Posted May 3, 2012 by David Watson in Features
 
 

Zombie Guide


“Zombies, man! They creep me out.” So says Dennis Hopper’s slimy, neo-con despot in zombie-auteur George A. Romero’s Land Of The Dead. And that’s as good a way as any to start this Guide To Zombie Movies.

“Zombies, man! They creep me out.”

So says Dennis
Hopper’s slimy, neo-con despot in zombie-auteur George A. Romero’s Land Of The
Dead. And that’s as good a way as
any to start this Guide To Zombie Movies.

Zombies should creep you out! They’re the walking frigging dead for Chrissakes; mindless,
decaying, gut-munchers out to tear you apart, hungry for “Braaaaaains…” Every time you think the zombie movie
is dead and buried (and 1981’s Dead And
Buried
is definitely worth a peek) it claws its way out of its grave and
chows down on your intestines, implacable and unstoppable.

The zombie is the ultimate bogeyman; a mindless automaton
with only one purpose; to kill you.
Like James Cameron’s
Terminator (and what’s a cyborg really but a high-tech zombie?) it can’t be
bargained with or reasoned with.
It’s devoid of human emotion.
It doesn’t feel pity or fear or pain. Just hunger.
Maybe rage. It can’t be
stopped, can’t be killed. It’s
coming for you Barbara, and whether it’s one of those old-school, shuffling,
meatsacks or those new, fast-moving, free running ones Romero-fanboys hate so
much, it’s gonna get you.

Unlike its cemetery-sharing cousin, the vampire, the
zombie’s never really had to move with the times. It’s always been of the
time. Rooted in Victorian
attitudes towards sexuality, the vampire’s had to constantly reinvent himself
to stay relevant; from the Victorian rake of the penny dreadfuls to the suave
Eurotrash of Lugosi. From the camp
of late Hammer to the pink, nubile
lesbians of Rollin. From the
soulful, mopey gay Goths of Anne Rice
to the horny Southern waitress-f*ckers of True
Blood
. Often a metaphor for
disease and pestilence, the vampire’s a rebel. A creature of lustful, sinful appetites, he’s the ultimate
bad boy. Romantic. Glamorous. Seductive.
Dangerous. The ultimate outsider, the vampire consciously rejects our
morality, our values, our society.

The zombie on the other hand is our society. A
mindless conformist hardwired to consume, to destroy. The zombie can be
whatever we want him to be, whatever we need him to be. Over the years the zombie has
represented the threat of Communism, American imperialism, rampant consumerism.
And the zombie remains the perfect metaphor for today. He’s the capitalist system eating
itself alive. He’s each one of us;
powerless, impotent but still driven to consume. He’s society breaking down.

No wonder there’s been an explosion in zombie culture. Zombie books. Zombie video games.
Zombie walks. Interest in
zombies is infectious. One of the
biggest shows on TV is The Walking Dead. Another Resident Evil movie is on the way. Cuba has just made its first zombie flick, Juan Of The Dead (out this week). Brad
Pitt
’s World War Z has a zombie
apocalypse hitting Glasgow. Though
the filmmakers haven’t revealed how we’ll distinguish it from any other
Thursday in the city. Whatever you
feel about the genre, there’s no doubt, zombies still have bite.

13. 28 Weeks Later
(2007)

The most dangerous thing in any good zombie movie isn’t the zombies
themselves. Sure they’re trying to eat you, but your real enemy is always your
fellow man. Whether it’s the
powers that be, who call in an air strike and fire bomb you or the guy next to
you, it’s the living you have to watch out for. Smarter and more political than it’s predecessor, 28 Days Later, the film is a naked
commentary on the War On Terror, American empire building and the occupations
of Iraq and Afghanistan. As the
good old US of A cockily establish a bridgehead in a devastated UK, you just
know 28 Weeks Later is going to end
in tears even before the Yanks bring friendly fire to London’s Docklands,
machine gunning civilians and infected alike. The Hurt Locker’s
Jeremy Renner makes a cool, laconic
hero but it’s Robert Carlyle who’ll
haunt you as an essentially good man whose one panicked moment of cowardice has
devastating results

12. Land Of The Dead
(2005)

Romero’s metaphor for class struggle in Fortress America
(and the last decent film he made) Land
Of The Dead
may not be scary but it’s a fun, post-apocalyptic vision of the
future in which the zombies have won and the remnants of humanity have
barricaded themselves in a gated community ruled by a Dubya-esque Dennis Hopper. It’s got a big tank, zombies who show
signs of evolving independent thought and Asia
Argento
fighting zombies in an arena, as the undead truly bring equality to
American society.

