This weekend World War Z will be released in the States. While I don’t plan to see it anytime soon, unless it gets rave reviews (which doesn’t seem to be the case), I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss and recommend some of my very favorite entries in the sub-genre. Zombies may have regained their popularity recently, but the dead have been walking the silver screen since Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932). Some might argue that even earlier works like Frankenstein (1910) or German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) should be regarded as such.
I won’t debate whether that’s true or not: I’ll just go ahead and give you my five favorite zombie flicks, listed in chronological order.
5. Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)
This is a horror classic. Many will point to Dawn of the Dead (the original of course), but I prefer this gritty, black & white gem. It also happens to be my favorite Romero film and just one of the best genre films of all time. I don’t have much more to say except: Great social commentary, good atmosphere and pacing and great photography.
4. Zombi 2 (1979, Lucio Fulci)
The unofficial/unauthorized Italian pseudo-sequel to Dawn of the Dead is a fun and creepy film. A typical giallo score, grainy 70s look and some great zombie gore are what you can look forward to with this one. There’s one scene in particular that is very hard to digest, and to this day continues to inspire contemporary genre directors like Eli Roth.
3. Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, Michele Soavi)
Another great zombie film from Italy is Cemetary Man. A dark, erotic, twisted tale of sex and death starring one of Italy’s hottest actresses: Anna Falchi. Based on a novel by comic book artist Tiziano Scalvi (Dylan Dog, the comic not the film) this little romance horror story is certainly the most aesthetic and sensuous one on this list.
2. Død snø (2009, Tommy Wirkola)
Nazi zombies! How can I resist that? Impossible. I have a weird fetish for the fascist aesthetic. Dead Snow is a fun and funny film, a lot of gore and a good sense of humor. The plot is the standard young-adults-go-to-the-woods, but it transcends the genre tropes and clichés, thanks to its love and revere of the genre.
1. Zombieland (2009, Ruben Fleischer)
This film was part of the revival of the zombie film sub-genre. A charming horror/comedy, with some great actors (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin) and an hilarious cameo by a Hollywood legend. I like the romance angle, the heartfelt comedy, the innovative filmmaking/editing approach and just overall the lighthearted tone of it.
I would also like to mention Rec (2007, Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza): The only reason it’s not in the top five is that some wouldn’t consider it a real zombie film. I find it to be very scary and just one of the best found footage films out there. Another mention goes to Planet Terror (2007, Robert Rodriguez), which is a fun grindhouse/(m)exploitation throwback, featuring the director’s signature humor and an almost unprecedented level of cheesiness. Last but not least, this year’s genre darling: Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies.