And we’re back from the dead! Sadly, almost too literally after a bout with a most nasty, restaurant given, e-coli bug (warning: don’t eat the yellow snow or rare beef), we have returned just in time for My Favorite Zombie Month and the Halloween festivities!
However, given we are still recovering, it looks like we need to get our zombie fix in a sane and controlled environment without screaming kids or candy corn. So, given these factors, the safest thing to do would to stay in and take in some flicks away from the hustle and bustle.
Fortunately, we have the right films for you to spend locked in the basement (because someone always locks themselves in the basement) for a lovely 24 hours of Halloween… Let’s take a look at 2018’s Zombie Movie Marathon!
White Zombie (1932)
Okay, first things first… If we’re gonna deal with the best zombie movies to include in our marathon, we have to expand past the shamblers of the Romero Revolution. George will get his due, but let’s give some black and white love to Bela Lugosi’s ground-breaking Golden Age thriller. Bonus points for the viewer who understands the dry irony of the title and appreciates the historic supernatural origins of the zoumbie. And any feature that inspired a Grammy winning album, six films, and a dreadlocks-under-cowboy-hat fashion statement needs a full look.
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Another Golden Age classic which shows the dangers of white mainlanders showing up for their unguided Caribbean vacation. Where’s a Princess tour guide when your mainstream 40’s protagonist needs one? Good for us they’re nowhere to be seen as two Canadians are swept into the realms of voodoo, one on mistake and one on purpose. One added benefit of the film: RKO master Val Lewton (Cat People) is behind the scenes, working his magic. Come for the zombies, stay for the visuals.
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Okay, okay, I see I am going to have to educate some of you who are already crying out that this isn’t a zombie movie. Lesson #1: You’re Wrong… We’re not talking the vampire heavy I am Legend remake (sorry, Will Smith). We aren’t even talking it’s underrated cousin, The Omega Man (where “the cold, dead hands” thing basically comes true for Charlton Heston).
No we’re talking about this very faithful reproduction of Robert Matheson’s original novella, which is, you guessed it, a zombie story! Plus, you’ve got Vincent Price at the peak of his powers. And, on top of that, a certain blockbuster zombie movie found later on this list blatantly rips off the mass cremation scene of the film’s thematic center.
Repeat after me, “The Last Man on Earth is a zombie movie.” See, how good that feels? Now, be quiet and watch.
The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
A true hybrid zombie film and curiously, the only Hammer film on the subject as the Brits pretty much missed the following wave started two years later by George Romero (USA! USA!). The film has a supernatural origin for its shamblers, but the link to voodoo is pretty much nonexistent. The look of the undead also is a significant shift from previous films as the “long buried, flesh rotting” thing starts to manifest in zombie lore. Hammer never really caught on with this subject (Peter Cushing would have made a perfect zombie), but they did make a significant contribution with this little remembered number.
The Fulci Zombie Films (1979-1982)
Okay, when are sequels not sequels? Well, it’s when the original director makes his own sequel and when your version takes place in another country in another language. Other than that, Lucio Fulci’s zombie trilogy (which includes Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond) fits right along with …. Well, on second thought (don’t worry, I know I’ve skipped a pretty important series of movies, we’ll get there), Fulci’s vision isn’t dependent on anybody else in reality and actually has some thinking he might top the charts. Sit down, put yer feet up, and enjoy the gory, glorious ride.
Night of the Comet (1984)
In the 80’s, girls just wanted to kill zombies and get some shopping done, which is why this film is breath of fresh air in an otherwise serious marathon. Who doesn’t wanna have fun when the world ends? Not these gals. In fact, here’s another film which takes time to pay homage to the touchstone filmmaker of the genre. And everyone’s hair is perfect… Have a laugh and get in touch with your Valley Girl past.
By the way, there’s a new Night of the Comet remake in the works. Slashfilm reports that Roxanne Benjamin will be directing the remake for Orion Pictures. Benjamin is not new to the horror genre. She was one of the directors of the horror anthology Southbound.
Our next film keeps it light and bloody as well, making a marriage between gore and slapstick work like few films have done before. In fact, the film’s take on the protagonist makes H.P. Lovecraft, who in life might have been voted the guy most likely to be thrown out of a Titanic lifeboat, seem like a guy who could find common ground with the Three Stooges. And Barbara Crampton (ooooo, Barbara Crampton)! And there’s a new take on getting a head (Ouch!). Watch now but not with the kids.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
A throwback to and an improvement to the traditional zombie movies of the Golden Age, Wes Craven’s film takes the heartland of the Caribbean and gives us a visually delightful and insightful masterpiece. Not as celebrated on first release as was deserved, the years have been kind to both film and filmmaker. Possibly the only post-70’s zombie film to stand on its merits without drawing from the Romero foundation. And Paul Windfield throws his head at Bill Pullman. Aces, man…
28 Days Later (2002)
Let me tell you a joke you may have heard before … A man in a coma wakes up to find the world has gone to the zombies. Sounds like a plot device for a never-ending cable TV show, right? But, lo and behold, is that zombie running at us? That’s not supposed to happen! Well, here we have the most innovative twist of the zombie knife since “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” Amazing how simple, smart changes make a good thing better. Like Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. And it’s amazing how people who have made a zillion bucks can’t incorporate a good idea into a never-ending march snoozeville. Maybe one of those would have gotten Rick by now.
Okay, one more to make us laugh … And come on, you’ll even like Jesse Eisenberg in this one. Admit it, you’ve used “the rules” a time or two in your first person shooter online double life. And Bill Murray does Caddyshack in the post credits. Nearly perfect… Just don’t go to the public bathroom during the film.
World War Z (2013)
Okay, to paraphrase an old question, when should a filmmaker radically change a film’s premise from an award-winning, genre expanding, beloved zombie novel to a feature that has nothing to do with anything found in those pages? Well, the answer is never… But when you’re Brad Pitt, you can get away with it. And actually, the result is quiet watchable if somewhat disjointed. Almost like someone took the zombie trends of the last 30 years and blended them into a tasty stew. Just don’t ask how it was made.
And for dessert —
The Romero Original Trilogy (1969-1985)
Best for last and nuff said. When people say the word zombie they think Romero, they breathe Romero, they, errr… eat Romero, so to speak. When people think zombies….they think of the deep-rooted realism of Night of the Living Dead (1968), the comic book splatter of the consumerism-laden Dawn of the Dead (1978), and the visceral gore of the epic Day of the Dead (1985).
I’d recommend, for purposes of enjoyment, watching the series in reverse order. Strangely, while all the films are quite strong on their own, watching them in reserve creates a building tension, almost as if King George knew that what he was doing in 1968 would be more daring and challenging than what would be going on in the genre 50 years later. Besides, after 24 hours, you’ll need someone to tell you “That’s it boys, go get em!”
24 hours goes fast, doesn’t it? And, I’m sure you have many, many zombie movie favorites that didn’t make the cut. But there’s always next year (barring any more bad beef), and there’s always room for you to construct your own in the meantime. Ghouls, let us know your 24 hours of zombie goodness in the comments, and have a beautiful, safe Halloween filled with candy (no candy corn, please), fun, and film!