Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before the dead rise and feast on the living. If it’s not experimental government farm machinery or a space probe returning from Venus, it’s going to be some ungodly Warlock opening the gates of Hell that’ll send them shuffling forth. And when that time comes, I don’t intend to have my brains eaten. No, siree. So these ten films are shown on a continual loop in my underground bunker, where I have enough canned food and bottled water to see me through the inevitable apocalypse. If you want to survive too, you’d better make yourself familiar with the following. In reverse order:
10. THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (AKA LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE)
It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense a lot of the time, but Jorge Grau’s extension on Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD builds up to a nice spooky climax in a Manchester hospital. Arthur Kennedy plays the most intolerant policeman you’re ever likely to encounter, which makes for some unintended humour. Why don’t the zombies show up on photographs though?
Likelihood of becoming a reality: the dead arise thanks to new gadgetry to kill insects. Doesn’t sound too likely, but you never know.
9. BIO ZOMBIE
Hong Kong’s take on DAWN OF THE DEAD, the twist being that the zombies are confined to the mall, and the survivors inside are trying to get out. The first half is almost totally played for laughs, which makes the later scenes all the more effective. Fantastic performances all round, with a wonderfully villainous Wayne Lai.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: the infestation’s due to a genetically engineered bio-weapon, so it’s quite plausible. Although I doubt people would carry it about in an old Lucozade bottle.
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8. 28 DAYS LATER
Sprinting zombies (sorry, “Infected”) seem a little unsporting if you ask me, but you can’t fault Danny Boyle’s terror trip. Opens with some fantastic footage of a deserted London and ends in the kind of brutality the Infected can’t hope to match. The scene where our heroes are performing an emergency tyre change in a tunnel is one of the most intensely scary scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: it’s more a question of when, not if.
7. THE BEYOND
Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND goes from standard horror into a surreal nightmare. A hotel is conveniently placed on a doorway to Hell, which is opened by a Warlock. This lets all manner of nasties into the world, including a bunch of giant spiders and…you guessed it…zombies. Nasty stuff.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: I’m not putting any money on it.
6. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (AKA CEMETERY MAN)
Michele Soavi created a thinking man’s zombie film here, with heaps of black comedy thrown into the mix. Rupert Everett plays a cemetery janitor who, at no extra cost, keeps the residents suppressed when they invariably return to life after seven days. The strain of this and his permanently jinxed relationship with a pair of women (played by Anna Falchi) send him mental. Or is he the only sane one left?
Likelihood of becoming a reality: this is a complete wild card. Not enough is known, which makes it worth a flutter if you’re a betting man.
5. DAY OF THE DEAD
Underrated by fans and the general public alike, Romero’s third instalment of his Dead series is still a great zombie flick, this time set in a military bunker. Needless to say, the zombies get in and have a party. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Bub…
Likelihood of becoming a reality: the Dead series seem to blame a space probe returning from Venus with some kind of plague. Not a chance.
4. ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (AKA ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE, etc)
Another Fulci film, this time directly attempting to cash in on DAWN OF THE DEAD’s surprise box-office success. Never mind though, because the film’s great. Here we have a whole tropical island infested by zombies. The film’s synth score is a highlight, as is the scene where the dead rise out of their graves. Oh, and there’s an underwater fight between a shark and a zombie. My money’s on the shark.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: nope, don’t think so.
3. 28 WEEKS LATER
The crisis from 28 DAYS LATER is over and Britain is being re-populated…and re-Infected. Shocking, brutal and unmissable, especially the bit where that bloke from Lost hacks up an army of the Infected with the rotor blades of his chopper. Nice!
Likelihood of becoming a reality: USA intervening and taking over? Where have I seen that before? Yep, this could happen here.
2. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
“They’re coming for you Barbara!” And you know what? They are – right from the start! The Granddaddy of them all kicks off in fine form and never lets up. Surprisingly nihilistic coming a year after the Summer of Love, this is the antidote to love and peace. A bunch of survivors take refuge in an old farmhouse and when the dead rise, they find they just don’t get on very well. You’ve got to admire the claustrophobic setting (it basically all takes place inside the house) and the wide range of characters – some heroic, some not. And the zombies? They’re dead…they’re all messed up.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: it’s that pesky space probe again.
1. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
It wasn’t really in doubt, but Romero’s masterpiece of satire on consumerism is utterly without equal. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, thought how great it would be to have an entire shopping complex to yourself? A group of four survivors inhabit a shopping mall, where all their retailing needs are satisfied. With characters that develop and you can feel empathy with, the Sequel to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD makes you feel part of what’s going on. It’s unflinchingly graphic but always retains a believable core, and doesn’t let the viewer off the hook at any time with an ill-placed quip or over-blown action scene. The score by Italian prog-rockers Goblin is also pretty hard to shake off once you’ve heard it. And remember, when there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.
Likelihood of becoming a reality: vacant expressions in the shopping mall? People wandering brainlessly around on instinct alone while muzak is pumped out at them? How far-fetched is that?
So remember, when the apocalypse takes place, always go for the head. Fire works too. Don’t be fooled by the slow, jerky gait of the undead – there are more of them than there are of you, and they will always get you. And if they do take a bite out of you, try not to come back!
Heroes of the East is a comprehensive introduction to east Asian cinema with reviews of 100s of films from Hong Kong, China, Japan, and South Korea. The site also includes features and special-interest articles including the popular “A Beginner’s Guide to Kung Fu Films”.
Would you like to produce your own Zombie horror film? Yes, it can be done! See how HERE
Trioxin – Guide to Zombie Horror and Horror Films in general
Passionforcinema.com – looks at 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, The Descent
RetroCrush.com – 20 Best Zombie Films