The Walking Dead may have made zombies mainstream, but the current zombie craze has been going on since the beginning of the 2000s, when movies like Resident Evil, Shaun Of The Dead, and Dawn Of The Dead remake resurrected the dead after over a decade of near dormancy.
Naturally, I consumed every cash-in flick that followed in the first decade of the new millennium. So…it’s time to clean horror house, and take quick looks at a bunch of zombie flicks from the 2000s that I have in my collection.
THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING! (2000)
This is the kind of film that gets me all nostalgic for that the late 90s/early 2000s era, when Buffy made it okay for horror to be self-aware and goofy, horror was still chill enough to cast pretty people and a little sexiness, and the campy comic horror films of Full Moon still had some credibility as horror movies. The Dead Hate The Living! may even be one of the last worthwhile Full Moon features to date.
Directed by Dave Parker, who went on to do The Hills Run Red, It Watches, and a segment of Tales of Halloween, this zomcom focuses on a small film crew that has snuck into an abandoned building to make a low budget horror film. One of my favorite scenes is actually from the movie they are shooting…because a cutie turns zombie while practically naked! Even that skeleton wants to bone him!
Our quirky, likable characters poke fun at cult directors, indie filmmakers, and their fans, keeping us entertained even though the film moves a bit slow at first.
45 minutes in, the action begins, when the crew finds a biohazardous area in the basement of the building, along with a dead body! They make the mistake of deciding to use the dead guy in their film. Before long, the dead guy is resurrected as a zombie master. He unleashes some gnarly monsters, including a nice big piece of zombeef.
The Dead Hate the Living! is fun, fun, fun right through the end, with things getting noticeably gorier as the body count rises. Highlights include: a conversation with a zombie in which she explains the obvious reason why they are killing people (it’s right in the title); the director character and his special effects man using movie makeup to disguise themselves as zombies so they can walk among the actual zombies unnoticed; and the zombie master raising the dead…from a fake cemetery the film crew made in the building!
CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD (2001)
As is often the case, this is one of those movies that seems to have been hindered more than helped by its stunt casting of a horror icon in a cameo. Tom Savini is the star for a fairly extensive opening scene that could easily be picking up right where Night of the Living Dead ended.
Classic looking slow zombies are walking through fields and being shot by rednecks in a small town cleanup effort. But the focus is on Tom Savini, who looks SEXY in a tight black tank top as he delivers a long zombie killing sequence.
The tone of the film shifts into a fairly silly plot, but I couldn’t help getting sucked in by the messy b-movie feel. It’s almost impossible to follow the timeline or comprehend what the hell is going on. We are introduced to quirky characters in this small town that apparently got past its zombie infestation problem at some point. Unfortunately, an infamous serial killer comes back from the grave as a gnarly ghoul. He goes around town turning victims into zombies to create an undead army.
Meanwhile, a cute kid is overseeing his father’s latest venture – moving a cemetery to build a business on the land. As the cemetery is dug up (by cute workers), it unearths the truth about the town’s zombie past, and before long, the zombie serial killer and his army of the dead has all the locals trapped inside a diner.
This shit is so goofy, but the absurd plot and grunting and groaning monster villain that lurks in the shadows day and night reminds me of some of the great, crappy creature features of the 1970s.
This is one of my faves because it delivers zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead would get all the glory for a year later, from wacky action sequences to loads of over-the-top zombie mutilations. Plus, Undead features a totally oddball twist that blows away the competition. You just really have to stick with it through the end to finally understand what it all means.
When meteors rain down on a small town, people are transformed into some perfectly gruesome zombies that are virtually like Deadites from Evil Dead. A small group of survivors ends up trapped in a farmhouse (very Night of the Living Dead) and must fight to get out alive.
But when it comes time to escape the town, they discover a giant, mysterious wall blocks their escape. On top of that, burning rain starts to fall, and beams of light start sucking people and zombies into the sky.
Fast, funny, and unique, Undead has a great main girl and an unlikely, bearish hero with plenty of tricks up his sleeves—until he strips out of his clothes and shows off his buns!
The slapstick zombie action rules, and the film uses cool sepia tone filters but occasionally splashes bloody red across the screen for the full gore effect.
DEAD MEAT (2004)
Conor McMahon, the director of Stitches, brings us a short, fast-paced “infected” flick that takes place in the countryside of Ireland. No time is wasted in getting to the zombie action, as a couple accidentally strikes a man with their car on a deserted road. Needless to say, the roadkill comes back to life.
As our heroes try to stay alive, it’s nonstop zombie mutilating and chase scene for the entire film, with loads of gore created with good old practical effects.
There are even zombie cows (and a zombie clown). Plus, the country setting provides a never-ending feeling of total vulnerability.
In fact, the final battle with the zombies within the walls of some crumbled ruins is fricking epic and relentless. It really feels like there’s no hope for our heroes.
With little time wasted on plot, this is purely a survival film when you just need a zombie overdose complete with gore, a dark sense of humor, and tense atmosphere. Plus, the “Dead Meat” theme song rules.
