I’m writing this post from the premise that you already know about or have seen Train to Busan, which is actually the best modern zombie movie ever made (and hell, one of the best of the genre outright), because otherwise, it would take up every spot on this list.
But, with that out of the way: let’s talk a little about the undead, shall we? No, I’m not talking about Quentin Tarantino’s career – I’m talking about the cinematic world of zombies. It’s probably one of the horror sub-genres that I’ve struggled the most to find really great films in, because, thanks to the low-budget nature of it (much like found footage), it tends to attract a lot of weak Romero imitators. But none of that on this list today – no, I’m diving into the gooey innards of the very best lesser-known zombie movies. Front three rows may get wet.
- One Cut of the Dead
Honestly, One Cut of the Dead is one of the most joyously entertaining horror movies I’ve seen in years – the first act is basically a one-take zombie flick, and what follows is the mess behind-the-scenes to bring it to life. Witty, inventive, incredibly funny, and consistently engaging, this Japanese mini-masterpiece is as much a love letter to zombie filmmaking as it is a sharp satire on the bastardery that goes on when the camera is looking the other way. From the over-involved character actor to the director at the end of his rope – not to mention a few less-than-planned special effects – this is a total romp, and I can’t recommend it enough.
2. The Night Eats The World
Moving on from fun: let’s get introspective, people! This French-set (but English-language) post-apocalyptic nightmare is probably one of the most impressive pieces of one-man-show-manship I’ve seen in the genre in a long time. When Sam (Anders Danielsen Lee) wakes up the morning after a huge party to find that an outbreak of zombies has basically consumed Paris, he sets about building a life for himself in the apartment block that he was staying in when it happened. What follows is essentially an existential deep-dive into anxiety, isolation, paranoia, and survival without people – Lee is a compelling and powerful lead, and the film captures that introspection without getting too lost up its own rotting rear end.
3. The Girl With All The Gifts
Have I talked about this movie before? If not, I fucking should have. This stunningly brilliant British zombie flick is simply, for me, what should have been a turning point for the genre – a shift from “here are the monsters we need to fight” to “what if the way we understand our humanity needs to change?”. Senia Nunua stars as Melanie, a child born into the first generation post-zombie-apocalypse, as the previous generation (featuring stacks of bloody great performances from the likes of Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton) try to navigate what’s left of the world they once knew. Morally complex, emotionally literate, and beautifully made, The Girl With All the Gifts is ambitious and lives up to every inch of its rich promise.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Into Film)