The journey of zombies within the world of cinema has been interesting. For years, they didn’t make too many onscreen appearances, apart from voodoo lore and radioactive humanoids. And the few films where they were portrayed, they were far from the cannibalistic, flesh hungry creatures that we are accustomed to today.
Zombies were first extensively used in western cinema after being introduced by George Romero. He pioneered the trope as we know and love today. Unfortunately, although they have been around for over five decades as a prominent subgenre within the horror category, they are still immensely underrated and overshadowed by other tropes. This video will shed light on some of the underrated zombie movies that any film buff must watch.
This is an American alternate history horror film starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell and John Magaro in a plot set on D-Day, June 5th, 1944. Several American troops are dropped behind enemy lines to execute a crucial mission. Amidst the intense enemy fire, planes are shot down, killing most of the soldiers on crashing, and the remaining being killed by the Nazis.
Private Ed Boyce fortunately survives the crash and finds a group of people including Corporal Ford, an Italian soldier, a veteran who is an expert in bombs and explosives, a rogue sniper, a war photographer, and Private Dawson. After they witness one of their superiors being killed by a Nazi, Corporal Ford leads the group into town so that they can complete their mission. On their journey, they encounter shocking secret Nazi experiments.
Usually, the first thing viewers appreciate about a war movie is the intense cinematography. This movie kept up that front with its brilliant visual effects. It also had quite a bit of delightful gore and a brilliant cast. Because of the time period during which it was made, the film received a lot of hype due to J.J. Abram’s involvement.
Besides this, it made a lot of old folks nostalgic about the 70s and 80s when they got to watch movies about both zombies and World War II. With a simple story, director Julius Harvey has created a film with schematic characters, almost one dimensional some would say. But this usually goes unnoticed because it is not exclusively a WWII drama. Some even go as far as saying that Overlord is a B-Movie with a Hollywood budget.
However, on the whole, its minor flaws are overlooked, because it is a brilliant dark, bloody, action driven movie about zombie soldiers trying to conquer the world. What’s more interesting about this movie is that it incorporated more practical effects instead of the standard CGI that most films used. This was to get authentic reactions from the actors involved in certain gory scenes.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Most zombie fans watched this movie after seeing its name and weren’t disappointed. Night of the Creeps is a 1986 sci-fi horror comedy by Fred Dekker in his feature debut. Its plot revolves around an alien experiment that crashes onto earth in 1959 and infects a member of a fraternity.
Although the body is frozen, it is uncovered years later, when two geeks, pledged to the same fraternity, thaw the corpse by accident. This leads to the entire university campus being infected by parasites. These are no ordinary parasites, they transform their hosts into murderous zombies.
Tom Atkins has been moderately appreciated for his role in this movie. Popular opinion holds that he was the perfect candidate to play the role of a washed-up detective. Moreover, this was definitely one of the high-end B-Movies, appreciated for its creativity in plot. Although alien slugs contaminating your body and turning you into a zombie sounds like a cliché, it is portrayed in a rather interesting manner.
Considering the era during which this film was created, it contains impressive special effects whose simplicity makes them look realistic and extremely daunting. Night of the Creeps is definitely one of the better horror movies that was released during the 1980s. The script pays homage to every 1950 sci-fi horror movie, especially the convention of zombie films pioneered by George Romero.
The film’s screenplay having self-conscience and self-mockery written all over it can be attributed to Dekker incorporating witty and memorable dialogues. Overall the film is more than just a zombie comedy, it is a well-done suspenseful film with plenty of gore and remarkable special effects. This also happens to be Tom Atkin’s favorite movie.
The Girl With all the Gifts (2016)
This 21st century British post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror film is based on the 2014 novel of the same name. The film depicts a near future dystopian world where humanity has been demolished due to a mysterious fungal disease. Whoever gets infected becomes devoid of all free will and transforms into a flesh-eating zombie.
Their only hope is a group of hybrid children who also feed on human flesh but still possess their ability to make choices. They go to school in an army base where they are forced to undergo cruel experiments by Dr. Caroline Caldwell. Their school teacher Helen Justineau grows fond of a particular student, Melanie. One day, when the army base is attacked, the three of them are able to escape with the help of Sergeant Eddie Parks.
It’s always an enriching experience for film buffs to watch movies where the traditional tropes are sidelined and a whole new storyline is adapted. The Girl With all the Gifts being such a movie began with what the viewers expected to be a conventional trope but continued on to leave the viewers baffled with its plot progression towards the end.
It also contains an excellent performing cast with some of the most imaginative direction ever seen. It very promptly keeps in mind the importance of any film’s opening sequence and how it sets the tone for the viewers’ for the entire movie. Also, it was a refreshing change from all the gore and violence portrayed in usual zombie films.
Did you know, actress Glenn Close’s, (who played Caroline Caldwell) sister-in-law Deb Close is a huge fan of zombie films and has always wanted to star in one. If you are a diehard zombie fan, this movie is definitely worth a watch.
Night of the Comet (1984)
This is an American science fiction horror film, written and directed by Thom Eberhardt. It begins with everyone celebrating the first comet in 65 million years to fly towards earth. Only Regina Belmont and her sister Samantha, who care more about fashion trends than celestial events, aren’t celebrating this occasion.
The next day, they discover that they are the only two remaining residents of Los Angeles, while everyone else has been vaporized or transformed into zombies. With the help of a friendly truck driver, the two sisters save everyone and escape from flesh eating zombies.
Thom Eberhardt certainly makes this stand out among an entire decade of post-apocalyptic zombie films created in the 80s. It is rather hysterical just to imagine the idea of two valley girls going shopping once they find out that the rest of the city has been transformed into zombies.
