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 1980’s, 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. 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 so far.
27. Here Alone
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.
26. The Rezort (2015)
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.
25. Maggie (2015)
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.
24. Resident Evil (2002)
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.
23. Diary of the Dead (2007)
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.
22. Dance of the Dead (2008)
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.
21. The Dead (2010)
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.
20. Land of the Dead (2005)
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.
19. Deadgirl (2008)
This is a nasty, ugly film which serves as more of a reminder of the depravity that humanity will sink to rather than an out-and-out zombie movie. After two teenage boys find a reanimated corpse in an abandoned facility, they resort to depraved acts as they hold her captive. It’s a hard watch that can be far too aggressive with its message, but is still an effective alternative zombie film which should be ticked off your watchlist. Just don’t choose it for date night.
18. Exit Humanity (2011)
This will not be for you if you like your zombie movies to be a bit…flighty. Exit Humanity takes place in a Civil War-era overwhelmed with the undead and follows the toils of an ex-family man who is just looking to survive in the most melancholy way possible. The narration can be slightly jarring and the action a little melodramatic, but this is a taut, clever effort nonetheless that is available on Amazon Instant Video.
17. Colin (2008)
Nobody is going to claim that this extremely low-budget found footage movie is groundbreaking in its cinematography, but it is fascinating in concept. For the princely sum of £45, director Marc Price has managed to create an intelligent film told entirely from the perspective of a zombie during an outbreak in Britain. If for nothing but to appreciate what was accomplished on a tiny budget, Colin is a must-see.
16. Planet Terror (2007)
Probably the last good thing Robert Rodriguez has touched, Planet Terror is a romp from start to finish. As part of the admirably throwback Grindhouse series with Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez released a camp, silly but still stylish zombie movie back in 2007 that featured some of the greatest one-liners in film history. “I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge” is the first thing I say to all my new friends.
15. Fido (2006)
Hands up if you knew that Billy Connolly was once a zombie. Putting in a great performance as the titular “hero”, Connolly anchors one of the first interesting spins on zombie legend to come out in the 21st century. Taking place in a world where the flesh eaters have become domesticated, Fido is a unique zombie film that might have passed many people by on initial release; it’s definitely worth picking up for cheap now.
14. The Horde (2009)
Going on poster art alone, The Horde would be one to swerve. It’s by no means perfect, but this Belgian release is a pleasant surprise, especially if you base your preconceptions on its dodgy cover. Don’t expect the Citizen Kane of zombie movies (that will always be 1978’s Dawn of the Dead) and you will have a lot of fun with the machismo of dumb police officers who fail to understand where to shoot zombies.
13. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)
Judging from its first few scenes, I thought Wyrmwood would be a difficult slog. It’s full of cheese and totally unbelievable, but as the film progressed, I found myself being charmed. Wyrmwood has plenty of influences that it isn’t afraid to hide, so much so that it feels like one long homage to an entire genre. It’s a B-movie done absolutely right for a modern audience.