Not that you asked, but I probably don’t like the zombie genre as much as a lot of you. For starters, I feel like its over saturated. You can’t go more than a month without another one hitting the direct-to-DVD/VOD market. I also don’t find them particularly compelling as creatures. They lack personality and, fast or slow, they’re cognitively… stupid. I also feel like a lot of filmmakers latch onto them because of their popularity, not because they’re particularly engaged by them. In the process they forget that the most compelling part of this sub genre isn’t the creatures – it’s usually the survivors and their response to the undead horde.
As with anything, there are exceptions. Some zombie movies are great! This usually happens when the filmmakers are willing to take risks with the material instead of just coasting on the sweeping hordes of the undead. It’s why the Warm Bodies trailer actually looks like a LOT of fun and why what we’ve seen of World War Z looks a little bit like more of the same. Miracles like the original Dawn Of The Dead happened because people like George A. Romero weren’t coasting on the popularity of the creature, they were using it to say something new.
Head inside for 6 Essential Zombie Movies. And beware, I limited myself to only 1 Romero film!!! Otherwise this list would have been a bit different.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Much has been said about the sociopolitical nature of George A. Romero’s masterwork, and that undercurrent certainly contributes to its greatness. Equally as effective to me is the film’s sublime visual aesthetic. It’s a sour, pungent 70’s look that feels much more dangerous because you can almost smell society decaying. It’s zombies are basic in design, which renders them more human (or recognizably and recently ex-human) and thus more terrifying.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
Has there ever been a more punk-rock film about the undead to make it into wide release? An unrelentingly fun and giddily gory romp that’s not afraid to address the government’s likely response should something like this ever actually happen. Bless you, Dan O’Bannon.
ZOMBIE aka ZOMBI 2
Of course we had to include Lucio Fulci’s hallmark film. The Italian influence on the zombie genre is crucial, especially for gore hounds. Again, this has a gritty and grainy aesthetic that only heightens the queasy effect of the film. Plus, any film that knows the inherent entertainment value in throwing a shark into the mix deserves high praise.
28 DAYS LATER
I can already hear some of you guys going, “but they’re not dead! It’s the rage virus! They’re not zombies! It’s not the same!” So what? For all intents and purposes, this is a zombie movie. One that redefined the genre and reintroduced zombies to the aughts.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
A bona fide modern classic. A hilarious and knowing coming of age tale. An ideal showcase for Edgar Wright’s visual talents and the switch watch script he wrote with Simon Pegg. It’s also a warm-hearted argument for friendship after death that has your back way more than that Bub from Day Of The Dead.
Remember in my intro when I said that the survivors and their response will always be more important than the depiction of the zombies themselves? This is a great example. The zombies here are fine, but this movie is really an optimistic look at how a makeshift family might begin to organize itself in a post-apocalyptic landscape. And it’s f*cking entertaining as hell.