11. The Return Of The
Living Dead (1985)

The film that gave us the zombie war-cry of “Braaaaaains,”
and featured sprinting zombies long before 28
Days Later, The Return Of The Living Dead
was the brainchild of Night Of The Living Dead co-writer John Russo. Funny, violent and gory. How many other horror comedies
feature a naked zombie punkette dancing in a graveyard and the military nuking
a major American city to kill a few zombies? You can’t save the world without a
few sacrifices.

10. Zombie Flesh
Eaters (1979)

Zombie. Shark.
Shark. Zombie. ‘Nuff said.

9. Fido (2006)
The heart-warming tale of a boy and his pet zombie. In an alternate ‘50s-style reality, the
zombie wars have been fought and won by humanity and zombies have been
domesticated and trained to perform menial household tasks. Timmy’s best friend in the whole world
is the family zombie whom he names Fido (Billy
Connolly
. Yes, that Billy Connolly). When Fido accidentally eats the
next-door neighbour, the family find themselves going to incredible lengths to
cover up the crime. It’s like Lassie. But with a zombified Scottish comedian.

8. I Walked With A
Zombie (1943)
Jane Eyre
. With zombies. And voodoo.
You’ll never walk through a cane field, alone, at night.


7. Dellamorte
Dellamore (1994)
Rupert Everett
is
the lovelorn caretaker of the local cemetery whose real job is to make sure the
recently deceased stay dead in this bonkers, gore-splattered slice of Italian
surrealism. Words simply don’t do
this insanity justice.

6. Pontypool (2008)
A low-budget, intimate Canadian shocker, Pontypool may be
one of the most interesting, intelligent, innovative films on this list. Set almost entirely within the confines
of a local radio station, Stephen
McHattie
’s world-weary DJ Grant Mazzy discovers every careless word has
meaning when he finds himself reporting on the end of the world.

5. Dawn Of The Dead
remake (2004)

So why Zach Snyder’s
remake over Romero’s original?
Dunno if you’ve seen it lately, but the years ain’t been kind to
Romero’s film. It’s poorly paced
and the satire’s pretty heavy-handed.
Snyder’s debut however grabs you by the balls right from the start and
just keeps twisting as Sarah Polley’s
nurse Ana wakes up to the end of the world. It’s bleaker, it’s scarier and it’s way more fun that the
original. Polley’s heroine is a
strong, relatable, well-rounded protagonist you actually care about, there’s
some genuinely thrilling set-pieces and Johnny
Cash
. And there’s even a
zombie baby!

4. The Living Dead At
The Manchester Morgue (1974)

Also known as Let
Sleeping Corpses Lie
, this fantastic little-seen Spanish-Italian horror has
the UK Department Of Agriculture accidentally unleashing a plague of zombies in
the Lake District. Probably not
the biggest screw-up DEFRA have made.

3. La Horde (2009) (Main Picture)
The zombie movie often serves as a metaphor for societal
unrest and never more so than in French shocker La Horde. A gang of dodgy cops venture into the
ghetto of the Parisian suburbs intent on killing the multiracial gang that
murdered their boss. However the
cops and the crooks are forced to work together in a desperate John
Carpenter-style battle to survive when they become trapped in a high-rise
apartment block as society breaks down and zombies surround the building.

2. Night Of The
Living Dead (1968)

The Citizen Kane
of zombie movies, Night Of The Living Dead was the film that changed
everything. Made at the height of
the Civil Rights era with the war in Vietnam raging, over 40 years later Night
Of The Living Dead still packs a helluva punch. And it’s public domain so you can watch the whole thing for
free …

1. Dead Girl (2008)
Two teenage dirtbags playing truant in an abandoned factory
come across a gorgeous, naked, female zombie and decide to keep her as their
personal sex toy. Then things
start to get really twisted…
Intelligent, challenging and uncompromising, Dead Girl is like Weird
Science
if it had been written by Ted
Bundy
and again, the biggest danger in this movie isn’t the zombie but the
humans. If you don’t find Dead Girl deeply disturbing, you
probably already are a zombie!


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com