Jul 21, 2020


If you had told me ten years ago that zombies would not only infiltrate major cable television and make The Walking Dead one of the highest-rated shows of all time, but ALSO become the focus of a multi-million dollar globe-trotting film starring the massively-present Brad Pitt (World War Z), I honestly don't know what I would have thought of you. But, here we are. 

Zombies, for all intents and purposes, are "in" right now. And when I say "in" I mean in movies, television (drama) shows, comics, and feature novels. Not only that, they're invading real life, too.

And that's cool with me, really. Every horror-loving boy/girl loves his/her zombies. Sure, the genre might be a bit too saturated with them right now, but for every ten zombie projects that come to be, a few of them will be decent, and one will be great. To me, that one great project is worth the middling nine.

Beginning with Night of the Living Dead, co-writer/director George A. Romero appropriated the word "zombie" and turned it into his own monster. No, zombies were not always undead flesh-eating, stumbling, mumbling fools. And nowhere is it written in an ancient tome that the only way to kill a zombie is by destroying the brain or removing the head. This isn't common folklore like killing a vampire with a stake to the heart, or killing a werewolf with a silver bullet. Romero started it all. He took the concept of "zombies" - people brainwashed and drugged out of their minds with an assortment of mind altering chemicals and resurrected as slaves by their master - and turned it into what it's become. Everything you see on The Walking Dead was created entirely by Romero. If the world was just, he'd own his own concept of the nu-zombie and be one of the richest men because of it.

Many filmmakers have been "borrowing" Romero's zombie concept for the last fifty years, and because of the world we live in, the more high profile films to gain prominence are the Resident Evil films, which is all kinds of sad.

So allow me to take this time to highlight five particular zombie-infested films with which you may not be familiar. Seek them out should you feel so inclined, and you'll find that these celluloid collections of ghouls just might eat their way into your heart.

Should the proposed 28 Months Later, the third part of Danny Boyle's 28 trilogy, never come to fruition, feel free to consider Mutants the honorary Part 3. Not only does this French-set film carry on what was alluded to in the final moments of 28 Weeks Later, but its extreme gore and visceral depiction of the zombie threat (considered more of an infected breed than the actual undead) resurrects Boyle's threat while also borrowing his trademark thrashing-camera chaotic cinema experience, all of which made 28 Days Later nihilistically wonderful. Mutants opens with a jarring introduction to our characters, forcing you to feel as if the movie had begun several months before you ever turned it on. With shit having already hit the fan, three people (two EMTs and an army soldier) are fighting their way through a zombie infestation. The two EMTs, Marco and Sophia, are also lovers, and with Sophia pregnant, the two take refuge in an old hospital and await the rescue Sophia hopes was successfully contacted via her broadcasts over the radio. But with Marco bit and the infection slowly taking over, it becomes a race against the clock as Sophia hopes someone has heard her pleas for help and will deliver to them both the salvation they need.  Oh, and because this is a zombie movie, a bunch of dickhead humans also make things difficult because that's a requirement in every zombie movie: the reminder that humanity is actually worse than flesh-ripping, blood-spitting ghouls.

When you think of the French, do you think of loaves of bread, wimpy men, and an entire nation of people us Americans are pigeonholed into disliking simply because they don't like to go to war? Well, if you're American, that's a definite possibility...but allow me to add one more trait to that list: they make entirely fucked-up and non-apologetic horror films. Between Haute Tension, the absolutely insane À l'intérieur (Inside), and now Mutants, it's clear they relish having bloody chunks rocket across the room. The zombies in Mutants are very threatening and very real. The debate of walking vs running zombies would literally be eaten to death as these things barrell down the street or the hallway and rip chunks out of you like you're the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. 

This strange little film asks the question: what if it weren't noxious chemicals, Sumerian rat monkeys, voodoo, or space dust that resurrected the dead and turned them into zombies...but instead the sound of our own voices? What if a zombie infestation rapidly spread with each single syllable uttered by a human mouth? And could you imagine the Catch 22-ish situation a radio show host would find himself in? How does he help to warn humankind of the threat outside their doors without adding to the problem by sending his voice out over the airwaves?

