The last decade has seen a resurgence in the popularity of the zombie genre in American films but it’s now spread worldwide. In the last several years, many foreign films have taken the undead in a new direction. From Nazi zombies guarding treasure to New Zealand slackers making the best of a post-apocalyptic world, the appeal of shambling hordes of flesh eating undead monsters seems to be universal. These movies are only part of the burgeoning zombie movie canon but each is worth checking out.
1 and 2. [REC] (2008) and [REC] 2 (2009):
You might have seen Quarantine, the American remake of [REC] but the reason I recommend [REC] over Quarantine is the sequel. Without giving away too much, [REC] and [REC] 2 uses a blend of Catholic mysticism and science to suggest that a strain of rabies leads to demonic possession. In Quarantine, this angle is changed to an underground scientist working on rabies research. You don’t see much of this backstory in either version of the first movie but in the sequel it makes the difference.
The American film, Quarantine 2, is a predictable direct to DVD movie set in an airport terminal. [REC] 2 takes place immediately after the first movie and follows a SWAT team as they enter the zombie-filled apartment building. It’s claustrophobically intense – the zombies run into submachine gun fire and keep coming and the hallways are too small to run away. By the midpoint of the movie, [REC] 2 distinguishes itself from other zombie movies with several clever plot twists and developments. The finale is amazing, surpassing the night vision ending of the first movie. It’s a great zombie film that takes the undead in a new direction. Two more films are being planned.
3. The Dead (2011):
An upcoming zombie film set in Africa, The Dead already sets itself apart from virtually every other film in the genre with its setting. Most zombie films are set in urban or suburban areas familiar to most Western audiences. The Dead places its protagonist, a US soldier, in the wilds of Africa. He must find a way to survive both the hordes of undead swarming the countryside and the brutal conditions of the desolate wastes. The film has met with rave reviews so far and will be recently this year in the US on DVD. I look forward to seeing it. You can read a detailed interview with the film’s directors, the Ford Brothers here and see video diaries of the production here.
4. Last of the Living (2009):
A New Zealand horror-comedy about three slackers that have survived the apocalypse but still have nothing to do other than hang out and play video games. However, their lives change when a beautiful scientist runs into them and promises of a potential cure for the zombie epidemic. They decide to go on a mission to try to get the cure and save the world, even if it means no more slacking off. The three slackers and scientist Shot on digital video on a shoestring budget, Last of the Living is better made than most zombie flicks and has a great theme song to boot. The director also put out an interactive Youtube zombie adventure:
5. The Horde (2009):
A French action-horror film, The Horde places a group of rogue cops with hardened criminals during the start of a zombie outbreak. The cops wanted to kill the criminals as revenge for their murder of a police officer but they get captured. Before the criminals execute them, zombies attack and the surviving cops and crooks have to work together to survive the onslaught. This is a nonstop action fest with intense fight scenes, brutal gore and characters so gritty you’d think they were extras in a Frank Miller comic. Since there’s no official movie based on the video game Left 4 Dead, I’ll settle for the The Horde.
6. Grave Bandits (2012?):
A zombie film shot in the Philippines, the Grave Bandits is about two grave robbing brothers. They get caught by an angry mob but then zombies show up, throwing everything into chaos. This is all anyone knows about the movie yet, since it’s in post-production. There’s one article about it here that makes it sound promising. I look forward to seeing grave robbers kill zombies with slingshots in a jungle.
7. Juan of the Dead (2011):
Despite the trade embargo, Cuba has succumbed to zombie fever. Juan of the Dead follows the journey of its titular character as the undead sweep into Cuba. Juan, a nascent capitalist, forms a zombie extermination business. The movie is in the film festival circuit but judging from its trailer and the reviews, it will be a hilariously gory film when it becomes available.
8. Dead Snow (2009):
A group of college students vacation at a remote cabin in the wilderness are attacked by murderous undead. Sound familiar? Dead Snow’s setup does resemble the typical slasher flick, but instead of a single killer picking off sexy coeds one by one, the movie uses a horde of territorial Nazi zombies and is set in Norway instead of a summer camp in the US. It’s a fun movie but true zombie aficionados will know that this is only the latest in a series of Nazi zombie movies, starting with the (not so) quintessential Zombie Lake. They’ve also been used as villainsin Oasis of The Zombies, Outpost and Shockwaves to name only a few.