Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: My Favorite American Zombie Movies

Okay, this time I did plan things.
I had two reasons to do another dreaded Top Whatever list: First, I made a comment on Facebook a few weeks ago in response to a TopThirteen Zombie Movies list on io9.com. You should go check that out, then come back here.

            Okay.
My comment was, “Anybody who puts 28 Days Later on a Top Zombie Movies list probably doesn’t have any business making Top Zombie Movie lists.” I’m fairly certain I don’t need to explain to my loyal Phantomaniacs that the virus victims in 28 Days/28 Weeks Later are not zombies. At all.
So I felt like if I was going to be all high-and-mighty I should supply my own list that will of course be unquestionably great and perfect.
Right. But first I had to decide what I felt like defined a zombie. I’m going with any depiction of a corpse that has been reanimated. The key thing for zombies, I think, is that they were once dead. Which eliminates the 28 Days movies but includes the Evil Dead ones since those featured living beings that were possessed as well as corpses. In those movies not all Deadites are zombies, but all zombies are Deadites. Or something. But it does mean those are not pure zombie movies, so they may fall a bit further down the list. We’ll see.
Then I decided I needed to stick to American zombie movies because there are so many foreign ones that would edge out a few I really want to mention.
The second reason for this list is that SyFy is premiering a new Original Movie tomorrow night called Rise of the Zombies and surrounding it with other zombie movies. We’re not getting as many zombie movies this weekend as we got vampire movies last weekend, but it still works out for my purposes.




13) Dance of the Dead
This is such a perfect movie. It really should be higher up on the list. It’s basically what would happen if zombies attacked a John Hughes movie. And I don’t mean a Hughes-like movie. The tone of this flick is so utterly perfect and 80’s that it almost feels like sacrilege when the undead start attacking. The only reason Dance of the Dead isn’t higher is it just has such a low profile. I have a terrible tendency to not think about it unless I’m really wracking my brain, like I am today.

12) Resident Evil: Extinction
It’s funny how everyone likes to shit on these movies but there are now five of them. And they make TONS of money every time. Somebody out there sure does like them. I know I do. Well, except for the second one. I didn’t want to put more than one movie from a franchise on this list (even though I ended up doing that later, but with good reason), so I picked my favorite of the Resident Evil series. This is the one in the desert that was directed by Russell Mulcahy. I just dig it the most. It’s chock full of undead people and creatures and has a setting that makes it distinctive from other movies in the genre.

11) Idle Hands
This was the first DVD I ever bought. I had never seen the movie at all. I just liked the cover and the price was right. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you what made me pick this over other movies that I had actually heard of. But man, this is a great movie. It’s funny and gruesome and has such a great feel to it. There are only two zombies in it – Seth Green and Elden Henson – but the way they become zombies and what they do afterwards is just so much fun to see. The story is about this stoner guy whose hand becomes possessed Evil Dead-style and goes on a killing spree. It’s very stylish and competently done, with a fun story and very clever use of horror memes. I do not understand for the life of me how director Rodman Flenders hasn’t done more.

10) Hide and Creep
This, to me, is the best Southern zombie flick. It isn’t derisive of the South like every movie and television show that comes from Hollywood. The people in it are regular people who happen to have Southern accents rather than the drooling, inbred morons typically depicted in the media. The budget is modest, but the story is great and the crew really did a lot with what they had to work with.

9) Night of the Comet
As much as I look at Night of the Comet as basically a comedy now, it scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. It presents an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse and is an odd mix of zany and desolate. The characters are all quite likeable and the movie itself just feels very real. They did a great job of setting up scenes and creating tension based around the emptiness of the mostly-dead world.

 
8) Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Directed by Zack Snyder (now working on the new Superman movie) and written by James Gunn (working on Guardians of the Galaxy), this is one of the best remakes I have seen. It captures the essence of the original while feeling like a completely new movie. The cast is fantastic, with Sarah Polley being particularly awesome as the female lead. The zombies… man… so many zombies. This movie made me a fan of both Snyder and Gunn. Snyder is working on losing me, but Gunn is going strong by just cranking out radness. He directed Tromeo & Juliet (easily Troma’s best movie), Slither (which just barely missed being on this list by being more of a monster movie), and Super (which was far superior to Kick Ass). The only thing I am torn about with Gunn is what he did to Scooby-Doo. Both live-action theatrical releases are excellent movies fit for kids or adults. But they eliminate the skeptical aspect of the original cartoon by introducing the supernatural. Granted, later cartoons did that as well, but it still bothers me every time I watch the movies. Not a lot, because they’re great, but a little.

