Halloween Week

Halloween Week – ZOMBIES! The Essentials List

As I believe I have mentioned before, I am a zombie enthusiast. Really. Peruse my dvd collection, and this quickly becomes apparent. On the regular, I have zombie dreams. I even have a mock-zombie escape route from work and my apartment, should the apocalypse ever strike. (No I don’t really believe in an impending zombie apocalypse…but it can’t hurt to be prepared, right?)

So, needless to say, I’m a big fan. In honor of our ZOMBIES ATTACK! day for Halloween Week, I present you with my essentials list of zombie literature and movies!


The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

Max Brooks, son of legendary Mel Brooks, writes this hilarious, and shockingly comprehensive guidebook. The reason why this book works is because it takes its subject material dead serious–planning for every conceivable location of an attack, the best weapons to use, the best vehicles to procure, etc. For example, he discusses the merits of a flame thrower versus a revolver, and those of a motorcycle versus a hummer. Should there ever be a zombie apocalypse, I’ll be thanking Max Brooks for this book! Really, it’s just a good, fun read. Highly recommended!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Following up on the success of The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks tries his hand at fiction with World War Z. Instead of a formal novel, this book collects fictional memoirs of survivors of the zombie apocalypse. Not only is Mr. Brooks a master at characterizations of the different survivors and capturing a different ‘voice’ for each of them, but he also manages to weave an incredibly smart social commentary with each story–criticizing the ineptitude of government response (in the aftermath of Katrina this critique holds even stronger sway), and the failings of humans in terms of ethnic, political, religious and socio-economic discrimination. While on the surface it is an engaging zombie novel, Max Brooks does for the literary genre what George Romero did decades earlier with his classic films–using the zombie as a means of commentary, to convey the failings of society.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

Robert Kirkman’s serious, well developed series follows a group of human survivors in the throws of a zombie apocalypse. The monthlies have been in publication since 2003, and are still going strong (although I don’t think the recent issues can compare to the superb first few arcs). Drawing heavily from George A. Romero’s films, Mr. Kirkman tells a compelling tale about a true apocalypse–it’s the end of the world, and this is some serious stuff with real gravity. With each issue we learn a little more about the characters, and they become more–forgive the pun–fleshed out. Definitely essential reading material for any fan of comics, apocalyptic tales, and (of course) zombies.

Marvel Zombies/Marvel Zombies 2/Marvel Zombies 3 written by Robert Kirkman (1&2) and Fred Van Lente (3)

Speaking of Robert Kirkman, The Marvel Zombies collections are ridiculously good fun. The first arc, opening with Magneto on the run from a swarm of ravenous, undead Marvel superheroes completely took me by surprise–and I loved every disgusting, hilarious minute of it. The second arc is still great fun, if somewhat predictable and repetitive. The third arc, however, is pretty damn cool–these issues just came out this month. And a brief word about the artwork–it is, simply put, stunning. I love the zombified imaginings of our favorite Marvel characters, especially with the collection of covers! Each issue of the first two storyarcs is a play on classic comic book covers, and the third arc instead is a play on classic horror movie posters! Really, brilliance, I say! (Later today Ana will review Marvel Zombies 1, so stay tuned.)

Marvel Zombies: Dead Days by Arthur Suydam/Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness by John Layman and Robert Kirkman

Just because I love Ash so. No, seriously, the one shot and crossover tie in really nicely with the Marvel Zombies collections listed previously. With these two prequels, we learn how the plague was initially spread. Plus…it’s Army of Darkness. With superhero zombies. It doesn’t get any better than that!

The Living Dead anthology with Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, George R.R. Martin, Joe Hill, and others

Confession: I was planning on having a review for this anthology for today, but I have not been able to finish it (it’s approximately 500 pages long–I swear I’m not lazy!). What I have read, I have loved. Really–just look at the author list! This anthology is incredibly well rounded, and I am loving each story in here. The editor, John Joseph Adams, does a fantastic job–one of the finest anthologies I have ever had the pleasure of reading (and I’m not even finished with it yet!).

Cell by Stephen King

You knew I’d have to have at least ONE King novel on this list, didncha? Cell takes a morbid look at our dependence on cellular phones and creates a zombie apocalypse-type story. One afternoon, a signal is sent out, and everyone on a cellular phone goes completely balls insane–we’re talking unspeakable, irrational violence. The survivors try to escape the mayhem, but soon the ‘infected’ start displaying even more bizarre behavior. A father tries desperately to save his son, against all odds. I actually wasn’t expecting to like this novel as much as I did–and I wholeheartedly recommend it to any King fans, or any zombie fans (A while back I read Brian Keene’s The Rising which is a pale, pale version of this novel–so any disappointed zombie fans can take solace in Cell)

The Walking by Bentley Little

Bentley Little is one hell of an author. His brand of horror ranges from the slyly humorous to genuinely haunting–The Walking is one of the latter. The story follows Miles, a private detective who gets a new case–and he discovers that the dead have reanimated and begun walking (even when restrained, they continue to walk) westward, to the Arizona desert. This is a very smart zombie novel, and definitely recommended for fans of Stephen King, and of a well-written horror novel in general.


Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead/Land of the Dead (Diary of the Dead…even if it is sucky)

No zombie–or horror, or even influential films–list would be complete without George Romero and his legacy. Beginning with Night of the Living Dead, when a Venus space probe explodes in the Earth’s atmosphere, the dead re-animate and take to feasting on human flesh, attacking a group isolated in a Pennsylvania farmhouse. Dawn of the Dead revisits the zombie apocalypse, with completely new characters isolated in a shopping mall, while legions of the undead attack. Day of the Dead shifts the location to a subterranean military bunker, whose inhabitants research the zombie physiology, fear they are the only remaining survivors on Earth, and focuses on the human threats in the group over the external zombie threats. Land of the Dead, Romero’s 2005 release, focuses on a fortressed city, ruled by an oh so appropriate devil-in-a-blue-suit Dennis Hopper. Part a critique on socio-economic divides, part a possible criticism of the Iraq War, it’s also just cool to see Romero with high budget, hi-tech zombies at his disposal.

