October 21st, 2009


Intro to Horror 101, Part 3, and Also Zombies!

Introducing my girlfriend to funny, not too scary horror movies has been a lot of fun so far. As you may recall, she really liked An American Werewolf in London, and so far that's been the best of the bunch. She thought Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was okay, but didn't care much for Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I don't know, maybe you need to be a drunk college student the first time you see it to truly love it, the way I was. Though she, like me, did enjoy the Dickies' theme song. On the other hand, she really, really liked Ed Wood, which may not be a horror movie but did come up in conversation. I think next up should be Fright Night, The Lost Boys or Return of the Living Dead.

Speaking of which, in honor of Halloween and the success of Zombieland, Entertainment Weekly has a list of the 25 Best Zombie Movies of All Time on their website. Here's my take on their list:

25. Planet Terror I liked this one a lot and found it much superior to its Grindhouse companion film, Death Proof.

24. Diary of the Dead Ugh. I didn't like this one at all. Aside from one excellent sequence at the Amish farm, it felt like George A. Romero was simply rehashing what he'd already done, only with less verve. The first-person camera POV added nothing. Why not replace this one with 1981's Dead and Buried?

23. Land of the Dead I feel like I'm in the minority on this, but I liked Land a lot. It's a very fun movie, even if it's not Romero's best zombie film.

22. Zombie Flesh Eaters (a.k.a. Zombie, a.k.a. Zombi 2) This Fulci classic is fun--it has a zombie fighting a shark, after all, and one of the squickiest scenes of occular trauma ever--but I'd actually replace it with Fulci's zombie epic The Beyond instead, which has a more interesting story and atmosphere.

21. Night of the Living Dead (1990) It's okay as remakes go, but it doesn't stack up to the original. Due to the overzealous costuming, though, it's fun to watch this one and play "guess the zombie's occupation when it was alive."

20. Resident Evil: Extinction Uh, no. How about Bela Lugosi's White Zombie here instead? Or really, anything else.

19. Pontypool I've heard great things about this Canadian film, but as far as I know it's not available in the States yet. I'm itching to see it!

18. Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive) One of my favorite Peter Jackson films pre-Lord of the Rings (the other being Heavenly Creatures). The zombie mayhem here is played for over-the-top laughs, not scares, but it works brilliantly. "I kick arse for the Lord!" is the new "Frankly, Scarlet, I don't give a damn."

17. Homecoming I didn't care much for this Joe Dante-directed episode of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" anthology series, just as I didn't care for most of the episodes as a whole, but at least Dante tried to do something different with zombies instead of rehashing the same old stumbling around and eating people motif.

16. Dead Snow I can't wait to see this one!

15. I Walked With a Zombie A great, atmospheric classic from the early '40s, marred only by its uncomfortable racial attitudes.

14. Undead This Australian zombie semi-spoof has its moments, but ultimately I felt let down by it. It wouldn't be on my list. I'd replace it with The Evil Dead instead.

13. The Serpent and the Rainbow One of my favorite Wes Craven movies (I even used to own the soundtrack on vinyl!), and one of my favorite Bill Pullman movies. I saw it in a theater in Times Square that was filled with visiting African (or perhaps West Indian) dignitaries, and they cheered during the climax when Pullman's animal spirit makes an appearance to help him save the day. That made it one of the most fun moviegoing experiences I've ever had.

12. Dead Set I've never heard of this one before so I can't comment, but apparently it's a British zombie take on Big Brother.

11. Omega Man Boy do I think this one is out of place on a best-of list! It's a fun, campy movie in its own right, but better than Planet Terror, Dead Alive or The Serpent and the Rainbow? Not in my book. How about Evil Dead 2 instead?

10. Return of the Living Dead Yes! Sing it with me now: "Do you wanna party? It's party time!" Also: "Send more paramedics"--one of the greatest lines in any zombie movie ever.

9. Re-Animator Definitely. This one never bores me, no matter how many times I see it. If only director Stuart Gordon had achieved this level of excellence with any of his subsequent movies. From Beyond is the only one that comes close, in my opinion.

8. Day of the Dead I'm not a big fan of Romero's third film in the original Dead trilogy, but I do like all the scenes with Bub. "Say hello to your Aunt Alicia."

7. Cemetery Man Love the first half of this movie immensely. Not so much the second half.

6. [REC] I liked the U.S. remake, Quarantine, quite a bit and look forward to seeing the Spanish original. I hear it takes a more supernatural approach to what's ailing the apartment complex than the U.S. version does, which sounds interesting.

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968) The father of the modern zombie movie. Romero rewrote the rules, and his invention--zombies as flesh eaters--remains the M.O. of most zombie movies (and novels) to this day. Still one of the best zombie movies ever made, too. I'd probably rank it even higher.

4. Dawn of the Dead (1979) One of those rare sequels that outdoes its predecessor. I still get freaked out when I watch this one, even though the zombies are mostly just extras covered in silly green paint. But when they break out the special makeup effects for the biting scenes, hoo boy! I'd never seen anything like that before.

3. Shaun of the Dead Yes! Its genius lies in the fact that it works as a zombie movie, a comedy, and a satire of living an excitement-free, day to day life as a working stiff. You never know who's an actual zombie and who's just some exhausted, spaced out schmuck on the bus, and that's the point. Also, best use of the song "White Lines" and the Batman soundtrack LP ever.

2. 28 Days Later Zombie movies are supposed to have a nihilistic feel, and this one nails it better than any other. I haven't watched it since it came out in 2002, and yet I still remember it quite clearly, thanks to that pervasive feeling of dread.

1. Dawn of the Dead (2004) Huh. I enjoyed Zack Snyder's remake of the Romero classic, but I wouldn't rank it at the top, and certainly not over the original. It definitely has its moments--not the least of which is the lounge music remake of Disturbed's "Down With the Sickness"--and the atmosphere is pretty good, but it feels somehow more disposable to me than the original. In its defense, though, this Dawn is really a remake in name only. Sure, much of the movie is spent inside a mall just like in the original, but pretty much everything that happens is new.

I have to tell you, I'm really surprised that they left out the Evil Dead movies!