PART 2: No.# 66-61
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to conduct my own list of Top 66 Zombie films is the fact that the article in SFX Magazine Special Zombies kept putting films that they didn’t even like at the bottom of the list. This is a huge travesty as there have been hundreds of zombie films produced and not one zombie film on that UK magazine’s list they should have been ashamed of. On my list I am not ashamed of any of them. I’ve seen a whole lot of bad zombie films (ZOMBIE LAKE and FLESH EATER come immediately to mind) but despite the questionable quality of some of the films on my list (and I’m sure you dear zombie lovers won’t agree with all my choices nor their placement on my list) they are all entertaining and films that I would gladly include in my video collection.
66. JUNK (2000)
This zombie splatter fest is by no means a great film but it is one of the most entertaining Japanese zombie films I’ve ever seen. The Japanese have a long standing tradition of producing some of the most outrageous fantasy and horror films which is why they’ve crossed over to other countries so easily despite the fact that they are many times subtitled (older films were dubbed and even some of these are still quite entertaining). Jewel thieves run afoul when they enter a warehouse infested with zombies. That’s the gist of it. If played straight this would indeed have been an inept film but director Atsushi Muroga crafts one hell of a manic zombie film on override. With a meager budget (that probably is only a tenth of the catering budget for a film like ZOMBIELAND) this film may be exactly like what its title says but there is way too much fun to be overlooked by any true zombie fan.
65. SHOCK WAVES (1977)
I’m going to admit it here for the very first time but I didn’t see this film for the first time until earlier this year. It’s one of those Nazi-zombie films that had been on my list for years but I just never got around or the chance to see. Thanks to Netflix I was finally able to see the film. Although nowhere near all entertaining as DEAD SNOW, this is the second best Nazi-zombie film ever made. This film gets added points for having Peter Cushing as an SS Commander. Brooke Adams anchors this film which could have ended up like the infamous ZOMBIE LAKE (a zombie film that I hope you’ve managed to avoid thus far). Although a little slow at times the film excels because of its uncompromising atmosphere of dread and the location (which is a huge plus).
64. PSYCHOMANIA (1973)
Whoever said dying wasn’t any fun hasn’t seen this film PSYCHOMANIA about a gang of bikers who commit suicide in order to live forever. By far one of the most unusual films on the list but also one of the most entertaining as the film revels in the joy and advantages of life after death. Recently I got to view a remastered version of the film (as opposed to the bargain bin version that’s been available for years) and the film looks and sounds better than I’ve ever seen (so go out and get this version and throw away those old “Good Times” videos). This may not be the best example of a traditional zombie film but it is one of the best variations and one that should not be missed.
63. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 3 (1993)
I have to admit that I actually enjoy this film more than the original and the only reason why it doesn’t rank higher is that the original was a huge ground breaking film for the genre as it opened the possibilities of the genre and what it could be instead of relying completely on the mythos created by George A. Romero and his films. With this film we get a love story with some complications. It retains the rock ‘n roll aesthetics of the original film but adds another dimension with the love story. It also was one of Melinda Clarke’s first major roles (after a role in the daytime soap DAYS OF OUR LIVES) and what a role it was. As the doomed Julie she oozes sexuality despite the fact that she becomes a zombie with an addiction to pain. Director Brian Yuzna who had a hand with BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1990), THE DENTIST (1996) and BENEATH STILL WATERS (2005), to name a few, crafted a zombie film that was both entertaining and had enough gore and horror to satisfy the most jaded zombie fan.
62. ZOMBIELAND (2009)
Anyone who has read any of my previous articles will know that I am not a fan of this film. I may not be a fan but I will admit 100% that it has one of the best opening 20 minutes of any zombie film. It also has an amazing cast that do an excellent job with the material. By beef with the film has always been that it loses its way halfway in and never recovers. The moment when the characters get to their final destination and then sit around Bill Murray’s house before ultimately ending up at the amusement park at night goes against character and everything that the film set up in the first half. Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are depicted as extremely smart and clever women who out think the men at every point in the film until they go against everything established in the beginning and go to the amusement park at night and alone completely oblivious of the fact that they are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. This is just lazy screenwriting in order for the film to have a big ending. Until this third act of the film, ZOMBIELAND is an excellent zombie comedy.
61. George A. Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007)
Of all the Romero zombie films this one ranks the lowest on the list (despite the fact that most of them are on the list). The only reason why this film ranks so low is that it does lay the themes and social commentary on thick which is not how Romero has done this in the past. Despite this Romero was taking a huge chance with a smaller film (and smaller budget) and a relative cast of unknowns and going back to the beginning of his zombie nightmare to tell a new story. It also suffers because it was done in the style of “real” and/or “found” footage and it seemed as though it was jumping on the popular trend made prevalent through such films as BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006), THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), and CLOVERFIELD (2008), to name a few. This is still a strong piece of zombie cinema which is light years better than most films thus far produced.
There is the bottom six films on the list. If you’ve not seen them then I hope my little musings will now give you a reason to give them a try. Feel free to comment and give me your opinions about some of these films that I’ve mentioned.