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Growing Up FanboyMy Top Ten Favorite Zombie Films
POSTED BY CHRIS WOODS, February 8, 2011    Share

Zombie films have always been a favorite of mine. Nowadays there seems to be an overkill of zombie movies, some good and some bad. The zombie craze even started a television series called The Walking Dead on AMC, which is actually pretty good. The zombie films that I am a fan of are the classic ones that started with Night of the Living Dead and continued on throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Actually if it were not for Night of the Living Dead, I would not have been a huge fan of horror movies period. After seeing Night on Halloween night in 1987, horror films became my new addiction and zombie films were on the top of my list. Every time I would be flipping through the channels and see a zombie movie on TV, I would watch it. Every time I was in a video store and see a video box for a video movie, I would rent it. From George Romero’s Dead series to the Euro Zombie films, anything that had zombie or living dead in the title I would watch it.

Here is my list of my top ten favorite zombie films. I have to mention that this list is films of the modern day zombie that started with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Also there are some films like 28 Days Later, which I like, but I do not consider that a zombie movie (even though it gets lumped into the zombie category) because it is just people with a virus that makes them crazy. They may act like the living dead, but they are not dead and very much alive. So, those will not be on the list. So, here is my top ten list of zombie films, counting down from number ten:

10 – The Dead Next Door (1989)

After an outbreak of zombies that started in Akron, Ohio, a task force is formed called The Zombie Squad to control the zombie population. A group of scientists try to figure out how to stop the dead from coming back to life. With the help from the squad and a few scientists, they go back to Akron, where it all started and to see if they can come up with a salutation there.

I first saw this film back in the early 90’s soon after it was released. I have always enjoyed this film and thought it was a cool fun zombie flick. The film directed by J.R. Bookwalter who shot it in 8mm and dubbed in the audio in post. The film was done back in 1985, but took almost five years before it was released to the public. I like the gritty look to the film and the special make-up effects for the undead. Amateur actors play the characters in the film, but they manage to pull off their roles and make the characters likable. Bruce Campbell dubbed a few of the voices to some of the actors in the film, one being the lead and Sam Raimi helped in with the releasing of the film.

9 – Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

A theater troupe goes to a small island where criminals have been buried. For a joke, they dig up one of the corpses and hold a séance to try and raise the dead. At first nothing happens and the troupe continues to joke around and have fun for the rest of the night. Then suddenly, the séance worked and the dead start to rise from the grave and go after the troupe for stealing the corpses and disturbing their sleep.

This film was directed by Bob Clark and written by Clark and Alan Ormsby. Ormsby also starred in the film as the director of the theater troupe. I first saw the film in the mid 90’s and like The Dead Next Door it is a fun entertaining zombie movie that was made on a shoestring budget, but still pulls it off even with budget restraints. Often low-budget horror films are much better then big budget Hollywood ones. The grittiness of the film adds to the great atmosphere. Shot in 1972, the film was made just four years after Night of the Living Dead hit theaters, which changed the face of zombie movies. The formula for Night is there in the film, with the group boarding themselves in the house hiding from the zombies, but Clark and Ormsby give the film its own uniqueness.

8 – Nightmare City (1980)

The military and a group of reporters wait for a plane to land that has a scientist on board that was at a recent nuclear accident. When the plane finally lands zombies bursts out and start attacking the living. Within a few hours zombies overrun the city. A reporter tries to find his wife and get themselves out of the zombies’ way, while the military tries to control the situation.

The first time I saw this film was in late 1989 under its other name, City of the Walking Dead. This was at the peak of my zombie craze so I really enjoyed the film. Directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox) Nightmare City is one of the many Italian zombie films that came after Dawn of the Dead hit it big in Italy. Although the film is very much like the traditional modern day zombie film in some ways it is very different in others. To my knowledge this is the first film where the living dead are actually running and they are also using weapons at times such as knives and guns. The zombies still eat the flesh of the living in this one too, but added other means of wiping out the living. It also has a great story filled with action and is not set in one location like other zombie films and it follows the characters all through the city and countryside as they try to escape the dead.

7 – Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

While on vacation, a woman gets off a train after fighting with her boyfriend and her old classmate and walks right into the old village of The Knights of Templar. She camps out there for the night, but is awaken by the Knights returning from the dead. She is later found dead in the morning outside the village and her boyfriend and classmate try to find out what happened to her on that night.

My first Blind Dead film that I saw was actually the third installment, which is called Horror of the Zombies or a.k.a. The Ghost Galleon. I saw it on Commander USA Groovie Movies in the late 80’s and did not see the first one until the mid 90’s when I found it at a video store. I enjoyed it much more than Horror of the Zombies, which I liked as well, but Tombs of the Blind Dead is a classic. It is very scary and has great creepy atmosphere. Amando de Ossorio who directed the film and its sequels created his own vision of the living dead. Unlike Romero style zombies, these undead are very different. Although they still seek the living, they are just skeletons decked out in robes and riding horses. The only zombie with flesh and blood in the film is the young woman from the train, the first victim of The Blind Dead in the film who comes back to life while being stored in the morgue.