DEAD & BREAKFAST (2004)
Dead & Breakfast is quirky comedy splatterfest gold. The cast alone makes this a winner:
- David Carradine
- Jeremy Sisto (during the height of Six Feet Under)
- Erik Palladino (looks so hot with his bulging biceps and BJ lips)
- Bianca Lawson (Buffy, Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries, Witches of East End)
- Oz Perkins (young Norman in Psycho II)
- Gina Philips (Jeepers Creepers queen)
- Diedrich Bader (hot off The Drew Carey Show)
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan (pre-Supernatural)
- Ever Carradine (who should be a scream queen, because she kicks ass)
- Portia de Rossi (an only slightly longer appearance than in Scream 2)
The young group of friends is heading to Portia’s wedding in an RV. They stop at David Carradine’s bed and breakfast, and before long, locals begin turning into a zombie-esque horde. But these “zombies” have their wits about them, and even talk. So with the help of the sheriff (hunky Jeffrey Dean), the friends try to solve the mystery of what is making the dead walk.
Dead & Breakfast is a total slapstick farce with the perfect cast to deliver all the quick-witted humor.
There’s a “Greek chorus” in the form of a redneck banjo band, comic book panel segues between scenes, a “Thriller” dance scene, and the classic house under siege scenario.
There’s also loads of over-the-top gore. And in the end, it’s the ladies who steal the show, particularly Ever Carradine.
ALL SOULS DAY (2005)
This more involved undead film comes from director Jeremy Kasten, who also brought us The Wizard of Gore remake.
All Souls Day is oddly structured. First, we get a setup scene in which Danny Trejo plays a man who sacrifices all the people in his Mexican village. Then we flash ahead to 1952. Halloween 4 main girl Ellie Cornell and horror icon Jeffrey Combs appear as a couple traveling with their two kids.
They stop at a hotel in a small Mexican village, their teen daughter gets naked for a shower, and then zombies in colorful Mexican garments and masks attack…but we don’t actually see what happens to the family.
Finally, it’s 52 years later. A young couple literally crashes into a small Mexican town, and before long, they are staying at the same hotel, have called their friends to come join them, and then discover that it is All Souls Day, the dead have been resurrected, and the locals are in need of a sacrifice to get rid of them.
There’s a kick ass scene of a female zombie leaping and running as she tries to get one of our main characters, but other than that, all the other Mexican zombies pretty much just shuffle around the dirt road in front of the hotel while the main characters hide inside trying to figure a way out of their predicament. I’d be okay with being stuck in a hotel with this guy…
There’s an okay old school European zombie feel to this part, but the film is more focused on the details of the backstory than the gory details of zombies munching on people. It’s not a bad time killer, but it’s mostly forgettable.
AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION (2006)
This was the first film by Steve C. Miller, who went on to make Under The Bed and Silent Night (the Silent Night, Deadly Night “remake”), and I must say, I’m a fan. This simple little 75-minute film gets trashed online, and I’ll never understand why. This is one seriously competent low budget indie.
The only common complaint that holds any ground for me is that there’s too much shaky cam. But let’s face it. That’s to be expected not only because it’s a technique that helps hide any shortcomings of a filmmaker’s budget, but it’s also a fricking trend. Movies – even big budget films – use shaky cam all the time to create a sense of chaotic energy, despite the fact that pretty much no one likes it.
The film starts strong with a jump scare and some gnarly gore in a morgue. In fact, this film uses award-worthy practical effects that kick ass. Also, the horror setups early on when the “infected” first start creeping into the story demonstrate just how well the director knows how to create tension and atmosphere.
But at its core, Automaton Transfusion is an “all hell breaks loose” gorefest. A small group of high school teens tries to survive a night in their small town as they are relentlessly chased by fast, strong, infected humans.
What happens when a zombie catches you with your pants down…
These are not “zombies,” so there’s no monster makeup here, just a lot of bloody faces. And don’t expect any horror humor in between the gruesome gut munching scenes. This is hardcore horror that works not only because all of our main characters are likable, but because they can all act. Not to mention, leading man Garrett Jones is adorable.
For me, the only letdown is that just when the movie takes a surprise turn, well…it ends on a cliffhanger with a “To be continued….” Not even joking. Sadly, Miller never revisited his first film to make a sequel.
FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (2007)
Another favorite of mine, Flight of the Living Dead is purely a popcorn flick for when you just want some fast, gory, campy zombie action.
There’s this plane. There’s a load of quirky characters on it. There’s something mysterious being transported in the cargo hold. It gets out. It spawns an over-the-top zombie outbreak!
Before long, zombies are multiplying, they’re ripping through walls and floors to get at passengers, it seems there are more zombies than there were people on the plane, there are vent crawling scenes, there are jump scares, there’s action that will have you hooting out loud, and everyone you want to live seems to get eaten!
The awesome cast includes Richard Tyson (Big Bad Wolf, Hayride, Ghost of Goodnight Lane, The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond), Dale Midkiff (Pet Sematary), cutie Brian Kolodziej (Creep Van, Gag), and the comedy relief of Kevin J. O’Connor (The Mummy, Deep Rising, Lord of Illusions, Van Helsing).