Well if you’re reading this I thank you for coming this far and reading my view of the best zombie films to have hit our big screens. One common occurrence between zombie film followers is obvious thought on future films. The evolution from the first original zombie film, thought to be White Zombie, directed by Victor Halperin in 1932, has been dramatic. This is not particularly noticed unless you have researched or are just a big fan of the living dead; however the transformation from what us, as a modern generation recognise as a zombie compared to back then is phenomenal.
Earlier zombie flicks saw the source of the change from human to zombie, usually done through black magic or some kind of sorcerer, as where the original term of zombie came from. However, over the years this has changed to bites off of mutant animals (Braindead) to viral infections that are spread in different ways. Almost every zombie movie needs to have a spreading virus through bites; however other rules are slightly different. For example Dawn of The Dead (2004); an open wound caused by a zombie was enough for the individual to reanimate into the walking dead. As discussed previously, Night of the Living Dead had a more spiritual, and confusing, conversion where any kind of death leads down the path of becoming a human chomper.
So my next film uses both the modern running zombies along with the viral infection that starts it all, in this case known as the Rage virus. Yes you have guessed it, 28 Days Later used real fear factor along with realistic issues in such an apocalypse. Little moments in this film may have seemed boring to some; however Danny Boyle’s direction expressed complications that would arise, such as shaving or emptying your bowels when there is no working water or toilet facilities. The story follows Jim, played by Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Red Eye), a seemingly average Joe who wakes up from a coma to find himself in a completely deserted World. Again, this film really captures some realistic scenes, in an apocalyptic world, that really makes this picture a vivid one.
Jim’s first walk out into the newly dead United Kingdom is a truly incredible sight to be seen; Jim walking down a clear motorway, it’s almost an oxymoron. I admit there isn’t a huge amount of zombie feeding frenzy scenes, however the chase scenes really get you on the edge of your seat; you may just fall off. We are also exposed to the army’s false promises and sexual brutality towards the women of the group. These may be controversial but are extremely real issues that I believe would arise from such a situation. Due to this, people may argue it is not the best zombie film around; we all crave gore scenes, however it is a brilliant film on its own.
As with most films that hit success, a sequel to the 2002 hit followed in 2007. The director was changed to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo but maintained its location in London. My favourite bit to the whole film is literally the opening scenes. We see yet another controversial but real situation of a husband having to choose between saving his family which would most probably lead to a certain death, or technically not, or following the every man for himself philosophy. This is followed by an intense scene of a mass of the living dead at full sprint speed. I felt this was a good film; I won’t lie, I did enjoy it, however there seemed to be something missing. I genuinely cannot put my finger on it, maybe it’s because it followed such a film in 28 days; however I must emphasise it was definitely worth a watch.
This next film I will keep brief as I feel inclined not to comment too much for a few reasons; I was falling asleep as I watched it, it is/was subtitled, and I have only seen one out of the trilogy. Rec is a Spanish zombie thriller shot from a television reporter in a confined building where the outbreak of a virus incurs. That very brief description sounds like this film has the key ingredients towards a blockbuster, or even a brain-buster? Many of you may have seen the apparent remake of the film, known as Quarantine, and as the US title exclaims, I love the concept of being trapped in a single building whilst creeps are trying to bite you. There are some good aspects of this film, certain scenes are admirable and the shaky camera adds to the effect. I just feel more could have been done with both films. There is a superb scenario, however it just seems that Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, co-directors and writers, ran out of ideas.
I had a think back before writing this post, to the last zombie film I actually viewed at the cinema. Again, this film has a slightly different take on zombies, in fact I would not be surprised if many of you didn’t consider them to be zombies. The Crazies, is another George A. Romero classic, 1973; however I have only seen the remake in 2010. Starring Timothy Olyphant as our sheriff David, the explanation behind these zombies was a biological weapon which is accidentally released onto a small town. Again, I am satisfied that Romero allowed for a cause for the outbreak, unlike Dawn of the Dead (2004). The biological weapon is still a virus, however the infected are rather different to our classic zombie. Flesh eaters are the wrong term in this case, however our zombies are more homicidal in different manners, such as burning houses with their own families in.
