I’ve finally done it. I loaded my watchlists with all those zombie films rotting away in various streaming service horror categories, and made it my goal to sit through as many as I could to see just how bad they could possibly be. And so I give you the breakdown of what you’ve been skipping—I mean—missing. And to make it all worth it, I finish the blog off with the one must-see zombie flick in the bunch…the best Asian zombie flick since Train to Busan, which came out a year before Train to Busan…
GERM Z (2013)
Germ Z is so ridiculously competent in its whirlwind of zombie movie clichés and low budget restraints that I couldn’t help but like it.
Essentially, it does everything we’ve seen before just right, there are cute guys, and there’s a hunky shirtless zombie, so I was in my comfort zone.
I mean, it’s not every day that a zombie film has a scene that practically looks like a gay zombie romance when you freeze frame it.
The film takes place in a small town and touches upon the military situation that causes the outbreak just enough without getting bogged down in technical mumbo jumbo.
The characters are very likeable, and there’s some fairly quirky humor, particularly revolving around cute main character Deputy Max Brody.
The zombies at first look pretty bland – guys covered in blood and making snarly faces. But the makeup effects increase as the film progresses as if signifying that the infection is having a more severe impact. While initial zombie sightings are creepy and subtle, they also build until the zombies are fast and vicious, and the action scenes become intense and gory.
The film’s final frame is open-ended – it can be read as either hopeful or fatalistic. It can also signify that a sequel would pickup right at the point this film ends.
A ZOMBIE INVASION (2012)
Nice to see filmmakers out there just wanting to make good old fashioned zombie movies. Much like Germ Z, A Zombie Invasion is as straightforward as zombie movies get.
Once again we’re in a small town. UFOs are the cause of the infection this time. The zombies are classic Romero slow movers with simple pale faces and mouths dripping with bright red blood. Also, a majority of the main characters are trapped in one location together – a diner.
A large portion of the film is about the diner crew attempting to escape, but there’s also a muscle hottie trapped elsewhere in a house with his new bride. i could watch him slaughtering zombies all day long.
The film has plenty of action, hick humor, a gritty grindhouse look, and some gnarly gore.
A face devouring scene is particularly heinous.
Plus you never really know who the hero is—and who the total dicks are. There’s no telling who’s going to get out of this film alive by the end.
LET THERE BE ZOMBIES (2014)
This zomcom definitely has the spirit and dedication behind it, but despite some okay moments, it is riddled with the lowest common denominator of stereotypes and other weak material that just doesn’t get you laughing all that much.
Unable to control her students, a young teacher runs for the hills. Suddenly she’s lost in an isolated area. The first zombie attack delivers good tension and the zombie is a combination of pale skin, prominent veins, bloody mouth, and zombie eyes, setting me up for disappointment as the film progressed.
An average chubby dude rescues her and they set off on an adventure meeting some quirky characters. There’s a Spanish guy, a redneck farmer, and a seemingly slow black guy the redneck notices has “problems,” to which the chubby dude responds, “He’s probably a homo.” And speaking of unnecessary anti-gay sentiments in a zomcom, there’s also gay panic when a male zombie attacks the redneck.
The film doesn’t bother to include any actual gay characters to balance out the anti-gay jabs, nor does it bother to point out that all rednecks are pig fuckers and actually makes this disgrace to humanity a main character.
Nothing new happens here. They fight off zombies. They struggle with the idea of shooting their own when they get bitten. They have a big battle with a horde of zombies at the end. Really, if you’re going to watch a totally generic zombie film, there are a lot more entertaining ones with more enjoyable characters than this one.
ZOMBIE UNDEAD (2010)
Again we have a young woman and an average chubby guy teaming up to survive an outbreak, but this low budget indie is no comedy. It’s gritty and suspenseful with nonstop zombie action. Plus, you become much more invested in the characters by the end. And this chubby guy is a cutie. Actually, this lucky chick ends up the center of a bear sandwich for a while.
The two leads are in a hospital filled with sick people and chaos.
In a rather confusing transition, the hospital is suddenly empty then classic slow zombies start shuffling out.
It’s pretty much nonstop horror from that point on as the two leads try to find the loved ones they brought to the hospital, encounter other survivors, and seem to weave their way into more and more harrowing areas of the hospital while attempting to get out of it.
There are some intensely effective zombie sequences in Zombie Undead – a dark hallway scene using just flashlight beams is particularly creepy – and the zombies have an unnerving presence.
And don’t expect any kind of hopeful moments in this film. It’s as doomsday as they get.
THE DEAD OUTSIDE (2008)
This film is more about the relationship between two strangers after the zombie apocalypse than it is about the zombies. Even so, I was totally feeling the moody atmosphere and foreboding vibe.
The dark and desolate location, minimal number of zombies, and lack of focus on their appearance when they do attack is somehow chilling in its own way.
Unfortunately, other than the fact that the main guy is really cute, I wasn’t totally drawn by the characters. He enters the house of a young woman who doesn’t take kindly to strangers, but they end up living together for survival.
There are flashbacks revealing why each of them is messed up, and she is particularly untrusting for good reason. So much so that the big twist in the film is basically annoying as fuck.
After the entire film focuses on the two breaking down emotional walls and getting closer, in an instant it feels like the script just flippantly turns its back on that premise for the sake of having a big climactic action sequence in which zombies are the least of their problems.
The same place could have been reached without betraying all that character development.
DEAD AND DEADER (2006)
Dead and Deader is pretty much a perfect product of its time. It was still early in the days of the zombie revival that began in the new millennium, but late enough for it to begin poking fun at itself. It is also a time when movies that premiered on the SyFy Channel aimed for a bit better quality than they do these days.
Dean Cain is adorable as an army man who gets bit by a scorpion in a lab during a military mission. Believed dead, he awakes just when he’s about to be cut open for an autopsy. And…a scorpion pops out of him. Gross! Turns out Dean is half zombie and appears to have some superhuman powers.
Meanwhile, another military guy comes back from the dead all zombie, and pretty soon scientists are getting their flesh torn off big time! Dean teams up with a young military cook to stop the infection from spreading into town.
Dead and Deader knows it’s a low budget film that’s either going to go straight-to-DVD or straight-to-cable, so it just has fun with itself, and it shows. Cain is perfectly charming handling the campy humor and is quite comfortable playing the hero once again.
His sidekick drops endless pop culture references and offers self-deprecating race jokes so indicative of the time, not to mention an ambiguously gay sidekick joke. The zombie action is fast, furious, and chaotic, and the zombies are cheesy good and gross.
It all leads to a major zombie blowout battle in a lab at the end. There’s never a dull moment in Dead and Deader.
Plus, Ellie Cornell of Halloween 4 makes an appearance, and there’s a debate over which Dawn of the Dead is better. I know which side of that argument I’m on—the only correct side.
If ever there were a movie that should not be an hour and 43 minutes long, this would be it. Sure it’s low budget, indie comedy horror, but…no buts. That’s pretty much the reason it should be about an hour and 10 minutes tops.
This is sort of like an anthology film linked by an outbreak. We’re introduced to three unrelated characters – an 80s metal singer who is a real dick to his other band mates, a nice guy who’s a real loser both at work and at home, and a young woman who hates her overbearing mother-in-law. Characters from each segment die just when a zombie outbreak occurs. Aaaaaand…they come back.
Jumping from story to story, the movie looks at how each character tries to go on living with the complications of having a zombie identity to contend with. There are funny moments here and there, but not enough to sustain 103 low budget minutes. The only story I really liked was the one about the chick with the bitchy mother-in-law.
The 80s metal singer’s story was extremely goofy and the 80s elements were too exaggerated for me—although I did like the concept of a guy who died in the 80s having to adapt to dealing with openly gay businessmen in modern times.
And the loser guy’s story became yet another one of those zom-rom love stories. I really hate zom-roms.
BONG OF THE DEAD (2011)
Wearing various hats in the film industry, including actor, handsome Thomas Newman made his directorial debut with this zombedy that starts off a lot more hardcore than I anticipated.
In fact, the opening scene gave me flashbacks to Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. It’s a nasty good introduction to the zombie apocalypse as a lone man in his garden is infected and then takes the disease inside, mutating just in time for dinner with his wife. Gross.
That’s when the tone shifts to better fit the title. We meet our two stoners and get some goofy buddy shtick as they discover zombie soil that grows major weed.
And then they try some of the weed and have some stoner fun with each other…
They encounter some zombies and we meet their main enemy—a smart zombie that is pretty dang evil looking and is planning to form a zombie army to destroy humanity.
The guys team up with a kick ass bitch who initially isn’t up for any of their shenanigans, but eventually loosens up after a night of bonding over pot and booze. Once again, the guys really loosen up…
As the trio sets out on a journey together, the film slows down considerably.The humor isn’t as over-the-top (or dumb) as you’d expect from a movie called Bong of the Dead, there’s lots of talking, very little zombie action for long stretches, and the energy level drops considerably for much of the movie.
The three main characters are quite likable, which helps you hang in there, but the film definitely could have used a bit more excitement in the middle…or a shorter run time.
However, you must stick around for the final act when all hell breaks loose. The trio makes a zombie killing machine and the blood and guts fly!
We also see the return of the main enemy, who we’d virtually forgotten about after his introduction, because the movie itself forgot about him.
Essentially, the center of Bong of The Dead doesn’t live up to its wild opening and closing acts.
ABSOLUTE ZOMBIES (2015)
This 75-minute film is part “this is the cool kind of visual shit people can make if they think outside of the box” and part “this is what you can make with a computer when you have no money.”
I kind of gave up trying to follow the plot. There’s a couple driving across country. She’s the narrator.
There are two douche bags in a van wreaking havoc on every zombie and human they come across.
Eventually, the four cross paths and battle it out. Throw in an underground cult, an evil madman’s plot, and constant visual chaos, and, well, just enjoy the visual chaos.
Loads of still frames, freeze frames, animation, and video game graphics are interspersed with live action and all the editing tricks modern computer software has to offer to totally numb the brain until viewers become zombies. 2D dicks are blown off zombies and fly at the screen.
A kindergarten of children zombies is actually just dolls with zombie makeup.
Zombies are picked off in such a way that you’ll be reaching for your NES light gun.
I could go on, but you should get the picture. It’s up to you to decide how unique you like your zombie action presented.
ZOMBIES OF THE LIVING DEAD (2015)
Only 65 minutes long? Why did I avoid this one for so long? Zombies of the Living Dead begins with some over-the-top zombie chaos and zombie action drenched in neon, then shifts to the outbreak on the street, delivering some awesome gore.
We are also introduced to our major cutie and his supporting cast, including the assholes that bully him, the girl he likes, his dad, and his friends.
Our core group of survivors holes up in a building, the usual interpersonal drama plays out, and finally, the group goes out for a CGI zombie massacre as rock music blares.
Then suddenly, the cast breaks the fourth wall and makes reference to this whole experience being an instructional video, not a movie. I guess that’s a novel twist, but it doesn’t add much to a really cliché yet entertaining zombie viewing experience that, most importantly, is only 65 minutes long. So who am I to complain?
I AM A HERO (2015)
While the American market is beating zombies to death, it appears the Asian market has totally resuscitated the genre with mind-blowing visual spectacles. I didn’t think anything could come close to Train to Busan, but action horror comedy I Am A Hero, based on a Japanese horror manga, comes pretty damn close.
The self-proclaimed hero of the title is a man in his thirties who dreams of being a famous graphic novel creator, but merely works as an assistant. Just after his girlfriend kicks him out for being such a loser, she calls him back. But she sounds…off. It’s when he arrives at her apartment that shit gets craaaaazy.
Our main guy is thrust right into the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, with people turning right in front of him all over the city streets. The awesome thing about this film is that every single zombie looks and acts differently, as if the infection affects each individual person in different ways.
Some zombies grumble random shit, others crawl and bend like contortionists, and yet others can leap around like gymnasts.
This is no low budget film. There are wild car chases and amazing zombie sequences. And with its combination of humor and action, the film moves at a quick pace…except in the middle. The film runs a bit over 2 hours long and suffers slowdown after a fantastic escape from the city. Our hero and the girl he connects with end up joining an established community, but the community is a mix of both good and bad people, so it’s not until all that conflict is dealt with that we finally get back into the zombie action. And the final act fricking rox to make up for it.