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OneMetal.com film ARTICLE: In Love With The Dead: 10 Zombie Films You Must Watch Before You Die

In Love With The Dead: 10 Zombie Films You Must Watch Before You Die

If you’re a fan of zombie movies then Joe Gastineau’s recent article, Sick of the Dead: An Attack on Zombie Movies, may have left you feeling like the OneMetal team had turned their backs on the undead. Fear not, brave survivors, for we still love our brain-biting cousins, even if we do spend most nights barricading the doors and windows of OneMetal Towers to stop those rotting bastards from feasting upon our pasty flesh.

To let you know just how much we dig our zombie flicks, we’ve compiled a list of 10 must-watch zombie films. Being the connoisseurs of the crypt that you are, we’ve left off several bonafide classics, including Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Evil Dead 2, Braindead (aka Dead Alive) and Shaun of the Dead because this list has been created to fill you in on the movies you may have missed, not the ones everybody knows about. And if you haven’t seen all of the above then may you rest in peace…

I Walked with a Zombie

Directed by Jacques Tourneur, 1943
Starring James Ellison, Frances Dee & Tom Conway

The second collaboration between director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton after their acclaimed horror, Cat People, is a reinvention of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre novel that pre-empts Jean Rhys’ 1966 post-colonial prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea. Set against the backdrop of a Caribbean island rife with voodoo rituals, the story surrounds an ‘old money’ family in decline, whose matriarch hires an English nurse to care for her somnambulist daughter-in-law. But is she a mere sleepwalker suffering from a tropical disease or is something supernatural at work? The film’s exploration of the zombie phenomenon is surprisingly oblique and unexpectedly sympathetic for a film from the forties. While the acting style might be a little breathy and melodramatic by today’s standards, the production oozes class. Striking sets and oppressive expressionist cinematography hint at a primal world of sex, death and the beyond, encapsulated by some exceptional chiaroscuro imagery and a soundtrack full of hypnotic, pounding drums. It’s essential viewing, regardless of your undead predilections.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue)

Directed by Jorge Grau, 1974
Starring Cristina Galbó, Ray Lovelock & Arthur Kennedy

An Italian/Spanish co-production filmed in the Lake District with a dubbed cast, Jorge Grau’s Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is one of the few zombie films that holds a candle to Romero’s classics. Ray Lovelock plays a particularly obnoxious hipster on his way to meet some friends who hooks up with sultry scaredy cat Cristina Galbó. Unbeknownst to them, scientists have been testing out a freaky new method of bug disposal that unexpectedly brings the dead back to life. Hunted across a nightmarish landscape by zombies and a fascist cop (Arthur Kennedy) with a thing against longhairs, the pair desperately tries to warn the local authorities of the incoming invasion. It’s an incredibly atmospheric film full of stark cinematography, frequent visual oddities, ambiguous supernatural touches and a soundtrack that will send shivers down your spine. England has never looked, sounded or felt so terrifying.

The Beyond

Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1981
Starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck & Cinzia Monreale

Anyone who knows anything about the films of Lucio Fulci will know that they’re extremely light on coherent plot but particularly heavy on blood-curdling atmosphere. The second part of a loose trilogy including City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery, The Beyond is an outrageous supernatural zombie flick set in Louisiana, where an aspiring hotelier discovers a gateway to hell in her haunted house. One of the foremost ‘Video Nasties’ from the eighties, Fulci’s best film is stuffed with gory and gruesome murders at the hands of zombies, rabid dogs and even spiders. Eyes are gouged, tongues bitten, ears ripped and throats are torn in a display of violence that exceeds anything by giallo contemporaries Dario Argento and Sergio Martino. Powered by one of the best prog scores this side of Deep Red, with an inventive and creepy use of sound design, The Beyond is definitely worth a visit.

Night of the Comet

Directed by Thom Eberhardt, 1984
Starring Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart & Kelli Maroney

A hilarious hidden gem of an eighties sci-fi flick, this post-apocalyptic genre hybrid will have you laughing your arse off all the way to the grave. In a Day of the Triffids-style twist, most of mankind is wiped out witnessing the arrival of a comet and the survivors are turned into zombies, all except two fun-loving LA valley girls, that is. Dab-hands with machine guns thanks to Daddy’s training, these gum-chewing adolescents with big hair and even bigger problems are soon discovered by a team of scientists partially exposed to the comet’s powers looking for fresh blood to stop them from succumbing to zombiedom. Night of the Comet might be a product of its time aesthetically, but don’t let that fool you; underneath is a biting black comedy not dissimilar to Larry Cohen’s The Stuff in its use of deadpan satire, full of fabulous character acting turns from the likes of Mary Woronov and Geoffrey Lewis.

Re-Animator

Directed by Stuart Gordon, 1985
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott & Barbara Crampton

It’s hard to shake the feeling that while Jeffrey Combs is playing mad scientist Herbert West as straight as an arrow, gobbling up bad line after bad line, writer/director Stuart Gordon is laughing outrageously from behind the camera. Basement-bound brain doctor Herbert West might be an extremely promising addition to the team at Miskatonic University, but little do the staff realise that he harbours a very disturbing desire – to bring back the dead (Mwah ha ha!) Based on H.P. Lovercraft’s 1922 serial, Herbert West–Reanimator, Stuart Gordon’s most successful Lovecraft adaptation is a gloriously over the top special effects-fest. From the schlocky Psycho-lifted score to the zombie cat-mauling (see Pet Semetary for more zombie cat action) to the unbelievable finale in which soap star Barbara Crampton is defrocked and deflowered by a severed head, Re-Animator is a shining example of how to make a comedy horror movie – let the actors play it straight and make everything around them utterly absurd!

The Return of the Living Dead

Directed by Dan O’Bannon, 1985
Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen & Don Calfa

Taking the events of George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to be real, Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead is a much more knowing and irreverent take on the zombie invasion movie, not short on bad taste gags and slimy undead brain-munchers. When three warehouse workers unwittingly unleash a zombie toxin into the air supply of a small town, the dead rise to feed on a band of unruly punks, one of whom enjoys dancing naked in grave yards. Bathed in knowing zombie movie references, O’Bannon’s special effects comedy features a great script that veterans Clu Gulager (Read our reviews of Feast, Feast II and Feast III) and James Karen exploit to its fullest with two of the funniest performances seen in any comedy horror film. You’ll fall in love with this one faster than you can say “send more paramedics”!

Cemetery Man

Directed by Michele Soavi, 1994
Starring Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro & Anna Falchi

Mixing comedy, horror, spaghetti western and sexploitation, Italian zombie film Cemetery Man stars awfully British actor Rupert Everett as an impotent grave-digger with a thing for telephone directories, who spends most of his evenings sending the returners back to hell with his cute mongoloid sidekick. Things take a turn for the sexy (or worse) when he meets Anna Falchi, whose recently deceased husband takes a bite out them both while they rut next to his grave, setting in motion a series of grisly and ghastly events. As bonkers as it is brilliant, Cemetery Man doesn’t always make a great deal of sense, but the charmingly hand-crafted sets, surreal humour and inventive visual style always keep things interesting. The scene in which Everett dispatches a series of zombie boy scouts can’t fail to raise a titter from anyone who has pledged their allegiance to Akela. It’s a movie that gets progressively weirder and more absurd the longer it goes on, culminating in an ending that’ll either have you scratching your head or reconsidering your very existence. Either way, it’s one of a kind.

Tokyo Zombie

Directed by Sakichi Satô, 2005
Starring Tadanobu Asano, Shô Aikawa & Erika Okuda

Only a Japanese film could combine ju-jitsu, zombies and childhood sex abuse and make it all very, very funny. Japanese superstar Tadanobu Asano and Takashi Miike favourite Shô Aikawa play fire extinguisher warehouse workers who accidentally kill their boss and bury him at ‘Black Fuji’ – a dumping ground stuffed with toxic chemicals, which plays host to hundreds of corpses. When their boss returns from the dead, the two find themselves battling for survival in a Tokyo on the cusp of the apocalypse. Very much a movie of two halves, the first tells the story of the imminent apocalypse, colouring in the bizarre relationship between the two protagonists, while the second is set in the aftermath where prisoners at the mercy of an elite state are forced into gladiatorial combat with the walking dead. Tokyo Zombie might be a bit light in the gore stakes when compared to fellow Nipponese zombie flicks like Junk, and it has none of the slick action of Versus, or the kitsch value of Wild Zero, but its central buddy story is as touching as it is preposterous.

Pontypool

Directed by Bruce McDonald, 2008
Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle & Georgina Reilly

We admit that Canadian horror film Pontypool (read our full review of Pontypool here) is a contentious entry to the list, but the film’s ‘infected’ definitely fit the mould, even if they’re not undead. A smart, savvy and highly literate combination of Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio and Orson Welles’ terrifying War of the Worlds radio address, a grizzled shock jock played by the excellent Stephen McHattie reports a terrifying outbreak of local violence from his pulpit in small town Pontypool, Ontario. An exercise in tension and economy, nearly the whole film is set in a radio station, from which the protagonists slowly piece together the frightening events that unfold in ear shot and threaten to consume them all. Hugely ambitious, challenging and always captivating, Pontypool proves that there’s still room to build on and (in some ways) better George Romero’s scathing social commentaries in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. A genuine original that only gets better on repeat viewings.

