Friday, March 12, 2010

The Zombie Does Call

To Begin

I have seen many a zombie film, many, and while it was difficult to narrow it down to just eleven I felt it was necessary in order to keep this from going exceedingly long. I’m not just a fan of zombie films though, as evident by my latest book reviews, I’m a fan of anything zombie. Of course, once again, this passion is fueled through friends. While I missed the Zombie Walk in Atlanta this year I did have several friends who attended, we also have zombie themed parties, we discuss on a regular basis what exactly we would do during a zombie apocalypse (including the best type of clothes, transportation, and weapons), and play the video games (Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, etc). Before I get into the actual list I would also like to give a shout out to two “pioneers” of the zombie craze. While I’ll discuss Day of the Dead and the remake of Dawn of the Dead you can’t really think of anything in the zombie genre without discussing Romero. The man is a legend, a god if you will, among the fans of the living dead. I have had friends wait in line for hours just to get his autograph. His first film Night of the Living Dead hailing from 1968, has been discussed to no end , and few people will not know what you are talking about when you say, “They’re coming to get you Barbara.” So, a little salute to him Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead.The other would have to be Lucio Fulci. I’m not a big fan of Fulci’s Zombi 2 & Zombi 3, but I feel it necessary to mention him. The man is considered a legend in horror films and while I found Zombi 2 boring and ridiculous (it’s kind of retarded when a character simply watches a zombie bite him without even trying to stop it) he is a pioneer none the less. So, a salute to him as well. You’ll also notice a lack of the “voodoo” zombie movies, basically because I can’t stand them. While most people like to discuss the political, religious, and psychological meaning behind zombie films I’m not one of them. For me it’s simply the love of the genre. As I stated I’ve narrowed down this list to my top eleven, at the end I’ll give you a list of all the zombie films I’ve seen to which I actually remember the titles. Without further ado.

My Top Eleven

Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen)
Written by George A. Romero & James Gunn (“PG Porn“)
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Kelly.
I love the original Dawn of the Dead, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy everything about it. However, I feel that the remake is, overall, a much better film. Even though I really do miss the bikers. Dawn of the Dead features a group of survivors that hole up in a mall. During this time we are mainly given a glimpse into how people interact and how they survive. Whether that be shooting the living dead as a game, playing chess with binoculars, doing a little cross-dressing, or having someone emerge as the leader of the living. The movie doesn’t really harp on the “what are we going to do now” aspect, for the most part they seem content to just stay right where they are at, yet they plan an escape from the mall. The escape doesn’t go as expected and we are left wondering what will happen to those that remain. The only problem with Dawn of the Dead is that we never really feel for any of the characters, save for the one played by Sarah Polley. Although I did like the gun that owned the gun store. While I understand his death was necessary to move the story along I also don’t understand why he just didn’t tap into the sewer line and go into the mall to begin with. I will say however, even if this can be disputed, that this is the first film I remember having a zombie baby, courtesy of the highly underused (in this film) Mekhi Phifer.

Day of the Dead
Directed by George A. Romero (The Dark Half, Creepshow)
Written by George A. Romero
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Sherman Howard.
I was three years old when Day of the Dead came out and it is likely my favorite zombie film. The plot is simple enough. It takes place at a military compound underground and, like Dawn of the Dead, it centers on a group of survivors (many of which are military). There isn’t any profound difference between this and many other zombie films, except for two things. One, I still think this is not only the goriest zombie film I’ve ever seen, but likely one of the goriest films I have seen…period. A particular scene sticks out in my head and I find myself remembering it when I hear someone scream. As the base is being overrun (which was bound to happen, it is a horror film after all) one of the soldiers is pinned to the ground by the undead horde. His head is slowly ripped off as he is screaming. As it happens, and his vocal chords stretch, his screams gain a higher pitch. You see all of this is brutal detail, and the sound of that scream still lingers in my mind. The second aspect of the film that differentiates it from other zombie films comes in the character of Bub, played by Sherman Howard. For the first time (and a theme that will be played out not only in later Romero films but others as well) we have the “smart” zombie. Remember the lead zombie in Land of the Dead? He comes from Bub. I don’t really know why Romero decided to put this in there, I’m sure it had some political meaning, and I can’t really say I like this notion of zombies that can think and remember, but it definitely changed the idea of the “traditional” undead….that he created.

