Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Zombies Aplenty

I saw this article…and have to say, WOW! It’s the perfect source material for a blogsite called “ZomBicurious”, right? The top 10 best zombie films of all time. As ridiculous as it is for me to refer to myself as a zombie aficionado, that’s just one of the things I am. I can’t get enough of zombies – good, bad, and wretchedly horrible. It’s the perfect stuff for a good laugh. And, forget about Team Jacob or Team Edward. In the Zombie universe there’s Team Fast and Team Slow and I’m somewhere in the middle.

If you want to look at Stylus Magazine’s Top Ten List, do so here:

While I agree with many of the choices they made, I have to say the order is a little off, in my opinion. Here’s my top ten list for not only zombie movies, but also zombie books. You gotta have both!

Top Ten Zombie Movies of All Time:

1. The Night of the Living Dead: It’s really kind of difficult to argue with the film that started the whole zombie craze. Yes, there have been many other zombie films that preceded this one, but not on the same level. George Romero’s first film is not his best, but it kick-started a sub-sect of the horror genre that would be repeated over, and over, and over again!

2. Dawn of the Dead: This is Romero’s finest film. And it works on every single level. From the campy Tom Savini make-up to the over-stylized gore (anyone remember that blood pressure machine?), to the uber-depressing ending. Plus, there’s a hefty social commentary running throughout. (A side note: Zach Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, which is really more of a reimagining, is excellent, and sadly would have come on the list had the list run past ten)

3. Shaun of the Dead: If Romero is the one that ignited the zombie genre, then Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg ignited the zom-com. Yes, Dan O’Bannon did it years before with the Return of the Living Dead films, which I think are pure hilarity, but they were nothing more than a blip on the map. Yes, I’m a Dan O’Bannon fanboy, so it’s very hard for me to substitute Team-Shaun here, but they did it. They did the same thing Romero did – create a genre that would be copied for years to come.

4. Dead Alive: Peter Jackson’s movie was once dubbed the “goriest film of all time”. It’s gory, no doubt about it. It’s also good to see a classic Peter Jackson film. I love Peter, but I’m sad that he’s not doing fun stuff like this any longer. Still there’s a lot to like in a movie that features campy comedy, a zombie virus spread from a vicious rat, and zombie sex that results in zombie baby. I challenge you not to laugh during the taking the zombie baby to the park scene.

5. Fido: “Fido” was barely seen by anyone, but it created an alternate 1950’s that had suffered the perils of the “zombie war”, rather than the Cold War tensions and threats from the Korean war. It’s a clever piece, and a near flawless film, and yet it’s nothing more than a boy-and-his-dog story. Billy Connelly has no lines as the title zombie, and the cast is filled with recognizable character actors but no real stars. It’s an exceptional film. If you’re one of the many that has not seen it, by all means rent it!

6. 28 Days Later: I realize that this is testing everything that I should be against. For starters, these are not even zombies. They’re infected with rage, and they are sort of brainless and only motivated by human flesh, but are they really zombies? No. And, they’re not the shuffling stiffs that have been represented in the previous 5 films. This, though, is where the genre began to change a bit. We began seeing fast zombies rather than the norm. There is a certain sense of dread that accompanies the fast, Russian-gymnast-esque zombies. Still, I will toss it a bone and say it’s a pretty cool flick.

7. Evil Dead 2: I should have this higher on the list, as I’m a Bruce Campbell fanboy. I’m also a friend, so I really should have this higher. Evil Dead 2 has not only zombies and, well, evil dead. It’s got a zombie deer head mounted on the wall. It’s also got one of the baddest ass zombie killers around – Ash, housewares. I’m still waiting to see if Ash can kick the ass of any other classic movie monsters.

8. Zombieland: This film kicked the zom-com into overdrive! Woody Harrelson is classic Woody. And the expectations should be kept relatively low. Why is it on the list, though? Well, the center of the humor of this film is in the repeating of the rules of a zombie movie. Everyone that’s seen a zombie flick knows the rules by heart already. But, this film makes a joke out of them and it works. There are countless rules. Having Bill Murray is great as well. There’s just so much to love about this film. It’s pretends to be nothing than what it is.

9. Zombi: This was made as a follow-up to Dawn Of the Dead. And it’s on the list for two reasons: 1.) Zombie versus Shark! And 2.) Conquistador zombies rising from the Earth!

10. Night of the Creeps: Fred Dekker was the man of the 80’s. Night of the Creeps and the great Tom Atkins made this horror-comedy work. Slugs get into your skin and turn you into flesh eating zombies. It’s great fun and, according to Troma alum, James Gunn, it inspired “Slither”. Finally this is released on Blu Ray, and the transfer is pretty gorgeous in all its 80’s gore.

5 Zombie Books You Must Read, if you like zombies, that is:

1. World War Z: Max Brooks mimicks Studs Terkel to great success here. It’s a book of accounts from the great Zombie War, and it’s excellent. Vivid detail from the recounts of the beginning in China to the United States Homefront. If you can listen to the audio book, you’ll be exceptionally impressed – Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Mark Hamill, Alan Aldo, Jurgen Prochnow, Henry Rollins, and others perform.

2. Breathers: Just finished this, and this is a thought-provoking look at the life of a zombie. It suffers from the same syndrome Shaun of the Dead does, in that it takes you on a hilarious journey, then reaches a weird plateau and is not sure where to go. Still, the end product is worth it.

3. Cell: Stephen King’s visceral look at the world turned to zombies courtesy of a signal pulsed through cellular phones is fast paced (very short for King) and visceral. Many argue that it’s not a King novel. I argue the opposite. In fact, after being disappointed by King, this was a nice return to some of his earlier horror fiction. I loved it.

4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: The dementors marked a dark turn for the fantasy series. However, this book introduced us to the Inferi, which are the undead. I was tripping when I got to them. Zombies in a Harry Potter book? Awesome. This, too, marked a dark turn in the series, and I was elated to see them appear again in the final book of the series. Who knew Harry Potter and zombies went together?

5. The Rising: The book that really put Brian Keene on the map. It’s not well written. There are typos aplenty. Yet, the action is raw and in your face. The situations are horrifying. The dialogue is believable. And the zombies offer a new twist. It’s pretty awesome. If you like it you can always check out two others in that universe: City of the Dead and Dead Sea.

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