Ten Best Horror Flicks: The Top Ten Zombie List I've Been Waiting For

Oct 11, 2006 (Updated Oct 13, 2006)

The Bottom Line Braaaaiiiiiiinsss. Come on, you know you want some.

Finally and in time for Halloween. A Top Ten Zombie List! My requirements? Fairly simple: Blood, gore, entertainment, and zombies. What exactly is a zombie? A reanimated corpse. So then, does 28 Days Later count? Well, technically they’re not zombies but I don’t know, it fits in with the genre so well! I like to include it. Anyway, my top ten zombie list, as promised over a year ago in My Top Ten Horror Movie list. In no real order. I’m bad at orders; I change my mind too much. It’s amazing that I get it down to ten at all. Enjoy!

George Romero’s Dead Films dir. George A. Romero
And it all began in 1968 with the classic Night of the Living Dead. Poor Barbara and her brother are accosted by the walking dead while taking a visit to the cemetery. The brother dies, Barbara flees, and thus begins the zombie trilogy of trilogies. Followed in 1978 by Dawn of the Dead and 1985 by Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead has almost everything. There’s suspense, there’s social commentary, there’s action, there’s death. And while the first film may be lacking in gore, the later films are most certainly not. Dawn of the Dead is arguably the best in the series. Three survivors of the zombie attacks seek shelter in a shopping mall. They are able to live relatively comfortably until a motorcycle gang breaks into the mall, opening the way for zombies. There are some very memorable moments in the ensuing chaos. This classic trilogy was recently expanded with Land of the Dead and there are rumors (as always) of more films to follow.
*Yes, yes, I know I'm cheating. Really though, I have to include Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead in this list and cheating was the only way I could keep it to 10!

Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) dir. Zack Snyder Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber
Now normally I’m very anti-remake but this 2004 flick is one awesome exception to the “re-makes suck” rule. I like to think of it as more of a re-imagining than a remake. It starts with the basic premise of survivors seeking shelter in a shopping mall but from there it is it’s own movie. I’m a huge Sarah Polley fan (I grew up with the wonderful show Avonlea) so it was great getting to see her play a fairly awesome character battling zombies. Some of the other characters were rather obnoxious but overall the good outweighs the bad and the movie wins where it counts. There is gore. Lovely, lovely gore. This is definitely worthy of the top ten list.

Biozombie (1998) dir. Wilson Yip Starring Jordan Chan, Sam Lee
Dude. Biozombie. This Hong Kong insanity is clearly inspired by Romero’s Dawn of the Dead ( it takes place in a shopping mall) but beyond the setting it is its own creation. People become zombies by drinking soft drinks, the heroes are named Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee, and yeah, it just gets better from there. Biozombie is fun, humorous, and it doesn’t skimp on the gore. My favorite character (besides the heroes) was definitely Sushi Boy. He was just so awkward and sweet and awesome and he was even better when zombiefied. What’s more romantic than zombie love? Nothing I can think of.

Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992) dir. Peter Jackson Starring Timothy Balme, Diana Penalaver
Curious to see how Peter Jackson got his start? Watching this, his 4th film, it may be hard to see exactly how he ended up directing Lord of the Rings. Or it may not be. Known as Dead Alive in the states and Braindead elsewhere, the story begins with the capture of the cursed rat monkey of Skull Island. It’s brought back to a New Zealand zoo where it bites our hero Lionel’s overbearing mother. While the monkey is squished, Lionel’s mother now carries the curse and as she begins to bite the blood begins to flow. Lionel’s love interest Paquita realizes that there is something very wrong and comes in to save her man. The tone is tongue in cheek, the blood flows freely and there are too many disturbing moments to count. I’ve heard that the ending was the bloodiest scene ever shot (by the amounts of blood used. I think Kill Bill may have since past it but I really have no idea). I still get crap from friends for forcing them to watch it without first warning them what they were in for. I’m not going to warn you either. Just go watch it. Right now.
*on a side note, next time you watch Peter Jackson’s version of King Kong keep an eye on the crates on the ship, you just might see one for the rat monkey.

Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994) dir. Michele Soavi Starring Rupert Everett
Don’t ask me what happened, I can’t tell you. My first run in with Cemetery Man came shortly after its release. I caught the beginning on television around Halloween one year and had no idea what it was. I only saw the first 15 minutes or so but it was enough to leave an impression. I finally figured out what movie it was and then finally found a copy to rent (not an easy task). If Night of the Living Dead is the serious zombie film, Dead Alive the humorous one, then Cemetery Man is the existential one. Questioning reality, the meanings of life, death, and existence, the importance of love, Dellamorte Dellamore can be a bit confusing, a bit deep, and beyond fun. It definitely deserves a spot at the top of the top ten list. For me, it’s hard to beat. Oh yeah, did I mention that Rupert Everett takes his clothes off? Many times? Mmmm… Don’t worry, there’s a hot chick too.