28 Days Later…
Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire)
Written by Alex Garland (novel The Beach, Halo)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Noah Huntley, Breendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Stuart McQuarrie, Christopher Eccleston.
Ok, for those of you who just rolled your heads because 28 Days Later… is not a zombie film but a movie about “rage infected humans” go take a flying fuck. The movie is a goddamn zombie flick. Not only that, but it is a great zombie flick. Danny Boyle changed the genre completely. He introduced the “fast” zombies that have become almost common place now. Day of the Dead (remake) and Dawn of the Dead (remake) I’m looking at you in particular (of course the zombies in the Day of the Dead remake also ran across a fucking ceiling *headdesk*). The plot is thus: A man wakes up from a coma in London to find himself alone (in this is the scene that made everyone jump when the car alarm went off), eventually he comes across these rage (*cough* undead) fuckers and is saved by a young man and woman. They inform him that there was an outbreak and the world turned to shit. They travel, people die, they meet up with a father and daughter, they travel (which includes that nerve wracking scene in the tunnel) until they come across a military controlled area. Here we come back to the underlying theme in every zombie movie. People are your own worse enemy, not the undead. Everything goes to shit and we eventually realize that the whole of England has been quarantined, thus setting up 28 Weeks Later…. The movie is amazing, both visually and in terms of storytelling, and I would have to say that the acting is the best I’ve seen in any foray into the living dead.

Dead Snow
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Written by Stif Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola (Kill Buljo: The Movie)
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rosten, Jeppe Laursen.
Where 28 Days Later… is serious as fuck…Dead Snow is the exact opposite. People, it has Nazi Zombies. Let me say that again and see if it sticks in your head NAZI…ZOMBIES. Seriously this movie is so over the top it is fanfuckingtastic. The premise? A group of young snow enthusiasts, I.e. alcoholics, go out for a little fun. In the middle of the night they are met by some weird dude who tells them that the mountain is cursed with Nazi’s. Cue said Nazi’s. From there it is mainly the group trying to survive as they get picked off one by one. But who can hate a machine gun strapped to the front of a snowmobile? Or the inevitable hacking of limbs and blood on virgin snow? Chainsaw! Say that with a voice that rings to the heavens, like you’re saying a Hallelujah! The movie is really just plain fun. My only problem with this one? I didn’t really feel that they were the undead so much as demons. They use weapons, they run in snow, they work as a unit (like actual soldiers). However, it is good clean entertainment.

Zombie Strippers
Directed by Jay Lee
Written by Jay Lee (The Slaughter, The Affairs of God)
Starring: Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, Roxy Saint, Penny Drake, Whitney Anderson.
Like Dead Snow, Zombie Strippers is a movie you can’t take seriously. The plot is fairly simple. There is an outbreak of zombies at a science lab, a group of soldiers goes in to take care of said outbreak, one of the soldiers is infected, runs away, and ends up in a strip club. A little fact about the virus in this one is that it is more potent in females. In other words they can still think, talk, and become somewhat super powered. Which happens at the strip club, naturally. The first one infected is Jenna Jameson, who I really miss from the days she actually looked good in porn. For some reason the men at the strip club find her even sexier and soon other strippers want to be zombie strippered out. They start infecting patrons, including a nice oral sex scene where Jenna bites the guys dick off. Before the military people come in again and clean house. Along the way is a side story of some goodie Christian girl (who certainly does not look Christian when she’s taking her clothes off, or with them on for that matter) who is trying to make money for her sick grandmother (if I remember correctly). The ever wonderful Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, plays the sleazy owner of the club. Two things: One, it is sad when the most attractive members of the cast are not the actresses playing the strippers, but two in the military unit; Jessica Custodio and Laura Bach. Two, you must see this movie simply to watch the scene in which Jenna Jameson shoots pool balls out of her vagina. You heard that correctly, pool balls out of her vagina. Now this movie isn’t the greatest zombie flick ever made, its not even that wonderful of a movie in general, but it is loads of fun.

Directed by Andrew Currie (Night of the Living, Mile Zero)
Written by Andrew Currie and Robert Chomiak (Mobile Suit Gundam Seed)
Starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K'Sun Ray, Tim Blake Nelson.
Remember when I said that Bub in Day of the Dead changed zombies? Here ya go. Set in a picturesque like 50’s or 60’s (depending on how you want to look at it, it’s fucking “Leave it to Beaver” people) town, zombies are used as pets/slaves. Remember the end of Shaun of the Dead when they show the zombies doing menial tasks like pushing shopping carts? Well multiply that. The film also has the whole advertising feel that was used in Starship Troopers. After the undead outbreak a colony was formed, that colony decided to go back to the way things were, simple. Some of the living dead are used for slave tasks, or, in the case of Tim Blake Nelsons character…other things. Fido is the “dog” in a sense of K’Sun Ray’s Timmy Robinson. While Fido is protecting him he kills someone. Here again, things go to shit. The movie, more so than anything, is charming. It is not your typical horror film, nor is it a typical comedy, it’s a dark comedy. I really enjoyed the movie. I haven’t seen it in awhile but I should definitely add it to my collection. Carrie-Anne Moss is wonderful and I can’t believe they got Billy Connolly to play a zombie named Fido. Tim Blake Nelson is also delightful, then again I think he is spectacular in everything he is in (looking at you O’ Brother Where Art Thou).