As stated previously, many viewers may not count these as zombies; however what’s not to say they are a more evolved species of our close carnivorous cousins? There has been a change in zombies throughout the years, so why can’t we say this will be the way that they go. I did enjoy the film however as I say with so many other films, I feel that a lot more could have been done. A lot more scare scenes whilst keeping the balance of the ever-changing relationships between characters. Am I really asking too much? There are some gripping scenes in the film and I would recommend a watch, however I will cut short the rest of my review purely for the fans who want something closer to what we all know and love as our zombie.
To be completely honest, my favourite kind of zombie are the ones found in 28 Days Later or the modernised Dawn of The Dead, therefore the runners. Running zombies means chase scenes. Chase scenes lead to high adrenaline rush, that is what people want from a film, especially under this genre. Feeling that emotion of screaming at the television to try to offer a hand of help to escape is what brings a movie to life. These moments are a factor into helping a zombie film hit the jackpot. So to wrap up my review I will finish on a well thought out zombie thriller that was released recently, however not as a film.
Dead Set is a five episode television series written by pessimistic comedian Charlie Brooker. I actually don’t find Brooker funny, more like a worse version of Jack Dee. However, this BAFTA nominated series was brilliant in many ways. The original series released in 2008 really got me excited and I maintained that I watch it every night for five nights running. The story is set in the Big Brother house, where the contestants of the recent series take refuge from the outbreak on the London streets. There is small wit added into the carnage of this action-packed and quite frankly, drama-packed series. We see frayed relationships and different personalities emerge, and eaten, throughout each episode, which adds to the realism of such a situation.
I feel like this was really a surprising phenomenon. The series is one of the best zombie franchises I have seen. Conflict is given to the characters, whether to save others or be selfish to ensure survival, which is always controversial but is an actual choice in so many situations. It’s one of those times in life that someone may say what they would do given that choice, however we all know that they don’t even know what they would do. Again, this series plays with the viewer’s emotions from heart-racing chase scenes to anger towards certain characters and even to sadness at the loss of others. To top it all off, Brooker finishes his story in such an emotional fashion unlike so many other zombie masterpieces.
If you haven’t seen it already I would definitely make sure you do. Channel 4 publicised this series a decent amount before its release and therefore really helped promote the zombie genre. However, with this brilliant series I will bring my writing to a close. I foremost would like to apologise if there are any films that you consider to be top end of the genre and missed in my three-part write-up, however I would love to see more titles so please inform me so I can give them a watch.
Overall I do not think I can answer what is officially the best zombie film of all time; we love each film for different reasons. There are so many terrific, gory, heart in mouth moments in each film I have mentioned, with the odd humour to break the surface. All I can really say is that let’s all hope that more films are made to satisfy the fans of this long going genre, and that the evolution goes in a satisfying direction. Thank you for reading and stay safe; always know your zombie plan.
By Ash Seward-Morris
- What is the Best Zombie film? Part 2 (moviehart.wordpress.com)
- What Is The Best Zombie Film Of All Time? Part 1 (moviehart.wordpress.com)
- Cuba’s first-ever zombie/horror film, “Juan of the Dead” (boingboing.net)
Zombies! Originally an ancient, West African, spell-bound state, where a dead human is revived and their body is controlled by a sorcerer. However, since then many aspects of the zombie have changed. I’m pretty sure that’s not your definition of a zombie. Films involving zombies used to be a niche genre in horror movies, however as the years have dropped by, the zombie genre has sprung to life into its own unique genre. This is obvious in our generation; you would be lying if you haven’t considered a plan for a zombie apocalypse. And let’s be fair, if the world does end in 2012, a zombie attack would be one of the fun ways to go. Anyway, without further ado, I’m going to explore the best zombie films ever made, and maybe the not so good, whilst looking at the differences between films of these flesh-eating creeps!
