This blog will focus on the Modern Age of zombie movies, as defined by me. I'm thinking this blog will have more movies to talk about, so I'll keep each movie a bit more brief.
Let's get to it!
As I said the other day, the line for Silver and Modern is a bit vague but I'm drawing the line between Day of the Dead and today's first movie, "Return of The Living Dead". Both films were released in 1985. Return is a lot of fun, it plays as though what happened in Night of The Living Dead was based actual events that were later suppressed by the government. The film was a way to "hide out in the open". Some of the zombies that were later contained were sealed in containers to be shipped to government facilities, but a few were lost. One is discovered and the zombie is released and starts to wreak havoc and quickly starts turning others into zombies. My favorite part of this movie is the effects, the first barrell zombie is outstanding! It looks like a zombie right out of an EC horror comic!
The reason that I list this as the turning point to Modern is that they really supe up the zombies in these movies (there were a few sequels, none as good as this). The zombies are essentially unstoppable, taking out the brain doesn't do anything and each part of the zombie is capable of moving on it's own if hacked off. That is a bit too much for me in terms of believability, but it's still a whole lot of fun to watch. The other notable thing is that, to my knowledge, this is the first time that zombies are shown searching for brains. This never comes up in any of Romero's movies and isn't in official zombie cannon anywhere I know of, yet it's become a staple of zombiedom. One other notable point is that you see the zombies being clever, if you've ever read Marvel Zombies, then I think you'd find the zombies familiar.
1985 was a banner year for the undead because "Re-Animator" also came out. Re-Animator tells the gory story of Herbert West, who has been cooking up a serum to return the dead to life. Unfortunately this never works out the way he wants it to and the dead are usually hopelessly insane and violent. This is another one for those of us that like cult movies and a healthy dose of gore.
Here's a quick one, "Night of The Creeps" from 1986. Outer space slugs take over your brain, turning you into a zombie. It's a campy cult movie that actively tried to be a "B" movie and poked fun at a few other genre's. I haven't seen it in ages, but I loved it as a kid.
With this next entry, we return a bit back to the classic zombie. I mentioned this movie in my first post. It's Wes Craven's 1988 "The Serpent and the Rainbow". It makes the claim to be based off actual events, but that's pretty damn loosely. This is about an ethnobotanist that's investigating Clairvius Narcisse a man that was documented proof of zombieism. Or what was considered an actual zombie. The poor guy was poisoned by a voodoo priest, he was left in a state very similar to death but not actual medical death. When the poison wears off, he's left brain damaged upon waking due to lack of oxygen and is now a "zombie".
So the movie is loosely based upon the book of the scientists experiences in Haiti. But it's got zombies and is a call back to the Golden Age, so I have included it.
Next we'll walk over to an adaptation of Stephen King's scariest book, 1989's "Pet Sematary". I imagine everyone knows the story here, the Pet Sematary is actually an old and spoiled Mic Mac Indian burial ground. The ground has turned sour over time and sends those buried in it back to the person who put them in the ground. Unfortunately they are now completely evil. This is another step away from the classic zombie, but not a step far away. The undead still return from the grave and seek the living, but it's usually only their loved ones that "reap what was sown".
In 1990, George Romero's long time special effect make-up guy Tom Savini directed a re-make of "Night of The Living Dead". He updated the movie while keeping it very faithful to the original. The make-up effects are outstanding and the zombies are all very creepy looking. The major difference, character-wise, is that Barbara is not so helpless in the re-make. Here she quickly decides to have a hand in her own survival and becomes a bad-ass instead of sitting on the couch in shock mumbling to herself like in the original. I really enjoy this movie, but it's still pretty low budget. I'd call it "B+" instead of a "B" movie :)
"28 Days Later", Released in 2002. Great movie. Despite popular belief, there are NO ZOMBIES IN THIS FILM. Moving along.
Also in 2002, "Resident Evil". An adaptation of the video game of the same name. The game is chock full of zombies and did a great job of introducing zombies to a new generation and I would say single handedly started the zombie renaissance we are currently in. The movie had one short scene involving some zombies and was mostly a reason for the director to have his hot model wife run around in skimpy clothes....not that I'm against that. But it's not much of a zombie movie, the game is much creepier.
Ok, now we're venturing into controversy territory. Zack Snyder's 2004 re-make of "Dawn of The Dead". I actually signed an online petition against this. It's sacrilege! It's blasphemous! It was a big goddamn hit. It introduced us to the sprinting zombies, I'm still not crazy about this. Zombies are dead. They're rotting. They're not coordinated enough to run. Ok, I'll give you maybe right at first, but not all the time. Well, love em or hate em. Snyder gave em to us, no doubt also confusing the infected from 28 Days Later for the living dead. From now on, I'm coining the term "Snyderian" for fast zombies. You read it here first folks.
Ok, well, back to the movie a bit. I decided to give it a shot and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't great, but it was actually pretty good. Snyder did some interesting things here and has gone on to continue to make some interesting things. I don't think Dawn needed a remake, you can't perfect perfection after all, but he did make an entertaining movie.
I think I'll finish my list up with this, Edgar Wright's "Shaun of The Dead", also released in 2004. This movie is fantastic and belongs on the list at the bottom only because (well aside from chronology) to truly enjoy it you have to have seen a few of the movies already on the list. I'm not saying you won't enjoy it otherwise, but you'll get a fuller understanding of what Wright was paying tribute to. They got everything right, it's damn funny, it's character driven, chock full of character development and the zombies are SLOW. There is nothing I don't like about this movie. Highly recommended.
Oh ok, a few more notes.
"Land of The Dead" (2005) Romero's return to his zombies. This time he shows us society attempting to build itself back up, but the zombies are still evolving. People are still too busy fighting among themselves to pay attention to what's happening in the world. It's pretty good, very gory and has some great scenes.
"I Am Legend" (2007) In the book, they were vampires. In the movie they were mutants, but looked vaguely like zombies and people refer to them as such. NOT ZOMBIES.
"Planet Terror" (2007) Part of the Grind House double feature, this was Robert Rodriguez's tribute to "B" movies. Hilarious and expertly crafted to be as cheezy as possible. A lot of fun. Does contain zombies!
"Diary of The Dead" (2007) Romero's most recent take on zombies, I haven't seen it yet. I have heard nothing good about it, unfortunately.
"Dead Snow" (2009) A Norwegian take on Nazi Zombies. I haven't seen it yet, but it's got some good reviews.
I think that just about covers it. Let me know what you think and if you think I missed anything.
Have a Happy Halloween everyone!