The Vanguard
Directed by Matthew Hope (In the Field)
Written by Matthew Hope
Starring: Ray Bullock Jr.
My review of The Vanguard after I initially saw it:
Ray Bullock Jr. stars as Max in this post-apocalyptic zombie film that takes place in rural England. As far as zombie films and independent films go, it’s not too shabby. Max is alone out in the woods where he faces “Biosyns” (they’re fucking zombies), living alone we basically hear an internal monologue for a large portion of the film. Soon there is a military presence (in the forms of “Trackers”), I don’t really know why they come into play. Apparently the military (part of a corporation) is going to waste the whole area anyway and their job is to basically kill any survivors, so it doesn’t make sense why they just don’t waste the whole area to begin with. We meet up with some other survivors. We find out that Max is the cure to the disease (ala I Am Legend) with some really weird story. Bottom line, it’s a good zombie film done on a small budget. Watch it just to see Max go after some zombies duel wielding hatchets.
Now: When I look back on the film I actually see it as better then I painted it in this review. For example, again looking at Bub, the zombies begin to work together, even communicate, to achieve their goal. It also says something that I really remember the movie. Even though I saw it awhile ago I can still see it with clarity. To re-iterate what I said in my initial review as well, watch it just to see Max duel wielding hatchets. I’m actually surprised to see all the negative reviews on IMDB, for the budget this film was likely made with, and the acting of Ray Bullock Jr., I think the film actually stands out amongst its competitors.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland 2)
Written by Rhett Reese (Monsters, Inc. Deadpool) and Paul Wernick (“The Joe Schmo Show“)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray.
I remember when I saw the first trailer for Zombieland I about died. Yep, right there with my pants around my ankles I about died. Wait…Zombieland came in trying to feed off the wake of Shaun of the Dead and while it passed with flying colors I also don’t think it compares to Shaun. The humor in Shaun is better, the story is better, and the interaction between the characters is better. What Zombieland has for it though is a fantastic cast, and an Americanization of the zombie comedy. The story is more of a road trip then just your generic zombie film, and as such it died a little in my overall perspective of the film. In fact, the first time I watched it I wasn’t even that impressed, especially with Bill Murray. I felt the scene with him took away not only from the pacing of the movie, but from the overall feel of it in general. Upon subsequent viewings I can actually enjoy the scene with him, and understanding that it is a road trip movie I can look at it with different eyes. Zombieland follows a ragtag group of survivors. That’s pretty much it. The underlying subplots would be a growing romance between Eisenberg and Stone and the illusive Twinkie that Harrelson searches for. The movie doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There isn’t any new and spectacular undead kills (yes, I realize one of them gets a piano dropped on them)…ok, maybe their aren‘t any “spectacular“ zombie kills…I totally forgot that Harrelson uses random weapons like they‘re candy. No new explanation for the cause of the zombie apocalypse. It doesn’t have a high gore level or raise the bar for action. What Zombieland does is combine all of the elements that we love in a zombie movie and make it funny.

Shaun of the Dead
Directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, "Spaced")
Written by Simon Pegg (Run Fatboy Run, Hot Fuzz) and Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Morgan, Nicola Cunningham, Bill Nighy.
The…wicked step child….of…every…zombie…film. I fucking love Shaun of the Dead. Hands down it is my favorite above any other. Why? Because it is every other zombie movie. Literally. The guys put so much in this film it is literally a fangasm. From the music, to the references, to the slight innuendos and dialogue. You know you are watching the work of a fan when you see this. Like their buddy cop movie Hot Fuzz the guys made this film not so much for the casual observer but for the people like them. Oh man. So the plot (You’ve got red on you) is thus (You’re dead). Two slackers wake up one day to find that the world has been overrun with zombies (the Zed word). In a plan to figure out what do to Shaun grabs his mother, his recently x’ed girlfriend, her two friends, and his best friend, and they haul ass to get to their favorite bar. The bar that runs their lives, The Winchester. Along the way they kill zombies with pretty much everything imaginable. One of the things that I love most about this movie is they use the slow zombies. While fast zombies are certainly terrifying (I would most assuredly be fucked if this were the case) the slow living dead are the ones that are truly scary. Simply because they typically don’t get you one on one, but rather in groups. It’s the humor of the film that stands out more then anything though. Now, I’ve heard it is difficult for some people to understand British humor (I’m sure this is the reason why they make so many successful british comedies into American ones) but I find the humor of Shaun to be universal. How can you not laugh when they throw records? Or when Queen comes on and they have their little dance number hitting the zombie with pool sticks? If you’ve not seen Shaun of the Dead you should…right this moment…right now.