He took a familiar sci-fi trope and added his touch of originality to create a movie with a whole new concept. For a low budget flick, the actors have performed rather well, especially Catherine Mary Stewart, who is one of the most talented and underrated actors of her time. Unfortunately, this film has been stuck in the category of 80s teen horror films since its release.
Although it has elements that are a subtle commentary on teen culture, that is not the essence that Eberhardt was hoping to achieve as a dominant theme. In fact, while most directors are hell bent on portraying a series of doom and disaster through their films, Eberhardt would rather entertain his viewers by incorporating witty humor in his. The scenes portraying an empty Los Angeles were actual working days, filmed early in the morning.
The Video Dead (1987)
The Video Dead is a 1987 zombie horror comedy film directed by Robert Scott. The plot explores writer Henry Jordan, receiving a mysterious TV set that is a gateway through which undead creatures enter the living world. After they kill Henry, the house is sold to a teenager, Zoe Blair’s family. She and her brother Jeff visit the house to clean it while their parents are traveling.
When they find the TV in the basement, Jeff takes it to his room and immediately, a stranger named Joshua Daniels knocks on their door. He explains to them that the TV had been delivered to their address accidently instead of the Department of Occult Warfare. Jeff refuses to believe him initially but later learns the frightening truth about the TV set.
This film is a prime example of 1980s B-Movie glory and will be thoroughly enjoyed by zombie fans. It contains a handful of suspense and some over-the-top-moments. It’s got the whole package, decent zombie makeup effects, gore, a thrilling edge-of-the-seat story and nostalgic 80s synthesizer music.
Robert Scott also received credit for his non-traditional portrayal of zombies that don’t eat flesh but rather kill for the thrill, which put an entirely new spin on the zombie myth. Additionally, this movie can only be enjoyed to its maximum potential if viewers are able to find the comedic undertone because no B-Movie ever got famous by taking itself seriously. Interestingly, a sequel for this film was in the works, but was never officially made.
This is an American found-footage horror film starring Jennifer Carpenter as the lead. A television reporter and her cameraman get an assignment to spend the nightshift with a fireman crew. Due to a 911 call, they end up in an apartment building surrounded by the police. When they hear intense screams from one of the apartments, they learn that a resident of that building has been infected by an unknown virus.
A few of the residents who are attacked try to leave with the camera crew, only to find out that everyone is quarantined inside the building. All communications have been blocked and the only evidence of that day’s events is captured on the crew’s videotape.
Being a remake of the 2007 Spanish movie, Rec, Quarantine had some pretty big shoes to fill since Rec was a widely appreciated film. Nevertheless, Quarantine was praised for its own strengths. It is an edge of the seat thriller that lures the viewers in with a relaxing opening sequence and suddenly pulls them into a world of darkness without them realizing.
This film was also appreciated for its set design, lighting and the nature of its characters. It stands out from typical zombie flicks for having characters trapped in a frightening situation, where they die because of inevitability and inescapability rather than naivety and stupidity.
The first person point of view enhanced the sense of confinement and hopelessness felt by the characters, which some viewers felt was reflected on to them. Unfortunately, being a remake comes with uninvited comparison. Many have criticized Quarantine for being a less authentic version of Rec. Most people who watched both films felt like acting in Quarantine and representation of zombies was overall inadequate.
Dead Alive/Braindead (1992)
This 1992 New Zealand slapstick zombie comedy horror film directed by Peter Jackson stars Timothy Balme as Lionel, an ill-treated man who still lives with his mom, Vera, in Wellington, New Zealand. He finds his soul mate in Paquita, a kind clerk at a grocery store. Things take a turn for the worse when Lionel’s mom is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey of Skull Island during their visit to the local zoo.
Vera undergoes a massive transition which turns her into a flesh eating undead creature. The situation deteriorates further when there is an increase in dead bodies and a larger number of flesh eating zombies in Lionel’s basement. It is now up to Lionel to save his decomposing mother and win Paquita’s heart.
Dead Alive, also known as Braindead in New Zealand and several other countries, is a visual extravaganza of visceral, quirky, violent, gory sequences. Its fast-paced and witty attributes make it one of the most groundbreaking zombie films. Timothy Balme’s outstanding performance and comedic timing proved what an underrated actor he is.
Peter Jackson, much before the Lord of the Rings trilogy, took a simple overused premise and turned it into nothing short of a masterpiece among the zombie genre. He also added a Freudian spin to the story with the damaged mother-son relationship which only makes the protagonist, Lionel’s evolution from mama’s boy to savior give the film a more concrete foundation. When Dead Alive was initially released as Braindead in New Zealand in 1992, it made more per screen earnings than Batman Returns.
I Sell the Dead (2008)
This 2008 horror comedy has its premise set in the 18th century where Arthur Blake awaits execution for murder and grave robbery. Since he has only a few hours remaining until he is taken to the guillotine, Arthur narrates his life’s tale to Father Francis Duffy. He confesses to the priest about how he began the business of grave robbery with his partner Willie Grimes.
The film takes place in the 1700s with which comes the pressure of accuracy while creating the set. Irish director Glenn McQuaid managed that very well despite this being his debut. The accuracy and unexpectedly breathtaking cinematography makes this stand out as far as zombie movies are concerned.
Interestingly, the dominant tone of the film is rather comedic given the film’s name where viewers expected it to be a fest of blood and gore. Even then the comedic timing and situations are such that they make you grin in agreement rather than howl and cackle. One of the things that make this a unique film is that it can be categorized as a period film as much as a horror comedy.