Dead Snow

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, 2009
Starring Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen & Charlotte Frogner

What would you expect from a Norwegian zombie film that features Nazi returners, whilst paying its dues to Peter Jackson’s Braindead and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2? A gloriously over-the-top and gory blood-fest is what! Our Tromso-based movie reviewer, David Cox, loved Dead Snow when he covered it for OneMetal, and it’s not hard to see why. If you like a bit of zombie-killing creativity with your guts and Norse funnies, then this relentless action flick has plenty of decapitations and manglings for your money. It doesn’t do anything new, but it does it much better than most. If you like a serving of dark humour, Nazis and entrails with your zombie films then this is a tasty main course. As David says himself, “this is 90 minutes of bloody good fun” – just leave your brains at the door.

Honourable Mentions:

White Zombie: Rob Zombie named his band after this atmospheric Bela Lugosi flick – the first zombie film ever made, courtesy of the horror visionaries at Universal.

Pet Sematary: Stephen King adapts his own tale of a desperate father who uses an evil old Indian burial ground to bring back his loved ones. You’ll never look at domestic cats in quite the same way again.

Undead: Low budget Aussie sci-fi comedy from Daybreakers directors The Spierig Brothers, featuring several small town survivors battling zombies, aliens and small-town hicks from within.

They Came Back: Unlike many of the monsters on this list, the zombies in French film They Came Back simply want to reintegrate the society they left when they shuffled off their mortal coils – a complex and emotional movie.

Fido: Billy Connelly stars in this strangely touching comedy-drama as a pet zombie who forms an unbreakable bond with a young boy. Two words: ‘Canadian’ and ‘zombies’. That should tell you everything you need to know.

Mutants: A key film in the contemporary French horror revival, this one will teach you that it’s a good idea not get too attached to anyone when the walking dead come marching in, lest they turn your loved ones into flesh-gobbling monsters.

Planet Terror: Robert Rodriguez’s successful second part of the Grindhouse double-feature is a satisfying throwback to the films of John Carpenter and Larry Cohen.

Dead Set: Creator and scriptwriter Charlie Brooker proves that he can tear apart bad TV while creating great TV in this sure-footed satire from the set of Big Brother.

High School of the Dead: Super violent and rather pervy, this upskirt look at the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of angsty Japanese teens is an anime that’ll have you wishing for a spiky haircut and a bad case of unrequited love.

[Rec]: Spanish ‘found footage’ horror set in an apartment block where something ghoulish lurks – much better than the beat-for-beat American remake, Quaratine. We’re soon to publish a review of the sequel, [Rec] 2.

Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Have we missed anything? Please let us know in the comments below.

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33 Responses to “In Love With The Dead: 10 Zombie Films You Must Watch Before You Die”
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  • Ben Hall
    Ben Hall says:

    An awesome article dude. I had no idea how many must see Zombie films I had not seen. I also appreciate leaving Romero off the list and going for anything but, as lets be honest, if you like Zombies, you have seen the Romero stuff. Same with the ’28’ double bill and SOTD.

    August 8, 2010 at 20:55 OneMetal Team Member

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    I watched a disturbing number of zombie flicks to get this list. The number of films watched that didn’t make the list is truly the most disturbing thing of all.

    I’m not a major fan of the 28 Days/Weeks Later films, but I know I’m in the minority. The depiction of a desolate London in the original is really quite incredible, but it goes downhill for me when they arrive in Manchester. The sequel has a great opening, though it never reaches the same highs (well, lows) again. that bit with the helicopter made me chuckle more than it should have, though.

    August 8, 2010 at 21:10 OneMetal Team Member


  • Catherine Mary Stewart says:

    This is too cool!! I’m going to have to catch up on these other zombie movies, but they all look fantastic!!

    Thanks for seeing “Night of the Comet” as it truly was intended to be via the vision of Thom Eberhardt.

    CMS

    August 9, 2010 at 05:34

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    Hey Catherine. It’s a huge honour to have you read and comment on my article.

    I used to watch “The Last Starfighter” religiously as a kid. It’s a hell of a shame they don’t make movies like that and “Night of the Comet” anymore, eh?

    August 9, 2010 at 08:55 OneMetal Team Member

  • Joe Gastineau
    Joe Gastineau says:

    *sees error of ways*

    *shuffles*

    *moans*

    August 9, 2010 at 10:37

  • Oliver Longden
    Oliver Longden says:

    Awesome article and there were even a few that I hadn’t even heard of which is always nice. I’m going to be checking out Fido and Tokyo Zombie at first opportunity.

    Sadly though I recently saw zombies being used to advertise the Ford Fiesta which tends to suggest that, as pop culture artifacts, zombies are over. When the ad men get on the train its time for everyone else to get off.

    August 9, 2010 at 11:30 OneMetal Team Member

  • Dave Convery
    Dave Convery says:

    Splendid article there dude. Fido and Tokyo Zombie both sit unwatched in my collection, so I shall have to dust them off and watch them soon.

    If anyone wants more anime zombie-battling action, Chevalier d’eon offers it in spades, along with 17th-century French diplomacy and cross-dressing.

    August 9, 2010 at 13:15

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    It has just been brought to my attention that I missed (and haven’t seen) “Night of the Creeps”, for shame! It looks fantastic. Can anyone shed some light?

    August 9, 2010 at 20:23 OneMetal Team Member


  • Paul says:

    What about Zombie Strippers? It does exactly what it says on the tin. And Dance Of The Dead. And Flight Of The Living dead. That’ll do for now. As for Night Of The Creeps, thrill me!

    August 9, 2010 at 21:37

  • David Cox
    David Cox says:

    I do fear for your sanity, dear Graham, in the amount of undead degradation you must have sat through to come to this definitive list: especially when it comes to Lucio Fulci…

    Sincere thanks for your sterling efforts though, a couple among these certainly to be added to the library. And I thought I was the only one who could admit to appreciating “Night Of The Comet”!

    August 9, 2010 at 22:47 OneMetal Team Member

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    @Paul: If we were going for a Ronseal approach to zombie movies, then your suggestions would certainly go to the top of the list. Not sure they hold up as particularly good movies, though.

    I haven’t seen Dance of the Dead, though. Will be sure to check it out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:00 OneMetal Team Member

  • Dave Convery
    Dave Convery says:

    A lot of zombie flicks fall into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category, but special attention should be paid to Zombie Transfusion. It can only be the product of handing all the equipment required to make a movie to people who have never actually seen one. Like The Room, just painfully bad. A good drinking and shouting flick though.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:16


  • Paul says:

    Why is Night of the Comet even in this list? There’s only about two minutes worth of zombies in this film. Not really a zombie movie, is it? It belongs in the list of what not to see. Like Feeding the Masses.

    What about Outpost? I know it’s not a great film, but they were a sort of cross between ghosts and zombies. Ghombies anyone?

    August 10, 2010 at 21:49

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    Night of the Comet is on the list because it features zombies in key scenes. It’s about quality not quantity.

    August 11, 2010 at 08:51 OneMetal Team Member


  • Paul says:

    Night of the Comet is not quality. It wasn’t when it came out, and still isn’t now.

    August 11, 2010 at 14:47

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    I said everything I need to say about Night of the Comet in the article. In my opinion, its inclusion in the list is fully justified. Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

    August 11, 2010 at 16:08 OneMetal Team Member

  • Stephanie Carmichael
    Stephanie Carmichael says:

    Cemetery Man is one of my favorite movies.

    “I’ll be eaten by whomever I please!”

    August 12, 2010 at 01:11

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    @Stephanie: I assumed very few people had even heard of it, so it’s pretty cool that you’re down with Cemetery Man. It’s a beguiling and barmy mix of just about everything I want in a movie. Baffling but brilliant.

    August 12, 2010 at 21:52 OneMetal Team Member


  • The Reaper says:

    I’ve seen quite a few “must see” zombie lists and they predominately fail.
    This is absolutely one of the most original zombie lists compiled. Well done my friend :)
    I would recommend watching the following
    Night of the Creeps(one of my favorite films period.)
    The Beyond
    City of the Living Dead
    House by the Cemetery
    Hell of the Living Dead
    Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
    Uncle Sam
    Night Life
    Dead Next Door
    Versus
    Battle Field Baseball
    Wild Zero
    BioZombie
    The Dead Pit
    Bone Yard
    Shock Waves
    DogHouse
    Junk
    Stacy
    Grace
    Boy Eats Girl
    My Boyfriends Back
    The Mad
    Dead and Deader
    etc.
    All worth the watch!

    August 15, 2010 at 06:49

  • Graham Gough
    Graham Gough says:

    @The Reaper: Many thanks for your positive feedback, dude. Your own list is rather excellent.

    I really wanted to try out “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” but I couldn’t find a copy in time. I’m currently reanimating a version of it from Karagarga, so looking forward to a spot of post-article Bob Clark..

    August 15, 2010 at 09:11 OneMetal Team Member