DisInformation Station
A blog for paranoids and the people out to get them.

cult movies I have loved: my favorite zombie movies (part 2)

It has been awhile since I’ve done an installment of my cult movie favorites, and I had barely posted my first installment of zombie movie favs when I started to suffer from horrible pangs of guilt.

How could I have neglected to mention some of the greatest zombie movies ever committed to film? Even as I wrote that first entry I knew the day would come that I would have to set things right and give credit where credit is due by correcting the record and bringing the list further up to speed.

Dawn of the Dead – 1979

Photobucket

George Romero taps the wellspring of his zombie fixation yet again with another classic. This is one of the all time great zombie movies and it is a crime that I did not include it in my first list of favorites.

Romero loves to use the zombie genre to explore social commentary. In Dawn of the Dead he has his group of survivors hole up in a shopping mall. The backdrop of the mall functions nicely as commentary on consumerism and the zombies, we are told, are drawn to the place by memory and instinct. I can’t walk into a mall without feeling like a zombie myself, so I know exactly where Romero is coming from.

Back in college I dragged a friend to see an on-campus presentation of this movie. He complained bitterly on the way to the film that he didn’t want to see a stupid zombie movie. Once the film began and the first zombie head exploded like a watermelon at a Gallagher show my buddy burst out giggling with horrified glee and never doubted me again.

Youngsters probably remember the nasty and enjoyable 2004 remake which kept the basic premise and setting of the original and updated the zombies by making them run fast instead of slowly shamble toward their prey. While decent by itself, it is hard to improve upon the perfection of the 1979 version, and much of the social metaphor and much of the humor was lost in translation.

Zombie – 1979

Photobucket

Where George Romero’s undead subsist on symbolism and social commentary as much as human entrails, Lucio Fulci’s zombie movies go straight for the gore and atmosphere. The setting is an exotic island and the proceedings follow the familiar formula, but Fulci’s zombies are grotesque in his signature Italian sort of way, and the premise somehow remains fresh.

Inspired by the success of Dawn of the Dead, Zombie (aka Zombi 2) is obviously heavlily indebted to Romero’s movies. But it has just enough in the way of original ideas to make it stand on its own. There are several famous moments in this movie, including a zombie conquistador rising from his jungle grave, an underwater battle between a zombie and a shark, and perhaps most memorable – the eyeball scene. Some of the most powerful moments for me are simply when groups of zombies, shrouded in shadow, huddle slump-shouldered around a kill and slowly eat.

This is another all time classic that I should have included in my first list of favs.

Oasis of the Zombies – 1982

Photobucket

Few people celebrate this Spanish-French co-production. It certainly is no Night of the Living Dead, but I give this movie points for atmosphere.

Oasis of the Zombies (aka Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies) puts the admittedly slow-paced action in the North African desert where the Nazi dead rise from their graves to protect the shipment of gold they were transporting when they died.

Although this movie is riddled with technical flaws including poor lighting, bad makeup, and suffers from overall low production values, the desert setting and shot composition make up for it as far as I am concerned.

It isn’t Shakespeare. It isn’t even George Romero. But I still enjoyed it.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror – 1980

Photobucket

Another installment in an already crowded field of Italian zombie movies, Burial Ground distinguishes itself from all the rest by virtue of a certain singularity of vision.

The action is slow, deliberate, and unrelenting in this inexorable zombie invasion. Awakened by a professor using ancient Etruscan magic, the dead attack a cast of characters lacking background or development. That’s okay because the characters won’t need any development where they are going, and in truth the real stars of this movie are the zombies themselves. Some of the masks are pretty silly, but other creatures are quite decent. The violence and gore are unrelieved. Try to pick out who you think the sole survivor will be and see if you are correct. Don’t look for any morals or deep symbolism in this exercise.

A famous scene where a zombie child bites his mother is often censored from video releases, or so I am told.

I saw this when I was teaching ESL in South Korea back around 1996. It was called Zombis 3 in that release, and while the child biting mother scene had been left in, several scenes where zombie heads are exploded seemed to have been cut short. The only thing I could figure out was that maybe in South Korea with its history of ancestor worship it was considered rude to explode the heads of the undead. But that is purely speculation on my part.

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things – 1972

Photobucket

Bob Clark who would later be known for A Christmas Story delivered this minor zombie pleasure.

While this movie is formula zombie movie all the way, I include it here because of the way it manages to make you root for the zombies.

An obnoxious egomaniacal movie director takes his occult-curious cast onto an island to play spooky pranks on them and pretends to raise the dead with a Druid ceremony. Of course the pretend ritual actually causes the dead to rise. From this point on the movie plays like a retelling of Night of the Living Dead with the living having to barricade themselves in a house against the undead onslaught.

While the zombies take too long to enter the story, this gives you plenty of time to tire of the living characters so that when the dead finally show up you are more than ready for the killing to begin.

