Over the years I have watched and enjoyed so many zombie movies. Some have been dire, some fantastic, while even at worst they have been entertaining. As a fan I can appreciate the skill that went into the old black and white horror films that although not full of spectacular special effects can be equally as frightening when comparing to the newer films of today. The zombie films of the new millennium are brimming with superb effects and are so realistic when it comes to violence that only those with a good stomach can watch without hiding behind a cushion for protection. All that said zombie movies are huge fun to watch plus I just never tire of them. Below are my top five in no particular order. You may or may not agree with my choice, read on and see what you think.
Dance of the Dead 2008
Dance of the Dead is a great tongue in cheek comedy zombie horror movie that I really enjoyed. The story is set around an American high school prom. Some of the kids decide not to go but then find that their town has been overrun by zombies so rush to the high school to save their friends. Along the way they come up against the zombies so have to fight their way through to save the day. Combining horror and comedy is not everyone’s cup of tea but for me it is a refreshing change, so did they get the balance right?
I had heard on the grapevine quite a lot about Dance of the Dead. Most of the talk was of a positive nature some calling it a classic. To my mind a classic has to be very special indeed so I had to give this film a whirl to decide for myself, classic or not? Dance of the Dead is directed by Gregg Bishop not such a seasoned director of horror but I still expected good things.
Visually the special zombie effects are phenomenal with some of the chase scenes being edge of the seat stuff. The graveyard is sited right next to the high school where the prom is taking place so I expected plenty of zombie action to take place there and I wasn’t disappointed. As the teens run through the graveyard the graves open up with zombies jumping out at break neck speed, then pursue the kids in a relentless chase that is both scary and exciting.
Jimmy played by Jared Kuznitz and Lindsay played by Greyson Chadwick are the main characters in the film. They take on the zombies armed with baseball bats plus a whole lot of other objects. I think the two young actors did really well as the acting did not come over as cheesy, something that teen movies sometimes do, especially as this was their main acting début. The upshot of the story is of course that good triumphs over evil so all the zombies get blown to smithereens in the gymnasium of the school. There is plenty of action in all parts of the school before this spectacular finale keeping the tension going nicely.
The remainder of the cast characters encompass just what you expect from an American high school. You have the nerdy types who are convinced quite quickly about the zombie infection, the cheerleaders who of course need protecting, the tough nuts who are all mouth and no action when it comes to it, plus a whole host more who in the end have to work as a team to survive. Some don’t survive of course and the scenes where they meet their demise are fantastic with arms and legs flying all over the place while heads roll more than in the French Revolution, its just awesome!
Dance of the Dead is well worth viewing. I wouldn’t put it in my classics cabinet but I have to say as an independent zombie teen horror it is one of my favourites. There is plenty of gore and blood to satisfy the most blood thirsty of fans plus this film does not lecture us on morals, ethics or anything else for that matter it is just a whole load of zombie infested fun.
Dawn Of the Dead 2004
Dawn of the Dead 2004 is a remake of the 1978 George Romero classic directed this time around by George Snyder. This updated version is a classic in itself with a very updated format plus phenomenal special effects full of blood and gore that will satisfy the most critical of zombie film fanatics. I am very into zombie themed films so as I watch so many I am really critical. A zombie outing has to be good to please me. It has to have a reasonable story, good acting, lots of horror, great special effects and ultimately scare the pants off me. As a result to get into my top five it has to be an incredible film.
In Dawn of the Dead 2004 Sarah Polley plays nurse Anna who wakes to find her world has been infested by zombies. Even her boyfriend has been bitten so has become one of the undead making it a very frightening prospect for our heroine. Ving Rhames plays the policeman that Anna teams up with as they enter the shopping mall together with a few select survivors to battle it out with the zombies. One bite and they could all be transformed making the story tense and thrilling.
The film is certainly action packed with never a dull moment as scenes depicting lots of violence and killing come thick and fast. The acting is of a very high standard especially the two leads who just get the right balance of humour and seriousness that makes the film enjoyable to watch rather then wooden actors who reel off their lines with no feeling.
I loved the finale to the film as you are left wondering what the final fate of the people will be. The last scene shows a huge mass of zombies bearing down on our heroes, then it cuts away so you don’t get to see whether they escape or go to meet their maker. It has to be said that Dawn of the Dead 2004 is extremely violent so is definitely not for the faint hearted. There are many depictions of heads coming off that look so realistic it makes you wince. It is a real roller coaster ride of a film that creates great tension. Just when you think the heroes are winning it all turns and they are off again, its awesome!
This updated version is so very different from its predecessor in all ways. The zombies are far more realistic while they move much quicker. There is a larger cast too making for a more comprehensive storyline while the special effects cannot be surpassed. Zombie lovers will love the blood and guts element while the available DVD with added footage that saw the cutting room floor is a necessary purchase for us collectors. Just to round off a really great zombie film the soundtrack includes none other than my idol Johnny Cash. This remake definitely belongs in my top five best of all zombie movies.
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Zombie films have been on the go for years. They are a genre that either floats your boat or it doesn’t. Myself I just love them! I actually enjoy going to the cinema to be frightened to death, it’s a great night out. Night of the Living Dead 1990 is a remake of the original 1968 classic but is bigger, better and much more frightening.
The 1968 version was shot in black and white, while this updated offering is of course in colour. The monochrome film has its own type of atmosphere that only comes about when shot this way but for me the addition of colour is what takes the 1990 version to a different level. The special effects are really good looking very realistic and gory while the camera work plus production is also much improved as you would expect with a twenty odd years time difference.
The Director of Night of the Living Dead is Tom Savini who has stepped out of his make up effects shoes straight into the directors seat and I have to say he has done a terrific job. The cast is mainly made up of unknown actors but this doesn’t detract from your enjoyment in the slightest in fact it is a plus making the film seem more real. When I watch a film with a leading man or woman that is a huge star such as Tom Cruise for example somehow it is not as believable, but these actors could be you or me, I like that. The starring roles are played by Patricia Tallman who is totally new to me and Tony Todd who I remember slightly from “Candyman” films.
Story wise the film is much the same as the earlier movie with a few slight differences bringing the tale more up to date. The two main characters Ben and Barbara are holed up in a house, toting their guns, along with a few other characters who are the usual mix of girl who screams at everything hysterically, her boyfriend who seems a little more capable plus one other character who is a bit of a dumbo.
Tension wise the film is very gripping with an eerie atmosphere. Zombies creep past windows and doors while you fully expect them to come crashing through it is not the case. The air of expectancy builds to the point where you are on the edge of your seat then they strike. Its simply a fantastic zombie film that has a simple, some might say, obvious storyline but for me lacks nothing. A good zombie attack film does not necessarily require a complicated story as all I want to see are great looking zombies, plenty of zombie killing, good special effects along with great acting that isn’t contrived or ham.
Night of the Living Dead 1990 is a superb Zombie attack film with plenty of suspense to keep the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. I think that Tom Savini has done a cracking job with this remake. After all the first film is a classic being a hard act to follow. Sometimes with remakes you can’t help but compare the two ending up being unfavourable toward the remake due to nostalgia but not this film. Night of the Living Dead 1990 itself, can be regarded as an all time zombie classic.
Dead Snow 2009
Dead Snow is a Norwegian made horror film that has all the ingredients required to create a great scary movie. Put together zombies, Nazis plus violence all set in the freezing temperatures of snowy landscapes and what you get is one of my favourite zombie films. Dead Snow is full of humour which I love while still being a gory zombie film with atmosphere.
Written and also directed by Tommy Wirkola who you may not know Dead Snow is not one of the most famous of horror movies but in my opinion it is one of the best made out of Hollywood zombie films to hit the big screen. The star of the film Charlotte Frogner is a complete newbie to me being a virtual unknown outside of her homeland of Norway but played her part very well. In fact most of the cast are unknowns making this horror very believable.
The story begins in a log cabin in the mountains where a group of friends who are medical students are due to meet up with a girl named Sara to party and have fun. They soon learn that Sara is not going to show (we already know she won’t as we have seen what has happened to her) but they get on with the partying anyway. Then enters a weird character warning the friends of weird happenings involving Nazis from World War II along with civilians who have risen. The usual thing I find in these comedy horror films is that the main party never take notice of warnings of impending doom, however it is just as well or the mayhem, fun and violence that follows would not ensue if they did.
Dead Snow is a fantastic tongue in cheek zombie film that has loads of funny scenes to match the blood thirsty violence in equal measure. The depiction of Nazis as zombies just adds to the fun after all who would be on the side of the Nazis anyway?The missing girls boyfriend sets off to look for her while the six remaining characters are left to fight off the hordes of Nazi zombies making for lots of decapitations by chain saw and the like.
The mountain setting is a breathtaking vista while the actual zombies are very realistic as they goose step their way around as only the Nazis can. I wouldn’t say the story is epic but that does not really matter as what us fans want from a great zombie film is lots of zombie killing violence. On this count Tommy Wirkola certainly delivers. Most of the characters will encounter a zombie or ten while some of the killing scenes are very gratuitous.
Dead Snow has done well at the box office for a none Hollywood blockbuster while leaving plenty of scope for sequels galore. I really enjoyed the film as it has a little of everything to satisfy us zombie movie fans. If you fancy a quiet night in with a crazy zombie themed DVD then you will love Dead Snow. Word of warning don’t eat you pizza or chilli when watching as when intestines start flying all over the screen it really can put you off your food.
Plague of the Zombies 1966
Ah The Hammer House of Horror! These film studios produced some classic horror movies one of the best being Plague of the Zombies. Situated in England they were a very prolific film making studios back in the sixties and seventies making some unforgettable films that horror fans will know such as the Dracula season of films. Plague of the Zombies has all the hallmarks of a great Hammer film so enters my five all time favourites without question.
Directed by John Gilling the film is set in a 19th century village in Cornwall where strange unaccountable deaths begin to happen. The film is full of clichéd happenings but that does not seem to matter as I just enjoy the lustrous technicolour scenes, riveting dialogue plus superb acting. I am of course speaking with a hint of sarcasm as this film apart from the great colour aspect has none of the aforementioned attributes and so being not the best makes it really good!
The main character in the film is Sir James Forbes who is played by Andre Morrell who was a regular actor who starred in Hammer films. He really over acts the part of the stuffy upper crust sir making it a memorable role. Zombies had not been a subject for the studio prior to this 1966 offering as they had done so well with the Dracula films starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. This then was a different direction but while not ending up a Hammer classic for the aforementioned reasons, it is one of mine.
Plague of the Zombies also incorporates voodoo and witchcraft into the story meating out the subject more plus giving some quite frightening and controversial scenes for the time. In fact to say this film was made in the sixties there are some really scary parts that create a tense atmosphere keeping you on the edge of your seat in terms of anticipating what comes next.
Plague of the Zombies is what I call a classic. Made in the day when effects were not at their most advanced but still able to frighten plus entertain it is no mean feat and that is why it made my top five list.
If you enjoyed these movies you may also want to check out Timeout’s Top 100 Horror Films.