Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
Here’s a statement for you: zombie films lack the oomf I want to see in a film with zombies. Don’t get me wrong... I love zombies. And when a zombie film is good, I will eat it up. But recently, I’ve seen a lack of good zombie films. Trust me, there are plenty of movies with zombies in them, but it’s not exactly what I want from a zombie flick.
ZomComs like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Warm Bodies are fun to watch but lack the horror aspect I want from a zombie film. The Resident Evil films, if you even want to call those zombie movies, are not very good. I Am Legend, no matter what you say, is not a zombie movie.
I think in order to get my point across, I need to start from the beginning with the first really, REALLY good zombie film, Night of the Living Dead. I will not talk much about this film because I actually adore this movie, but I do want to explain why I think this is an awesome zombie movie. Night of the Living Dead had a strong story about surviving with people you might not necessarily like, as well as coping with death and turmoil. The practical make-up effects look amazing, making the zombies actually seem real. And realism is scary. Due to the characters not knowing exactly what was going on, they didn’t need to focus on finding a way to stop the creatures. They just needed to focus on survival. It wasn’t action-oriented, either, which made it all-the-more terrifying. It also gave us one of the best lines in all of zombie movie history. ("They’re coming to get you, Barbara")
George Romero’s Living Dead films that followed Night of the Living Dead, however, seemed to get worse and worse as more were released, with none of the movies ever having the same feel as the original.
After Night of the Living Dead, good zombie films seemed to go on a hiatus, with only a few decent flicks such as Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, and Cemetery Man to keep zombie fans a little occupied. But to me, the 2000s is when zombie movies really picked up the pace. Now, I wasn’t alive in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s for that matter, but I can still hold my personal opinions on movies I have seen from those decades. And maybe me growing up at the start of a new century is why I enjoy the newer zombie films better than the older films. I don’t like ALL zombie content put out in this century so far, whether it’s because they lack zombies all together or are just plain terrible. But I do think that zombies have never looked better (depending on how much practical effects they use vs CGI. I prefer practical myself.)
I have seen some great zombie films lately, including REC., or Quarantine (whichever you prefer), 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, Dead Snow… hell, I even liked Paranorman, which was completely stop motion animation but still had some cool zombies.
But I think the BEST zombie films are the ones where they focus on survival rather than finding a cure. I don’t need a cliched ending where the world is saved because someone’s blood happened to be immune. I just want a tale of survival, with some horror aspects thrown in there.
Then there are zombie movies that are too action-oriented. Look, I don’t HATE action-oriented zombie films. I think it is fun to watch loads of zombies get completely destroyed. But I still feel that some of the action-heavy zombie films lack the tension that I would much prefer from a zombie movie. Yet, I can still find enjoyment in them.
The aforementioned Dead Snow had a lot of action, yet I found myself really liking the movie because of how cool the zombies looked.
World War Z was a fun zombie movie with some awesome zombies and scenes that made the movie feel very tense and explosive (which isn’t always a bad thing), yet with the ending of finding a cure for the virus, which is something I don’t always like, it doesn’t find itself as my favorite zombie movie ever. I do appreciate, however, the fact that it takes place during the outbreak, not in a post-apocalyptic world, which was a very nice change, even though I do love myself a post-apocalyptic world.
Another thing I don’t want in a zombie movie is having humans end up as the final threat. And maybe it’s hard NOT to have humans end up being the main antagonist at the end of the film, which was the one thing I disliked about the film 28 Days Later. I just think zombie movies can go without it.
Overlord was another movie that focused more on human villains than zombies. It focused on humans creating their own zombies, so in a way, humans (Nazis, to be more specific) were the main antagonist. I really enjoyed the movie, but thinking back, I did not appreciate the lack of zombies that were in the film. To me, the trailers alluded to more zombies and horror than what we got.
And don’t even get me started on The Walking Dead, because I stopped watching that show. I know it’s not a movie, but I wanted to mention it. The show moved so far away from zombies that they barely showed up. Instead, humans were the main antagonist, and soon I just didn’t care to watch. And I know it’s hard to keep zombies as the main antagonists of a long-running show, but that just adds to my other point that the show should’ve ended by now. Enough said.
I feel that the popularity of zombies is what really caused the sub-genre to go downhill. Directors and producers would turn anything the audience loved into zombies in order to make them love it more, including animals (Zoombies), strippers (Zombies Vs Strippers), sex (Orgy of the Dead), and Uncle Sam himself (Uncle Sam). And let me tell you this, any future directors, writers, or producers who happen to be reading this: it doesn’t work, and I don’t think it ever will.
It doesn’t even have to be something we love. They will turn ANYTHING into zombies. Why? Because originality is hard to find, and people don’t want to wait that long to make a quick buck. Like… beavers, in Zombeavers. I get the pun, but I didn’t see the point. Boy scouts in A Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse? Who the heck loves those guys anymore? (This is a joke. I have no hate against boy scouts. Keep doing what you are doing.) Spooky trailer parks in Trailer Park of Terror? Hell no. Ex-girlfriends in Burying the Ex? Yeah, get that out of here. Ex-girlfriends suck even when they aren't zombies.
And I’ve seen plenty of random zombie films that I found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Shudder, and there is a reason why they are small and unknown. Don’t get me wrong: not all of them are bad. They just aren’t the horrific zombie films that I want to see.
Maybe I’m just picky (most likely I am), but I just want some good zombie movies that actually have horror and gore and focus on zombies.
I mean, I can enjoy bad zombie movies if I’m up for a good laugh. But I like good zombie movies better (obviously). I just wish there were more of them.
There are plenty of zombie movies that I didn’t talk about, so be sure to leave down in the comments the zombie movies you like or dislike. Now, seeing how many times I’ve said “Zombie Flick”, “Zombie Film”, and “Zombie Movie”, I’m going to end here.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on the zombie sub-genre. Make sure to comment on your thoughts of the genre in the comments. I would love to read what you think!
Benjamin Wollmuth (author) from Sibley, IA on March 06, 2019:
John Plocar, sorry if that comment was confusing. I do very much enjoy Dawn if the Dead, I just don’t think it’s better than Night.
John Plocar from Weatherford on March 06, 2019:
Well, my all time favorite zombie film is the original George A. Romero 'Dawn of the Dead'. But it sounded like you weren't much of a fan of Romero's zombie work after 'Night' in your article so I guess I can't suggest that one. Lol