The Child – 1977

Photobucket

Low budget B-movie horror that looks like a student film project, this movie nonetheless gets a nod for setting and atmosphere. While the zombies remain on the periphery until the final act, once they do show themselves they don’t mess around.

If you can wade through the first two acts worth of questionable story telling and bad acting, you will be rewarded with some very nasty zombies.

Undead – 2003

Photobucket

Until now, all my zombie movie favorites this time around have been culled from the classic period of zombie movie making from 1968-1983.

Undead marks a modern spin on the premise, and while it manages to be derivative in almost every way, I gives this film an “A” for effort.

The Australians have their own take on gore and horror movies, and this film does a nice job with the material. Extra flourishes, like acid rain that sets your clothes to smoking, raises this movie above the normal zombie fare.

If you are a movie geek like me you will sometimes watch the extras on the DVD, and I enjoyed this movie enough to check out some of the behind the scenes stuff. The filmmakers did a great deal with very little. The movie looks great. You will be amazed when you discover the effects were all done on on their Macintosh computers. Also amusing was the behind the scenes story about how they had to tow their ailing vehicle from shoot to shoot as it died during the production. Suffice to say, if you aspire to low budget filmmaking these guys are an inspiration.

IN CLOSING

If you enjoyed this installment of Cult Movies I Have Loved, then please check out these other movies I have profiled:

An American Werewolf in London

THX-1138

Six String Samurai

Silent Running

Dr. Strangelove

Little Murders

Death race 2000

Repo Man

Thanks for visiting!

14 Responses to “cult movies I have loved: my favorite zombie movies (part 2)”

  1. Sup Texas,

    Yep Zombies are cool. Im’ not sure if Resident Evil would could be included in the Zombie related movie faction but I just love that movie. All three sequels.๐Ÿ˜€

    ——-

    Hey about your browser crashing problems, you should upgrade your Safari Browser to the latest version for the Apple Website.

    http://www.apple.com/safari/download/

    My forum uses “Chat” which is programmed in “Ajax Language”. Older versions of Safari browsers were known to crash with applications programmed with Ajax.

    Latest Safari works fine with these type of applications.๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I still remember when I saw Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead played one Halloween night on our local UHF station before Fox and UPN and WB came along and homogenized local TV into a grande White Teeth Teen Soap Smoothie. Having been weaned on Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, it’s a testament to Romero’s writing and directing that a low-budget black & white movie relying almost solely on acting and atmosphere could scare the shit out of me. The next chance I could I rented both Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead (underrated, IMO. You totally know that the military would be trying to train zombies! As if they aren’t already…).

    Here in Pittsburgh (hometown of one George A. Romero), we’ve probably got one of the last of the locally-produced UHF, late-night horror shows left in the country, It’s Alive. (You can catch the the live webcast of the show 10PM EST Saturday nights.)

    A girl from work just loaned me Shock Wave… I’ll let y’all know how it is.

    Maybe I’m just a Romero fanboy, but I really enjoyed Land of the Dead (lots of Pittsburgh cultural and geographical references in that one)(Pittsburghers’ love of fireworks, for instance, has become something of a joke among us. The city seems to find an excuse to put on insanely elaborate firework displays about once a week), and I was really surprised by Diary of the Dead which at first seemed to be too heavy-handed with the allegory, but somehow, about 45-minutes into it, it sort of transcended itself. I especially like segment in the warehouse run by Black nationalists who saw the zombie uprising as the best thing to happen since emancipation. In a lot of ways, it would be. Assuming you survived.

    As for non-zombie (i.e. not technically undead) zombie movies, I liked 28 Weeks Later, more so than 28 Days Later. The brutally was pretty extreme (it even made me wince, and aside from the first 10 minutes of Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, I’ve never turned away from cinematic violence or gore), but beyond that, there were some scenes that were absolutely haunting and chilling, such as the one where the soldiers in Hazmat suits with flame-throwers walk slowly, silently through the billows of VX gas torching any and all survivors.

    The other thing I thought was novel about it was that once you thought you had figured who the protagonist was supposed to be, they got killed (or turned), which unsettles the viewer and makes the sense of terror more immediate and salient.

  3. Leave it to you, Comrade, to leave a comment that is almost better than my original post.

    I should point out that I reviewed (maybe “review” is too strong a word) both Night of the Living Dead and Shock Waves in my first entry of Zombie Movie Favorites. I actually own Shock Waves on VHS.

    I too enjoyed Land of the Dead. It might have been an inside joke, but I also thought the zombies being distracted by the fireworks was a pretty nice touch especially considering the climate the movie was released into – what with the patriotic war-fever we were all whipped into by the Bush administration’s false intel on Iraq.

    I’ll probably have to do a third installment and officially make this a series.

  4. TB: “I should point out that I reviewed (maybe โ€œreviewโ€ is too strong a word) both Night of the Living Dead and Shock Waves in my first entry of Zombie Movie Favorites.”

