As many of you read from my Zombie Spectacular, I am a huge fan of the flesh eaters from the netherworld. As a matter of fact, Zombies are my favorite creatures to watch on the screen, whether it be a short film or a feature.
Through my Short Film articles, you have seen many of my favorite short films. ‘But what of the feature-length Zombie?’ you ask. Where does they fit in?
Well, my most curious friends, I figured it was about time to give a list of my favorites from the world of over 45 minutes of celluloid. Most of these, you likely know. Several will be new to you.
This list is personal and not to be taken as gospel. These are my favorites and are shaped by the way I look at this surreal world. I will do my best to explain myself, though.
#10 Shaun of the Dead (2004, UK)
There have been many attempts at adding humor to the Zombie Apocalypse. Some have fallen on their flesh-eating faces. But not here. It’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost that makes this film so enjoyable. The two are one of the best comedy teams in film history.
It’s also the game of Trivial Pursuits that the script plays with its fans that adds to it. Just having Frost yell into the phone “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” causes howls. Add to that the great performances of Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy, who play Shaun’s mum and stepdad, and you have a great movie. Both Wilton and Nighy appear as a married couple in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, and as a parted married couple in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
#9 Zombieland (2009, US)
Part survival guide, part travelogue, “Zombieland” gives a tour through the Zombie Apocalypse that no other film gives.
The film is also a contradiction that pushes cardio to stay alive and Hostess Twinkies to stay interested.
It has a great cast, with Woody Harrelson and Mark Zuckerberg brilliantly playing off each other. Also, “Zombieland” includes one of the better scripts, especially Zuckerberg’s monologue in the beginning of the film.
I went to see this with my boys and my sister and her boys. We stood out in the parking lot for a half hour, still laughing about the film.
#8 American Zombie (2007, US)
“We’re Here! We’re Dead! Get Used to It!”
Done in a documentary style, a filmmaker embeds himself with a group of zombies…oh, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Zombies in this film can be somewhat monstrous, but most are articulate and have self-control. They have jobs, social lives and beliefs. They just can’t remember who they were when they died, nor how they died.
Now, they want rights just like the living. A filmmaker is granted access to their society to make a documentary. But there is something else going on…
Directed by Grace Lee, this film gets very little acclaim and fewer showings. Myself, I think it’s highly underrated.
#7 Pontypool (2009, Canada)
A zombie outbreak occurs in Canada and the reasons are quite unclear what caused it.
Stephen McHattie is a radio “shock jock” who begins to understand that the English language is causing the disease to be spread. He continues to broadcast as the zombies lay siege to the little glass booth that he broadcasts from. McHattie is incredible in the film and plays the role to the hilt.
I have often wondered if this film is an allegory about language in Canada and the differences between English and French speaking parts of the country.
#6 28 Days Later (2002, UK)
Danny Boyle directs this frightening story of the outbreak of “Rage” causing the people of England to become murderous monsters.
In the opening, Jim wakes up in a hospital bed to find himself alone…hmm, where have we seen that before? Anyway, he somehow makes it through town and later meets a nasty martinet, played by ex-Dr. Who, Christopher Eccleston, and society seems to go downhill from there. Scary and suspenseful, the film keeps you off-balance for much of the time. This original is still the best. Its sequel does not compare.
#5 [REC] (2007, Spain)
Who says found footage films suck? No one who saw this one, that’s for sure.
There is a problem with a small apartment building. A reporter who is covering a night on the job with a fire fighting company, enters the complex to find that some of the tenants have begun to kill each other. Soon, the government shows up and seals off the place. No one is allowed in, no one is allowed out.
The reporter and her cameraman go on a room to room journey to try to find out what is going on. Everything culminates in the attic where some of the truth comes to light.
How good is this film? Three sequels from Spain and one inferior remake by the US. But ignore most of that.
[REC] is claustrophobic, with several effective “surprise” scenes, some of which the cast didn’t even know was going to happen, make you jump out of your seat very effectively.
#4 Dod Sno (Dead Snow) (2009, Norway)
What happens when you steal a box of silver and gold coins from a group of dead Nazis in snowy Norway? Well, they come back to life, intent on getting their money back!
There are great battle scenes, frightening “jump out and grab you” parts and even a little humor to go with it.
And what is it about Norwegians and intestines? They seem to find them very frightening. There is a story about a man who has his intestines ripped out, and part of the fight scene includes one of our heroes dangling off a cliff, holding onto a Nazi’s intestines. (Just curious.)
#3 La Horde (The Horde) (2009, France)
Combine the zombie apocalypse with a crime caper and you have a hugely entertaining film where gangsters have to join up with the police to stay alive when zombies take over Paris. I have seen a few French End-of-the-World films and, aside from the Australians, they have a great insight into how this all will end.
Some of my favorite action films (like “Diva” and anything by Luc Besson) are French. They have the knack. Merging the pair gives a film that keeps you from leaving the room no matter how full your bladder is.
#2 Train to Busan (2016, Korea)
New to the zombie universe, Korea has given an excellent thriller that pulls no punches. It shows a sense of realism that some films don’t bother with, e.g., more likely sooner than later the glass in windows and doors will break and the zombies will come pouring out.
Its zombies are believable and its view of human nature is something that I think George Romero would approve of. Setting it on a bullet train captures the claustrophobia that is an asset in the scare of the film. If you see one zombie film in 2017, this is the one to see!
#1 Night of the Living Dead (1968, US)
Okay, I know. But for me, this is still the stuff off my nightmares. In glorious black-and-white, the film still affects me the same way every time I see it. It’s documentary quality is what gives it that “this is how it will go down, people” look. Mr. Romero holds the viewer in palm of his hand and then slowly closes it, allowing no escape. It gives a microcosm of the breakdown of society in the parlor of a vacant house.
“Night of the Living Dead” still scares me, and likely always will.
- “Juan of the Dead” (2011, Cuba)
- “City of Rott” (2006, US)
- “BioZombies” (1998, Hong Kong)
- “Deadheads” (2011, US)
- “Fido” (2006, Canada)
I know that there are plenty of disagreement with my list, especially as the original “Dawn of the Dead” is nowhere to be found (yes, I noticed it too). These may not be the best, but these are my favorites.