It seems fairly obvious to me that we are in the day and age where zombie films have done nearly everything you can do with a film. Therefore directors and filmmakers alike are searching for new concepts to reignite the audiences fear and anticipation for a zombie flick. Many have portrayed zombies in different ways, using different rules and concepts of the undead, deadites or living dead. George A. Romero, the mastermind director to the dead series consisting of 6 films, had a certain set of rules for his zombies in his original trilogy. These consisted of humans’ transformation into zombies, regardless of their death, be it by zombie or not. Along with this, Romero stayed with the concept of walking zombies, being slow and unresponsive, as the dead would be.
Romero coined one of the earliest and most successful zombie thrillers, Night of the Living Dead. Released in 1968 and then remade in 1990, Night of the Living Dead nowadays may look a bit silly, with actors caked in white makeup to look dead. However, Romero conjured up a film that genuinely scared people. The scenes showing the dead munching on human remains I can imagine would be stomach churning in the late sixties. I personally saw the nineties version a few years ago and found that even though the zombies weren’t particularly terrifying, the storyline and smaller plotlines were actually good for a gore film. Complex characters and relationships were clearly visible, along with the scare of the sheer mass of zombies. I can see why this film was so successful.
After the night comes dawn. George Romero followed on his widely successful first with Dawn of the Dead (1978) which was again remade in 2004, but with no input from the original director. I loved the concept behind this movie, keeping the survivors in a shopping mall and again, as Romero does so well, showing the relationships between the people in their time of huge need. The apocalypse is on them, certain personalities get involved in team work and others take the every-man-for-himself approach. However, the characters are even still more complex than this; some are sinister enough to use the others in order to survive but know really that their main priority is for themselves.
The remake of this film was truly my favourite zombie flick in my teen years, the decision to take zombies to a new level by allowing them to run and scrapping most of Romero’s rules was a bold one on Zack Snyder’s (300 and Watchmen) part. Along with the parallel stories, the zombie chase scenes are no less than epically exciting. I sat on the edge of my seat moving my own legs, hoping that the character managed to survive that little bit longer. As mentioned previously, Romero has coined six zombie films in his Dead series. Following on from the dawn was Day of the Dead (1985). For the third consecutive movie this was again remade in 2008, although it had fallen a bit flat compared to the original.
Day of the Dead adds a new dimension to the zombie, showing that they may be able to evolve from a usual animal instinct state to learn like a human again. This is an interesting approach, and even though I did enjoy the film, I believe this aspect let it down slightly. The zombie eating scenes were as gruesome as ever, but between the final scenes of zombie madness there was little to offer. Unfortunately, I would only give it an iHartMovies rating of 2.8 out of 5. I am going to cut short most of my reviews of Romero’s later films purely because, to me, they did not do the man justice.
Land of the Dead (2005) in my opinion was Romero’s worse piece and by far the worse zombie film I have ever seen. Again, the notion of the zombies evolving is set, as we see communication between the apparent brainless beasts and even to the point that they can use guns! This to me, takes away the whole idea of the zombie. They are meant to be ex-humans who have lost all human behaviour, stripped down to the bare essentials of the living, showing pure necessity for food, in this case, human meat. Taking away this concept leads to a pointless zombie film, along with the amateur storylines. I cannot help but think Romero should have left it at a trilogy rather than more. Anyway, now I’m done with Romero and remakes I now want to check out the real dead setters in our top zombie films – check out part 2, which will be published shortly.
By Ash Seward-Morris
- Zombiemania (thewritingdead.wordpress.com)
- Feature: Is 28 Days Later a Zombie Movie? (trioxin.wordpress.com)
- Clip from George Romero’s DEADTIME STORIES is funny and gory! (geektyrant.com)
- Cuba’s first-ever zombie/horror film, “Juan of the Dead” (boingboing.net)