exit, all that good stuff. And yet I’ll still go back and re-read it.

    Also jumping on the ‘Shaun of the Dead’ recommendations. If you can, try and see ‘Spaced’ before that since it’s the very successful TV show that crew made before they made the movie and there are endless references to the show. It’s not necessary viewing, but it does make things more fun when you recognize a particular zombie or character.

  9. notthebuddha says:

    Make sure that you see both the original and remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

    • Todd says:

      I’ve seen both, but refresh my memory — in what ways does the remake improve upon or add to the original?

      • frankie23 says:

        The remake has better effects and the female lead is a much stronger character. Not as grim of an ending, either.

        • notthebuddha says:

          Or perhaps more grim – instead of the rednecks killing zombies in earnest and accidentally killing the surviving man in the house, they take time to set up a zombie-baiting pen and hang one from a tree to see how many times they can shoot it while it still struggles.

          And the entire cast struggling to overcome their resistance to hurting kids when confronted with the precious little girl zombie is gut wrenching, or at least that’s how I remember it – I skip that part nowadays because it’s painful to watch since I became a parent myself.

          That reminds me – pod people/mind control films are a sort of zombie-on-law genre: you might compare the undead oeveure with THE PUPPET MASTERS and the various INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS versions.

          • frankie23 says:

            Eh, fair enough. I’ve just always been struck by Ben’s death; so random, really, and so crushing after he manages to survive the night.

            As for the part with the little girl, yeah, that’s tough. The sad part is, it’s also something you would encounter in such a nightmare scenario. Really forces you to do some personal digging on the concept of “how badly do I want to survive, when this is the cost?”

    • deidzoeb says:

      Multiple remakes

      Keep in mind there was one remake of Night of the Living Dead in 1990 and another remake around 2007 or 2008 in 3D. (The logo for that later one spelled it DE3D or something.) I haven’t seen the last one, just wanted to point out that apparently remaking Romero’s movies is almost as infectious as a zombie bite.

  10. robjmiller says:

    Japan it up a bit?

    Make sure to watch Wild Zero, described on the box as Japan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Zombie Horror Classic. It’s about a young rocker wannabe on the way to a Guitar Wolf show when aliens land, causing zombies to rise (aliens not shown, just saucers). The rocker enlists Guitar Wolf to help battle the zombies while fighting off the government and an evil rock manager.

    Seriously, this movie is amazing. The DVD also has a drinking game built in, but be careful, there’s something like 30 drinks in the first 15 minutes.

  11. misterseth says:

    One good film from New Zeland (ala Peter Jackson) is Brain Dead. I advise you NOT eat beforehand!

  12. xoynx says:

    Fido, Evil Dead series, Return of the Living Dead series. I’m also one of the few fans of “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” the original zomcom. But save “Shaun of the Dead” as your very last zombie movie–it’s the last word on zombie flicks. I’m a huge fan of the zombie subgenre, but “Shaun” was the ultimate–I’m done now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Second on Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

      I saw this movie when I was like 10 years old late on basic cable back in the day. Scared the absolute CRAP out of me then, but I love the zombie genre. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • xoynx says:

        Re: Second on Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

        That’s exactly how I discovered it too. Like “Night of the Living Dead,” CSPWDT benefited from its low budget in that the film-makers were forced to be imaginative. The pacing (no zombies appear until about the halfway point, building the suspense), anonymous actors, the oatmeal-faced zombies, and that oh-so-creepy soundtrack combined to make one creepy movie. (Heck, watching the Scooby Gang get eaten alive is creepy in and of itself.) There are lots and lots of horror movies out there, but truly creepy ones are precious and few.

  13. rattsu says:

    OOOHH! One of my favorite genres… So here comes my personal best when it comes to the lovely zombie movies that can reach such highs and lows. BE WARNED though, make sure that the versions you get of these movies are uncut, there have been loads of mangled versions over the years where only the butchered remains are left.

    So, in NO particular order:

    1: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci 1980). Though this includes the dead returning, it’s as much a creepy atmospheric surreal horror piece as anything, and one of the masterpieces of the genre. If you like this one, I would also recommend City of the Living Dead (1980) and Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombie 2) (1979) from the same director.

    2: Tombs of the Blind dead (Armando De Ossorio, 1971). What if the knights templar were really undead creatures? One of my favorites, but not to everyone’s tastes. The sequel, Return of the Blind Dead is not that bad either.

