Words: Greg Douglass

Vampires may be the predominant horror subject these days but there was a time not too long ago when zombies were the cinema’s go-to monster. In these dark days of emo vampires, tween horror and torture porn I find myself missing those times, comforted by the thought that if there’s one thing we can safely assume about zombies it’s that they have a tendency to come back from the dead. The popularity of zombie movies may fluctuate, but one interesting feature of this enduring subject is its uncanny ability to transcend, or maybe just embrace, generic conventions that would cripple most other horror subgenres. Fans (and filmmakers) of zombie movies are sticklers for purity and will doggedly resist change to a such degree that you can still hear people raging against zombies that have the ability to run. So how can a genre/subgenre that is past its golden age innovate and provide fresh new content when its core fanbase resists change? Do zombie fans really want to see the same thing over and over again? In a word: yes. Zombies are the (raw) meat and potatoes of the horror world and change, if it must exist, must be true to the spirit of the genre. It is this constant balancing act of tradition and innovation that makes the genre so problematic yet at the same time so utterly fascinating. What the genre lacks in variety it makes up for in the hardcore loyalty of its fans who are as Legion as zombies themselves. There’s something comforting in that, just as there’s something oddly comforting about our love for a genre that necessitates the wish-fulfilling destruction of civilization. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vampire that can end humanity with this much pizazz.

Below are 25-11 of my all time favorite zombie movies. Unlike so many lists that fans of a particular genre tend to obsess over it’s not a matter of what’s on this list of zombie movies but, rather, how the list is ordered. 10-1 will appear in the Halloween issue.

 

25. Versus (2000)
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor (out of 10): 9

Lest we not forget the East’s whacked-out contribution to the zombie genre. It’s the best (and only?) samurai zombie movie to date. I would love to see this series continue in anime form.

 

24. Dead Set (2008)
Director: Yann Demange
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7

As someone who hates reality shows with the gluttonous passion of a thousand Snookie Monsters, I am grateful to the BBC series for allowing me to cathartically experience what would happen if an outbreak occurred while shooting Big Brother. Even more admirable is the fact that Dead Set proves that a show about zombies does not need to be maudlin, brain dead, poorly written, horribly directed, or miscast (ahem, The Walking Dead).

 
23. Night of the Comet (1984)
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 5

About a Valley Girl that survives (and shops) through an apocalyptic outbreak, Night of the Comet is to zombies what Buffy the Vampire Slayer is to vampires.

 

22. I Sell the Dead (2009)
Director: Glenn McQuaid
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7

“If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that you never, ever trust a corpse.” Grossing a whopping $8,050 this moribund 2009 cult movie has been rescued by positive word of mouth. It’s not just a horror movie but a crime movie, a period movie, and a comedy. The film, about grave robbers, stars Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman. So a Hobbit and a Hellboy. If, unlike me, you are not boycotting Netflix, then put this title at the top of your queue.

 

21. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 3

As if 1940s cinema didn’t do everything better, it also gave birth to zombie movies. Turns out the only thing Romero actually invented was “Romero Zombies” which, admittedly, are much cooler than the square zombies of the 40s. Still, this film, along with White Zombie, is essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre.  And I’m not just talking about Rob Zombie.

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