    So you did. I somehow managed to scroll past the entire “Shock Waves” section! I’m definitely going to have to check out “Wild Zero.”

    Also, I think C.H.U.D.. is ripe for a remake (I heard a rumor that they were making one). It was the first non-zombie zombie movies I ever saw, and even at the tender age of 10, I somehow understood it as a metaphor for how we treat the homeless – and what could happen if we continue to treat our fellow men as subhumans. Then again, I was raised by Liberals.

    As for the non-zombie cult classics w/ social commentary front, They Live is my stand out favorite. To this day it blows my mind, and since I’ve seen it, I’ve never been able to look at billboards, advertisements, or paper money the same way. Plus that 15-minute fight scene between Piper and Armitage is classic. I’m at work, so I can’t link the video.

  5. sadly Zombies became trendy and lost much of their cache in the last decade but the Dawn Of the Dead (79) vhs copy at our local video store was rented religiously by me and my friends in the 80s…. I am sure we were the only ones renting it. When I first saw Tom Savinni being disemboweled I thought…”Oh my effing god. YOu arent allowed to do that in films”

  6. Yeah, it is getting harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chafe whereas the current crop of zombies is concerned. The revival of the genre sparked by the successes of Shawn of the Dead and the remake of Dawn has really made vetting the quality product a chore.

    And there is a pretty fine line between a great zombie movie and a terrible, tedious one. Trust me, I’ve crossed it enough times to know.

  7. Watched both “Shock Waves” and “Return of the Living Dead Last Night.” Thought SW was a bit slow – even at 85 miutes – but the underwater scenes were spooky, and I always like it when the protagonist ends up in a mental ward, whether or not they’re really mad.

    As for RotLD, I forgot how good that movie is, even for a “horror-comedy.” It’s a good example of how to do a sequel (even an indirect, unauthorized sequel) without being a slave to the original. I’d also have liked to have seen more of Linnea Quigley, but – alas – she’s wearing a body suit.๐Ÿ˜‰

    Yeah, MFN, I hear ya. I guess Sturgeon’s Law (90% of everything is crap) applies… I especially did not like the remake, if you can call it that, of “Day of the Dead.” Especially since the “Day” in the title literally means “a 24-hour period” as opposed to Romero’s more metaphorical meaning expressed in such phrases as “our day will come.”

    TB: Unfortunately, the there’s almost no way to tell one from the other except to watch it. However, running time is a big clue. If a zombie movie is more than 90-100 minutes long, they’re probably doing to wrong.

  8. Yeah, Shock Waves is on the slow side, and when compared to the standard set by Romero movies it is pretty low impact as far as scares, shocks, and gore goes. As I recall there is nary a drop of blood in the whole thing. But the Nazi theme, coupled with the nice makeup effects and the way they rise from the water in formation all add up to make it worthwhile for me. I also like the way it starts with the pseudo-documentary style history of the Death Corps.

  9. Oh – and one thing I forgot the mention about “Shock Waves” that I really enjoyed is its Moogalicious soundtrack. There’s something inherently haunting in the Moog synth. no matter what instrument it’s trying to emulate. Of course, that wasn’t the intent at the time, which was to provide a complete score without having to hire an orchestra, but the cult horror classics of the 70’s and early 80’s stand out in my mind as having some great Moog music… Argento’s Suspiria and Inferno have some great visual sequences that become almost sublime thank to the music. In the case of Suspiria Italian prog-rockers Goblin provided the soundtrack. They also provided the music for Argento’s international cut of Romero’s Dawn of the Dawn… tho’ they were incorrectly labelled “The Goblins.”

    I remember after I first watched Dawn I went to the record store and asked for tapes by The Goblins and they looked at me as if I were crazy. Had I used the correct name, they’d probably still have looked at me as if I were crazy. This was the depths of the 80’s, so there weren’t any record stores on Main Street anymore, so I was stuck with the chain stores staffed by MTV-watching teenagers in upturned Izod shirts.

    Now here’s a weird observation: Frank in RotLD and Rose in SW were both left-handed.

  10. Just in case I didn’t put enough emphasis on it in my review, Burial Ground – The Nights of Terror is well worth a look.

  11. Just watched “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.” Not by design but they showed it on our local chiller theater tongiht. All I can say: Genius.

  12. […] I had a conversation with a friend about the writing of this blog entry and he could not believe I was not including Shawn of the Dead on the list. True, a hilarious film. But that was recent enough and popular enough that it probably doesn’t need my help to promote it. I consider this a strictly partial list. Perhaps I’ll do a “part 2″ of this topic later on down the road. […]

  13. Great post! Dawn is one of my favorite movies as well. I’ve heard of Undead but haven’t got around to it yet. I’ll go rent it today. If you really dig Zombies, I just wrote a new post about surviving a Zombie Apocolypse. There’s some other moivie posts too. Check ’em out at:
    http://kaispace.wordpress.com


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: