Like all films, Zombie movies run the gauntlet of great to absolutely terrible. I discussed the “why’s of terrible” in a post last year, but with my recent publication of You and Me, Against the World, it seemed fitting to return to the topic and list my all time favorite “zombie” films.
Let’s dispense with the most obvious arguments of “what” constitutes a “zombie.” For my treatment and for lack of a better defining term, a zombie does not necessarily require the death of the individual – infected is good enough. The speed of movement, be it fast or slow, both have their advantages, and the particular level of intelligence are negligible to me.
So as defined in my world – if it was a human being and is now a walking or running insane nightmare (although not a vampire or werewolf) I would qualify it as a Zombie type film. (okay this is a lot of damn explaining. If you don’t know what a zombie is just stop reading here.) I think the key factor is the application of the word “horde” – the uncontrollable spread of the infection whereas the former human has a hunger for your flesh or brain. We can argue the point, but I’d rather just get to the best of the bunch, but in no particular order.
The Omega Man: The 1970 something film with Charlton Heston was my first real experience with the “genre.” Viewed at the drive in when I was like six (wtf was my mother thinking), the movie absolutely paralyzed me. Now in truth, it doesn’t hold up so well in today’s world, but it is a classic in my book and it is based on the classic.
I am Legend: The third remake of Matheson’s story (the Omega Man being the second) and undoubtedly the best of the three versions, although they may have tried a bit “too hard” and I wasn’t crazy about the “alternate ending” because they actually picked the wrong one for theaters. My only other criticism is in the book, the “things” really screw with the good doctor and for this version they left that psychological element out and I felt that was a mistake…but hey I still loved it. Again not really a zombie film, but go ahead and tell me you’d go in that damn dark building for a dog. I love my dog Zeus but honestly he’d be on his own in that situation – Sorry Zuey. It does achieve the “horde” criteria when those things are running all over his building.
Oh wait – Zeus wanted to pause for a moment to contemplate what he considers my lack of loyalty
Dawn of the Dead: The 2004 remake of the original is probably my all time favorite zombie movie. They walk, they run, they crawl and they moan. This is just classic zombie stuff filled with all the things we want in a zombie movie including the dumb decision making we have come to know and love in all horror films.
28 Weeks Later: Oh the moral dilemma of making a run for it or trying to save a loved one. I actually thought that part two of the series was better than the first. Nothing against 28 days later, I just liked this story line better – although I still believe too much time is spent making the “army” the bad guys. In the zombie apocalypse aggressive containment is necessary even if we know it isn’t going to work… and besides if you’re doing the shooting it’s a damn good time.
Night of the Living Dead: The original is after all the original. I can discount all the socio-political statements of the film and just enjoy it for what it is – a great classic. Today’s special effects of course outshine anything that Romero could do with this 1968 gem, but I think the camera angles more than make up for any short comings.
New Year’s Day: You probably missed this forty minutes of greatness. The short film appeared on Fear.nets series called Fear Itself. The series has some great stories, but we’ll stick to the zombie topic. This one stars Briana Evigan best known for Step Up Two (okay I have daughters so I may have caught a few minutes of the movie) and it deals with a zombie outbreak on New Year’s Eve. Briana spends the entire time trying to get to her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. I can’t tell you anymore, but strongly urge you to find this on-line and give it a spin.
The Walking Dead: Okay, not a movie, but I think this graphic novel to television series deserves an Emmy or whatever they give out for television. A great story that stays to the classic zombie line and does an excellent job of raising the big zombie apocalypse question “what would I do in that situation? Or that one? Or that one?”…Answer…Shoot! Run! Shoot! Run and Run!
Diary of the Dead: Another Romero zombie movie and better than Land of the Dead. Not quite Dawn of the Dead but with the use of the camcorder (I have no idea what we are calling these things today) we get a new look on the old classic. A decent story line and decent acting, this one is worth a look. Interestingly it stars Shawn Roberts who seems to be becoming a mainstay for zombie films as he was in this, Land of the Dead and Resident Evil.
Quarantine: I loved this movie. More rabies than zombies but who cares. I love the camcorder, the graphic gore and all the dumb decisions – hey folks those CDC guys left a couple of guns in the other room! The craziness and the chaos was just classic. The ending took us to a whole new place and I really wish they did a better job with Q2 which was a real disappointment. Quarantine is well worth the watch.
Oh darn…Almost There
I have a couple of other’s that I put in the “almost there” category for zombie/infected films. They could have been on the list but for very specific reasons I didn’t think they quite made the cut.
Zombie Land: I actually loved this film. As a zombie feature there was just a little too much light-sidedness to it for me. Perhaps if we took out the Bill Murray scene it could have made the grade. The rules however were funny and true, the acting was great and overall a very good film. Oh and two other words…Emma Stone!
The Crazies: Again a pretty good remake of the Romero original and it finished pretty strong. My problem was that there just weren’t enough “crazies” for me and it became more about the “evil government plan” then surviving the pursuing horde. Yes there were some great scenes like the car wash but then there was the scene in the diner/truck stop where I couldn’t figure out if the dudes were crazies or just crazy.
Shawn of the Dead: Funny, funny, good story line, good SFX but I’m not a comedy-zombie fan so it doesn’t make my “great” list even if I have watched it like five times.
28 Days Later: Great infected movie – too much army – worth the watch but not in my top-top list, but real close.
And hey, if you haven’t read You and Me, Against the World here is my shameless plug to ask you to purchase a copy LOL.