Season 7 of #TheWalkingDead is quickly approaching, and it is the month of October, so — in preparation for the epic return of the terrifying Negan — why not take this time and enjoy the best zombie movies in horror history?
Unlike the AMC TV series, making zombie movies has become a lost art. Most of 'em today are either terrible low-budget horror flicks that you find in the bargain bin for 99 cents or they are the terrible low-budget comedies that you find in the bargain bin for 99 cents. I remember when zombie movies had actual effort put into them and could be genuinely scary, thrilling, action-packed and still retained fun elements to enjoy.
That's what I'm here to showcase: the 10 best zombie movies to watch each day leading up to the premiere of The Walking Dead on Sunday, October 23.
Before I begin, however, I will establish one rule: the movie must feature actual zombies — so that means that films like 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later and The Crazies (despite how much I love them) will NOT appear on this list. The creatures in 28 Days Later are not undead; they are regular living people that are infected with a virus, which to me is not a zombie. With that being said, let's get the holiday season started!
Thursday, October 13 — 'Dead Space: Downfall'
I am a huge fan of of the Dead Space franchise: the games, the books and the animated movies. Dead Space: Aftermath was good, but not nearly as good as the first movie, titled Dead Space: Downfall, which acted as a prequel to the first game. As the plot description states:
"An ancient alien artifact is brought aboard the U.S.G. Ishimura, a deep space mining vessel which leads to an outbreak of both madness and an infection, now it's up to a few surviving members of the crew to save the day and stop this outbreak."
This franchise has a very unique twist on zombies with creatures known as Necromorphs, dead bodies of the ship's crew that are twisted and mutated by the alien artifact known as the Marker. The Necromorphs alone are worth viewing the movie (and playing the games) for, but the movie itself is actually pretty good.
Great animation and artwork that fit perfectly with the game's world, a good enough cast of characters to keep you interested, plenty of gory, violent action, amazing claustrophobic atmosphere, and if you're a fan of the games, there are plenty of easter eggs. Luckily, for those who haven't played the games, the movie is a prequel, so anyone can watch it without any confusion since the movie establishes its world well. I'd say give it a watch if you ever find it.
Friday, October 14 — 'Braindead (Dead Alive)'
From Peter Jackson, the guy who brought you the Lord of the Rings, King Kong and the Frighteners, comes possibly the most hilariously insane zombie movie you will ever witness in your life: Braindead (or Dead Alive). It's ridiculous and gladly embraces it — I mean, there is a scene where a martial artist priest "kicks ass for the lord," and another where a zombie's internal organs become sentient. If there is any reason to see the movie, it's just that: sit down, relax and have a blast watching pure hilarity. However, there is another plus to this film...
The Gore. The most infamous thing about this movie is that it is one of the goriest films, if not the goriest film, ever made, the now iconic lawnmower scene being the best example:
Peter Jackson did not hold back when it came to the gore and I have to give him respect for that, along with how much detail was put into the practical effects, because at times it looks absolutely fantastic. So I definitely recommend Braindead (or Dead Alive); it's an amazing cult classic but just a warning: this movie can get pretty disgusting at times, so I wouldn't eat anything during the movie if I were you.
Saturday, October 15 — 'Night of the Living Dead' (1968)
Well, you can't really have a list about zombie movies without the movie that solidified zombies in pop-culture and brought the M.P.A.A. to Hollywood. I remember thinking this movie was going to be overhyped but I ended up being surprised by how much I genuinely loved Night of the Living Dead. Sure, the zombie effects are pretty much nonexistent due to the very small budget — but where it lacks in the gore and violence we love in horror movies, it makes up for with it being genuinely ominous and terrifying with great performances all around, except for one.
My only flaw with the movie is that the main character, Barbara, is extremely annoying. Why? Because all she does is scream and scream. You thought Newt from Aliens screamed a lot? She's a silent character in comparison to Barbara, who never does much to help the entire cast of characters throughout the movie and I find that just irritating. Other than that though, Night of the Living Dead is definitely a classic and you should check it out if you somehow have not already.
Sunday, October 16 — 'Shaun of the Dead'
Before being replaced by Tropic Thunder, Shaun of the Dead was my favorite comedy of all time thanks to the hilarious writing, memorable characters and a genuinely good zombie story. What makes this so great though? Well, unlike most comedies that go for so much of a comedic feel to the point that they are live-action cartoons, Shaun of the Dead switches things up by having dramatic elements, thrilling elements, horror elements and suspenseful elements all mixed into a hilarious movie.
It is a zombie movie, after all, so the movie knows just the perfect times to take itself seriously so we can actually care about the characters like Shaun, Ed and Liz.
So when you combine great comedy, characters and story along with amazing zombie effects, gore and action? Well, that just sounds the makings of an all-time classic that I can only implore you to watch. A true love letter to zombie movies.
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Monday, October 17 — 'Dawn of the Dead (1978)'
With Night of the Living Dead, director George A. Romero only scratched the surface of the potential in zombie movies, so 10 years later he gave us Dawn of the Dead, arguably the most iconic zombie ever made. Action, suspense, horror, humor and even some social commentary for good measure, you'll find pretty much everything you need here.
I could spend hours praising this movie for how it revolutionized the zombie genre, but instead I'll just sum my thoughts up like this: the characters are great, I felt genuinely scared by the zombies this time around, the mall is one of my favorite settings in movie history, Romero's directing is perfect, all of the actors performed greatly (except the female lead who is once again a bland character) and I enjoy the social commentary.
The only thing I can really nitpick is the blue makeup for the zombies, but that's because I am slightly spoiled by other zombie designs and makeup from other movies which I will talk about later. Like I said, it is a nitpick of a fantastic movie that really I cannot recommend enough.
Tuesday, October 18 — 'Land of the Dead'
A bit of an unpopular opinion but I actually love Land of the Dead. It was great to see Romero finally come back after so long and direct another sequel in this beloved franchise. What do I like about the movie? The world. Most zombie movies take place at the beginning of the outbreak, or not long after, but Land of the Dead decides to skip all of that and put us in a post-apocalyptic world where the living now have a civilization that the main characters have to protect from the zombies, which they call "Walkers." (Did Romero take inspiration from the Walking Dead comics?)
Anyway, this movie does a great job at establishing this world where people just have to deal with zombies like it is a normal thing now: distract them with fireworks to get supplies, armored vehicles, humans are now using zombies for entertainment... I also enjoy seeing a human villain for once with Dennis Hopper's character. The main cast is surprisingly good with actors like Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, the aforementioned Hopper, and Robert Joy.
However the best thing about this movie by far are the zombies; not because of the makeup effects and practical gore effects (though those are amazing to look at) but because of what the zombies do this time around. Dawn of the Dead hinted at zombies becoming more intelligent, but Land of the Dead expands upon this idea big time when a certain zombie named Big Daddy leads an army of the undead to the human civilization; they are thinking, learning and they are angry.
Personally, I think that Land of the Dead is quite an underrated entry in the Romero "of the Dead" franchise; it's a great new addition to the series that I recommend to fans of the genre. By the way, if you are a fan of the Romero movies, keep an eye out for the many references and easter eggs to previous Romero films and other zombie movies.
Wednesday, October 19 — 'Dawn of the Dead' (2004)
The directorial debut of Zack Snyder is a remake of the beloved Dawn of the Dead. Now, this could have easily been as big of a mistake as World War Z, but instead Zack Snyder gave us a much superior version in my mind by retelling the same story with much respect and loyalty to the original while updating things that needed to be updated. It's still a group of memorable survivors seeking refuge inside a mall, but what's different? This movie has my all time favorite outbreak of zombies due to the fact that they sprint like marathon runners which amplifies their scare factor tenfold.
The zombie makeup is on point, the zombies are scarier, almost all of the characters are memorable and enjoyable, the action against zombies is tons of fun, the chase scenes are terrifying, the comedy is there and the social commentary is still there. In my opinion, Snyder managed to surpass Romero's original with his film, despite how much I love the original. This goes up there with remakes like 1986's The Fly and 1982's The Thing. The only flaw is a certain scene with a dog that just makes no sense to me but other than that, check it out if you haven't already.
Thursday, October 20 — 'Day of the Dead' (1985)
After Dawn of the Dead, there was no way George A. Romero could possibly give us anything better, right? WRONG! In 1985, Romero gave us the third entry in his franchise, and I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THIS MOVIE! Easily my favorite of Romero's films, this one takes place sometime after the outbreak, though civilization still appears to not have been established yet. A group of survivors are managing to keep themselves safe in an underground bunker where they wait for anyone to save them or a vaccine for the outbreak.
Now you would think that the movie would be pretty dull considering they are underground, but no, this movie manages to keep you on edge with a very claustrophobic feeling throughout the entire movie. It reminds me a lot of John Carpenter's The Thing where the movie puts more focus on the dangers of isolation, cabin fever and paranoia, combined with the threat of zombies.
With such a contained horror film like this, you need to rely on your characters and this movie excels on that front with all the good characters being well-written and -acted and all of the characters you're supposed to hate being portrayed perfectly such as Captain Rhodes who makes Negan from The Walking Dead seem like your best friend.
If you're a fan of practical gore then you will fall in love with this movie because George A. Romero went all out with the effects. If Dawn of the Dead revolutionized the zombies, then Day of the Dead perfected them. If anything, see this more for the effects because all of them still hold up to this day. The movie is fantastic in nearly every way and I cannot recommend it enough.
Friday, October 21 — 'Night of the Living Dead' (1990)
Another example of a remake done right and in a similar fashion. Tom Savini, who worked on the makeup and practical effects of the original Dawn of the Dead (and played the machete wielding biker gang leader) and Day of the Dead, directed this retelling of George A. Romero's classic by honoring the original while updating it in the right way. For example, remember how annoying Barbara was in the original? Well, now she is a total badass who fights alongside Ben (played amazingly by Tony Todd) against the Zombie horde.
While there are not as many gore effects as Day of the Dead, the zombie effects are on par with Day of the Dead and at some points even better. So just like Dawn of the Dead, it is the same story but very much improved over the original — that might irritate some people because it very much is a scene-for-scene remake of the original, but I have no problem with it because the changes to the story and characters make it satisfying. In terms of the scare factor? This one cranks it up to 11 and that alone is what ranks it so high.
Saturday, October 22 — 'Return of the Living Dead'
Just like Braindead, this one embraces more comedic elements, but unlike that movie, this one can be scary at times thanks to stunning practical effects. At first the zombies do seem kind of scary but as the movie progresses, they become more and more hilarious as they search for "BRAAAAINS!" to feast upon.
On purpose or not, the performances and characters are all over-the-top, the story is ridiculous, the zombies have terrifying designs and practical effects but are just as over the top as the characters. The only zombie that remains scary is the infamous Tarman who is brought to life by amazing practical effects and a great actor. This movie actually solidified a cliche in terms of zombies: whenever you see a cartoonish zombie groaning the word "Brains," you can thank Return of the Living Dead for that.
I saw this movie when I was just a little kid and it scared me to death (thanks to my older brother letting me watch it behind my parents' backs) but now as an adult, I have a blast watching it. If you're looking for the best fun in a zombie movie, then Return of the Living Dead is definitely for you.
Sunday, October 23 — 'The Walking Dead' Season 7 Premiere
After a controversial season finale, The Walking Dead is back to answer the biggest cliffhanger of the series: who did Negan kill? Millions of fans can't wait to find out the answer — but in the meantime, you'll have the aforementioned zombie films to keep you occupied and horrified.
What are your favorite zombie movies and did you agree with any on this list? Let me know down in the comments below!