The Zombie Lowdown with Andy and Ben
Since the first time my Dad let me (rather inappropriately) watch Evil Dead at the age of nine, I have been rather obsessed with zombie films, and horrors in general. Having watched a great deal of them, read a great deal of undead literature (graphic novels and otherwise) and of course, The Walking Dead TV phenomenon, I’ve been asked for my opinions in the form of a top 10 rundown of my favourites. It’s a short list, so if there’s any you think should be on there, they’re probably on the outskirts. Nevertheless, as I’m the one writing this, you’ll have to deal with it.
Having had many arguments with fellow comic Ben Messenger about the zombie genre in general, we decided to battle it out in the public eye. Despite the fact we both believe we’re right (of course), feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section below. But most importantly, let us know who you agree with most. As a side note, I’d rather not include running zombies. Let’s not be ridiculous.
Here we go.
10 – The Zombie Diaries (2006)
Not the most critically acclaimed film, but a British gem in my opinion. Following the outbreak over a course of weeks, the story follows different groups of survivors in a world where they are forced to make difficult decisions in order to endure. With many twists and turns, and some realistically brutal scenes, it’s most certainly one to watch if you’re a fan of horror movies with a more independent and realistic feel.
9 – Colin (2008)
Another British film, and probably the most successful film ever made on such a budget. One of the main reasons it made the top 10 is that it was supposedly completed on a budget of approximately £45, and most of that on coffee. Naturally it has become a bit of a cult classic. It ended up being shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
The film follows the main character Colin, who returns home with an injured arm and realizes his housemate Damien is missing. Attacked by the now zombie Damien whilst cleaning his arm, he becomes a zombie himself. The storyline follows Colin in particular, and is reminiscent of Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985) in the sense that the zombie has some of its former self, despite being undead. There are family interactions, underlying stories following vigilante zombie killers, and by the end, you will feel for Colin.
8 – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
A bit of a video nasty, it’s regarded as one of the true classic zombie films. Definitely for those who love a gory film! A British Newspaper Reporter and a young woman have to travel to the Antilles Islands to track down the woman’s father. They arrive, and the rumours are that he has died of an unknown disease. They also find an island cursed by voodoo, and a doctor talking complete nonsense through his alcoholism. Oh yeah, and they find a great deal of flesh hungry Zombies. Looking for a solution to the problem from Western Science, rather than the local Voodoo, the outsiders are in for a rough afternoon.
7 – Evil Dead (1981)
Not zombies in the traditional sense, of course, but how could I leave this one out? Five American University friends travel to a cabin in the woods for an isolated weekend (cue the clichés). Whilst there, they find the ‘Book of the Dead’ and some tapes of demonic incantations from said book: resurrecting some long since dead evil. With underlying comedy, some ridiculous dismemberment and gore on a low budget; you have to watch this one to call yourself a true fan of the Undead.
6 – Juan of the Dead (2011)
Those who say the classics are the best are probably correct, but this isn’t far off the pace. The main characters are Juan and Lazaro, both of whom are trying to reconnect with their daughter and son respectively. Set in Cuba, an outbreak of the undead gives the two friends an opportunity to do this, as they set up a business charging people who can’t bear to kill their loved ones once they turn. A very funny film, with underlying political messages, and romantic interests throughout, not to mention the fantastic scenes of zombie carnage; Juan and Lazaro are true innovators in terms of their butchery.
5 – Dead Snow (2009)
The second subtitled film to make it into the top 10, but easily the best zombie flick I have seen in the last few years. One of the main characters, ‘Erlend’, is a movie buff and many horror and zombie clichés are pointed out by him. The main one being a group of students spending a weekend in a secluded cabin, this time on a Norwegian Mountain Range. What starts out as a raucous party turns into a bloodbath. The medical students aren’t aware of the history of the location, but in WWII the locals were horrendously mistreated, and a lot of their jewelry and valuables stolen by the Nazi Soldiers. The soldiers were driven into the mountains by the locals who had simply had enough, and the majority of them died there. The students find some of the jewelry and gold from the war, which resurrects the those dead Nazis. The result? Nazi Zombies!
Expect fantastic scenes of gore, comedy and even romance. A great watch.
4 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
An instant cult classic. The romzomcom following the characters of Shaun and Ed, who are struggling to do anything real with their lives, and suffering the backlash of friends and loved ones as a result. Spending every night in the pub is not Shaun’s girlfriend’s idea of a good life plan, but when the outbreak hits, it seems to be a good refuge from the horde of the walking dead. One of the funniest films of the last decade, and one of the best zombie films of all time. Clearly the lads are big fans of the undead, as they’ve created a widely praised masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it yet, close this window and open Amazon.
3 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Widely regarded as the best zombie film of all time, the second in the legendary Romero trilogy appears third in this list. The story follows a group of friends who decide to make a life for themselves in an abandoned mall, once the Zombie epidemic takes over mainstream America. One of the characters, ‘Fly Boy’, is a helicopter pilot, which is remarkably helpful in this situation, but another is pregnant; swings and roundabouts. The friends seem to have a good thing going, until a much larger group decide to take the place for themselves. Very dry, tongue-in-cheek humour throughout, rather innovatory special effects (considering the release date) and a plot which will leave you wanting more. This classic is undoubtedly one of the all time greats.
