Admittedly, the zombie niche is super saturated and requires wading through trash, but the few gems of brilliance you find shine ever so brightly. So, we’ve put together a few of our absolute favorite zombie offerings, so you don’t have to rely solely on AMC for your zedhead fix.
28 DAYS LATER
This one gets zombies just right; the physiology may be up for hot debate, but the misery, heightened tension, and paranoia are just perfect. And the most important factor – fear – is constant.
Before spawning into a never ending franchise, this movie was adapted from one of the “original” and most notable zombie video games. While the effects and makeup aren’t as spectacular as some of the handiwork we see today, the first film is as freshfaced and lovely as Mila Jovovich. Also, Michelle Rodriguez.
DAWN OF THE DEAD
A lot of you reading this are probably well versed in George Romero, but beyond that prerequisite, the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake is also pretty great. No, seriously, try it, even if you hate remakes. The updated upholstery and scenery give Romero’s classic a bit of a facelift to stay fresh.
Family sitcom meets 50s suburbia meets zombies. Taking a rather drastic departure from the “jump at you and scare you” device, this rather Leave It to Beaver-like film deals with an alternate universe where zombies are the norm, serve as domestic labor, and mom really wants one to keep up with all the neighbors. Yeah, it’s like that.
DØD SNØ (DEAD SNOW)
Zombie Nazis. Yep. A group of plucky Norwegian med students stumble upon stuff they shouldn’t have disturbed and pay for it. They’re a lot more clever and resourceful than their American counterparts, and Dod Sno is just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek (in more ways than one) gore.
I LOVE SARAH JANE
First love, growing pains, bullying – all those trials and tribulations of adolescence, except with zombies. Even though Sarah Jane could care less about him, Jimbo is going to navigate his way through this post apocalyptic world sans adults, but with no shortage of the undead, and make his way into Sarah’s heart. You can watch this online short here.
So if you’re into the more comedic flick, this rather absurdist zombie apocalypse movie is not only available through Netflix Instant, but is hilariously dubbed in English. Give it a whirl.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Continuing with the comedic zed-head flicks, if you haven’t watched Simon Pegg’s gem, you’re seriously missing out. Get thee to the video store or whatnot. And if you’ve been living under a rock, watch this crowning scene.
PLANET TERROR (GRINDHOUSE)
Robert Rodriguez bring us go-go dancer Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), who finds herself going up against the hordes of the enraged undead in this splattery, gory ode to the B-movie.
There are 666 portals to the other side that humans aren’t supposed to know about, and the 444th one – that ties to the Forest of Resurrection – is in Japan. So you know, expect the following: zombies, samurai, Yakuzas, and reincarnation.
Okay, so we assume that you’ve been desensitized to the concept of the undead, or have grown past the shock of humans eating humans. Dead Girl takes this a bit further to the place we didn’t want to go with necrophilia (sorta). Dead Girl also confirms that white teenage suburban boys are actually the worst.
LOVE OF THE DEAD
Speaking of icky consent issues… In Love of the Dead, a devoted boyfriend is committed to capturing live humans to feed his undead girlfriend who doesn’t really have the autonomy to say “yes” to some of his actions. Watch it here.
WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks
To be honest, Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide was kind of take it or leave it (although original), but World War Z is magnificent. Seriously. In presenting an “oral history” of interviews, Brooks covers different perspectives through country of origin, gender, race, walk of life, etc. The book leaves you with a super depressed and bleak feeling when you’re done.
ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead goes in the opposite direction as Brooks and focuses his post-zombie apocalypse world re-building mostly in New York City. To be specific, the area below Canal Street, or Zone One. Whitehead is wry and sardonic, as protagonist Mark Spitzer (which isn’t even his real name) quietly tries to hold it together in an environment after the end of the world. There is a scene that takes place in an abandoned subway station that’s not only spooky for actual commuters, but just excellent all around.
DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON by J. L. Bourne
Let’s be honest, of the entire human population, some folks have a slight headstart when it comes to surviving, and some of those people happen to be in the military. Told entirely through the journal entries of a former Navyman (we think), Day by Day is very technical, with descriptions of guns, ammo, and tools in between the protagonist’s search to find a safe haven. That may not be your speed, but technical stuff is important for the end of the world as well. That and it’s an excellent set up for sequels.
FEED (Newsflesh) by Mira Grant
Don’t let the YA label fool you. True, the zombies in YA tend to be a little less than creative and skew disturbing in their own way (seriously, zombie-human interspecies romance can be a thing), but the Newsflesh trilogy is brilliant. Let’s say you survive the zombie apocalypse. Years after the world’s settled down somewhat, the next step is only part of human nature: we’d want to know why and what caused it. And of course, we’re going to blog about it.
ROT & RUIN (BENNY IMURA) by Jonathan Maberry
The Benny Imura series is penned by Jonathan Maberry, who is exceptionally good at writing horror. Again, don’t be taken aback by it being juvenile lit. Maberry didn’t intend to sell the trilogy as “YA”, and who does any sort of hand-holding when writing zombies? True, the series does have trace amounts of orientalism (if you couldn’t tell by the series title), but teen angst and hormones aside, the zombies, as well as the bad guys who are even more of a threat than the undead, are excellent.
MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE by Diana Rowland
What differentiates this book from the rest is that White Trash Zombies is about former loser Angel Crawford, who finds – after waking up after overdosing on painkillers – that being undead is her second chance in life. Murder, mystery, and trying to stay away from a hunky off-limits cop while working in a morgue? Yes please!
READ THE WALKING DEAD COMICS
No seriously, just do it. It’s way better than the TV series could ever hope to be anyway.
This section was written almost singlehandedly by Rick. So hats off to our Games Editor!
RESIDENT EVIL SERIES
Survival Horror and Zombie games might not have started here, but this is the tyrant of today’s undead gaming pandemic, having been around since 1996. If you can only play one, though, do yourself a favor and play 2005’s Resident Evil 4.
LEFT 4 DEAD
Four survivors are pitted against hordes of the unnervingly fast undead. Keep your cool and enjoy the gameplay, else you might find the literal hordes a bit overwhelming, to say the least. And try not to startle the Witch.
Serious heads up: I’m not even going to pretend that the characters aren’t drawn from super racist tropes. That aside, fight your way across a resort island to try to find a way off admist the scantily clad undead tourists. Oh, and the opening song is catchy.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION: UNDEAD NIGHTMARE
Put simply: fucking fantastic.
Not enough for you? Fine. Six shooters, zombies, zombie bears, the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, a guest appearance by Bigfoot, and you don’t even need to buy the main game!
DEAD RISING & DEAD RISING 2
It’s not the best game ever, but anyone who is a fan of Romero has to try the semi-parody Dead Rising. 1 gives you the old Romero flavor by setting the game in a ridiculous mall, 2 for somewhat improved, experimental gameplay (it gives you duct tape, chainsaws, and tells you to go wild).
HALF LIFE & HALF LIFE 2
Did we forget those two? We really shouldn’t. And if you’d like to scar your psyche for life, listen to the moans of the headcrab zombie backwards. It’s on YouTube. You’re welcome.
STUBBS THE ZOMBIE: REBEL WITHOUT A PULSE
This one is an obscure original X-Box game that is completely worth tracking down. It’s a bit like Death of a Salesman, except Willy Loman is already dead, eats brains, and raises an army of the undead to devour postwar Suburbia. On second thought, it’s nothing like Death of a Salesman.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with zombies is to dial down the horror and just give players lots and lots and lots of bullets. This twin-stick shooter for PSN is lovely little slice of zed-fragging tension that does so very nicely.
TYPING OF THE DEAD
Possibly the most bizarre typing tutor ever? Way more interesting than Mavis Beacon for sure.
Dead Space isn’t technically about zombies… but it is a Lovecraftian reanimation of the dead. In space. So, yeah, it’s about zombies. Creeping madness body-horror zombies.
Also not a zombie game, but there are LOADS of zombies – viking zombies! that know magic!- in Skyrim. They’re everywhere. It’s actually obnoxious, the number of zombies you have to kill.
FALLOUT 3 & FALLOUT: New Vegas
Have you ever been in one of Fallout’s irradiated sewers? Then you’ve met the fast-zombies-in-all-but-name Ghouls. And cursed them profusely.
Agree, disagree, did we miss anything? Drop a line in comments!