I am not one of those people. I love the zombie as a fictional creature. There is a lot of it out there, and not all of it is good…but much of it is.
I enjoy a lot of zombie fiction—going back to the Books of the Dead anthologies, up to the unique Brian Keene novels and the brilliantly structured World War Z—but I first fell in love with the zombie through film. And zombie cinema is something I still seek out.
Since my newest release is a zombie novella entitled FORT, I thought this would be a good time to list some of my favorite zombie films and what I love about them. Feel free to join in and comment with your favorites.
Dawn of the Dead (original)—The films of George Romero are what introduced me to zombie cinema, and of course Night of the Living Dead is a classic, revolutionary film. I actually love most of his zombie pictures, even the often-dismissed Land of the Dead. However, if I had to pick my favorite among his oeuvre, I’d have to go with Dawn of the Dead. I think the film is tremendously exciting with some very interesting characters, and setting the action in a shopping mall was inspired. Much is said about the social commentary Romero puts into these films, and that is one of the things I love about his work, but the commentary at times can become a bit heavy-handed to the point that it begins to feel preachy. Dawn I thought had the perfect amount, melding into the story in a very organic way that elevated the story without overwhelming it.
Dawn of the Dead (remake)—While I do believe Hollywood relies too heavily on remakes these days, I’m not a remake hater. Like anything, there are good ones and bad ones. And I think the remake of Dawn of the Dead is a good one. It’s the kind of remake I like, one that takes the basic premise of the original but doesn’t just retell the same story. It branches off in its own direction, proving that even in a remake you can have fresh and original ideas. This movie has a lot of action and some very interesting characters, some you grow to love and others you love to hate, and some you hate and then grow to love.
Return of the Living Dead—I know this is more of a comedy than a horror film, though when I first saw it as a young kid I don’t think I realized that. I just thought it was fun and gross and compelling. Horror/comedies don’t always work for me, and my love of this one may have a hefty dose of nostalgia mixed in, but I do think this is one that if you get into the spirit of it will not fail to entertain.
28 Days Later—Some call this an “infected” story as opposed to true zombies, but it is definitely a movie that takes the zombie tropes and runs with them, adding its own touches along the way. The performances in this film are wonderful, and the story gripping. Like a lot of the best zombie films, it shows that even in a world of the undead, often the living can be the biggest monsters.
Shaun of the Dead—Another comedic zombie tale, but one that wears its love of the genre on its sleeve. It plays with the clichés in such films and turns them into delightful moments that make you laugh and cheer.
Zombieland—Once more with the comedy, but this is a film that entertains like few others do. The characters are lively and interesting, the actors really going for it and delivering in every scene. For all the laugh out loud moments (and I’m even a fan of the absurd but hilarious Bill Murray sequence), the movie has a surprising amount of heart and that’s what ultimately makes it so satisfying.
The Returned—This Spanish-Canadian produced film takes a very different approach to zombies. The plot is intriguing and different, dealing with a treatment to keep those infected from turning into zombies. This treatment is almost depleted and the government starts rounding up infected individuals to put them in “camps.” The movie deals with some very serious issues, and it makes a rather out-there situation feel very real.
Maggie—The most recent film on the list, and like The Returned it deals with zombies in a very grounded way. Zombieism as an illness. The story explores the ideas of long-term disease and the effect it has on families as they slowly watch those they love wasting away in a very authentic manner that is quite heartbreaking. The movie is more drama than horror and boasts some truly top-notch performances (even Arnold delivers a nuanced performance that is raw and vulnerable).
Okay, so those are just a few of my favorite zombie films. It’s because of my love of the zombie that I like to try my hand at the genre from time to time in my own fiction. In FORT I tried to take some of the elements I like in all the above films and incorporate them into a story that is wholly mine.
So did your favorites make my list?
MARK ALLAN GUNNELLS' NEW BOOK FORT IS AVAILABLE TO BUY HERE & HERE