I am rather new to both Facebook and Twitter. With Google Plus, which was my media of choice, sliding into the abyss this coming August, I was kind of forced into looking into these services. I have to admit, I really like them.
A few weeks ago, during a discussion of “Train to Busan”, a zombie film from Korea, I made the comment that, lately, some of the best zombie films were being made outside the US. Initially, this was an off-the-cuff remark. But as I thought about it, there seem to be many excellent zombie films coming from other countries.
This is not to say the US, the inventors of the Zombie Apocalypse, haven’t made any good zombie films in the last 18 years, but there is a tendency to go for laughs rather than scares. I’ll try to make that case in a future article. For now, suspend your belief and any outrage that you may feel. You can vent at me later (I promise). Let’s look at some the major players in the overseas zombie community.
It can be argued that the foreign zombie apocalypse begins in Italy. In 1974, a joint venture between Italy and Spain produced “The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue”, or “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.” Using some of the themes found in “Night of the Living Dead”, the living is killed and feasted upon by the dead. Here, they seemed to prefer internal organs rather than chewing on a leg or an arm. Lucio Fulchi and others would follow in the late 1970s to the early 1990s with a series of zombie films based on George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”. 1994 would see a most original film, “Cemetery Man”, twist the genre a bit. Since those days, there have been few entries. The most notable is the 2015 “Anger of the Dead”, the feature version of an excellent short film, both by Francesco Picone.
The opening salvo by the undead is fired in New Zealand. A relative unknown director named Peter Jackson decided that there was not enough gore on the screen. So, in 1992, he turns a town’s residents into zombies in the film “Braindead” or “Dead Alive”. Honestly, after viewing this film, I have never looked at a lawnmower the same way again. In 2006, the most numerous inhabitants of the North and South Islands became zombies. “Black Sheep” presented the world with zombie animals, something that would show up in later years.
Across the Tasman Sea, Australia would get into the game. In 2003, a small outback town finds the zombie virus spread accidentally by aliens. The aliens do their best to help cure everyone, but humans mess it up. Over the next fifteen years, Australia would contribute other features, like “Wyrmwood” (2014), as well as a number of short films, such as “Waterborne” and “Cargo”, which would be made into a feature film in 2017.
The United Kingdom
Danny Boyle would show the more Romero side of the apocalypse with the 2002 film “28 Days Later”, as the Rage Virus turns everyone into murderous fiends. This would be followed up five years later by “28 Months Later”. After that, serious zombie films would be hard to find. 2005’s “Shaun of the Dead” would set the standard, followed by films like “Stag Night of the Living Dead” (2008), “Zombie Women of Satan” (2009), “Cockneys vs. Zombies” (2012), “Stalled” (2013), and, coming soon, “Anna and the Apocalypse” (2018).
And not to be outdone, Ireland produced its own comedy with “Boy Eats Girl” in 2005.
If it’s weird, it is likely from Asia, well, at least from Japan and Hong Kong. In 1998, Hong Kong spoofed zombies and video games with a personal favorite of mine “Bio-Zombies”. In the coming years, Japan would put their own unique stamp on the genre. 2001 would introduce the world to “Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies”, followed in 2005 two friends, one who fights Zombies in the ring and the other who is convinced he is a “Tokyo Zombie”. In 2006, the “Zombie Self Defense Force” would lay the Zombie Apocalypse at the feet of the US. The goofiness returns in 2010 with “Big Tits Zombie” and in 2011 with “Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead” (I love that one). In 2016, the search for rare videotape would make one man say “I Am a Hero.” Currently, “One Cut of the Dead” and “Zombiology” are making the rounds.
Korea, on the other hand, is very serious about Zombies. In 2016, “Train to Busan” stunned audiences with its action and its heart, while an animated film, “Seoul Station”, gave some insight into the beginnings of the apocalypse. Currently in release is the Zombie Apocalypse taking place in the feudal era, named “Rampart”, which is getting good reviews.
Spain has become a powerhouse of horror over the last decade. It wasn’t hard to believe that a series of Zombie films would come from there. “[REC]” would spawn four movies. The first and the best from 2007, had much of the same claustrophobia found in Romero’s films. The film was so good that US filmmakers made a version of their own, namely “Quarantine”. Although the quality of the story would thin as the series moves on, it still keeps within the genre and often carries the same gore and menace found in its predecessors.
Others of Note
Other contributors to the legacy of the Flesh Eaters include two from France – the 2009 classic “La Horde”, meshes Romero’s Zombies with John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13”, along with the current release “The Night Eats the World.” Norway gave us the “Dead Snow” pair, with Zombie Nazis, that keeps its tongue squarely in its cheek, where it is chewed off. The amazing Cuban offering “Juan of the Dead,” from 2010. This film was the darling of the festival circuit and lived up to its praise. Canada gave us the hilarious “Fido”, in 2006, with the British comedian Billy Connolly. The film is the “Lassie Come Home” of the Zombie world. Steve McHattie battles zombies while on talk radio in the 2009 offering “Pontypool.” And recently (2017), “Ravenous” gave us a very artistic and often bizarre spin on zombie culture. Lastly, others who threw their entrails into the ring include Greece with “Evil” and “Evil 2” from 2005 and 2009, respectively; Switzerland with “Decay” (2012), which was filmed at the Cern Hadron Collider (without Sheldon Cooper’s approval); Germany’s 2010 “Rammbock” and Austria’s 2016 “Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies”, which proved that zombies can dance.
Add to all of this the fact that most countries have contributed short films with zombies, and the Zombie Apocalypse is truly a worldwide event. Hey, you can’t swing a dismembered arm without hitting a zombie.