Courting Creepy: 13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By Pooka’s Beau.

Tonight, as promised, I bring you a new Courting Creepy list. As soon as I agreed to participate in the recent Blogger Virtual Zombie Walk, I knew I needed to craft a zombie movie list, so I’ve been thinking about it since late September. I racked my memories. I watched new-to-me films … which I didn’t much like. In the end, I was able to come up with only nine solid recommendations. That’s a shame, because I genuinely respect the genre. Some of the best horror movies I know are zombie films. (But then, so are some of the worst.) Eventually, I had to admit that most zombie films are just a bit too bloody and violent for me. In desperation, I reached out to my daughter’s beau who has a particular affection for zombies. He agreed to write up a list, using my existing lists as an example of format.

Please feel free to let The Beau know he should have a blog of his very own 🙂

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The Beau’s take on zombie movies:

If horror movies were liquor, then zombie movies would be vodka. You can add just about anything to vodka and get a palatable drink. The same can be said for zombie movies. Granted, you have your top-shelf zombie movies and your cheap b-list zombie movies. Beyond that, you have your flavors: zombie comedies, zombie action flicks, zombie science fiction … the variety is overwhelming, but all of it works in some way. It’s the various permutations of these films that ensure you are going to like some kind of zombie movie, you’ve just got to find the right variety.

Let’s start by talking about pure zombies. This includes George Romero’s “of the Dead” series, most of the remakes of them, and a handful of other examples, like 28 Days Later and (especially) the TV series Walking Dead. These are what I consider the top-shelf zombie movies. They stay true to the plots that started the genre. All other types of zombie movies are spinoffs of elements within these movies.

In these top-shelf movies, the horror comes from the setting. A zombie, by itself, isn’t that scary. These zombies are (usually) slow-moving and easily outsmarted. The real threat is in the fact that the entire world is overrun with them; there are millions of them out there and they will always be after you. Still-human characters have to find a way to live in the resulting world, and that is where the real drama of the movie comes from. Without normal societal norms, the characters revert to survival mode and you see just how bad human nature can become in the name of survival.

These movies inspire the viewer to ask questions of themselves. What would you do in a situation like this? Would you isolate your family? Would you murder other people who try to get into your supplies? What would you promise your squad of soldiers to keep them from killing each other? Maybe you’d just try to be the last civilized person on the planet, holding true to what you can remember of the law and order that once was, at least for a time. These questions also apply to the oldest story ever told: Man vs Man vs Nature. We live in this world with such questions in the deep, dark back of our minds, and we’ll leave the world (if we’re lucky) not knowing the answers.

The effectiveness of films like those above gave birth to the sub-genres of zombie films. Dawn of the Dead (both the original and the remake) shows us how much fun it can be to be the last man alive, for example. It introduces a light tone into the genre. That led us to Shaun of the Dead, a comedy which shows us the only people equipped to deal with the zombie apocalypse are video game playing slackers in their mid-twenties. The characters from Shaun, however – with their devising of zombie killing strategies and their indulging in zombie killing sprees –  gave rise to the action zombie films.

An important thing to remember about these films is that they are gory. Wait, don’t turn your nose up at that! A lot of people think gory = not scary but gross, but gore does have a place in horror. It’s how you validate your fears. Think of this…. If I were to tell you, “Hey, the Titanic sank,” how would you feel? You probably wouldn’t collapse in tears, even though it was a tragedy. But, if you were to watch the Titanic movie – and actually see the stories of the doomed passengers, then see them die – suddenly the tragedy hits home, it has emotional impact. The same idea applies to zombies, When a movie tells you, Hey, zombies eat people,” you aren’t going to be scared if the camera turns away. But, if you watch a gory zombie movie – and actually see a zombie tear the throat out of someone, then disembowel that same someone right before your eyes – suddenly it strikes home that “Zombies EAT people!”

If it helps those of you who are squeamish, just go into it with the intention of admiring some of the best special effect makeup ever done.

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13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By The Beau.

First, honorable mention to the TV series The Walking Dead. I know it’s not a movie, but if you want the best example of a great zombie story, go to that.

Dawn of the Dead (1978, original)
– One of the best and most influential movies of the genre. Special acknowledgement for best performance by a mall in film.
Zombie aka Zombi 2 (1979)
– Best of the foreign zombie films. Special acknowledgement for best fight scene: Shark vs Zombie!
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
– Splatstick comedy. Historically significant; the movie that started zombies saying “Brains!”
Day of the Dead (1985, original)
– Sequel to the much-loved Dawn of the Dead. A military bunker is the safest place in the world of the dead, but can the civilian population get along with the military leaders?
Night of the Living Dead (1990, remake)
– An updated and more action oriented version of the original that started it all. Special acknowledgement for best change of an ending.
Wild Zero (1999)
– Not going to make a list without putting a movie on it you’ve never heard of. Japanese zombie film starring a rock band that battles zombies using the power of rock. DVD comes with a built in drinking game, drink when: a head explodes, fire shoots out of something, someone says Rock N Roll, someone combs their hair, and many more.
28 Days Later (2002)
– Best zombie movies with no zombies in it.
Dawn of the Dead (2004, remake)
– Same premise, but different direction, than the original. Strong movie that stands side by side with the original, not in front or behind.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
– British comedy that is a lovesong for the genre.
Land of the Dead (2005)
– Interesting premise that falls apart with cliché characters and action sequences. Still stands up better than many other movies.
The Zombie Diaries (2006)
– A shaky-cam documentary-style take on the zombie apocalypse. Surprisingly good, better than Romero’s Diary of the Dead.
Planet Terror (2007)
– A modern homage to the cult films of yore. Extra gore, extra cult.
Zombieland (2009)
– Survival comedy that walks the line between homage and parody. Good entry movie for the genre, though it may make earlier films less scary.

Best for Halloween night: Night of the Living Dead (1968).

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12 Comments on “Courting Creepy: 13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By Pooka’s Beau.”

  1. […] Courting Creepy: 13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By J… (theparanormalist.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Hunter Shea says:

    I have one to add : Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, directed by the same man who would go on to give us A Christmas Story. Cool movie.

    • Just looked it up on IMDb. It’s a PG rated zombie movie – that’s interesting.

      I’ve just decided that I’m going to make an ACTUAL list of must-see films. The methods I’ve been using so far – trying to keep a list in my head & scribbling titles on random slips of paper – haven’t been working very well.

  3. I like the zombie=vodka analogy. I am happy to say that I have seen every movie on this list but The Zombie Diaries, and I agree with all of them. Also, I thought I was the only person who liked Land of the Dead. Jason, you should definitely have a blog.

  4. Excellent, thorough list. I’ve always been partial to the spoofs, like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, though in my humble opinion nothing beats The Walking Dead on TV.

  5. Love it! Just watched the original Dawn of the Dead out in Hollywood Forever cemetery a few weekends ago – they put it up 40 feet high on the mausoleum west wall.

  6. […] Courting Creepy: 13 crucial movies – for zombie lovers – at Halloween (or anytime.) By J… (theparanormalist.wordpress.com) […]


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