Among the mass of Halloween-related revival screenings hitting the city this week, the lone zombie feature—aside from those showing as part of the Music Box of Horrors—is Zombie 4: After Death, the conveniently titled 1989 Italian film that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Zombi franchise. Zombie movies are a fixture of Halloween programming, so it’s kinda surprising that barely any are playing in the city, especially as theaters like the Logan and Music Box get into the season. There’s plenty of time yet, of course, so below, I listed my five favorite zombie films—here’s hoping one or a few make it to theaters.
5. Cemetery Man (dir. Michele Soavi, 1993) As sweet as it is sick, this horror-comedy centers on a cemetery caretaker who holds off the zombies that pop up from their graves each night. One such zombie, played by Italian sex symbol Anna Falchi, returns time and time again, and her sexual encounters with the caretaker have a meta-textual edge. For what it’s worth, Martin Scorsese purportedly told Alan Jones that this was his favorite movie of 1993.
4. Zombi 2 [aka Zombie] (dir. Lucio Fulci, 1979) I’ve written about Fulci and his decidedly unique sensibilities before, but Zombi 2 deserves inclusion on this list if only because it’s still the best film in which a zombie and a shark have an underwater fight. Throw in the director’s nightmarish style and experimental narrative structure and you have one delightfully weird and genuinely chilling film.
3. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie [aka The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, aka Don’t Open the Window] (dir. Jorge Grau, 1974) Appropriately, this cult item’s reputation is steadily growing. Amid an atmosphere of spiritual and social unrest, the story turns on chemical pesticides used by local farmers that bring the dead back to life. Political and sociocultural commentary are inherent to the zombie genre, and director Jorge Grau handles the film’s criticisms deftly, though he doesn’t shirk the genre’s pulpy pleasures.
2. Shaun of the Dead (dir. Edgar Wright, 2004) Probably because of it’s jokey title, this film is often erroneously labeled a spoof or parody of the genre—but it’s actually as pure and traditional a zombie film that exists, it just happens to play out in a romantic-comedy mileu. Edgar Wright is genre alchemist par excellence; it’s his masterful touch that leads audiences to believe they’re watching a different film than they actually are.
1. Night of the Living Dead (dir. George Romero, 1968) I’m sure you had this pegged before you even clicked the link, but the most obvious answer is often the correct one. All roads lead back to this masterpiece, still as scary, abrasive, and sickly hysterical as ever. You could just as easily put Dawn of the Dead in this slot, but two Romero films seems like a cheat, and besides, this one is far less strident and antagonistic in its social commentary.