Zombies: Wobbly, brain-hungry cannibals with the charisma, stench and vocabulary of your Grandad down the pub on pension day. We love them; we just can’t get enough of them. For some reason or another the living dead have fascinated filmmakers and viewers for generations, from Universal’s 1930s versions of Frankenstein and The Mummy, right up to AMC’s recent TV phenomenon, The Walking Dead.
Trouble is, every man and his dog’s seen The Walking Dead. And the same can be said for the likes of George A. Romero classics, Night of The Living Dead, Dawn of The Dead, and the relentless remakes and parodies of both.
They’re undeniably all great films, but surely there’s more flesh-eating fun to go around than Shaun of The Dead and deadly serious Danny Boyle flick, 28 Days Later? What about forgotten classics, foreign films and all those banned from our screens back in the day? Surely in the age of cyberspace, there’s more out there to sate our horror appetites?
The answer’s a big fat YES. So here we have it, 5 recommendations to keep you and your buddies kicking back with the beers, discussing what you’ll do when the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse finally hits. Assuming it hasn’t already…
#5 – Zombie Creeping Flesh (Hell of The Living Dead) (Virus) (1980)
In most cases, the heart of a good zombie movie lies in its utter silliness, and Zombie Creeping Flesh is no exception. If you like exploding heads, shoddy synths and the kind of shock-happy characters who’ve never heard the word ‘zombie’ before, this Romero rip-off will go down a treat.
Horror Connoisseurs will know that early-80s Italy is a good place to start if you want cult horror with good gore, but Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh (or Virus, or Hell of The Living Dead) is often overlooked in the ‘Dubbed Italian Horrors with too many Titles’ category. Additionally, not only does the movie ooze equally as much blood as it does cheese, but it also boasts a writing credit from Claudio Fragasso, the guy behind Best Worst Movie’s infamous Troll 2.
The film follows a group of poorly-dubbed action men, as they navigate their way through silly tribal stereotypes, close-ups of people vomiting, and random bits of wildlife footage, presumably spliced in from old nature documentaries. Naturally, the action is cross-cut with shots of zombies gobbling rubber hands and raw steaks, the latter of which are conveniently strapped to actors’ limbs. Proper B-Movie bliss.
#4 – Undead (2003)
We’ve all seen Zom-Coms (Zombie Comedies, like Shaun of The Dead), we’ve all seen Rom-Zoms (Zombie Romances, like Warm Bodies), but how many of you have ever seen an Alien Zom-Com-Sci-Fi-Adventure, from Australia?
Laughably bizarre and gratuitously gory, this chiller from Down Under is 100 minutes of All-Australian B-Movie madness. Sheer stupidity and atrocious acting push the boundaries of bad taste to the limit, delivering plenty of laughs whilst grasshoppers are abducted by aliens, spades are lodged into zombies’ heads and a shady vigilante fisherman wields a triple shotgun. With Undead, the Spierig brothers have created something truly unique.
#3 – Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombi 2) (1979)
Not to be confused with Zombie Creeping Flesh, this other multi-titled tale of Spaghetti splatter is the stuff of legend. Previously banned in several countries and notoriously famed for its excessive bloodiness, Lucio Fulci’s video nasty is a cult classic, and perhaps the best known of the five movies on this list.
Clumsy dubbing and dreary dialogue add much-needed comic relief to the otherwise excruciating pace, but the film’s true calling card is its make-up and effects work, which are a real sight to behold. Worm-faced corpses, cinema’s finest eye-gauging sequence and shark-on-zombie wrestling all wriggle their way into the plot. Surprisingly though, there isn’t so much flesh-eating… In fact, there’s hardly any at all.
#2 – Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (Zombi 3) (1981)
Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, or Zombi 3 (which bears no relation to Zombi 2, or Zombie Flesh Eaters; stay with me here, guys!) is the third Italian feature to make it onto this list. Between creepy mother-and-son incest, weapon-wielding zombies, shoddy costumes and shoddier dubbing, again, this one’s greatness factor lies in its bizarre misdirection. But, that’s not to say it isn’t an absolute blast, of course.
Eye-popping Peter Bark, the adult midget cast in the role of clingy son, is by far the film’s highlight, but a subtler joy lies in the movie’s completely indecipherable character motivations. Viewers should expect to be consistently caught off-guard by set pieces so dumb, they’re downright hilarious. Burial Ground is by far the funniest, most unpredictable movie to make it onto this list.
#1 – Braindead (Dead Alive) (1992)
If you’re sitting at home reading this, open a new tab on your browser and stream Braindead. If you’re sneakily reading at work, stop and buy Braindead on your way home. Braindead is quite simply the greatest zombie movie of all time, and you need to see it. Period.
Directed by a young New Zealander named Peter Jackson in the early 90s, before he discovered CGI and started reading books about Hobbits, Braindead is B-Movie mayhem at its absolute best. The film boasts some of the slimiest, ickiest, most grotesque gore effects outside of Rob Bottin’s Effects Workshop, and a hilariously self-aware, slapstick script to boot.
Without spoiling too much, it’s about a Momma’s Boy hiding a bunch of accidental corpses in his basement. Highlights include dinner table disasters, stop-motion Rat-Monkeys and a fly-mo scene which, alone, reportedly required more fake blood than any other movie ever made. To top it all off, Jackson hurls this burbling concoction of Horror-Comedy at the screen at surprise-a-minute pace. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never look at custard the same way again.