As I was growing up my parents allowed me to watch whatever I wanted too. Regardless of whether they were right or wrong (they were right) it meant I saw a lot of scary stuff at a young age. Some of these movies often had zombies in them & I loved being scared by them. It wasn’t until I saw Return of the Living Dead that I was legit terrified of a movie – it had such an effect on me & I have seen it more then 50 times now.
I became obsessed with zombie movies & have seen some of the best & worst the genre has offered. Too often they are poorly done & result in a boring or tedious movies. The biggest crime in any horror is for the movie to be boring & if my eyes don’t light up when a zombie shuffles on screen then you are doing it wrong.
Anyway…enough about the bad, this list is all about the good. Here are my top 10 zombie movies to date:
10 – Flight of the Living Dead (2007)
A group of scientists smuggle a container holding a fellow scientist who has been infected with a zombie virus. As the plane passes through a violent thunderstorm the zombie escapes & begins infecting fellow passengers.
The concept behind this is fantastic, a confined space where leaving is not an option. It is low budget but you wouldn’t know it except with some of the cast. The story, while implausible, is exciting & the suspense is built up well.
9 – The Dead Next Door (1989)
The world is collapsing under the onslaught of a zombie outbreak so the government sets up a zombie squad tasked with finding a cure. During their searches they run into a crazy cult desperate to preserve zombies as part of God’s new world order.
A genuine surprise when I first watched it. The story was surprisingly clever & the introduction of the cult later, very exciting. There are some amazing scenes of gore & the zombies look very authentic…pity about the acting though.
8 – Re-Animator (1985)
A classic take on a H.P. Lovecraft story where a medical student helps his strange housemate experiment in reanimating the dead.
Combining humour, sex & gore in ways that I hadn’t really experienced before. It takes massive liberties with the original content but by time you reach the infamous ending you won’t care.
7 – Rec (2007)
A TV reporter & her cameraman are covering the night shift at a fire station when they get a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment. Once they arrive at the building they realise things aren’t right with some of the people inside.
Spanish made, hand-held camera film wouldn’t normally be high on any of my lists but Rec has some of the best scares in a zombie movie ever. The suspense is hard to take & it never fails to shock you all the way up to the unexpected ending.
6 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Barbara & her brother Johnny are visiting the gravestone of their father when they are attacked by a zombie who kills Johnny. Barbara escapes to a nearby farmhouse where she meets up with a group of survivors. As the night goes more & more zombies begin to attack the farmhouse.
The movie that pretty much started it all. It is still as effective as it always was even in black & white. What Romero started here could never have been understood back then & every time I watch it I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy it. An ending that fills you with deep sorrow…
5 – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
I was late to the Zombie Flesh Eaters party not seeing it until about 8 years ago. Thankfully when I did see it I got the full uncut version. If you do sit down to watch the movie make sure it is the uncut version, the rest leaves out to many great moments.
A boat sails into New York harbour & a zombie is found aboard. The owner of the boat is missing & his daughter, along with a journalist, travel to a remote island to find him. They meet up with 2 holidaymakers on the way & when they arrive they find the island besieged with a disease that re-animates the dead.
As part of the video nasty scare of the 80’s, Zombie Flesh Eaters is well-known if not for the right reasons. It’s a pity as the movie is excellent. It is well-shot, well-acted, graphic & at times very scary. An underwater zombie vs. shark still looks amazing & the infamous ‘eye’ scene will have you cringing. A masterpiece…
4 – Braindead (1993)
Lionel is a mama’s boy with an extremely over-bearing mother. He falls head over heels with a local woman who believes it is their destiny to be together. Lionel’s mother is desperate to keep them apart & attempts to ruin a date at the zoo. It is there she gets bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey that kills her & turns her into a zombie. Lionel does everything he can to keep her hidden but before long she begins infecting the rest of the town.
Possible the most disgusting & bloody film on this list, Braindead is batshit crazy. The acting is so over the top that it is hilarious but excellent to watch. The transformations into zombies are extremely gory & result in some of the nastiest scenes. Ears & pus being eaten in bowls of custard, 2 zombies having sex with a pole jammed through their stomachs, a zombie baby that is a nightmare to handle & much more.
The final third of the movie is the best bit resulting in an orgy of blood & guts. Not for the faint-hearted…
3 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The 2nd movie of George A. Romero’s ‘dead’ series sees the zombie outbreak becoming uncontrollable. 2 SWAT team members, a traffic reporter & his girlfriend get out of town & find refuge in a shopping mall. Together they fortify it & protect it from the dead but there are more threats then just zombies out there.
Dawn of the Dead continues Romero’s theme of hoping against hope even in face of impending doom. This cast are excellent, the zombies scary (although the make-up looks poor by today’s standards) & the message thought provoking. As our group make the mall their home & zombies come far & wide it is not hard to see that Romero was poking fun at America’s need to shop.
Dawn is less about the zombie threat & more about the human struggle, be it with each other or a larger threat… Extremely graphic at times & incredibly down-beat, Dawn is a lesson in zombie film-making.
2 – Day of the Dead (1985)
The 3rd part of Romero’s dead series is by far the most depressing of his movies.
At this stage in the story the dead rule the earth, there are few survivors & those that have are hidden away. A group of scientists & military soldiers hide away in an underground bunker. The scientists & military are at logger-heads over the experiments being done on zombies. Tensions are high & the threat of zombies both in the caves & above ground are causing big problems.
For many years I hated this movie, it was just to depressing with some of the most graphic scenes I had ever seen in a zombie movie. Now I consider it my favourite of Romero’s dead series & as you can see by this list, my 2nd favourite overall.
A world lost to zombies where the only way we can survive is to hide underground is a scary thought. Add a motley crew of soldiers led by a crazed captain & death might even seem preferable. All I keep thinking as I watch Day is the words ‘is it worth it?”
Like his previous movies Romero tells the story of the survivors rather then the zombies. In Day of the Dead Romero assembled his best cast yet, the acting some of the best seen in horror.
The zombies are the best looking of the series & when it calls for gore, gore it delivers. I found these movie zombies to be some of the most fearsome. However unlike Night & Dawn the ending is actually a bit more upbeat…no bad thing considering the movies main focuses.
1 – Return of the Living Dead (1985)
The movie that started an obsession….
2 inept employees of a medical supply warehouse accidently release a gas that re-animates the dead. It goes into the atmosphere causing a rain shower which drives it into the ground of a nearby cemetery. As the night goes on the dead come back to life & all they want is brains.
This is the movie that scared the crap out of me when I was younger. I had never seen zombies that could run & think…the thought of it was very scary. Sure it does away with a lot of conventional zombie rules but it is so entertaining that it doesn’t matter. It is terrifying in its own right but mixes black humour & some amazing effects.
An amazing soundtrack, a top cast, some great make-up & an ending that has you reaching for some booze. See this movie….
I have to add that part of the appeal in the movie when I was growing up was Linnea Quigley’s nude dance on the gravestone. It’s a seriously badass scene even if she is wearing a flesh-coloured patch which makes her look like Barbie.