PART 3: No.# 60-51
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.
In this part of the series I’m going to go into some of my personal favorites as well as some that I think every hard core zombie fan should view at least once (if not multiple times).
60. TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS RITUAL (2002)
I’m as surprised as you that this film (a remake of the classic I Walked With a Zombie – 1943) would even be on this list especially since it was the third feature in the Tales From the Crypt feature film series. This is one of the few remakes that actually were good from the excellent acting to the directing and even the story which was changed and altered (in a good way). Unlike the previous two Crypt films (Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood) this film was not a campy horror film but retained the atmosphere and dread of the original film.
59. Z.A. ZOMBIES ANONYMOUS (2006)
This low budget zombie film about a world in which zombies just want to be like everyone else is both funny and poignant. Despite the limitations of the small budget the film succeeds because you believe the characters to be genuine and you take them seriously despite the nature and the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. There were many such zombie films that surfaced around the same time (low budget to no budget zombie horror comedies) but none were as interesting or as well executed as this film.
58. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
This is a fan favorite but has never been one of my favorites. Coming out the same year as Romero’s Day of the Dead did not help this film in my opinion. I’ve always been a Romero fan and this film just never sat right with me because of the whole zombies eating brains and the fact that they could talk and were somewhat smart. I do commend the filmmakers for the effort and acknowledge the impact this film has had on the genre which cannot be overstated. The one element of the film that I must point out and which HAS been an influence on me is the soundtrack which has some of the best music ever committed to a horror film at the time. The film’s soundtrack is one that I pull out at least once a year to remind me of a time in horror film history when the music was important to the story and not just another sales gimmick. And I must add that most of my friends put this film above Romero’s Day of the Dead any day.
57. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007)
After the abysmal Resident Evil: Apocalypse I didn’t think the franchise could bounce back but it did with this hyper kinetic sequel. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise despite the fact that I’ve never played any of the video games. Millia Jovovich is the main reason I love these films and they do continue to do new things with the zombie genre that most other films are afraid to do or even think of. These films continue to add new characters and new ways of looking at a zombie film while also being fresh and exciting and action packed. The original film kick started the renaissance of modern day zombie film (which was then pushed into the stratosphere by the remake of Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later).
56. NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
Mary Catherine Stewart. That’s all I have to say. There’s not much else to say about this valley girls in a world decimated by the arrival of Haley’s Comet and the zombie apocalypse that ensues. Stewart is magnificent (and I’m sure everyone else is as well but I wouldn’t know since my eyes are always on Stewart). She’s also the number one reason why The Last Starfighter is also one of my all-time favorite films. I don’t know if this film is actually any good or not but it has Stewart and that’s good enough for me.
55. SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009)
A lot of people did not enjoy this Romero film because it was so different from all his previous films but that is also one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much. Two feuding families whose ideological differences continue even after the dead return to the living. Romero’s sharp humor. A very picturesque local (different from all the other films in Romero’s Dead films). This all adds up to one of Romero’s most unique experiments and most satisfying of his last three films. I thought Land of the Dead felt too Hollywood and big budget and Diary of the Dead felt a little too repetitive and preachy but this film felt like an old school Romero film from beginning to end.
54. VERSES (2000)
Okay, martial arts and zombies and lots of blood and guts and action! This film may lack a cohesive story but the sheer audacity of the filmmakers to conceive of such a demented story is pure genius. The choreography of the fight sequences are beyond reproach which is why this has become a cult classic in many circles. A friend of mine gave me this film because he knew I was a huge zombie film fan and I was blown away as you will be when you see this film. It does get repetitive with the action and violence in the third act but this is little consequence when the film is so over the top from beginning to end. You’ll love it just as much as I did.
53. DEAD SPACE: AFTERMATH (2011)
It’s hard to believe that there is an animated zombie film out there. Sure there was a segment in the film version of Heavy Metal but it wasn’t until recently that zombies had their own films. This is one of two animated films based on the popular video game series. This one is told in flashback form as a group of survivors from a terrible ordeal recount their experiences to a ruthless military cabal. The thing I like the most about the Dead Space universe is the fact that they took a page out of the Resident Evil franchise by presenting a new type of zombie. These re-animated dead are not entirely human but also infected and ruthless and despite this being an animated film not corners are cut on the blood that is shed. This was a great follow up to the first film (Dead Space: Downfall) and extension to the video game series that fans will enjoy.
52. AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2006)
This is just zany good fun. There is barely a plot point in this film that can’t be questioned and the acting is just as questionable but the film is so much fun and entertaining that you can’t help but be dragged along for the ride. This is a low/no budget zombie massacre extravaganza that looks like everyone involved had a great time making the film and that translates to the audience. I had a blast despite knowing how inept the whole film was. It’s one of those films you invite your friends over to watch and have a couple beers (like VERSES or NIGHT OF THE COMET). It won’t win any awards or ever be on any (self respecting) critics best lists but it remains one of my favorite zombie films because of its entertainment value and I commend the young filmmakers who went out there and produced such a high octane love letter to the genre.
51. NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS (1975)
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the Tomb of the Blind Dead franchise but this the second best of the lot following the original film. This film focuses more on the story and myth of the cursed Knights Templar while delivering a satisfactory story with the supporting (and more human) characters. I’ve learned that the Blind Dead films are better when viewed at the same time. These films are quite dated and generally for those with knowledge of the franchise but the uninitiated may also learn to love them as well.
I love zombie films and from this sampling of films you may have guessed that my tastes extend all across the board. The zombie genre remains one of the largest and most influential to the modern day horror film. As they continue pumping out the next big zombie film whether it be an original film, a remake, or an animated film we can be assured that the stories will continue to go all other the map and I wouldn’t want it any other way.