Zombie movies have become kind of passé over the last ten years or so, thanks in large part to the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead, which aim to give the genre a kick up the ass by doing…absolutely nothing new with it.
An endless stream of retreads hasn’t helped matters either–particularly when it comes to high-larious mash-ups such as Cockneys Vs. Zombies that always seem funnier on paper than they do fully realised.
Attempts to recreate that old Romero magic have been largely unsuccessful, although Zack Snyder‘s much-loved Dawn Of The Dead remake from 2004 remains the exception to the rule.
Even Doc Of The Dead, a documentary striving to cover every facet of the so-called zombie industry, struggled for content, or even to be consistently relevant or interesting for its paltry 81-minute run-time.
With that said, not everything coming out of the genre is bad. The following are my picks for some of the coolest, most off-kilter zombie movies out there, all of which provide their own unique takes on the genre without resorting to cliché or rehashing the same old ideas.
In fact, most of the time, the z-word isn’t even uttered:
A low-budget British indie set entirely in a toilet cubicle, Stalled is the funniest, dumbest and most inventive zombie movie you’ve never seen. Fresh, well-structured and endlessly entertaining, it proves you don’t need money, a decent setting, or even any names (aside from that one from Hollyoaks) to make a great horror movie. A good story, some well-placed gore and a game cast make all the difference (Dan Palmer, who also wrote the screenplay, is particularly good as the beleaguered lead).
Jeremy Gardner’s bleak, poignant and horribly realistic take on the post-apocalyptic zombie movie template often soars in its quietest moments. Gardner himself takes a starring role opposite fellow first-timer Adam Cronheim, the two of them forming the battery of the title. Kind of an anti-zombie movie (one particularly stirring sequence sees the guys coaching each other to utter “the z-word”), The Battery focuses on its completely believable central relationship while keeping the un-dead in the background, to wonderful, truly game-changing effect.
I Survived A Zombie Holocaust
Probably the most typical zombie movie on this list, I Survived A Zombie Holocaust utilises many of the usual genre elements to which we’ve become accustomed, while relocating the action to a set where, unsurprisingly, a zombie movie is currently being filmed, allowing for some brilliantly on-the-nose in-jokes about the nature of making these kinds of movies. This little-known New Zealand oddity shares DNA with Stalled, boasting arguably the funniest, most splattery Portapotty joke in cinematic history. Dead Snow 1 & 2
Both Dead Snow and its lesser sequel Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead (Iceland stands in for Norway, the ending is seriously mis-judged) exploit this hideous idea of Nazi-zombies for all its bloody worth. These aren’t your typical zombies either; they’re fast, furious and ferociously bloodthirsty. Dead Snow has become one of those movies hipsters point to as being ker-azy (mainly because most of them can’t be bothered to sit down and watch it), but don’t let that put you off. It’s more effective than it sounds, and much more fun than its dark subject matter suggests.
One of those “does what it says on the tin” deals, in the most literal sense imaginable, Zombeavers is way better than it ought to be. The transformation sequences are gasp-inducingly awesome, the laughs plentiful, and it has a nifty little animation sequence that fills in the blanks without the need for useless exposition. It works so well precisely because it shouldn’t. These zombie-animal hybrids rarely make any kind of an impact, which is what makes this little gem so special.