Sunday, September 9, 2007
Top Twenty List of the Week
NOTE: For the purpose of this list, The Evil Dead and its sequels are not zombie movies. The term zombie implies the re-animation of a corpse. There could be an argument made that Army of Darkness could qualify and that the mother ("witch in the cellar") or dead Linda in part two are zombies, but we'll not list it just the same. Just know that Evil Dead II is one of my all time favorite films.
I should note that Slither, Night of the Creeps and Shivers aren't on the list for the same reason.
20. The Serpent and the Rainbow
Director: Wes Craven
This is Craven's (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) only entry into zombiedom and it's not entirely bad! Alright, I'm not the biggest fan of the film (or Craven for that matter), but it has its redeeming qualities. It's based on the book of the same name by Wade Davis, in which he chronicles his supposed real life escapades in the world of voodoo zombies in Haiti. Bill Pullman plays the role of the author and delivers a solid performance.
I know, I set the ground rules as only "re-animated dead" and I'm kind of fudging them here, but, it's my list, dammit.
A SCENE FROM THE FILM
Director: Michael and Peter Spierig
It's a fun, sci-fi zombie movie that comes from Australia of all places. It's got gore, naked aliens, and a gun-totin' badass. Not gonna find much in the way of depth here, but it's fun. Keep an eye out for the Evil Dead references.
18. Dead Alive (AKA: Braindead)
Director: Peter Jackson
Country: New Zealand
I've never been the biggest Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) fan, nor have I been a big fan of this particular film. But, I have to admit, it's growing on me. Braindead as it's known world-wide) is a wildly popular cult hit that's best know for its excessive gore. There some pretty good kills here (lawnmower disembowelment, anyone) and is pretty funny.
SCENES FROM THE MOVIE
17. Zombi Holocaust (AKA: Zombie Holocaust, AKA: Dr. Butcher M.D. Medical Deviate)
Director: Marino Girolami
Alright, in all honesty, Zombi Holocaust sucks. But it sucks so bad that it's funny. You know the type. I don't know if you'd even call it camp...just crap. But, it does have the great Scottish actor Ian McCulloch in it, and that's pretty much the film's only strength. There's some gore, but it's poorly done, but lower your expectations and it ain't so bad.
16. I Walked with a Zombie
Director: Jacques Tourneur
An early zombie movie, this is classic Val Lewton. It's about a young nurse who travels to the West Indies and gets just a little more than she bargained for. Like all of the pre-Romero zombie films, this isn't your typical blood soaked, guts ripped out zombie movie, it's *gasp* story-driven. You won't get your kicks here if you cut your teeth on Deodatto and have strictly got a hard on for dismemberment, but, it's really a thoughtful and very atmospheric little piece.
15. Dead & Breakfast
Director: Matthew Leutwyler
This is the newest film (chronologically) to make the list and it's pretty good. There are a ton of laughs, tons of blood, and a pretty nice soundtrack as well. Think of it is as a less "pop culture" version of Shaun of the Dead. It's still a self-reflexive film, and isn't as well written (or shot, or pretty much anything) as Shaun, but it's pretty solid. A really hot dyke (Portia de Rossi) and David Carradine star.
A SCENE FROM DEAD & BREAKFAST
14. The House by the Cemetery (AKA: Quella villa accanto al cimitero)
Director: Lucio Fulci
This is Fulci's first entry on the list (we'll be revisiting him soon enough, he's got four on here) and it's the last film in his "Gates of Hell" trilogy. And nobody but nobody likes this movie. Except me...and I'm a nobody. So, there's no plot and the acting is atrocious. Big deal! The man was a master of atmosphere and that's what this movie is...one big excuse to show some great shots and create an eerie mood, and I like it.
13. White Zombie
Director: Victor Halperin
White Zombie is a really solid film, but really has to makes the list because it's considered to be the first zombie film. Sure, the zombies don't really follow the rules we know today (the Romero Zombie rules), but come on, this was 36 before NOTLD. And Bela! Bela! Bela! What I wouldn't give to have met Bela Lugosi. He's wonderful. He basically resurrects a bunch of corpses and makes them work in his factory. There's more to it then that, but you get the point. A pretty intense film, and a must-see for any zombi-file.
A SCENE FROM WHITE ZOMBIE
12. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (AKA: The Living Dead in the Manchester Morgue, AKA: Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti, Don't Open the Window )
Director: Jorge Grau
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is pretty much your standard-fare zombie movie. There's a new experimental pesticide being tested out in the British countryside which, unbeknownst to the people spraying it, it is just the right concoction to resurrect the dead and blah blah blah. Yeah, not much new here, but it's surprisingly fun to watch and pretty well done. The tension is palpable in the film and it really draws you in.
11. Shaun of the Dead
Director: Edgar Wright
A very well done zombie comedy movie (zombedy?) in which the title character (your everyday average Joe, or Shaun as the case may be) has to become a zombie-whuppin' badass. A whole lotta laughs here and some great homage to many other zombie films.
10. City of the Living Dead) (AKA: The Gates of Hell)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Ah, City of the Living Dead. Another in a long line of Romero ripoffs, but a pretty good one. It's the first in Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy and it involves a curse and all that standard Fulci stuff, but once again, the best part is the atmosphere. Well, that and the gore is really good. I mean, there's a chick that throws up her entrails! A lot of people seem to hate this one, too. I don't get that. I dig it.
