Zombie movies. Is there, or will there ever be, a greater genre? Any answer other than no is incorrect. On the weekend, I watched a zombie movie that has forced me to re-assess my top 5 zombie movies of all time. Hence this list.
This list may be contentious, heck it caused me some inner conflict, but never the less, it represents my best attempt at putting together a list of the top 5 zombie movies of all time. As with any top 'whatever' list, I'll be counting down... to number one.
Number five: Resident Evil
Ok, so it's spot in the list is debatable, but before you say anything I need to declare that I find Milla Jovovich very attractive, and therefore my opinion on this movie may be a little tainted. Resident Evil is a very very loose adaptation of the video game with Milla Jovovich starring as Alice who wakes up with amnesia, to discover that she's implicated in a zombie virus conspiracy. Off she runs in a red dress to slay many a zombie and save the world... potentially. The 'Milla Factor' allowed Resident Evil to narrowly edge out other worthy contenders to the number five spot including the rom-zom-com 'Shaun of the Dead' and body snatchers style 'Slither'. Interesting factoid, in 1999, Sony and Capcom greenlit a Resident Evil film with George A. Romero signed on as the film's director and screenplay writer.
Number four: 28 Days Later
Danny Boyle's 2002 zombie dish 28 Days Later was as much inspired by Day of the Triffids as it was Dawn of the Dead. As with a majority of zombie films it focuses on a core group of four 'survivors' struggling to come to terms with a 'zombie' apocalypse. The film opens with Jim waking from a coma in hospital, only to discover that the world he has woken up in is a lot different to the one he remembers. Bizarre medical tests, really angry chimps and lord of the flies style behaviour, 28 Days Later has something for everyone.
While 28 Days Later can take some credit for breathing new un-life into the genre, I couldn't find it a spot higher than number four in my list. It's good, don't get me wrong, it just gets a bit ordinary toward the end. The fact that the dvd release hints at a number of vastly different endings probably tells you that the makers of the film weren't 100% sure about where they wanted the film to end up. If you stop the film at the point old man Frank gets infected, then you have a cracking good zombie movie. After that, it drops off a little.
Number three: Dawn of the Dead (original)
Potentially a controversial decision, Dawn of the Dead (original) slots in at number three on my all time greatest zombie movie list. In my opinion Dawn of the Dead is the grand daddy of the zombie genre. When a mysterious plague begins reanimating the dead and humans become their food of choice a small group of four survivors (notice a theme here?) band together and find refuge in a suburban shopping mall. It's a classic for a reason. Even though the film has been around longer than I have, it still stands up well, even with it's 'B' grade feel, and DIY special effects vibe.
Thanks to Dawn of the Dead, if you took a poll of people and asked them where they'd go if there was a zombie outbreak, I reckon a good percentage would respond with "shopping mall".
Number two: Zombieland
While it's the new kid on the zombie block, it made an immediate impression on me. Zombieland is part zombie movie, part comedy and part road movie. When four survivors (wow... four survivors... that must be the optimal number with which to band together and fight a zombie horde?) find themselves drawn together on an impromptu road trip across the zombie ravaged USA. The cause of this zombie apocalypse? Mad cow disease. The main character, Columbus, lives by a distinct set of rules that he has developed in order to keep himself alive. He preaches the importance of cardio, the dangers of bathrooms and the need to always check the back seat. Zombieland even features a cameo from Bill Murray playing Bill Murray. Priceless. Zombieland is funny and educational. Most definitely worthy of the number two.
Number one: Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Remaking the George A Romero classic Dawn of the Dead was always going to be a controversial decision. Remakes generally suck and who wants to take something beautiful (a zombie film) and make it suck? Fortunately for Zack Snyder he was able to turn his hand to Dawn of the Dead and end up with a film that was every bit as good, and in my opinion, better, than the original. The 2004 Dawn of the Dead is not a direct shot for shot remake. It takes the elements that made the 1978 version such a cracker of a film and adds some new stuff. The remake abandons the 'four survivor' model so popular in the zombie genre in favor of a larger ensemble cast focused around Ana, a nurse who loses her husband to a child zombie before making her way to the local shopping mall. There she joins other survivors as the exist in the pseudo sanctuary of the mall, until the inevitable happens...
Sure the remake may cop flak for abandoning the slow and steady zombie in favor of the rabid and frenetic variety, but I like it. I challenge anyone to watch the first 10-15mins and not be drawn in.
"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth"