With the release of World War Z and The Walking Dead Season Three at blinkbox this week, we’ve decided to dig into our archives and pick out the best films (and TV shows) in which zombies rule the world. So lock the door, stay away from the windows and prepare yourself for the coming of the dead!
The films of George A Romero (1968 – 2009*)
The term ‘zombie’ originates from a Haitian Creole word zonbi, used to describe reanimated corpses from voodoo mythology.
The idea of humans coming back from the dead is common in a number of cultures ranging from African oral tradition to Eastern European fables but the zombies we know in popular culture pretty much all stem from one source: George A Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Its success spawned countless imitations, homages and sequels including Romero’s own Dawn of the Dead, which featured the indelible image of zombies shambling through a mall like mindless shoppers.
That film marked a significant moment in the history of the horror genre: when something as goofy as a zombie movie was used as social commentary on something as far-removed as American commercialism.
[*The films, not the man. Romero is still alive at the time of publishing.]
The Walking Dead (2010- Present)
Based on the comic written by Robert Kirkman, this hit TV show is set in a post-apocalyptic world that’s not dissimilar similar to the one Romero created. In fact, the show’s zombie effects were crafted by executive producer Greg Nicotero, a protégée of FX maestro and Romero collaborator Tom Savini.
Every week, the show goes to great lengths to produce new and inventive zombie sequences. Even if they’re only on-screen for less than a few seconds, the level of detail that goes into each zombie’s decomposing body tells a story of its own.
28 Days Later (2002) & 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Zombie purist will tell you that the creatures in 28 Days Later are not zombies. While the creatures in Danny Boyle’s survival horror are technically victims of a viral epidemic known as RAGE, there’s no getting around the fact that they’re obviously zombies.
Sure, they’re not the shambling, decomposing wrecks we’ve come to know and love but who’s to say that zombies can’t run? It’s the new millennium, granddad. Get over it.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Written by James Gunn (soon to make Guardians of the Galaxy) and directed by Man of Steel’s Zack Snyder, this update of Romero’s all-time classic also happens to feature those blasphemous running zombies. However, with its cast of interesting characters (including Ving Rhames and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell) and some pitch black humour, this is a remake that honours the original while improving on it in some respects. Zombie Burt Reynolds, anyone?
World War Z (2013)
Considering how successful this film is, it must be said that World War Z breaks a number of zombie movies’ cardinal rules. First, you have the fast zombies: not only do these zombies run faster than human beings, they’re also much stronger. But this blockbuster hit really ground the gears of horror devotees by committing the biggest no-no of all: all the characters actually use the word zombie to describe the zombies. It suggests that in this particular film universe, they’ve seen Dawn of the Dead and then had the displeasure of seeing that movie become reality.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
In the original and best rom-zom-com, Simon Pegg is a 30 year-old adolescent who begins to see that there’s more to life than just heading down the pub with his best mate (Nick Frost). The only stopping him from growing up and winning back his girlfriend is the thousand or so zombies wandering the streets of Crouch End.
A post-apocalyptic buddy movie, this hit film finfs Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as mismatched travellers in a world almost exclusively populated by zoms. By the time this film came out, fast zombies had been a thing for over 7 years so nobody cried foul. Plus, without their prodigious foot speed, we wouldn’t have this gem of a title sequence:
Warm Bodies (2013)
It’s another rom-zom-com… but this time, the emphasis is on the ‘rom-zom’ side of the equation! Nicholas Hoult plays our trusty narrator: a hopeless romantic who also happens to be a total zombie. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he doesn’t let the fact that she’s still sentient get in the way of true love!
Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)
East End mainstay Alan Ford pops up in this London-based comic actioner. The undead are popping up everywhere in earshot of Bow Bells and it’s up to a group of youngsters to protect their gaff… but not without the help of some seasoned cockney geriatrics. If you like geezers with shooters, shots of Michelle Ryan in a tight tank top and tenuous rhyming slang jokes, you’ll going to bloody love this.
Well, that doesn’t really matter, seeing how he has his own zombie movie here. He plays a Jack-the-Lad who heads out on a boys’ weekend to cheer up Vince (Stephen Graham), his best mate who’s dealing with a bad divorce. They head off to a remote town where the women outnumber the men by a factor of 4 to 1. It seems like an ideal destination to go on the pull until they discover that the town’ female population have been transformed into an army of undead harpies.
If Dawn of the Dead is a film about the mindless consumerism in modern America, then Doghouse is surely a parable about violence against women, right?