    3: Return of the Living Dead III (Brian Yuzna, 1990) The first in this series is good, the second is not that great, but the third one is gold. Why? Brian Yuzna, that’s why, as well as boy/zombie romance.

    4: Reanimator (Stuart Gordon, 1985) If you haven’t seen this (and all the sequels), go and do it. Again, not a true zombie apocalypse, but that shouldn’t deprive you of a great movie that you will quote for weeks afterwards.

    5: Dellamorte Dellamore (Michele Soavi 1994). Not the best Soavi movie (hello The Church) but he’s never made a bad movie and this is an interesting take on zombies, about a cemetery worker having to contend with the dead rising from their graves.

    6: Resident Evil (Paul W.S. Anderson 2002). Honestly, it’s worth a shot, it’s a nice little action zombie movie, but stay away from the sequels.

    7: Versus (Ryรปhei Kitamura, 2000) A stylish little shot of crazy, japanese style. Gunfights, swordfights and plenty of undead. Reservoir Dogs goes zombies.

    8: Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 2000) This is a must see in my book. One of my favorite feel good movies of all time it mixes rock and roll and zombies into something too crazy to be believed. Do not miss the hot pants of doom!

    Okay, this is it for now. However, I have probably seen most of the older zombie movies out there, so if you want more, just tell me so. I have not included ones where it is hard to decide whether they are good or bad (Zombie Holocaust), the just plain hideously entertainingly bad (Zombie lake) or the the balls to the walls crazy ones (Demons). Nor have I gone for the Hong Kong variants, since the chinese subset of undead are a little different from our regular kind.

    If you want more, just ask!

    • Todd says:

      I didn’t know Versus was a zombie movie — that sounds great. And I’ve been meaning to seen Reanimator for a long time.

      Would you say The Beyond is Fulci’s best? I tried watching Zombie once and didn’t care for it, in spite of its having underwater zombies.

      • rattsu says:

        The Beyond is definitely Fulci’s best work. The man swings wildly between brilliant and utter crap, but the Beyond is flawless in my book. Still, an acquired taste, but that goes for mostly everything. Zombie is… I kinda like it (I love my eurothrash), but it’s not as good a movie as the others. City of the Living Dead has its moments, but can be hella confusing at times, especially for someone new to the genre.

      • craigjclark says:

        Actually, I would recommend that you not see Versus. It sounds great on paper, but in execution I found it to be mind-numbingly repetitive and it went on forever.

  14. woodandiron says:

    I haven’t seen it yet so I cannot comment on its quality but I thought the premise of the 2008 film, Deadgirl, was an intriguing way into the zombie genre. Two teenage boys find a zombie girl chained up and they begin…experimenting.

    It sort of connects to your comments regarding the whole vampire/werewolf and human love stuff.

  15. as far as i can tell no one has mentioned ZOMBI 2/ZOMBIE. it’s got a fucking shark vs zombie fight scene.

    other than that, i think most people have given good suggestions. except DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE. if you do end up seeing that one, I’d sure like to know what you think. a lot of people seem to like it, and i think it’s total rubbish.

    and actually, there’s a recent mocumentary called AMERICAN ZOMBIE that takes the traditional zombie lore and tweaks it in a really interesting way. the movie isn’t amazing, but it’s funny there are some cool moments.

    • rattsu says:

      Actually I did, when talking about Beyond! Except I used the Zombie Flesh Eaters title (ah italians and their myriad of titles). But I second this, the shark vs zombie scene is indeed awesome.

      To be fair, I haven’t seen Dellamorte Dellamore in ten years or so ( my laserdisc player is not that healthy), but I remember being disappointed at the time since I loved Soavi’s The Church and The Sect so much more. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of people with more mainstream tastes like it, so I thought I’d include it.

  16. chrispiers says:

    Some good foreign zombie films ASIDE from the ones you’ve already listed would include Cemetery Man (Italy – in English), Shaun of the Dead (UK), Zombi (Italy – in English), Wild Zero (Japan), Undead (Australia), and Dead Alive (New Zealand).

    • chrispiers says:

      Oh, and I think the first Resident Evil and Land of the Dead are both pretty good b-movie zombie flicks. Versus is an interesting Japanese one, but has a very boring middle. The beginning and end are fantastic, though.

      If you liked Quarantine, you’d probably appreciate REC 1 and 2.

      You should definitely see Return of the Living Dead.

  17. jbacardi says:

    Not really a zombie movie fan per se; I’m so tired of them because they’re so pervasive in movies and comics these days.

    Everybody’s suggested some good ones (I hope you screen Shaun of the Dead), so I won’t try to make any sort of comprehensive list. I didn’t see 1985’s Return of the Living Dead on anyone’s list; can’t resist a movie that sees a city an hour away from me get nuked…plus, if there were brain-eating talking zombies before that I never ran across ’em. I’ve always had a soft spot for Hammer’s 1966 Plague of the Zombies and 1957’s Zombies of Mora Tau, a low-budget b-movie childhood favorite that aired semi-regularly on Nashville Channel 5’s afternoon movie Big Show in the 60s and 70s. Those two aren’t in the same league as today’s zombie flicks, but I like ’em anyway.

  18. I was wondering how strictly you were using the term “zombie” — is “rising from the dead” a requirement? But I see you have the 28 Days/Weeks Later films on your list, so I’ll suggest a couple in that vein: The Grapes of Death/Les Raisins de la Mort by Jean Rollin; and The Crazies by George Romero.

    And I second or third the recommendations for the GREAT Cemetary Man aka Dellamorte/Dellamore.

    The Vincent Price version, The Last Man on Earth, of the same Matheson book as the Will Smith/Charlton Heston films is worth seeing.

    I’m fond of the silly but often effective Demons 1, 2, and what was meant to be part 3, The Church. And I think Fulci’s Zombie/Zombi 2 is terrible but extremely important to the genre (it is awful, but like many awful Italian films, it is GORGEOUSLY made).

    • rattsu says:

      I am also such a fan of Demons, seriously, it is impossible not to love movies that includes fighting zombies on a motorcycle with a samurai sword to a metal soundtrack?

      I didn’t include The Church because it’s more about demons than zombies, but it is one of the GREAT horror movies out there. In the uncut version at least…

  19. veedub says:

    shaun of the dead FTW!

  20. yesdrizella says:

    I’ve seen a lot of amazing recommendations here already. Here are some more!

    1) Definitely definitely recommend [REC], as it is, IMO, far superior to Quarantine, which has way too much exposition for my tastes.

    The other two, if you can get your hands on them, are also great:

    2) Dead Snow, aka the Norwegian Nazi Zombie movie. It’s a horror comedy with TROMA-like levels of gore, so the whole thing is really played for laughs.

    3) Dead Set, a five-part British miniseries about a zombie outbreak occurring on the set of Big Brother. Doesn’t say anything new, but I find the concept interesting for two reasons: a) The people in the Big Brother house, being shut out from the world because of the gamer rules, are totally ignorant of what’s going on b) there is also the implication that the people at home are watching this happen. It’s fun.

  21. greyaenigma says:

    Most everything’s been mentioned, but I wanted to give a mention to Night of the Creeps which I think Slither owes quite a bit to.

    I’ve also heard good things about My Boyfriend’s Back but I haven’t seen it.

    Oh, no one’s mentioned Rabid, have they? That’s worth watching in its Cronenbergian contagious way. (Also Shivers but that’s less zombie-ish in the effects of the contagion.)

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is a short film (14min) that’s been to Sundance and won some awards, but I was only recently linked to it. I think it takes a completely new spin on the genre again:

    I Love Sarah Jane: http://www.vimeo.com/5124137

    Quite a harsh depiction of what would the world be like if a zombie virus wiped out the adults and left the teenagers alone to deal with the situation (and growing up). I haven’t seen such a serious zombie film before. Well it’s funny too, but in a dark way.

    – Jesse

  23. frankie23 says:

    Robert Fulci? I think you mean Lucio Fulci, sir. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d highly recommend his City of the Living Dead; beautifully surreal piece of work. You’ve already got a ton of good suggestions here, but I would definitely second Dellamorte, Dellamore. It’s truly one of the finest horror films ever, regardless of genre. To mix things up a bit, I’ll suggest Tombs of the Blind Dead, an interesting Spanish zombie film featuring undead Knights Templar.

  24. samedietc says:

    Has anyone mentioned Ed and His Dead Mother (1993), starring Steve Buscemi?

  25. Anonymous says:

    The last zombie flick I saw was Pontypool, a Canadian movie directed by Bruce McDonald. It’s a stagey little piece in which the zombie virus is spread not in the usual fashion but (SPOILERS!) through language itself with certain words becoming infected. It’s not a perfect movie by any means and some critics found it frustrating and/or boring but I appreciated the attempt to try something a little different with the genre. It was nice to see a zombie movie that had brains rather than one with just, you know, BBBBBRRRRAAAAAIIIIINNNNNNSSSSS!!

    Woody

  26. naltrexone says:

    There was a French-language animated adaptation of “The Zombies that Ate the World” comic that had some real potential. It never made it past the pilot, but if you dig around online you can find it. (Here it is on YouTube, though unfortunately without sound.)

    Zombies represent burdensome elderly family members, in this case. It’s clever, funny, and deeply uncomfortable to watch.

  27. stephenls says:

    I will hereby be the only person in the world to recommend the first Resident Evil movie, which I thought was pretty good for a zombie paramilitary SF suspense character-based mystery video game adaptation.

  28. malsperanza says:

    Has anyone mentioned “Dead and Breakfast”? A generally silly zombie comedy with an unbeatable title, country music, and David Carradine in over-the-top mode.

    And I have to put in a word for “Brain Dead” (1990), written and directed by Adam Simon, mainly because it has a bunch of friends in it.

    Lastly, “The Serpant and the Rainbow,” like “28 Days,” is a worthy attempt to do a serious film with zombies. It almost succeeds.

  29. coyotegoth says:

    While perhaps not technically a zombie movie (the main undead character might be a bit too sentient), Re-Animator is a sick and glorious thing.

  30. coyotegoth says:

    Oh- and how could I forget Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive?

  31. Most of the good ones have been mentioned already but no one has talked about SHOCKWAVES (Nazi zombies). I haven’t seen FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (zombies on a plane) yet, so I can’t comment. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS is kinda fun. THE FOG could also qualify. MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK is rather dumb but perhaps worth watching.

    As for non-cinematic zombie goodness, I also second Max Brooks’ work: WORLD WAR Z, THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE, and the recently released THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE: RECORDED ATTACKS, a graphic novel illustrating a number of the “Recorded Attacks” from the book. I also recommend Paul Kirkman’s series THE WALKING DEAD from Image Comics.

    And on a slightly different tack, I also recommend a look at ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN, a zombie horror roleplaying game. The authors are obvious fans of the genre and offer some worthwhile insights. It also features some truly haunting short fiction.

  32. dougo says:

    Does Invasion of the Body Snatchers count as a zombie movie?

  33. Anonymous says:

    Diary of the Dead

    I liked Romero’s last zombie flick, Diary of the Dead. While the movie may not be as as relentlessly tense as Night of the Living Dead, it does have a handful of genius moments that show Romero still reigns as the director with the most control over the zombie film as a means of horrifying and delivering social commentary (and humor).

  34. I think all the good ones I know of have been mentioned, except Black Sheep(made in New Zealand, Chris Farley zombie not included), which is a very amusing, over the top animals on a murderous rampage comedy. Though I suppose the sheep themselves aren’t TECHNICALLY dead…

  35. Did you ever do a write up of 28 Days Later? I’d love to read one, that’s one of my favorite movies.

  36. noskilz says:

    Looks like earlier visitors have been very thorough, but a few – perhaps iffier – possibilities crossed my mind:

    What about White Zombie? The zombies themselves aren’t much, but Lugosi does a pretty good job as an interesting zombie wrangler.

    Definitely at the sillier end of the spectrum Spirited Killer 2: Awakened Zombie Battles ( I think many of the commenters there are being a tad harsh – it went over pretty well at the last cheesy movie party my friends held, and the modernized black magician seemed a little novel.)

    Chinese hopping vampires are a lot like zombies, but I’m not sure whether stuff like Kungfu Zombie, Magic Cop, or Mr Vampire is quite what you’re after, but they might at least be in the vicinity.

    I’ve heard good things about The Dead Hate The Living, but I haven’t seen it myself (not really a fan of the zombie genre.)

  37. Anonymous says:

    Colin

    I’m not sure how much attention the recent “Colin” got in the States. It apparently was well-received at Cannes and although I haven’t seen it, it does sound interesting, not to mention quite a coup for the director:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jul/26/camcorder-zombie-movie-release

  38. Anonymous says:

    Pontypool

    Seconding Pontypool. It lives perfectly within its limitations and features sharp writing and a mesmerizing performance by Canadian That Guy Stephen McHattie.