When you need to hear skulls crunch and organs being bitten into, you turn to your loyal friend: the zombie. They’re eternal. They’re coming to get you, like a grand metaphor of the eventual death that’ll get us all.
Enough with all the happy stuff, let’s get to it! Here are ten recommendations for good zombie horror movies that’ll give you your fill of blood, guts, brains, and more.
You better run— here they come now!
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue a.k.a Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
People always gravitate towards Romero for political commentary mixed with zombies, and rightfully so. They often forget The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue— so ripe with commentary there’s juice (or blood) bursting at its seams. On its face this is another example of a supposedly tired genre. Look closer and the politics come out.
The story touches on intrusions of capitalism on the real world, namely the use of pesticides in farming. There’s ultrasonic radiation being used on crops to get rid of insects. First of all, it’s putting people out of business working on the land, and second of all, the zombies are looking to feed on human brains and internal organs! Throw in a couple hippies being pursued for murders they didn’t commit, lots of gorgeous English countryside, and this is must-see, creepy horror. If you’re a zombie movie completist and haven’t seen this yet, you’re missing out on a glorious event.
Day of the Dead
The best of George A. Romero is probably Dawn of the Dead, yet there’s something more haunting about Day of the Dead. Might be the fact the movie takes place in a claustrophobic underground bunker. Might be the terror of knowing the military won’t be any better off than the citizens of a country if the zombie apocalypse occurs. Whatever it is, this Romero flick has it in spades. Like any of his movies it’s got plenty of dark humour. There’s also Bub, whose patriotism is unwavering despite the fact he’s a rotting pocket of decaying flesh.
ALL HAIL GEORGE! ALL HAIL BUB!
The Return of the Living Dead
While Romero’s movies have their humour, Return of the Living Dead is a totally outrageous, awesome, and off the wall hilarious zombie movie. Aside from having to watch convicted sex offender Brian Peck onscreen this is such a damn good time. Some horror is so perfectly ’80s— this belongs right at home in the decade. Dan O’Bannon wrote the screenplay, proving he’s as funny as he is smart.
Dead & Buried
This is another Dan O’Bannon screenplay, co-written with Ronald Shusett (who helped with the story of Alien), so you know it’s interesting!
Dead & Buried has elements of backwoods/small town horror mixed with the zombie sub-genre. Plus a little witchcraft, two scoops of brutal violence, and Robert Englund’s kicking around, too. Not your typical zombie flick. Quite different from most of the titles on this list. For that alone, this belongs here.
A breath of fresh air for anyone who’s seen it all in terms of the shambling undead.
Tombs of the Blind Dead
Satanic Templars executed for heresy rise from the grave to torment the living.
Do you really need any further description?
GET WATCHING ALREADY!
Before Zack Snyder remade Dawn of the Dead and the uncultured swine of horror believed he was somehow the first to give us fast zombies, there was Nightmare City— the work of notorious nasty bastard Umberto Lenzi.
These infected crazies are totally vicious and ready to suck the blood from your battered, lifeless carcass! Lenzi himself said he didn’t classify this as a zombie movie so much as a horror about radiation sickness. The political commentary’s there, you don’t have to dig to get at it. Really, it’s all about the chaos and death in the aftermath of a radiation leak. The fast-paced zombies will keep you on your toes for a rip-roaring 90 minutes.
One of the reasons Father Gore continues sticking with The Walking Dead is because the human drama of the post-zombie apocalypse landscape is compelling subject matter. Maybe others feel different. Watching people grapple with the reality of an irreparably destroyed world is something that strikes fear in the heart.
The Battery is a bittersweet and darkly comic look at the end of civilisation. Two former baseball players and starkly different personalities are on the road together in a world full of zombies. When they hear a radio transmission from a protected community, things change. The movie’s about the small picture: how people relate to one another when they’re all they have, how being stuck with someone you don’t get along with after the world ends is worse than zombies, and more. This is a unique zombie flick, all about the human drama at its centre, held up by the performances of Jeremy Gardner (also director + writer) and Adam Cronheim.
The Serpent and the Rainbow
Wes Craven always gets credit for his greatness as one of the Mount Rushmore Presidents of Horror. Occasionally, people forget he was offering us more than solely great creeps. A few of his movies are strikingly political when stripped down.
The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of his most explicitly political, based on a book by Wade Davis concerning Haitian vodou zombies. Craven tackles the real life authoritarian dictatorship of the Duvalier dynasty through fantasy-horror. Central to the terror is an intense performance from Bill Pullman, whose fright is genuine as we follow him down a Haitian vodou rabbit hole. This one can give you nightmares.
Purists will argue this isn’t actually a zombie movie. If people are infected and become mindless freaks capable of only blood lust, they’re zombies, okay?
Jim Mickle and Nick Damici have gone far working together, most recently tackling Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard (foolishly cancelled). Mulberry St is a post-9/11 infection flick about an outbreak in Manhattan turning residents into feral rat creatures. What would otherwise turn into a cheese-fest at the hands of different filmmakers becomes a serious, terrifying experience with the keen talents of Mickle and Damici, the latter of whom also starts as a resident of an apartment building trying to fend off maniac rat people.
Sold yet? You should be.
Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror
This 1981 movie has no real plot or characterisation to speak of, and, so long as you’re not expecting something else, it’s MAD FUN. Burial Ground almost plays as a parody of the genre itself. These undead aren’t so much realistic, as you can tell from the above image— they’re kind of hilarious. A low budget definitely played a part in the look of the zombie makeup, though the kills are still pretty gnarly. Where this flick falls short it makes up the difference in heart. Clearly, director Andrea Bianchi was having fun when this was shot. Turn your brain off and let these flesh eating terrors take you away for 85 minutes of zombie goodness.