Trailer Park of Terror
Directed by Steven Goldmann (Metallica: 2 of One, Bruce Springsteen: A Secret History)
Written by Timothy Dolan (Hansel & Gretel, Monster Mutt)
Starring: Nichole Hiltz.
One night I was flipping through movies to rent on the boob tube and I slid on over to the horror movie section. My roomie was planning on watching a movie with me and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Don’t rent something retarded.” My eyes gazed lovingly down the list and as soon as I saw the title, Trailer Park of Terror I hit the rent button. His reaction, “Goddamn’t I said rent something that wasn’t stupid.” He started to get up and leave the room when the opening credits started. By the end of the film we both looked at each other and agreed that, holy shit, that movie was pretty fucking good. You have to go in it knowing that it is a B film. You have to. For fucksakes Trace Adkins plays the devil (the man is 6’6”). No one is going to win any Oscars. It’s not going to get nominated for any screenplay awards. Shit, most of the actors are likely never even going to make it into an A-Caliber film. But the movie is plain old fucking entertainment. Taken straight from the website...because the site puts it ten times better then I ever could. "Six troubled high school students and their chaperone are returning from a retreat when their bus crashes, stranding them in the middle of Trailer Park Hell...literally. Without warning, Hillbilly Zombies looking for fun begin slaughtering the teens in gruesome fashion." Like Dead Snow though the zombies are much more demon than zombie. They talk, think, and generally act like hellions. Overall the movie is fucking hilarious. When one of the undead gets blown up he basically looks around going, “Where’s my dick?” Seriously…just take my word for it and watch it.

The Zombie Diaries
Written and Directed by Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates (the only thing they’ve done)
Starring: Russell Jones, Craig Stovin, Jonnie Hurn, James Fisher, Anna Blades, Imogen Church, Victoria Nalder.
Do you like the “reality” style? You know the films like Cloverfield? What was that other piece of shit…oh yeah, The Blair Witch Project? Well, in the undead genre I would have to say The Zombie Diaries is by far the best one of the group. Yes, I am tossing Diary of the Dead and Quarantine into this. Quarantine by far had the highest budget (at least it appears that way). Diary of the Dead has Romero. The Zombie Diaries is as independent as they come. The movie follows along three separate stories. A news crew, a married couple, and a group of survivors. Like other mentioned before it though it likes to follow more along that notion that the really terrifying aren’t the living dead but the living. I can’t remember much about this movie to be honest. The only reason why I mention it here is because, in it’s little subgenre, I think it was the best I’ve seen. I do remember a few parts though and I’ll share them with you. In one part we find two people, in their mid-twenties, who not only like to torture the zombies, but they like to kill any other humans they come across. In a way this is understandable. How many psychotic people do you think actually live in this world, how many stop themselves from doing what they really want because of how they will be punished, how many would love the chance at anarchy? In another part one of the survivors (with the camera) runs towards a another group of survivors. The man has been alone for awhile now, the sight of the other survivors brings on kind of like a fever pitch inside of him and he sprints towards them. The kicker? He is also running with a group of zombies, he, being covered in blood and disheveled, is shot along with them. The movie isn’t anything epic. It is nothing to write home about. I wouldn’t even say you should rent it. But, like I said, if you’re into the “reality” like films…try this one out.

In Conclusion

In putting this list together I tried to cross genres. Whether that be the “reality” zombie movie, the comedy, the parody, the drama. In many cases I simply tried to pick the best one that I think represented each of those. So there you have it, the eleven best zombie films…in my opinion at least. Below is a list of movies that I have seen that deal with the undead. Just so you know I’m not a complete fucking retard who just happens to have seen a few movies. Now…this list doesn’t include them all, by any means, sometimes I simply can’t remember the titles. For example: I’ve seen some small independent film that I think was shot by either first year college students, or high school students. The film takes place primarily in two locations, a high school, and a house party. The movie is ballsfuckingretarded and makes absolutely no sense but they tried, and I’ll give them at least a B for effort. Another example: I saw some weird movie that combined both aliens and zombies. In this flick the zombies were actually humans infected by aliens (which would make the dicks rot off of men). The reason the survivors lived is because of…alcohol. Yep, when the nice little asteroids came down and infected the earth if you were drunk you got to live. Makes total sense right? Anyway, I just want you to know that not every film I’ve seen is listed. I have seen a lot.

The List

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead (remake)
Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (remake)
Land of the Dead
28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later
Zombie: The Beginning
Dead Snow
Diary of the Dead
Zombie Strippers
American Zombie
The Vanguard
Planet Terror
Shaun of the Dead
Braindead...Dead Alive
Army of Darkness
Boy Eats Girl
The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead II
Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave
Resident Evil
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Extinction
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Trailer Park of Terror
The Zombie Diaries
Zombi 2
Zombi 3
Island of the Dead
Return of the Living Dead

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