7) Re-Animator
I could have easily put all three movies from the Re-Animator franchise on this list. But unlike the other franchise that I cheated on, these are all directly, undeniably related and even feature many of the same cast members throughout; most notably the amazing and delightful Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West. Re-Animator is a crazy fucking movie. Rooted in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the story follows the adventures of Dr. West as he tries to perfect a serum to resurrect the dead. 


 
6) Zombieland
Zombieland was a sort of unexpected treat. I had been following it a little bit, but I honestly wasn’t expecting too much. Quite frankly, the name seemed stupid. But this ended up being an awesome movie that set all kinds of new standards for zombie flicks. “Double Tap” is a thing now.

5) Planet Terror
After the awesomeness that was From Dusk ‘Till Dawn I was breathlessly awaiting Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s next venture into horror. I never imagined it would be the masterpiece that is Grindhouse. If this were a better world than it is we would already be on the third pair of movies in a massively successful franchise (though I suppose you could watch Hobo with A Shotgun and Machete back-to-back and pretend we got one), but sadly the public at large did not recognize the awesomeness of the double feature. Since Death Proof and Planet Terror are widely regarded as separate movies, I put the latter on my list. It’s a great zombie movie and really more of a throwback to the 80’s than the 70’s. It feels like it could be right at home as part of the Return of the Living Dead franchise. 


 
4) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I know some of you are probably frothing at the mouth that this one is number 4. It’s still effective and terrifying over forty years later, but it’s also a bit draggy for me. Sometimes I’m okay with slower pacing, sometimes I’m not. I have to wait for the times I am to watch this ne and that’s why it’s #4. The opening scene in the cemetery is still one of the greatest ever filmed.

3) Army of Darkness
Yes, they are Deadites. But the “Army” portion of that title are reanimated corpses, which fits my definition. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I have bought and watched this movie. Everything about it is great and it only narrowly misses being my favorite movie of all time (edged out by Big Trouble In Little China).

2) Return of the Living Dead
Dan O’Bannon created the running zombie. Don’t ever let anybody tell you different. The first time I saw Return I didn’t like it because it didn’t seem fair that the zombies were running. And that first time they did freaked me the fuck out. I was hardly a horror movie aficionado at that point, but I knew zombies shambled. Over time I grew to love this movie, though. And not just because of the hotness that is buck-naked Linnea Quigley. The zombies are grotesque, even by today’s standards – how many times has the Tar Man been ripped off? – and the punk rock aesthetics give everything a more surreal feel.
Return of the Living Dead is writer John Russo’s continuation of Night of the Living Dead, but is not officially recognized as a sequel. Which brings me to…

1) Dawn of the Dead (1978)
This is and perhaps always will be the ultimate zombie movie. The characterizations, the desolation, the mindlessness of the undead. I can’t imagine a zombie flick equaling this one for impact. There’s just no comparing anything else to this masterpiece. This took what Romero accomplished with Night of the Living Dead and blew it up to a massive scale. All of humanity was imperiled. More than that – humanity was doomed. As much as you follow the characters in the movie and want them to survive, a small part of you knows the whole time that it’s all futile. Dawn of the Dead was the movie that got me watching more 70’s stuff. Before watching this one I just couldn’t deal with sideburns and bell bottoms. But the damn thing is so good I was able to look past the painfully dated look and enjoy the movie.

And remember – this list doesn’t include any foreign movies like Shaun of the Dead, The Beyond, Dead Alive, any of the Blind Dead series or Undead. Or Tokyo Zombie. I love that movie.
I would like to mention Cemetery Man– I love this movie. I own this movie. It is absolutely brilliant, but it is also boring as fuck. I could pop any of the above movies in at pretty much any time and watch them, but the mood has to be absolutely perfect for me to sit through this one.
There are tons of other great zombie flicks I could go on and on about, but you’re really here for some SyFy, aren’t you?

Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween

If you’re new here or haven’t been keeping up, this is where I give my thoughts on SyFy’s “31 days of Halloween” programming. Obviously I haven’t seen everything I’ll be talking about, but that’s kind of what the internet is all about – talking out of your ass.

Each day I will cover the schedule from the time my post goes live (usually 11 AM) through the following 24 hours. On Fridays I will cover the whole weekend, which is a huge pain in the ass but also kind of fun.

Enjoy!

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM – A Nightmare On elm Street 5: The Dream Child – Awesome. I’m stoked we’re getting an for-real movie, even if I would never watch it on regular TV. I do have my Nightmare box set, after all. And enjoy this one now, because the rest of the day is fucking replays.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM – SAW IV – I said the other day that I had a box set of SAW movies and at the time I was pretty sure it was at least the first four, but when I looked the other night it was just I – III. I also noticed my copies of The Fly/The Fly 2 and a couple of other things were missing. I don’t know if we lost them in the flood or if it’s from years of roommate attrition. Either way it sucks. Then again, I guess I can always justify buying the Blu Rays now.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

3:30 PM – 5:30 PM – SAW V – As much as I didn’t like a couple of the SAW movies, I suppose I would watch all of them again. Just not on SyFy.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2

5:30 PM – 8:00 PM – The Mist – One of my favorite movies ever. My sister-in-law disappointed me terribly the other day when she told me she hated it. But she made my rad Doctor Who scarves, so I’m going to give her a pass.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 5

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM – WWE SmackDown – I might watch this one if only because they will probably do a Halloween-themed episode. The only thing that sucks is that the highlight of these used to be the Diva costume contests, but I’m not sure who many of those yaks are now. I bet Daniel Bryan loses a “Dress Up As A Goat” match.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

10:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Haven – I don’t actually hate this show – I haven’t ever watched it – but I am sick of having to write about it.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3 (It’s probably an okay show)

11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Alphas – This, on the other hand, I have no further words for.

Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2

SATURDAY

12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Haven – A repeat of the 10 PM episode.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Pumpkinhead: Ashes To Ashes – This franchise is surprising not only for producing a number of sequels from a movie that initially only did okay, but also for those sequels being pretty good.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud – This is the fourth and probably best movie. It gets pretty wacky, with Lance Henrickson returning as a ghost.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Scare Tactics – Man – I think I might be running out of Tracy Morgan clips. I don’t know what else I could do.


Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2
6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – I wonder if anybody records infomercials. In a universe of infinite possibilities, somebody must.

Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM – Scare Tactics – Ooh – at this rate I really am going to run out of Tracy clips.


Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Planet Terror – One from the above list! Although I recommend you watch an uncut version. I can’t imagine this movie would be much good without the scene where Quentin Tarantino’s penis falls off.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

12:30 PM – 2:30 PM – From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money – I watched some of this one and I was right the other day – I don’t like it. I remember now what pissed me off about it was Bruce Campbell dying five minutes in. What the fuck is the point of that?

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

2:30 PM – 4:30 PM – From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter – And I do still like this one. Jango Fett is in it!

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

4:30 PM – 7:00 PM – Dawn of the Dead – I’m pretty sure this will be the remake, but wither way ti’s also on my list.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Zombie Apocalypse – This movie looks awesome and stars Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe and I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of it. Sometimes these things happen, but I don’t know how. I hope it doesn’t suck.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Rise of the Zombies – The podcast I was supposed to be on to discuss American Horror House a couple of weeks ago fell through. I might try again with this one, depending on how busy next week looks. LeVar Burton is in this, which seems to be the only thing recommending it. I would also like to mention how sick I am of the words “Rise of” being in movie titles. I was sick of it four years ago and it’s still going on.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 5

11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Dawn of the Dead – A replay of a remake.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

SUNDAY

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Rise of the Zombies – But... they already rose once! Shouldn't this be The Continued Ascent of the Zombies?

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 5

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – The Pumpkin KarverPoor spelling. I watched the movie last year and it wasn't bad. Not sure why they're deviating from the zombie theme, though. I mean, I get that there just aren't that many zombie movies and all...

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Scare Tactics – I am officially tapped out for Tracy Morgan stuff.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – I'm going to take advantage of SyFy's ad time to recommend some Halloweeny bands to you: Calabrese, Alucard, The Casket Creatures, Kill Baby, Kill, and The Mystery Men? can all spook up your month. The latter two are surf rock, but plenty of their tunes are creepy and kooky enough for the Season of the Witch.

Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money –This is the thirtieth replay of this movie.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter –This is also the thirtieth replay of this movie. Dammit.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Thir13en Ghosts –Shannon Elizabeth. Hot:




Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM – A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge – I still want to do a double feature of this and Top Gun.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM – A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream ChildWatched this the other night. I still like it a lot. I still like them all a lot.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Halloween H20This, on the other hand, I hate. Saw it in the theater and almost walked out. I've tried it a few times since and it doesn't get any better.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 1

9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Pulse – I can't remember this for the life of me, but Kristen Bell's in it and she's hot. So watch it, I guess.

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3

11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Feardotcom – I do remember this one and it is crap. Strangeland is way better.

Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2

MONDAY

1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Stigmata – Not a bad movie, but not very Halloweeny.

Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 3

3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Children of the Corn – This:


Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 5

5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Twilight Zone – It's a great show. ESO is doing a podcast about it this week.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

6:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming – Only two hours today. I will be asleep.

Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5

8:00 AM – 9:30 AM – Scare Tactics – Tracy be crazy as shit.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM – The Amityville Horror (2005) – I like the remake. What's not to like?

Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4

Come on back Monday for who knows what. 
 
-Phantom





1 comment: