The Essential Zombie Films – A Study Guide

Much of the information we need to survive a zombie attack is clearly laid out in the films of the genre. The list below are just the bare minimum of what I consider to be some of the “classics.”

The First Zombie Film

The first zombie film was 1932’s  White Zombie with Bela Lugosi. The film featured voodoo and hordes of zombies, not trying to eat the living,  but laboring for thier voodoo master. Known more for Lugosi’s performance and the great atmosphere conveyed in the film, it is now considered a classic. And, since the it is in the public domain, you can watch the entire film on YouTube. You can also download it (along with other goodies)  at the Internet Archive.

The Romero Films:

It is 1968. George a Romero makes history with his film, Night of the Living Dead. This is the movie that started it all. Because of an error, this film was in the public domain immediately after its release. You can also view this at YouTube and download at the Internet Archive.

You cannot underestimate the effect that this film had on the industry and popular culture.  The debt the horror and slasher films genre owes George A. Romero is astounding, as even a brief Google search shows. Romero paved the way for a new generation of horror movies around the world. Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s 1979 work, Zombie 2, was actually  billed as a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Slasher flicks like the Friday the 13th and the Nightmare on Elm Street series probably would not even exist. 

Take a look at the trailer:

So. The essential Romero films are:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Dawn of the Dead (1979)

Day of the Dead (1985)

I would also include Land of the Dead (2005) because from a social commentary level, it really moves the series along.

For true Romero purists (and completists), Diary of the Dead (2008) & Survival of the Dead (2009) complete the series

There is a great blog series that covers the classic Romero films and can be used as a study guide: http://www.thedorkreport.com/2009/02/16/the-george-a-romero-zombie-cycle-part-1-night-of-the-living-dead/

The Romero Remakes:

As far as the remakes go, people either love them or hate them. I am personally quite fond of Night of the Living Dead 1990. I love the portrayal of Barbara in the film and applaud her actions at the end. As far as the rest of them, I couldn’t stand them. Although the original Dawn of the Dead is hands-down my favorite Romero flick, I could barely sit through the remake.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Day of the Dead (2008)

Important note:  

A few caveats: Just because a movie had living dead or of the dead in the title did not mean that it had anything to do with any of the series.  Movies such as  Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane fall into this category. These films are not part of the canon! Understanding which movies belong in the established body of work keep you from being duped by fakes like this one:

The 28 Days Later Series:

The 28 Days series updates the zombie film genre. Outbreaks are spread by virus and it is murderous rage that consumes our zombies. They also move amazingly fast. It is fairly common anymore to see comparisons between slow, Romero-style zombies and those that move fast as in 28 Days Later.

28 Days Later (2003)

28 Weeks Later (2007)

The next film in the series, 28 Months Later will be out in 2011.

The Resident Evil Series:

Okay, I know that you have to take a movie franchise that is based on a video game with a grain of salt, but when I started watching Resident Evil series, I was surprised at how good the first movie was. They really are must see movies for the zombie purist.

Resident Evil (Deluxe Edition)

Resident Evil – Apocalypse (AKA Nemesis) (2004)

Resident Evil – Extinction (2007)

Return of the Living Dead

A comedy zombie series makes the cut? Yes, indeed. And the reason? One word: Braaaaiiins! Chances are, if you are a zombie aficionado, you will find at least the first two of these movies delightful.  (Three starts to get a little darker, and rumor has it that 4 and 5 are just bad!)

A note for horror buffs: 1985’s Return of the Living Dead feature actress Linnea Quigley, known as the Queen of the Screams. Her performance  is a classic.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) (1985)

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005)

Another movie that is considered to be a comedy zombie classic is Shaun of the Dead (2004) I have to confess, I didn’t get this flick. Not until I saw the end. And not until seeing it a few times.  But I do find the end of the film  hysterically funny. I so totally recognize my son and his best friend since kindergarten in the ending sequence.

Some of you may notice that I left Zombielandoff the list.  While many are considering this to be a modern classic, especially with sequels in the works, I was disappointed in the film.  You can read my review here.

This list is just a beginning list of what I consider some of the classics. Different people have different fims that make their “Top” lists. On the web, you can find lists of  top 20 zombie films and even a Wiki list of over 300 zombie films.  And there are films like The Evil dead that have reanimated dead that some people think should belong on the lists  of zombie films (I personally don’t).

Next up, we are going to be looking at zombies in books. By the way… Did you know that Brad Pitt will play the journalist in a film based on Max Brooks World War Z? 

Study Hints for the test:

There are some classic lines from some of these films that are so well-known, that they will be on the test! Lines like:

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”

“When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

And of course, the classic, “Braaaaiiins!”

Can you think of any others? Or do you have a favorite line or scene from one of these films?

A Zombie Primer

Tomorrow on this blog we are going to look in earnest at teaching aids for combating a zombie apocalypse.  But in the meantime, I thought that some might benefit from additional information that gives perspective and background for what you will need to learn to survive.

If you are unfamiliar with zombies, you might think that the idea of a zombie outbreak is pretty far-fetched. Au contraire, mon ami, the basic course of an outbreak has actually been clearly laid out.  To understand the generally expected scenario, read How Everything Goes to Hell in a Zombie Apocalypse.  This graphic depiction  shows the usual course of events in a zombie infestation. Remember, this is a typical outbreak; your area’s specific outbreak may vary considerably.

However, there is one important fact that holds true in all zombie infestations: If you are bitten, you will die and reanimate as a zombie! Your primary concern in a zombie apocalypse is to avoid being bitten!

Those unfamiliar with the magnitude of zombie lore that exists are usually surprised to see just how exactly how far science has come in studying this phenomenon. Advanced statistical studies have been done on survival rates, and scientists can even accurately calculate the length of time someone will survive after being bitten.

And a final warning:  There is no such thing as a safe zombie, as the following video shows:

Up tomorrow, Zombies in film….

The Truth about Zombie Awareness Week

I received some very interested responses to the idea of an Australian Zombie Awareness Week from my last blog entry. However, much to my chagrin, in investigating further, I have discovered that this event is not exactly what I thought it was.

Rather than a week of furthering awareness of the living dead, the Australian Zombie Awareness Week  was promoting awareness of malware and virus infected computers spewing forth not blood and pus, but spam.  That’s right kids.  Garden variety spam.

This is so disappointing!

I mean, imagine thinking you were getting scary rotting walking corpses and instead getting…  spam. So utterly gross!

 It is also disturbing.

“Zombie” was one of those words that was pretty clear cut: It is either a reanimated corpse or a human being controlled by a supernatural force. Unlike words like “input,” which semantically can have one meaning in economics and a different meaning in the tech field, when someone said zombie, everyone was on pretty much the same page. Okay, so you might question whether it was Romero style slow zombies or 28 Days Later fast ones. But you were still talking walking dead, right?

So now, you have to clarify that you are not talking about hijacked computers?

Sheesh. That’s enough to take all the fun out of being undead.

Zombie Awareness Week

No, it is not marked on the calendar or anything (although there is a zombie awareness week in Australia). It is just that it has come to my attention that some of my readers are not as well versed as they should be concerning zombies. 

Since this is a matter of public safety that concerns all of us, I have taken it upon myself to do a bit of educational zombie posting this week to try to get those at the bottom of the class up to speed.  We are going to be looking at books, film, video, news and more to help round out your knowledge of the undead.    Those of you who are familiar with zombies, their spread and the various methods of eradication may consider this a review.

Please pay attention and take notes: There WILL be a quiz at the end of the week!

I thought it best to begin with the bare minimum of information that each of us should be aware of.  Of course, we need look no further than our own government for this basic information, offered in the form of a PSA (Public Service Announcement):

Any questions?

Criminal Minds Part 2: Time to Boycott CBS

19 October 2009 - Los Angeles, California - Thomas Gibson, Matthew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness, Joe Mantegna, Paget Brewster, Shemar Moore, A. J. Cook and Crew. The Cast and Crew of CRIMINAL MINDS celebrating their 100th Episode with a cake cutting. held At The Quixote Studios. Photo Credit: Kevan Brooks/AdMedia

(See my previous blog entry for the background on the Criminal Minds story)

In case you missed the news, CBS and Criminal Minds’ producers have decided that A.J. Cook is indeed staying fired.  She gets  two episodes to tie up her storyline.  Paget Brewster fared somewhat better; supposedly she is in 10 out of 13 episodes. Although it is a 22 episode season, so I don’t understand the math. Gee, too bad CBS also cancelled Numb3rs!  I could have used the help in figuring it out. [1.  More fuzzy CBS math: Season episodes reduced were to 16 so Miami Medical could air in its spot. Numb3rs was then cancelled.]

Because I just really don’t get it. CBS and the producers seem totally determined to destroy a great show. Not sure where their minds are at.

I think that website twocents.com said it best:

And I can’t help but be angry at CBS. I still feel like they are sending a very bad message to their viewers, their female ones in particular. They cut three strong female characters from their fall line up (AJ off Criminal Minds, Liz Vassey from CSI, and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s show Ghost Whisperer got completely canceled), and reduced the role of another, then they decided to pay Charlie Sheen, who admittedly abused his wife, nearly 2 million dollars an episode for Two and a Half Men. They fire, reduce, and replace female presence on their network, then reward a man who abuses his wife? Not cool, CBS. Show women a little more respect, will you?

And Janeane Garofalo in talks for the spin off for Criminal Minds? Check the picture of Garofalo in the linked article. Can we say Garcia clone, boys and girls?  So much for any real creativity.

What else do we have to look forward to? Maybe the new female character on Criminal Minds will be played by Executive Producer Bernero’s daughter. After all, nepotism  has to be better than sexism, right?

So where do we go from here? One person suggested boycotting CBS but not Criminal Minds. However, it doesn’t seem fair to boycott shows like NCIS without boycotting the show that is actually the problem. Will CBS really get the point that it is their actions on Criminal Minds that we are upset about if we keep watching anyway?  I don’t think so.

In fact, I think CBS is counting on the fact the most people will grumble and complain, but ultimately continue to watch anyway. CBS never even bothered to address the fans’ concerns; they are that sure that people will continue to tune in.

But I won’t be one of them. Personally, I have had enough.  And I wrote them and told them so.

Over this last week, I have been practicing not watching CBS.  No more NCIS, the CSI  franchises, Medium, or even Entertainment Tonight.  No more nightly news from the CBS affiliate. And yeah, I am taking it to extremes: No more Criminal Minds reruns on A & E or Ion.  No more NCIS reruns on USA.  No more CSI  reruns on Spike.

Even the DVDs (and I own them all) are staying on the shelf, unwatched. And, I am looking into boycotting the CBS advertisers as well.

I urge everybody who cares about Criminal Minds (and getting quality programming in general) to boycott CBS as well.

And you know what? I am surviving just fine, with the aid of my Roku Player. And my Kindle.  And my computer. And my netbook. And Hulu.

Are you getting the picture, CBS?  It is a brave new world out there. I mean with that new-fangled Internet and all. People actually have choices about when and what they want to watch. And I have lots of toys to play with….

How about you? Are you a disgruntled Criminal Minds fan? Are you protesting the change? Or, have you ever had your favorite television show cancelled (or cannibalized)?  How did you react?