PART 5: No.# 40-31
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.
Hitting the half way mark of my list is an exciting moment as all the films from here on out are films I’ve seen several times and recommend to others both lovers of the genre and those who are coming to the genre…well, late. As we get higher on the list we come across films with stronger stories and more personal risks so I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say about these films and go out and see them for yourself.
40. DEAD HEAT (1988)
I remember seeing this as a child and being totally blown away by the sheer lunacy of the plot yet still managed to be about the characters and the bond between two cops in an almost hopeless situation. This was the film that put actor Treat Williams in my stratosphere (well this and the fact that he also starred in the immensely entertaining Deep Rising) plus it had Joe Piscopo (whom I had known from Wise Guys and Johnny Dangerously). This film was a happy accident as it had two actors with great chemistry in an unorthodox zombie film.
39. CREEPSHOW (1982)
I was a huge fan of the original Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973) anthology films so when this film came out I was all over it. It was also a film plastered with author Stephen King all over it and at the time King was the only author whose books I had a steady diet on. It was funny and horrifying and a downright tour de force of sheer lunacy with a rather particularly horrifying final segment in “They’re Creeping Up on You” which had cockroaches in it – and I HATE cockroaches.
38. AMERICAN ZOMBIE (2007)
I don’t know why it took until 2007 for someone to come up with this inventive idea about a “realistic” film documenting the undead as they go about their business in the real world. This film works because its about real characters going through real problems that mirror that of how minorities and the disenfranchised have always been treated in this country. This is a concept that could have fallen flat on its face but the actors make the plight of the characters so real that you can’t help but sympathize with them. Despite its low budget this film excels on many levels because the film makers and actors never forget that character comes first.
37. ZOMBI 2 (1979)
This was my very first Lucio Fulci film so it holds a special place amongst all other zombie films. Fulci may have been an uneven director but this is his masterpiece (and one that I watch at least once every year). When I first saw this film in my teens I thought I was going to be arrested for watching a film so vile and disgusting and taboo shattering. I mean you see an eye ball gouged out by a splinter of wood in all its gory delight. This film introduced me to truly gory films (an alternative to the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street films that at the time I thought were gory). I just love this film! Faults and everything there is no other Italian made zombie film that even compares with the entertainment value of this film.
36. RESIDENT EVIL (2002)
I know that some people may disagree with this film being on this list much less #36 but let me first say that I never played a Resident Evil game until #6 just last year before the 4th film was released so I didn’t come to the franchise with all that history or back story. Instead, I came to this film with the knowledge that at the time the zombie genre had all but been dead for years. This was a shot in the arm for the traditional slow moving zombie film and it starred 2 of my favorite female actors in Millia Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez and was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, whom I thought had done a fantastic job with the video game based film Mortal Kombat (a game I was a fan of). The film exceeded my expectations by being both an action film and a horror film with cool deaths and zombies and it didn’t end on a happy note. What more could you have asked for in a zombie film? I was hooked and with the exception on the second film I think this is one of the best zombie franchises out there that continue to get better with each subsequent film.
35. DEAD SNOW (2009)
Hands down the best zombie film that features Nazi zombies! Some people look at Shock Waves (1977) as one of the best if not the best but I was never a big fan of that film. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good film and it gets added mileage from Peter Cushing and Brooke Adams but other than that there isn’t much else there. With Dead Snow you get so much more…of everything that a Nazi zombie film should have. I have the same feeling about this film as I do with Fulci’s Zombi 2 except this film is more fun and extremely gorier. If you don’t like this film then you don’t like zombie films.
34. DEAD & BURIED (1981)
This slow burning zombie film gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that it is one of the best written of many from the ‘80s. Written by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon (who both wrote the original Alien) this film is both strong in story and character and in mood and atmosphere (as directed by Gary Sherman). This is a different kind of zombie film for a different kind of fan.
33. PLANET TERROR (2007)
The craziest zombie film since…well, ever. Director Robert Rodriguez throws everything into this film (and the kitchen sink) and comes up with one of the most entertaining zombie films ever crafted. Never mind the fact that the story is just crazy, you have one of the best casts put together for a zombie film that has no bounds and no limits – Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, and Naveen Andrews, to name a few. Non-zombie fans probably won’t want to take this ride but those who truly love the genre will just need to jump on the bus and go for the ride.
32. LA HORDE (2009)
If there is one fault to be had for this film it is the fact that the characters never become smart enough to just shoot them in the head. Instead the character litter the film with bullets which makes this one hell of an action and siege zombie film. The one thing that truly sets this above other films is the fact that the film makers have such a love for the genre that they craft this film on such a low budget and still manage to come up with one of the best endings for a zombie movie. It’s like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) with zombies.
31. MULBERRY STREET (2006)
Very few indie zombie films are as good as this little film which created the “rat zombie” and took it to horrifying new levels of terror. The limited location creates suspense and terror that few films of the modern era have been able to capture. The other thing is that this film never forgets that in addition to great creature FX that you also need characters that audiences will care for and this film exceeds in that department. This is a film for fans and people who think that there is no new way to tell a good zombie story and I’m here to say then look no further than this film here.
I’m over half way done with this list and had I done the article all in one big article it would be at over 15 pages already (so I’m glad I broke it up). The biggest reason that I am doing this series of articles like this is to give you – the Reader, a better understanding of why these films are on my list and why I think they should be required viewing on your list (if you are interested in these types of films). I hope you enjoy this segment and I’ll have more for you soon.