The 2000’s brought about a golden age of zombie delights, producing unparalleled works in the genre. Here are four of the best zombie flicks.
Title: “28 Days Later”
Star Rating: 3/5
The film that became the catalyst for the modern resurgence of the undead in movies, “28 Days Later” takes us to the last bastions of civilization following a sudden, zombie-inducing contagion. In this despairing landscape, a rag-tag group of survivors search for hope, encountering ne’er-do-wells, resource obstacles and of course zombies along the way.
With an all-star cast featuring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Brendan Gleeson, the film is almost indiscernible as an indie. The editing is very 2002 and at times the decisions of the characters are slightly unbelievable, but there are many admirable qualities as well, namely the fact that it feels like a serious film. Too often, the genre (especially pre-”28 Days”) is all flash and gore with no artistic meat to the writing. “28 Days Later” subverts that trend, partly influenced by budget limitations but is mostly down to the masterful direction of Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”).The film also knows how to be introspective and chillingly silent when it needs to be, and that makes all the difference when it comes to intensifying the action.
It’s a slow burn but a quality film, and an important one in the resurrection of zombie movies.
[Available at time of writing to stream on: HBO Max, DIRECTV]
Title: “World War Z”
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Based on the novel of the same name by Max Brooks, “World War Z” is a “realistic” take on the sociopolitical side of the zombie genre.
It may be action-filled and clever in its interpretations of international relations in a zombie apocalypse, but what truly makes “World War Z” successful is that it has a solid plot. In many zombie flicks, “28 Days Later” included, rote survival is the name of the game, with no big emphasis on the cause of zombification nor is there a major goal or interest of the characters besides not dying. “Z” on the other hand is set up with clear intent — to find a cure.
Overall, “World War Z” does a really good job at creating a believable and exciting alternative — but not totally unfeasible — reality where the undead pose a serious threat to international security. Some of the logic in the film may not be totally fool-proof, but we’re talking about a zombie movie here.
[Available at time of writing to stream on: Paramount+, DIRECTV]
Title: “Train to Busan”
Star Rating: 4/5
This Korean, action-packed rollercoaster of a zombie film centers around a father fighting to rescue his daughter in far-away Busan from hordes of disease-ridden mutants, as uncertainty about the contagion and its effects persist.
The sense of doom is palpable, but so is the intense drive for survival. “Train to Busan” is a struggle between the living and the undead, coupled with (like all the best zombie flicks) that of the living among themselves.
The acting is surprisingly good, an area where horror films and the zombie genre tend to slip, and the filmography creates a brilliantly energetic uneasiness. The best of the film, however, is in the action, which features creative and enjoyably stress-inducing sequences that keep the viewer on their toes in anticipation of the proceeding “waves”. In many ways, the action writing and plot are nothing new (see: George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, “Aliens”, and the previous two films on this list) but are executed in such a perfect way, combined with bursts of originality in scenario, that the film works exceptionally well.
“Train to Busan” learns from the classics of the past to create what could be considered the “fully actualized” zombie-action-thriller.
[Available at time of writing to stream on: Hoopla (FREE), Prime, AMC Plus, Shudder]
Title: “Shaun of the Dead”
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Shaun is fed up — with life, his job, his relationships, with the mundanity of it all. One day, the best day he could have hoped for arrives — zombies invade his quiet English hamlet and he finally gets the chance to be the hero. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tear up the screen as the leads Shaun and Ed, galavanting across the town — cricket bat in-tow — they beat back swarms of their undead neighbors.
Edgar Wright’s gore-heavy comedy, the first of his unofficial trilogy starring Pegg and Frost, is a cult favorite for a reason. Every frame is packed with brilliant humor, witty lines, bursts of rom-com and lots and lots of blood. The editing is also a strange highlight, utilizing “smash” shots and quick cuts to great comedic effect.
“Shaun of the Dead” is the rare kind of movie you can watch over and over and love it just as much every time, and the best zombie movie ever made. I’ll stand by that claim.
[Available at time of writing to stream on: DIRECTV, TNT, TBS]