An interesting premise makes for an even more interesting film called Pontypool, starring the wonderful Stephen McHattie (300, The X Files) as Grant Mazzy, the radio host who finds himself in that earlier-described predicament. Set mostly in the basement radio station run by Sydney Briar (Catherine Keener doppelganger Lisa Houle), the film at first is given legs by various call-in reports from area residents as well as one of the station's newscasters, and in an almost flipped-on-its-ear Rear Window-like maneuver, we can only listen as things outside get more and more intense. We experience most of the terror through eyewitness' verbal accounts described by the confused and the terrified, but after a while, our eyewitnesses begin to exhibit the same strange behavior gripping the small Canadian town of Pontypool. It's through these developments that the threat becomes more and more prominent, and it leads to a rather wacky conclusion that threatens to derail all the goodwill Pontypool has amassed by straddling a line, comprised of an intriguing concept, between distinct and ridiculous.

"Dead Set"
This series from the U.K. takes what just might be two of America's favorite things - zombies and reality television - and marries them to create a fun five-episode saga filled with all kinds of ghoulish carnage. And much to the relief of the found-footage haters of the world, what sounds like an apocalypse captured on home video is actually very traditionally shot, very rarely utilizing amateur footage to tell its story. This fun meta-re-realization of a what-if Big Brother cast find themselves locked into a loft and completely cut off from the outside world, so when a zombie outbreak occurs, they have no idea such bloodiness is happening right outside their door. A young and spunky Big Brother producer named Kelly (Jamie "My Father Is That Bad-Ass From Sexy Beast" Winstone) finds herself on the run from the growing zombie threat, trying not just to survive, but also to find her boyfriend, with whom she hasn't been entirely honest. Like many other films of its ilk, it's not just a story of someone looking for salvation, but redemption as well. And meanwhile, a bunch of people get eaten, ripped apart, and decimated in all manner of fun and crimson-colored ways. Plus someone shits in a trashcan and screams. Good times!

Boy Eats Girl
I saw this DVD somewhere for literally $1 and figured I had nothing to lose in giving it a shot. Despite the terrible title, I found the premise intriguing, and what I expected to be a once-and-done viewing turned into one of the happiest surprises of my bargain bin archaeological digs, and it's a film I've revisited several times. This 2005 flick from Ireland could easily be described as Dawn of the Dead meets American Pie (assuming you consider the latter to be reasonably entertaining), and tells the story of a boy named Nathan, who is madly in love with his best girl mate named Jessica. One night, in an only-in-the-movies misunderstanding, Nathan feels stood up by Jessica, and in a move that would make even the guys from Hawthorne Heights roll their eyes, Nathan goes home, drinks, cries a lot, and hangs himself (accidentally). Nathan's mother brings him back from the dead using an extremely vague spell found in an ancient text, but fails to tell the boy exactly what's transpired. For a day or so, Nathan feels stronger and faster, but his brief time as Peter Parker slowly regresses into a Bub for the Degrassi High Generation.

I realize that everything I've so far described about Boy Eats Girl makes it sound massively dumb, but trust me when I say much of the film is very funny. The lead kids are likable (the ones you're supposed to like, anyway) and while it may sound sugary and lame on my part, there's something refreshing about knowing one of your best buds is slowly turning into a zombie, but you stick by his side anyway. It adds a level of charm and humility to the film and turns what's basically a stupid concept into a movie with heart. Plus lots of flying body parts. I'm pretty sure someone gets run over by a lawn mower at some point.

Zombie Honeymoon
Based on the title and presence of producer John Landis, who has directed some of our most classic comedies, you would think that Zombie Honeymoon is played mostly for laughs. You'd be wrong, nerds. The story, about a recently married couple on their honeymoon encountering a zombie on the beach who bites the man before disappearing back into the waves, is actually very poignant, and very saddening. Sure, there are moments played for laughs, as such a premise cannot sustain without occasional breaks for levity, but what could easily have been another shitty direct-to-video low budgeter actually tugs at the heartstrings a little more than you would expect. A wife for barely a day finds herself caring for her slowly transforming husband, at first thinking he is merely ill...but soon realizes that he is becoming a zombie before her very eyes. The only zombie movie on this list to not feature hordes of zombies running across abandoned streets, Zombie Honeymoon remains a very intimate and isolated story, taking place mostly in the vacation spot the couple has rented to celebrate their marriage. If you're looking for split heads and geysers of blood, look elsewhere, but those looking for something different should check this out.


  1. I actually have seen all of these except for Mutants. I'm intrigued now. I'm adding that to my list. I didn't care too much for Pontypool.

    Good review!

    Swing by my page