6 – Day of the Dead (1985)

The third installment of Romero’s Dead series has most of the world covered with zombies and the remaining humans are living underground. Some of the last of the scientist and military are living in an underground bunker. The two groups clash over what to do about their situation and wonder how long can they survive down there. Eventually the group is at war with each other as the zombies from up above start to invade the underground.

I first saw this film in the summer of 1988 on TV less than a year after I first saw Night of the Living Dead and before I saw Dawn of the Dead. I was excited about seeing a sequel to Night, even though I had not seen the second part yet and this was the third, but at the time Dawn was not coming on TV anytime soon so I was not going to miss catching Day. Just like Romero’s other films, this film is very character driven and loaded with social commentary. The film fits the cycle of the previous dead movies where Night starts the madness and people try to figure out what is happening, Dawn continues with people trying to figure the situation out and find a safe place hide, and Day has the last group standing trying to plan out what’s next. There are also great zombie and gore effects from Tom Savini, which of course most of the blood and gore was censored when I first saw it on regular television, but a few years later I got it on video and was able to see it in its uncut form for the first time.

5 – The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Kind of a spin-off/sequel to Night of the Living Dead, where a teen gets a job at a medical supply warehouse on the 4th of July and his co-worker tells him that Night of the Living Dead is based on a true story and the dead did in fact come back to life. The military was able to contain the few corpses that returned to life, but were accidentally shipped to the medical supply warehouse years ago. The co-worker shows the new guy the corpses, which are stored in steel tanks. They somehow accidentally release gas from the tanks which escapes through the air causing it to rain on a nearby cemetery making the dead come out of their graves.

This has always been a favorite of mine since I first saw it in 1989 and it is a fun entertaining zombie film. The movie has a great story and a great cast and it takes the zombie film to a new level. The movie takes all the rules of a zombie film and changes them up a bit. The characters in the film try to take what they learn from watching zombie films like shoot them in the head if you want to kill them. Kind of like what Scream did with the slasher film. The rules however in the movies do not work in the world of The Return of the Living Dead and the group is challenged on what to do with the undead. Also, the zombies here do not eat flesh, but just want brains, which apparently make the pain of being dead go away. The zombies in this film are fast moving and also speak. There is a real connection to this film and the original Night of the Living Dead though. John Russo, co-writer of Night, wrote the novel and along with other Night alumni, Russell Streiner and Rudy Ricci wrote the story of the screen, which is very different from the book. I also have to mention the memorable strip tease in the graveyard scene by legendary scream queen Linnea Quigley.

4 – Zombi 2 (1979)

An abandoned boat washes up in the New York City harbor, which has a flesh eating zombie on board that kills a police officer and winds up falling over board when other officer fires at him. The daughter of the boat’s original owner is notified and along with a newspaper reporter the two travel to a tropical island to find out what happened to her father. They eventually meet up with a doctor on the island and he explains to them that her father had died of a disease that makes the dead stand up and walk. The island turns out to be infested by zombies and the two and a few others on the island try to figure out how to survive.

I heard about this film for years and searched high and low for it on video at any local rental stores. I finally got to see it in 1994 when I ordered it from a catalog. It was worth the wait and was just as good as I thought it was going to be. It is an excellent film with the entire elements being top notch. The music comes to mind as being one of the strongest things in the film. Also the cinematography, editing, story, characters, and great zombie scares. The film was released as Zombie in the states, but called Zombi 2 in Italy trying to capitalize on Dawn of the Dead, which was just called Zombi there. Lucio Fulci had no intention in making a rip-off to Dawn of the Dead and wanted to make his own unique zombie film, which he did. Fulci created a masterpiece with this zombie classic and it spawned the Italian zombie movie craze. The things that stick out for me the most in this film are the same things that stick out for everyone else when they think about this film. The underwater scene where a zombie is fighting with a shark, the scene when a sharp thin piece of wood going through a woman’s eye as she’s being attacked by a zombie, and the scene which features the poster boy zombie rising from the ground with worms pouring out of its eye socket.

3 – Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

A nuclear leak at a power plant on a far away island has caused the dead to come back to life. Meanwhile somewhere in Europe, a S.W..A.T. team is successful in taking down some terrorists that had some people hostage. After their previous mission the team is sent to Papua New Guinea for a top-secret mission. They stumble across a female television journalist and her photographer as they are about to get attacked by the living dead. The team saves them from the zombies and the group goes off into the jungle. They befriend a tribe with the help of the journalist and try to figure out what is happening. Soon the zombies kill the tribe and now the group is off running trying to escape the living dead and find out answers.

Many critics and fans bad mouth this film, saying it is cheesy, awful, and a really bad rip-off of Dawn of the Dead or Zombi 2, but for me I love this zombie film. I first saw the movie back in 1989 or 1990 and it was called Night of the Zombies, which I called it for years. The film is also called Virus in Italy, but is mainly know as Hell of the Living Dead. Since day one when I saw the film, I have always enjoyed it and I never get tired of watching. Sure, there is some cheesy acting in it, but that is one of the reasons why I like it. One main thing I liked about the film is that the group traveled around the place and did not stay in one location, which most zombie films have people taking shelter in one place waiting for help to arrive. I thought it was much different from the other zombie films I have seen. There are plenty of things that remind me of Dawn of the Dead in the film. One of course is the music, which is the same Goblin score that was used in Dawn. Then the S.W.A.T. team uniforms were very much like Peter’s and Roger’s. Bruno Mattei who directed the film and was credited as Vincent Dawn, tried to save money on the production by using all ready existing music by Goblin (which he did not have permission for) and used mondo stock footage of jungle scenes, which gave the film a documentary feel. This has always been a favorite zombie film of mine for years and years and I still enjoy watching it today.

2 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The sequel to the classic film, Night of the Living Dead picks up where Night left off. The living dead are still out there and there is no stopping them. The film starts off at a television station trying to broadcast and warn people to what is happening. A TV producer, Fran, and traffic reporter, Stephen, decided to take the stations helicopter and get out of town. Meanwhile, across town a S.W.A.T. team takes out some criminals living in the projects. They discover in one of the buildings that the place is filled with zombies. Roger a member of the S.W.A.T. team tells fellow S.W.A.T. teammate, Peter that he has a friend (Stephen) who has a chopper and they can get out of this place. The two go with Stephen and Fran in the chopper and eventually find a shopping mall for they can take refuge for a while, but they have a group of zombies to deal with inside the place.

Not only is this film second on my list of zombie films, but it is also my second favorite horror film of all time and it is in my top five favorite films in general. As I mentioned before, I first saw Dawn of the Dead in the fall of 1988, after I saw the third film of the series, Day of the Dead. I was finally glad I got to see Dawn and it did deliver. I love this film all around. It has an excellent story, it is photographed beautifully, the editing is top notch and goes with the action in the film, Goblins soundtrack is one of the best ever in cinema, and the great talented cast that pulled off the characters of Peter, Roger, Fran, and “Flyboy” Stephen. They are my most favorite group of characters in a film next to the main characters in Star Wars (the first trilogy, of course). George Romero is one of my favorite directors of all time and this is one of his best films he has ever made. The film fits the time that it was released perfectly with the social commentary on consumption. I can watch the film over and over again and know almost every line from the film. Just like Romero redefined zombie films with Night of the Living Dead, Romero re-launched the zombie film ten years later with Dawn, which caused a zombie craze in Italy with films that I previously mentioned on my list such as Zombi 2, Hell of the Living Dead, and Nightmare City. There was even a remake of the film in 2004, but the original will always be the best.

1 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This is original zombie classic that started it all. Barbara and Johnny are putting a riff on their father’s grave, when a strange man attacks them. Johnny tries to fight him off, but he is knocked out when he hits his head on a tombstone. Barbara runs away from this man and find a nearby house to get help. The house is empty and Barbara tries to call for help, but the phone is dead. After finding a dead body upstairs, Barbara tries to leave, but sees that she is surrounded by a group of people who look like they are in a trance. A man named Ben appears and gets her back in the house for she is safe. The two try to figure out what is happening while boarding up the place. The two realize they are not alone in the house when a group of five people come from the basement. The five of them are not like the others outside and they also want to know what is happening. From a TV broadcast they all find out that the dead are returning to life and eating the flesh of the living. The group now struggles with themselves, while they figure out what to do next.

This is the film that sets the standard for all zombie movies. Romero’s classic has been a favorite of mine for years. Not only is Night of the Living Dead my number one pick for favorite zombie film, but it is my all time number one horror film and like Dawn of the Dead, it is in my top five list of favorite films in general. Night has a special place in my heart and I love it to death. If it were not for Night, I would not be into horror movies. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article I saw this film for the first time on Halloween 1987 and I have never seen anything like it and it got me hooked on horror. This film made me want to write and make movies, so I owe Night a lot. The film is excellent all around with story, characters, cinematography, editing, and music. Everything is awesome about this film. Like Dawn, Night represents the time it was made very well. I often saw the film have parallels to American life during the Vietnam War and civil rights movement. The gritty documentary black and white look to it gives this film a great edge. Romero made a new kind of monster movie where the problem does not get solved in an hour and a half and the monster does not have three eyes and six legs. The monster in Romero’s film is us. Like Dawn, the film was remade. The remake came out in 1990, directed by Tom Savini (who did make-up effects for Dawn and Day of the Dead) and written by Romero. Although it was made by some of the original players of Night and was an all right film, nothing beats the original 1968 classic. I never tire of this film and still enjoy watching it and try to watch it around Halloween. Night of the Living Dead is not only one of the best zombie films, but it is truly one of the best films in cinema history.

So, that is my list of my top ten favorite zombie films of all time. I hope all of the living and dead have enjoyed it.

What is your favorite zombie films? CLICK HERE and list your Top 10!

"Growing Up Fanboy" is ©2011 by Chris Woods. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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