Warning: This article contains violent images. Viewer discretion is advised.
Zombies are everywhere! From one-time cult curio to today’s mainstream hit television show, “The Walking Dead.” The once humble reanimated corpse has staggered a long way to global fame. Even Brad Pitt is getting in on the act, and next summer will deliver a studio-backed adaptation of Max Brooks’ “World War Z.”
With the release of Lucio Fulci’s iconic “Zombie Flesh Eaters” last December, it is a great time to serve up a smorgasbord of choice-cut zomboid flicks! And meat is definitely on the menu.
Twenty years ago, Sir Peter Jackson was making splatter movies of bad taste and what is arguably the goriest film of all time: “Braindead” (a.k.a. Dead Alive; from 1992). I fell in love with Jacko’s flicks as a teenager; who wouldn’t? They were funny and gross. For the fledgling horror fan this combo was a winner. Plus there’s exchanges like this: Paquita: “Your mother ate my dog!” Lionel: “Not all of it.”
“Braindead” was *the* original rom-zom-com before “Shaun of the Dead” coined the phrase. (Although, Brian Yuzna’s “Return of the Living Dead” had a similar sort of romance theme going on). Jacko’s ultimate splatter is a world away from Bag End, hobbits, wizards and Mordor shenans. Cherish this movie because it offers gore galore, and a fond, but now a distant reminder of Jacko’s bloody roots.
“Dellamorte Dellamore” (a.k.a. Cemetery Man; 1994) stars Rupert Everett as a rather louche and cool chap in charge of making sure the recently deceased don’t rise up, and escape from the cemetery where he works. They have a bad habit of coming back from the dead and being a nuisance. Michele Soavi’s horror comedy is a fun spin on the genre, and the movie was adapted from “Dylan Dog” comics by Tiziano Sclavi. This is quite a sick film too, with several figures holding necrophiliac tendencies. However, the pangs for a lost love and the downbeat, fetid air feels heavily inspired by US writer Edgar Allan Poe. Cool ending, too.
Character Flyboy is officially King of the Zombies. George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) is officially King of the Zombie Movies (according to me).
Poor David. Just when he thinks he’s out of the zombie-infested soup (actually a mall), an elevator door opens and a gang of them storm in–arms outstretched–with a bite to eat on their minds. The shot described from Romero’s masterpiece is one of the scariest ever staged. It comes at a tense point in the movie, and causes an unexpected jolt. And to this day, I feel a slight apprehension when ever getting into an elevator.
Dan O’Bannon’s and Ron Shusett’s (“Dead and Buried”) script plays with the Zombie theme in a slightly more traditional, though, inventive way. It also feels very Lovecraftian, in places. Apparently this is a film O’Bannon disowned because he claims he didn’t even write the thing, and lent his name to help get the film made. The twist ending is good, and the promotional poster is a classic!
John Gilling’s “The Plague of the Zombies” (1966) has been described by Hammer expert Jonathan Rigby, as the studio’s most inspired and faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Wrong genre and monsters, right? But the similarities are uncanny. A sequence featuring the living dead slowly rising from their slumber would have a huge impact on Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie Flesh Eaters.” “The Plague of the Zombies” is a rather baffling sort of movie. Why on earth a local aristocrat is resurrecting the dead to work his tin mine? It is most odd. Keeps costs down, perhaps? The hordes featured are directly linked to the traditional Caribbean zombified sugar plantation worker of earlier cinematic incarnations, rather than the later flesh-eating kind. Gilling’s film also allows for a reading based on that peculiar British obsession with class structure.
Of course the original “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) is a better movie! Of course it was ground-breaking, and one of the greatest horror films of all time. However, Tom Savini’s 1990 remake is very good and deserves respect. Apart from a few rubbish effects such as a balloon head hitting a grave, and a blow up doll-like zombie being attacked with a fire poker, the gore and makeup is good stuff.
I actually saw this version before the original, as it was Sky Movies one night in the mid-1990s and I was allowed to stay up and watch it. Also, the film corrects the original Barbara wrong and presents the iconic character as a feminist action hero—stunt performer Patricia Tallman is great in the role. Lines such as: “You can’t get a reception in the basement, dickhead,” “You shot Mr. Magruder!,” and “We can make it to Evans City on frickin’ fumes!,” would be quoted often, if better known.
Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue” (1974) is a Spanish-Italian co-production released as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” (and a dozen other titles internationally). It includes the hilariously naff “Don’t Open the Window.” This is an atmospheric and blood-soaked shocker, which also can be said to possess a proto-eco warrior message, as the living dead are resurrected by pesticides. The walking corpse sporting a nappy/diaper and stapled up chest combo still gives me the heebie-jeebies.
“Versus” (2000) is a Japanese variation of the zombie flick directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. It is inventive, if not entirely successful, blend of horror and gangster picture with a fantasy twist. It does have a cool concept, and has been touted for a remake by Hollywood.
Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie Flesh Eaters” (1979) features one of the most bizarre sequences ever dreamed up—never mind filmed! For no apparent reason other than the producer bought some stock footage of a shark; Auretta Gay’s character, Susan, decides to go swimming and take photographs under the sea. A zombie appears. A tiger shark appears (in stock footage, it’s a great white). Susan gets the hell out of Dodge and the deep-sea diving escapee of Matool and shark fight. Guess who wins?
Packed with ludicrous dialogue, paper-thin characters and memorable scenes a-plenty, Fulci’s remains one of the most enjoyable films of the genre. Watch out for the Italian’s cameo as a newspaper editor who sends Peter West (Ian McCulloch) out to investigate a deserted ship that appeared in New York’s harbour.
The Ford Brothers premiered their retro-tinged film, “The Dead,” at Film4 FrightFest in 2010. There’s a sequel on the way, too. Now, it isn’t the best movie ever made but the lads endured an eventful shoot in Bukina Faso—something they bigge d up proper during their promotional duties. The photography by Jonathan Ford is stunning, making “The Dead” one of the best shot walking dead movies ever made. It also has a pleasingly old-school style that recalls the Italian variation of the genre—daft story, plenty of blood and guts, heavy on atmosphere and bleak finale.
Credits: Film stills © respective studios Article republished from Cinemart