Sympathy for the Undead: The Top Underrated Zombie Movies

by: Sean McLaughlin

As the second season of AMC’s brilliant series “The Walking Dead” prods slowly, but menacingly, to a close, we’re reminded again that the zombie genre is experiencing a golden age like American pop culture has never seen.Television, movies, toys, billboards…..everywhere you look the real undead are approaching mainstream territory currently ruled by the “other” undead, the tweener-tastic vampires.I’m hoping that my favorite horror subgenre does not become romanticized in the same way, and in that vein I’m offering up some of my favorite zombie movies, beyond the ones that everyone is already familiar with.These eight films are not exactly Romero 101, but they’re also not too obscure or unfamiliar to leave a bad taste in your mouth.While horror fans everywhere await the 2013 release of Max Brooks’ stunningly-detailed World War Z, the following zombie flicks should hold over the masses yearning for some cinematic brains to devour.But again…..these are some of my own personal choices of films that are underappreciated, and are meant solely to provide entertainment.After all, there’ll never be a REAL zombie apocalypse……right?

 

White Zombie (1932):While George Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead is universally agreed upon as being the dawn (no pun intended) of the modern zombie film, this classic can lay claim to at least a piece of that title.It featured a great performance by Bela Lugosi, and creepy walkers that can’t be killed by being shot anywhere other than the head. Sound familiar?

White Zombie horror movie

Night of the Comet (1984):I’m not sure if I hold the films I saw during my childhood in the ‘80s up in a special light, but for some reason this movie was one that I have fond memories of.Of course, more recent viewings have exposed some flaws, but in terms of being a cool little flick this is right up there.Two doomsday scenarios in one…..an asteroid wipes out most of humanity while a zombie plague takes care of nearly all of the survivors.Some humor, some gore……how can you go wrong?

Night of the Comet horror movie

Zombie Honeymoon (2004):Not quite the body count you’d expect, but nevertheless this little indy film from Hooligan Films certainly provides character development, and offers a view of the zombie that we don’t always see.The main character changes slowly, and straddles one foot in humanity and the other in the realm of the undead, resisting the latter for the sake of his beloved newlywed.Plus, it has an underlying “cool” factor that resonates with me.

Zombie Honeymoon horror movie

Return of the Living Dead II (1988):I’m going for lesser-known entries here, and choosing the original Return would be too easy.Again, not everyone’s cup of tea but there are aspects to this movie that I dig.For one, the star is a kid that was around the same age as me at the time of the movie’s release.And secondly…..at least it wasn’t one of the 3 other horrendous sequels that would follow.Give it a shot.

Return of the Living Dead 2 horror movie

Survival of the Dead (2009):For those that thought George Romero stopped after his 5th undead creation Diary of the Dead…..you are wrong.Survival of the Dead actually follows a bit character from Diary, as he and his army buddies flee to a remote island where feuding Irish families continue their struggle, now featuring the zombies of their relatives.To me, this movie is unique in that it portrays zombies as possessing the ability to adapt and be taught.This is a lesson Romero touched upon in his classic Day of the Dead with one of the most famous zombies ever in Bub, but never saw through.

Survival of the Dead horror movie

Zombie/Zombi 2 (1979):As mentioned by the great HNN staffer, Larry in his previous article, this classic from Lucio Fulci was panned worldwide by critics (earning Leonard Maltin’s wonderful BOMB designation) for being excessively gory.But c’mon….why else do we watch horror?If an underwater fight scene between a zombie and a shark, and the most cringe-worthy incident featuring an eyeball up until Kill Bill Vol. 2, isn’t worth the price of admission….I don’t know what is.

Zombie horror movie

Carnival of Souls (1962):Another big influence on Romero and Fulci, this film uses an eerie sense of foreboding and creepy dream imagery to draw the viewer in.There’s no gore, and technically they’re ghouls and not zombies.But if nothing else, you’ll never look at a pavilion the same way again.

Carnival of Souls horror movie

Fido (2006):In the realm of zombie comedies, Shaun of the Dead leads the pack.But not too far behind is this slice of Americana set in the ‘50s, where zombies are trained to be useful members of society.Think Dawn of the Dead meets “Leave it to Beaver”.At the heart of this fun horror romp is a true buddy story between a boy and his zombie servant…..starring Billy Connelly as perhaps the only undead flesh-eater you’d ever want to spend your childhood with.

Fido horror movie

Honorable Mentions:Slither (2006), Undead (2003), Dead Alive/Braindead (1992), City of the Living Dead (1980)

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Sean McLaughlin on Twitter
Sean McLaughlin
Staff Writer at Horror News Network
Sean McLaughlin has been writing for Horror News Network since 2012. Catch up with him on Twitter at @Makasupa and read his in-depth bio on our About Us page.
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