Here then, is my take on the ten best ‘Undead’ films of all time:
10. Diary of the Dead (2008) – Romero’s fifth go-round into the shambling realm of the undead was shot as a video diary from those experiencing the zombie takeover. Despite some shaky acting and an overabundance of CGI, the ‘godfather of the dead’ proved he hadn’t quite lost his ‘bite’. His previous outing, 2005’s ‘Land of the Dead’, barely misses the cut.
9. Zombie (1979) – Sure, it’s a Romero clone to the bone (pun intended), but Lucio Fulchi’s Italian gut-muncher holds its own in the storied annals of the genre. All comparisons aside, the ‘zombie vs. shark’ scene was as original an idea as they come.
8. Night of the Living Dead (1990) – Director Tom Savini’s overlooked remake is pretty much a shot for shot reworking, though it does provide its own, rather fitting twist at the end. The effects are top notch, as one would expect from the effects man (Savini of course also portrayed the biker ‘Blades’) behind the original ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Very much underrated.
7. Day of the Dead (1985) – Romero’s original trilogy of the dead concluded with this, the least popular of the trio. True, the actors shout more lines than they speak, but wouldn’t being trapped in an underground weapons silo with ‘Frankenstein’ Logan and that sadistic dictator Captain Rhodes turn anyone into a screamer? Claustrophobic and as gory as they come, it’s a fitting conclusion to Romero’s original apocalyptic vision.
6. The Dead (2011) – Simply the best damn zombie flick since Snyder’s remake of ‘Dawn’. The African setting…the cinematography…the musical score…all flawless. It’s a throwback, and I mean that as the ultimate compliment. Toss in top-notch, mostly practical effects, solid acting and an ending that was as grim and fitting as any in recent memory, the Ford Brothers ‘The Dead’ makes up for the literally hundreds of pathetic genre entries of the last decade.
5. Ravenous (1999) – A horror/western hybrid so woefully overlooked upon its release, the first hour of Antonia Bird’s cult favorite built such levels of tension and dread, it was almost inevitable the last thirty minutes would drop off to merely routine. A great cast (Guy Pierce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Neal McDonough), breathtaking landscapes (the Carpathian Mountains), and a folksy score right out of ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ elevate the tension to new heights. Additionally, it featured one of the better tag lines in horror film history: “You are who you eat”...indeed.
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Yeah, I shouted ‘blasphemy’ at the top of my lungs when I’d caught wind of Zack Snyder’s ‘reimagining’ of the film I’ve deemed one of the greatest flicks of all time, must less the ultimate zombie chronicle. Fast zombies? How dare he? Needless to say, it overshot my expectations by a country mile. Snyder has, alas, yet to match his work here, with bloated, overhyped offerings such as ‘Watchman’ (‘watchable’ at best) and ‘Sucker Punch’ (putrid except for the chicks).
3. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – The film that started it all. Still packs a wallop despite the shoestring budget. If Romero had a dollar for every imitation that has rolled down the pike, Bill Gates would be serving him lunch.
2. Dead Alive (1993) – Forget the bloated Lord of the Rings trilogy…forget ‘King Kong’…this is truly director Peter Jackson’s masterpiece. Before success turned him, Jackson was a gore director (Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles) extraordinaire, with this being his opus. More body parts than you can cram in a truckload of blenders fling about in this New Zealand-filmed comedy/horror flick, which is, deep down, just a shy boy meets girl love story (wink…wink).
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978) – I first viewed ...no…experienced this film in 1980 at the age of 17. I would have to rate it as the single most influential film of my life. It fueled me to write, to draw, to imagine. Actually, it probably warped the hell out of me in so many ways, but in what I consider a positive way. ‘When there is no more room in hell…the dead will walk the earth’. Still chills the bones…
Honorable mention: Land of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks later, Planet of Terror, Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead, The Crazies, Dead and Buried, The Last Man on Earth, Night of the Creeps, Pet Sematary, Rabid, Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, Demons.
Up Next: My take on the ten best Sci-Fi flicks of all time.