Can you believe Shaun of the Dead came out in cinemas 10 years ago? TEN YEARS AGO.
To celebrate this slightly terrifying but otherwise momentous occasion, we thought we'd go through the 10 zombie films that every man should see.
Now, when we say “zombies,” we're talking about the undead or, rather, the dead that have come back to life. So before anyone initiates a keyboard war with us, this means we can't count some of our favourites on the list, like REC and 28 Days Later, as they are more to do with the spread of a virus. And the Evil Dead trilogy which, if we're splitting hairs here, is more along the lines of demonic possession.
We're also ruling out vampire-like creatures, such as in I am Legend and doctor-aided resurrections, like in Re-Animator and, of course, Frankenstein. So BACK OFF.
10 Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Like the zombie godfather, George A. Romero's, 1978 film of the same name, this remake depicts a handful of survivors trapped in a shopping mall that just so happens to be surrounded by zombies.
Fans of the original, and Romero himself, generally responded quite negatively (slight understatement) but there's no denying that this highly enjoyable zombie romp brought the genre up to date when nobody else was touching it.
It might not have the subtext and character development of its source material, but a good gory zombie film is still a good gory zombie film and it definitely has one of most terrifying opening sequences ever committed to undead celluloid.
09 Day of the Dead (1985)
Set a short while after the events of Dawn of the Dead, what's left of the U.S. military are now attempting to locate survivors. This is the third film in Romero’s Living Dead series, and also his own personal favourite.
Day of… may not have had the same impact as Night of… and Dawn of… but it makes up for it with its examination of zombie psychology and super realistic gore, like our chesty looking pal above.
08 Cemetery Man (1994)
From Italian director Michele Soavi and starring a pre-Hollywood Rupert Everett, the lesser-known Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) is about the caretaker of a graveyard who searches for love whilst protecting the town from the undead. As you do.
Mixing comedy, horror, spaghetti western and sexploitation to form a concoction of one of the strangest zombie films you’ll come across, it might not make a whole lot of sense, but the surreal humour, hand-crafted sets and inventive visual style will keep you interested.
Martin Scorsese called it one of the best films of the 1990s and if that fella thinks it's worth a watch, then it probably is.
07 Zombieland (2009)
Described as “‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ for the Facebook generation”, Zombieland follows a group of survivors making their way across the Southwestern US in search of a safehaven. Starring Facebook God himself Jesse Eisenberg, Zombieland is a zomcom that is heavy on the “com" whilst keeping up the gore
Turning the usual blank-faced stock characters on their heads, the leads are a bunch of likeable weirdos that pull you in from the off. Woody Harrelson’s character “Tallahassee”, for example, is a wandering survivor driven solely by his desire to find Twinkies. Eisenberg’s character “Columbus” is essentially Woody Allen at the end of the world.
And if that doesn't convince you, it also features one of the greatest movie cameos to ever drop out of Hollywood.
06 The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
After the release of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, he and the film’s co-creator John Russo went their separate ways. Russo then went on to make The Return of the Living Dead based on his novel of the same name.
Unlike his previous work, it's a comedy- and nudity-fuelled zombie rehash that kicked up the gears on future zombie genres by giving the beasts the abillity to run, waaay before the likes of 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead.
It also introduced the zombie call-to-arms: BRAAAAAINS! and the idea of talking zombies as a whole. This gave The Return of the Living Dead some of the more amusing moments in zombie film history, like when a paramedic has just been devoured and the zombie reaches for the radio and tells the ambulance crew to “send more paramedics.”
Oh yeah…and it stars the stunning (and rather naked) Linnea Quigly.
05 Zombi 2 (1979)
The original Zombi is the European cut of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, although it doesn’t actually have any connection to this “semi-sequel.” However, it did spark a zombie craze across the continent and made Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci a horror icon.
It might not be a masterclass in writing but, what it lacks in storytelling, it makes up for with fantastically grotesque moments. Need we say more than “eye gouging,” “burst eyeball,” and “unfortunately placed splinter?”
There's also a scene that answers that age old question... who would win in a fight between a zombie and a shark?
04 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Hugely enjoyable as a film in its own right, Shaun of the Dead is the perfect genre mash-up of monster movie, comedy, romance, and buddy movie. It's a brilliant deconstruction of the zombie genre and finds ways of weaving in jokey trivia, such as the fact that George A. Romero outright refused to ever refer to the zombies as zombies.
Are there any zombies out there?
Don’t say that!
That. The Z word. Don’t say it!
Because it’s ridiculous!
Alright…are there any out there, though?
03 Dead Alive (1992)
Also known as Braindead, you might be surprised to read that this zombie classic is in fact a creation of homoerotic-hobbits director Peter Jackson.
Without question, the goriest zombie film ever. Don’t believe us? In the climatic final scene, we see our hero stuffed into the womb of his gargantuan zombie mother before cutting his way back out.
It’s a totally ridiculous film, featuring things like a Kung Fu priest who uses such lines as “I kick ass for the Lord!” and a final scene involving bloody carnage and lawnmower.
Vomit-inducing schlocky brilliance.
02 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The movie that started it all and saw George A. Romero crowned as the “Father of Zombie Films.” It wrote all the rules for the zombie genre, from the shuffling, cannibal undead to the killing technique of "destroying the brain."
Romero is also the pioneer of low budget horror; the almost news-reel black and white footage gives it an eerie “found footage” quality that inspired budding moviemakers everywhere.
Full of scares and social commentary alike, one film historian claimed that the victims of the zombies, who symbolise capitalists, were representative of feminists, homosexuals, civil rights activists and counter-culturalists. See - it’s not all gore, guts and brain scoffing!
01 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
“When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” Taglines don’t get much more chilling than that. Or cooler. You would definitely not be alone to call Dawn of the Dead the best zombie film ever; The famous late critic Roger Ebert even called it “one of the best horror films ever made.”
There is often much debate between Dawn of… and Night of… but Dawn of the Dead surpasses its predecessor in every way.
Romero pokes his audience, showing them to be like the characters in the film, desperately trying to recreate some sort of middle-class social norm with materialism as they barricade themselves inside the mall.
On top of this, bodies and faces are torn apart and entrails are eaten by the handful, so fans really do get the best of both worlds. Everything you could want from a zombie movie and more.
Words by resident film geek Ally Sinyard.