2 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Widely regarded as the original in a colourful era of Zombie Movies, the George Romero masterpiece is one of the scariest films I have seen, and without the need to be excessively gory, as many modern films seem to be. Beginning in a secluded cemetery, a brother and sister are attacked by a completely unknown phenomenon at the time…a zombie. The brother Johnny is killed, and Barbara manages to make it to an abandoned farmhouse, where she meets with Ben, the eponymous hero. The duo find more survivors in the basement and try to fortify the house, in an attempt to survive the onslaught. I refuse to spoil it for anyone, but when you have watched it, you’ll have to admit…you would NEVER have guessed the ending.
1 – Day of the Dead (1985)
A controversial decision? Probably.
Personally, I think it’s the most underrated of the trilogy. The film reveals more about human nature in response to extreme circumstances than any zombie film to date. Following a team of military personnel and scientists conducting research in an underground missile silo, tensions break out and tempers flare. One of the scientists (aptly nicknamed “Dr Frankenstein”) believes that the zombies can be domesticated and controlled, whereas the military would prefer to drill them full of holes without a second thought. Conflicts in opinions on solutions to the crisis leads to an inevitable Mexican stand-off, resulting in one of the most exhilarating and brutal conclusions to any zombie film I’ve seen, and I have seen a great deal of them! Can zombies be trained to fight, to be loyal? Watch to find out!
Over to you Ben!
When Andy Chambers asked me to compile a list of my top 10 zombie films I was chomping at a bit of a human hand to do it. At 26 years old, I admittedly have a childlike fascination with the macabre world of zombie horror – I love that society always crumbles, watching unlikely people co-operate to survive. If you’re a zombie novice or zombie hunter elite, I’m sure my list will satisfy your brain-hungry self’s need for gore, guts and guffaws aplenty:
10. Zombi AKA Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
Now I’ll be the first to admit this film is terrible. It’s oh so terrible but the kind of terrible where it’s almost good. The film is the only one in which you can see a zombie in an underwater tussle with a shark to see which will end up in a watery grave. Ridiculous.
9. 28 Days Later (2002)
This is the tale of man, waking up alone in a hospital bed to find the world gone haywire. It’s a film that won’t leave you for some time after viewing. Though not technically a zombie film, as the villains are infected with a rage inducing virus, I couldn’t leave this from my list as the scenes of a deserted London are worth the price of admission alone.
8. Night of the living Dead (1968)
The one that started it all. The original Night of the Living Dead is the first in the original Dead trilogy and the film that spurred a genre. The tale of an unfortunate set of survivors spending a night trapped in a zombie sieged farmhouse is as intense as it is nerve racking. A must see for any true fan, though I do personally prefer the 1990 remake.
7. Land of the Dead (2005)
Land of the Dead is George A. Romero’s return to the genre over 20 years later and what a comeback it is. Originally titled Dead Reckoning, the film is about zombies getting gradually smarter. It’s very similar to what started with Bub in Day of the Dead(1985). They attack the last haven from the undead, called Fiddler’s Green, and the hero Riley and his crew must stop them with the use of Dead Reckoning, a multimillion pound train-like armoured truck. Don’t get distracted by the skyflowers.
6. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I remember sitting up late in the evening before seeing this remake of my all-time favourite film and seeing the first ten minutes of the film previewed, which whet my appetite for the fast paced gore fest that ensued. This was the first film I’d watched where the zombies ran (rather than shambled) which to this day I’m not a fan of, but this was a fast paced, action packed remake I couldn’t help but enjoy, even if it did lose the social commentary of the original.
5. Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
Long before Shaun of the Dead showed us that zombies could be as scary as they are funny, there was this gem. A hilarious take on the zombie films of yore in which the zombies could only be killed by lighting, which set up a cheeky nod to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. This was the first series of films to have zombies talk and coined the classic ‘BRAINS!’ which is to be yelped from the undead for generations.
4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The first ‘ZomRomCom’; Shaun of the Dead is a hilarious tale of retail worker nobody ‘Shaun’ finding himself amidst a break-up and viral break out!
It’s a genuinely funny film with equal measures of both gore and tomfoolery! What I like most about it is even non-zombie fans will enjoy it, even if they are missing out all the the countless nods to the classics of the genre.
3. Night of the Living Dead (1990)
This 1990 remake of the 1968 original is one of the better remakes in the overcrowded genre. I personally prefer the remake to the original due in part to the advancement of technology and Director Tom Savina’s use of gore (I’m rather blood thirsty). Maybe it’s because I saw this before the original but nonetheless a brilliant film and the story that started it all.
2. Day of the Dead (1985)
Probably the most underrated of the original Dead trilogy; Day of the Dead tells the tale of a group of scientists and soldiers vying for control in a underground army bunker. The soldiers think only of themselves whilst the scientist search fruitlessly for a cure or some kind of solution. A much slower pace than the others gives this film an opportunity to explore other avenues such the infamous zombie named Bub who slowly learns how to act more human over time.
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
My all-time favourite zombie film for many reasons; I remember watching this as a child walking into my cousins’ living room and seeing the scene where a zombie clambers onto some boxes and inadvertently get the top of their skull lopped off by the rotating blades of a helicopter. I was enthralled. I love the story and it’s a nod to the zombie-like nature of modern consumerism which was a big change in the world at the time, the film being shot in one of America’s first ever shopping malls. As a child, I loved the freedom of having a mall to yourself the most, and that’s all anyone wants really, to have everything you could ever need!
Ben and Andy will debut their podcast ‘The Lowdown’ very soon here on PPSF.
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So there you have it. Do you agree with us? Are there any zombie classics we’ve missed were dying to get on the list? Share your zombified thoughts below.