9. Dead Heat
Director: Mark Goldblatt
Dead Heat is awesome. It stars Treat Williams and a jacked-up Joe Piscopo...no, stay with me here, it really is good. Anyway, it's your average buddy cop movie, only problem is one of the cops is dead! AH! Who woulda thunk it? Well, alright, he doesn't start off dead, but he dies pretty quick (in a decompression chamber, no less!) but is shortly thereafter resurrected. Catch is, he's only got a limited amount of time to catch his killer before he completely rots away! It really is a solid action/zombie/comedy. And it co-stars the late great Darren McGavin. Look for the cameo of my personal hero, Vincent EFFING Price.
8. The Beyond (AKA: E tu vivrai nel terrore - L'aldilB)
Director: Lucio Fulci
The Beyond is widely considered Fulci's magnum opus. It's got all that atmosphere that's become a Fulci hallmark, plus a little something more. The Beyond is the second in Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy and follows no real linear pattern. In fact, the only reason there are even zombies in the film is becaus Fulci's producers said that they wanted it to capitalize off the zombie phenomenon and so ol' Lucio wrote in some zombies. If you watch, you'll see they are a little out of place. It's a very nihilistic movie about this chick from New York that inherits an old hotel in Louisiana. Only problem is this particular hotel rests atop one of the SEVEN GATEWAYS OF HELL (read that in a rising, Vincent Price type voice). Lovecraft fans, keep a watchful eye out for the Lovecraftian themes that permeate the picture. In my readings for my research paper over the Dark Prince of Providence, I learned that Fulci was a rabid fan of our favorite mama's boy!
7. The Return of the Living Dead
Director: Dan O'Bannon
Dan O'Bannon (writer of Aliens) was approached by the money-hungry tool John A. Russo to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead at the same time that George Romero was working on his own sequel (Dawn) to it. Now, Russo was one of the writers on Night, but he and Georgie-boy had different ideas on a sequel and Russo wanted to go ahead and make it himself. O'Bannon read the script, but decided he didn't want to impede Romero so he passed on the script until the early eighties when he re-wrote the script as a comedy and viola! Return of the Living Dead. It's a great and hilarious zombie movie that satires all the precedents set by Romero. Plus it's got Linnea Quigley nekkid!
6. Day of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
This is the third film in Romero's Dead trilogy (damn, I guess it's not really a trilogy anymore, is it?). It's a great film that carries on all the classic Romero themes and allegory and probably has the best gore in the series (thank you Greg Nicotero and Tom Savini).
5. Zombi 2 (AKA: Zombie, AKA: Zombie Flesh Eaters)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Alright. Zombi 2 has a pretty interesting story. Dawn of the Dead, in 1978, was released in Italy under the title Zombie. Now, Zombie (Dawn) was a smash hit and the Italians began to devise ways to capitalize on this. And what better way to do that than to market a completely unrelated movie as the sequel to Zombie(Dawn)? And that's just what they did. So, Fulci's film became known as Zombi 2. As despicable as that is, Fulci's film is absolutely the best of the many (and usually shitty) Romero rip-offs. It's actually really good. And there's a really great eye-gouging scene.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stuart Gordon is another big Lovecraft fan. In fact, he's brought four pieces of Lovecraft work to the screen so far, and doesn't seem to want to slow down. Re-Animator is the first and best of these four and stars the amazingly deadpan Jeffery Combs as the devious med student who takes it upon himself to devise a way to resurrect the dead, Herbert West. It's a wickedly dark comedy with tons of grue and great sight gags. Re-Animator never gets old. Highly recommend!
3. Dellamorte Dellamore (AKA: Cemetery Man)
Director: Michele Soavi
In 1994 Dario Argento's protege, Michele Soavi, brought to life a film quite unlike any I'd ever seen before. That film was Dellamorte Dellamore (literally translated Of Love, Of Death) which was marketed in America under the ridiculous and absolutely inept title of Cemetery Man. It's such an original entry into the zombie movie catalog, that I'm not even sure what genre you would classify it as. It's an existentialist zombie movie (how's that?) that stars Rupert Everett as a cemetery caretaker who gets himself involved in some pretty weird shit. The tagline is "Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!" and all that stuff is there, but that doesn't begin to touch this film. We'll leave the plot synopsis at that, but let me just tell you that this film is amazing. The "cemetery man" is based on a secondary character in the popular Italian comic book Dylan Dog. Now, what's weird about that is in the eighties, the creator of said comic book based the look of Dylan on Rupert Everett. Hmm. WATCH IT!
2. Dawn of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Dawn of the Dead. It's the maturation of the social critique that Romero began in Night. You could write a book on the themes that Romero uses in this film. It's superb. And I don't want to hear "but the zombies are blue!". Shuttup. The zombies are great. The over-saturated colors of the blood and the zombies makes for a surreal nightmare of epic proportions. If I get to typing a whole lot here, I won't be able to stop so we'll just say that the movie is brilliant.
1. Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
I shouldn't have to say anything about this one. Let's just say if you haven't seen it go watch it so we can still be friends.
- Jordan M.