My current, ‘to watch’ zombie film pile is in danger of collapsing and taking out a decent portion of the street I live in. Both Dead Snow’s are in there, the Living Dead At Manchester Morgue and Dead Rising: Watchtower are also part of the fabric of the tower. But they, and their patiently waiting brethren would have to go some ways to beat my current top five. Without further ado, and in reverse order, to maintain an air of suspense, they are:
5 – Zombie Diaries
This is in the found footage and anthology camps, and one of two UK films in the list. I loved the way it was shot, and how some of the stories grew and morphed into something sinister. The low budget, for once, actually makes this a better film than it has any right to be. Yes, the dialogue is a bit crappy, but the performances are believable, and it ticks all the right boxes. Shambling zombies – yes, messed up psycho’s – hell yes! The sequel is utterly forgettable, but this is a must see.
4 – Wyrmwood
The cover boldly proclaims that it’s ‘Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead.’ Pffft, yeah right I thought. Around two minutes in, I was hooked. The camera shots and humour reminded me of Bad Taste, the gore is fantastic, and you have a batshit paramilitary angle going on with a bonafide crazy scientist. Throw in body armour, shotguns, zombies which are used as petrol, and you have a genuinely interesting and unique zombie film. The end tails off a bit, but everything that comes before makes up for it.
3 – Shaun of the Dead
There is an episode in the TV series, Spaced, where Tim is on the come down after a hectic night, and events merge with his playthrough of Resident Evil 2. Simon Pegg obviously wanted to expand on this and helped create this legendary film. Wonderfully referred to as a rom-zom-com, it is as gory as it is funny. The dawning realisation on the two hapless heroes that the world has gone to pot is brilliant. Snappy dialogue and a very British apocalypse. Anyone curious as to how the zombie uprising would go down in the UK, need only watch the film. Tea, biscuits and the pub. In that order.
2 – The Battery
Where a lot of zombie films rely on gun-toting square jawed good guys, or busty maidens, The Battery strips it all back to what it actually comes down to. Survival. It’s a film of two halves, the first builds up the story, with the two main leads and their uneasy relationship. You can tell that of all the people they wished to be spending the end days with, neither of them are it. Just when you wonder what is going to happen, they get trapped. The next part is truly harrowing. It epitomises exactly what zombies are about. They will not stop. Ever. Until you have somehow legged it, or they are chewing on your entrails. Forget the guns and explosions, you have to see this film.
1 – Dawn of the Dead
I’ll relay a typical conversation I have with people, when they find out I write zombie books.
THEM: Wow, that’s pretty cool. Hey, I watched Dawn of the Dead the other day, that was sweet, what did you think of it?
ME: Really? That’s so cool! It’s like my favourite zombie film EVER, what’s your favouri….wait a moment. Which one?
THEM: Huh? What do you mean which one? The one with the zombies in it, duuuhhh, thought you liked zombie films?
ME: *vein bulging in forehead, fists clenching*
THEM: They’re in a shopping mall, I really thought you would know it, it’s a pretty famous one apparently.
ME: Simple question, did they walk or run?
THEM: Well run, why would they walk? It reminds me of my other favourite zombie film.
ME: Which is? *picks up shovel and bag of lime*
THEM: 28 Days Later, those zombies were excellent!
ME: 28 Days Later is NOT A FUCKING ZOMBIE FILM. Though it is mighty fine, now if you’ll excuse me.
I am of course talking about the 1978 original. This is what got me hooked on the undead. I was eight years old, and the attack on the tenement building has taken a turn for the worse, when one of them starts EATING his missus. Wow. I didn’t know what they were, but I knew that I loved them. Sure, it looks dated now, but I don’t care. It’s got gore, it’s got survivors, morals, crazy raiders and one stupid idiot who wants to get his blood pressure tested in the midst of a horde.
If I could only show one film to someone to demonstrate why I love zombies, and why I write books on the undead, it is Dawn of the Dead. It’s claustrophobic, heartbreaking, but most of all, it was the bedrock for an entire genre. Yes, Night of the Living Dead started it, but Dawn picked up the flag from its dead hands and waved it proudly.
A few other films which are just outside the top five, but still highly recommended: Colin, Zombieland (believe me, I wanted to put this in the top five, but just couldn’t), Zombie Flesh Eaters, Juan of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead.
Duncan, his wife Debbie and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe, live in the county of Wiltshire in the south-west of England. They idle away the long winter evenings by making miniature wicker men, in which they incarcerate voodoo dolls of their relatives and burn them on the hearth. When not engaged in scaled down pagan rituals, Duncan also writes about the undead and other strange, fantastical tales that are beamed into his head from the mothership.