Re-Animator (1985) dir. Stuart Gordon Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft, the Re-Animator is much more of your classic horror film. Herbert West, a brilliant but crazy med student discovers a way to re-animate flesh. When he transfers to a new school, his roommate Dan joins him in his experimentations. What starts small soon grows large and by the end there are zombies everywhere. While funny, I actually found this film to be a bit more disturbing at times than some of the other films on the list. It’s a lot of fun and good for a night when you want a little bit of a scare to go with your gore.

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Series
Oh Sam Raimi. I do love your Evil Dead movies so. Your films have a cult of their own. Evil Dead was released in 1981 and was followed by Evil Dead II in 1987 and Army of Darkness in 1992. This series not only made a name for Sam Raimi, it introduced one of the most loved cult heroes of all time, Bruce Campbell’s Ash. Bruce Campbell has gone on to become a god of the B-movie world while Sam Raimi makes Spiderman his own. The films follow Bruce’s character Ash and Ash’s struggles with the deadites and a cursed wood. When watching the three films, I agree with the theory that Raimi kept making them just so he could come up with new ways to torture Bruce. We watch Bruce go from dorky kid in what’s a not quite standard teenagers encountering evil story to badass hero with a chainsaw sent back to the medieval times. In between he loses the love of his life, has an epic battle with his possessed hand, and an evil version of himself grows out of his shoulder. The movies are appropriate for many occasions, sleepovers, movie marathons, dates, parties. There’s even a drinking game.

Zombie 2 (1979) dir. Lucio Fulci Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch
When I lived in New York a couple of years ago I had the good fortune to be able to see a screening of a 35mm print of this film in Landmark’s Sunshine Cinemas on Houston and 1st Avenue. Let me just say, that while the make-up effects are amazing on the small screen they are unbelievable on the big. An Italian horror classic, this film can be too slow for some. However, when you focus on the brilliance of the make-up and gore it is a must see for any fan of zombie flicks. A woman travels to a remote island in search of her missing father and it becomes apparent rather quickly that things are just not right. Some of Fulci’s trademarks are featured in this film, objects in eyes, terrible things happening to women (he had a grudge) and some of the most amazing zombies you will ever see. And Bonus, there is an epic undersea battle between a zombie and shark. Who wins? With this film, we all do.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) dir. Edgar Wright Starring Simon Pegg
This is a seriously good zombie film. It’s more appealing to a mass audience as a large part of it is more spoof than serious. While many zombie flicks contain humor, they’re still serious zombie flicks. This one is only half serious and as a result more accessible. So if you’re new to the zombie scene or want something that everyone will most likely enjoy this is a good choice. Shaun is our hero, a slacker who is failing at almost every aspect of his life. He needs a good kick to get going and that kick comes in the form of zombies. Forced to step it up, Shaun and his best friend Ed brave the flesh eating hordes in order to save Shaun’s love Liz and Shaun’s mum and step-dad. While there are many genuine moments in the film, it only gets serious at the end where a lot of people may not like the turn to real gore. I personally think it’s brilliant from start to finish. Intelligent, witty, moving, gory, British, what more does it need? Nothing that I can think of.

Return of the Living Dead (1985) dir. Dan O’Bannon
It’s. So. Eighties! OMFG this movie is a riot. A laugh riot, a riot of zombies, a riot. It starts out hilarious, ends up bloody, and stays eighties. So very, very eighties. The costumes! The jokes! Just thinking about it all makes me want to go and watch it right this second. A deadly gas is released into the air, creating our zombies, which then go on a wild romp through Louisville, Kentucky in search of brains. Braaaaaaiiiinssss. The cast of characters is just fabulous and the writing is wonderful. So many parts make me laugh so hard. The ending of this film is also fairly brilliant. I remember the first time I watched I was just like “huh? Are you serious?” I loved it. For clever writing, tasty gore, and a very, very naked zombie, Return of the Living Dead is the place to go.

And because ten is never enough, here are some other fun zombie movies for your consideration:
28 Days Later
Dead and Breakfast
Wild Zero (I got yelled at by a friend for not including this in my top ten. I've just gotta say, it was a really close thing. The movie is great and the DVD is brilliant. One worth checking out.)
City of the Living Dead
The Beyond (This and City of the Living Dead are also both great Fulci movies. They were also very close to making the top ten but lost due to Fulci's Zombie 2 already having a place)
House by the Cemetery
Pet Cemetery
Plan 9 From Outer Space
Carnival of Souls
White Zombie
Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (I forgot this movie initially. And really that's probably for the best. I don't know if I would recommend it, but I'm including it for the sake of completion.)

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