Zombie: A deceased human being who has partially returned to life due to undeterminable causes.
I don’t know about you, but I have had about enough of our undead friends to last me a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of zombie movies. It’s just that because of overexposure and a constant tweaking to the mythos to keep it “fresh”, I have become a little jaded. They don’t make them like Romero used to, before he went all independent and deeply disappointing.
In the 1980s, the zombie onslaught was everywhere: on our televisions, adverts and music videos, which led to an eventual lack of interest from the public and a whole lot of “meh”. Once there were dancing zombies in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, being scared by them ever again seemed liked a hard task.
Zombies almost completely disappeared from our media until 2004 when the both excellent Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead were released, with the latter doing a lot to introduce “fast” zombies to a new modern audience. Replacing shuffling, sometimes laughable slow zombies with sprinting lunatics did a lot to revitalise the perception of the undead as legitimate monsters once again.
However, fastforward ten years and the perception of zombies feels like it’s shifting again. An abundance of zombie-related media has meant that what exactly makes a reanimated cadaver is now more debatable than ever: some of them can talk, use tools, retain some of their humanity, not to mention their “rules” regarding what they can and cannot eat. Some of them aren’t even dead to begin with.
It’s a creative free-for-all.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been some truly innovative and original ways of showing brain-eating and marrow gnawing on our screens lately. It just so happens that for every Land of the Dead, we get fifty Volcano Zombies.
With the surely imminent death knell of the modern zombie craze not too far away, I decided to take a look at some of the best zombie movies of the 21st century — whether they feature slow zombies, fast zombies, or questionably even zombies at all — so far.
I was in two minds whether or not two include Warm Bodies on this list of the best zombie movies, purely because it’s so “Disney-fied”. Compared to other undead offerings, it’s incredibly tame and marketed towards a teenage audience — it’s like a better version of Twilight but with zombies. Still, it has some great moments and Nicholas Hoult’s zombie friend is a standout. If you’re looking for something to watch with a squeamish partner, Warm Bodies is a safe pick.
World War Z is a movie that gets dramatically worse with every watch. At the cinema, I thought it was quite the ridiculous but fun spectacle. After watching it a few times since, how out of touch it is with its source combined with the troubled production coming through at some points sent it down in my estimations.
Plus, that Pepsi scene was gross. Watch it once when you’re drunk, maybe, and pray to God that the cancelled sequel from David Fincher is brought back and does the book justice.
31. Bong of the Living Dead (2017)
Yeah, it’s dumb. You should kind of get that almost immediately from its name. But Bong of the Living Dead is still a lot of fun. A low-budget zombie movie, what Bong lacks in terms of technical quality, it makes up for it in terms of laughs and unexpected scares.
When a group of stoners light one up and start discussing the zombie outbreak, exactly that happens. Don’t go into it expecting the second coming of Romero and you will have a lot of fun.
30. The Cured (2017)
As derivative of the BBC’s criminally under-watched In The Flesh and the actually just bad The Returned as The Cured may be, it’s still a tense and emotional time that tries its best to create parallels with modern times and terrorism. When a cure is found to return zombies to their human state and back into society, it’s not all smooth sailing as one of “the cured” returns to his family home harbouring a dark secret.
Featuring some great performances, particularly from Ellen Page, The Cured asks some potent questions but just labours under the weight of it being too similar to what preceded it. A worthwhile watch all the same.
Here Alone starts off strongly with plenty of intrigue as a lone woman makes a simple living for herself in the woods. The tension is always bubbling and threatening to boil over in the post-apocalypse, leading to plenty of anticipation for the reveal of the zombies, who are…terrible.
As soon as their weak designs appear on-screen for the first time, the whole thing bottoms out. It’s all downhill from that, featuring some terrible plot advancement and some very ropey sequences, but if you could bottle the first half an hour of Here Alone, you might have a small zombie movie gem on your hands.
Is The Rezort a good movie? Not particularly. Does it do anything different to what we’ve seen a hundred times already? Well, it’s Jurassic Park with zombies.
When you boil down its premise to just that succinct little tagline, it’s clear that this isn’t a movie you should take too seriously. Sure, it looks cheap at the worst of times and some of the acting veers into melodrama, but as a zombie movie, it’s effective escapism that might take you by surprise.
A popularly conflicting movie, Henry Hobson’s Maggie is a fascinating look into the deterioration of a young girl’s humanity as she gradually becomes one of the undead. Her father, played spectacularly by Arnold Schwarzenegger, does everything in his power to keep her safe and away from the inevitable. Not one for action fans, Maggie is instead an introspective look at love and what it means to be human.
This movie could have been so much better – if it had stuck closer to the games it was based upon, that would have been a start. Despite dispatching of most of its cast in the feeblest way possible instead of making them undead chow, Resident Evil has a few good moments of zombie action. Shame the rest of its is such a bizarre hodge-podge of nu-metal music videos and slow-motion, then.
Just before the found footage subgenre reached its peak, the late, great George A. Romero released his spin on things with Diary of the Dead, which, somehow took place in the same timeframe as Night of the Living Dead. Featuring plenty of memorable moments (Amish farmer, anyone? but a lack of consistent quality, Diary of the Dead is certainly watchable but nowhere near the top of Romero’s zombie filmography.
One of the zombie movies that is dumber than Harry and Lloyd rolling around in nuclear waste talking about creationism. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Dance of the Dead doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself seriously for even a second. A light-hearted effort centred around a zombie outbreak during a high school prom and you can fill in the blanks about what happens next.
The Ford brothers’ 2010 African adventure is a movie that I staved off watching for the longest time. It’s been polarisingly received by zombie movie fans, who might not have appreciated its slower tempo and more hesitant approach to a world filled with the undead. If you can deal with not having action sequences every five minutes, The Dead takes a leaf out of the Romero guidebook and it works wonders for it. The sequel ain’t so hot, though.
George A. Romero’s long-awaited return to his classic zombie series might not rank as his best, but it still has a strong political undercurrent which sets it apart from similar fare. America’s War on Terror is a big inspiration for events here and contributes towards a smarter, more accessible effort than 1985’s Day of the Dead that still ends up as an arguably inferior but great watch nonetheless.