All of Romero’s work uses zombies as a means to examine, satirize and critique humanity–and no one does it better.

**Note–There was also the release of Diary of the Dead this past year–mostly unnoticed, hitting few theaters nationwide. Diary follows a group of film students, and is told through their footage (as seems to be the rage what with Cloverfield and Quarantine, etc). The film’s dialogue is kitschy, the students are narcissistic idiots, blithely refusing to accept the ‘official story’–and accepting this film at face value, it is a huge disappointment. I’ll admit it. BUT, since it is Romero, I don’t know if this all wasn’t completely intentional as a critique of our sort of You-Tube, look-at-me generation. Anyone else seen the film and care to comment? Huge disappointment? Or is Romero once again biting his thumb at us?**

Zombi (aka Zombi2)

Lucio Fulci’s definitive zombie film. Zombie apocalypse strikes New York by means of a seemingly abandoned boat–some crazy research has been happening on an isolated tropical island, and the zombies have escaped to quench their unquenchable hunger. This is an incredibly gory movie, in all the best ways. Plus…three words: Zombie Shark Battle. That’s right.

*Note–if you’re wondering about the title, Zombi and Zombi2 are the same movie. Fulci changed the name to Zombi2 since the film was released in the same year as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead–whose title translated internationally as Zombi.

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Based on ethnobotanist & anthropologist Wade Davis’ doctoral dissertation (yes, his REAL dissertation), The Serpent and the Rainbow takes zombies back to their roots in Haitian voodoo. A Harvard researcher travels to Haiti at the behest of a pharmaceutical company that wants him to investigate the properties of a local drug used in voodoo practices, as it is hoped to be an alternative to anesthesia. Although this film doesn’t get much love from horror fans or critics, it’s one of my favorite Wes Craven titles. The acting is superb (Bill Pullman stars), the tone is serious and dramatic, and the cinematography is pretty cool. There’s a lot of time spent on Haitian and voodoo rituals, which is very interesting. Plus, it’s just so different from most other zombie films, especially for a director like Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, Scream). Highly recommended.

Night of the Comet

Campy, campy, campy! Deliciously so. A comet passes over earth, and anyone not in a steel encased structure at the time of the comet’s passing turns into red dust. Anyone that was only partially shielded (inside a concrete house, for example) well, they turn into zombies (though these zombies transform gradually, and are still capable of speech and normal thought functions). Two valley gal sisters find themselves seemingly the only survivors in Los Angeles, but they aren’t defenseless, thanks to their military dad’s training them how to shoot with uzis and the like. The girls hook up with Hector Gomez, and then discover the nefarious deeds of a US government agency. YES this movie is ridiculous–but it’s wonderful in its admitted camp fun. I actually saw this rerun on sci fi a few months back–though it’s available on DVD now, so totally worth the netflix rental.

Virus (aka Night of the Zombies, aka Hell of the Living Dead, aka Zombie Creeping Flesh, etc)

A group of commandos go into Papua New Guinea to investigate a radioactive chemical leak. What they discover is a population of zombies. This is by all accounts a terrible movie. The camera is awful, the script is awful, the soundtrack is really cool but totally ripped off. There is a lot of stock footage in here–random shots of animals running around, WTF?!–but…for all that, it’s so much fun. You know, in a sort of Plan 9 or Manos: The Hands of Fate, MST3K kind of way. It’s the kind of movie you watch to get in a few laughs as well as some decent zombie attacks, or have it projecting on the wall at a party or something. Personally, I likey.

*Note: apparently this is one of the most “alternatively titled” films of all time, according to wikipedia. Now that’s an honor! Heh.*

28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later (I think DAYS sucks though)

All cards on the table–I didn’t really like 28 Days Later. I felt it was a ripoff of Day of the Dead, and besides boasting a cool soundtrack and some interesting grainy cinematography, there really wasn’t much to this film (and it irks me to no end that it is constantly heralded as something OMG GREAT AND ORIGINAL. Because really…it’s not). For a “zombie” (I use quotations as they aren’t really zombies) movie that takes itself seriously as a horror film, the premise is pretty lame–monkeys, infected with RAGE (not a drug, but actual rage, having to sit and watch footage of human bruatlity in a lab) are responsible for the outbreak. Blah blah blah, the military is bad and intent on raping girls for fun, yadda yadda yadda.

Still, 28 Days brought us the oxymoronic ‘fast zombie’, and is an important film in the zombie cannon. Any fan worth their salt has to at least watch this film.

Surprisingly…I love 28 Weeks Later! All of the pretentiousness of the first film is done away with in this sequel, and the change in director brings a brutal hopelessness to the film (while still keeping the same cinematography and cool score). Yes, there are a ton of plotholes with this film, but those aren’t as important–this is a more visceral, emotional film, and really worth not just watching, but owning. You don’t need to watch the first film to see this one–I’d definitely recommend Weeks over Days.

Resident Evil/Resident Evil 3 (RE2 never happened)

Based on the video games, the Resident Evil films are blood-splatteringly good fun. Don’t look for any deep meanings or metaphor here–but if you’re in the mood for a kick-ass, highly stylized zombie flick, these are for you. Plus, Mila is made of awesome. (I didn’t include RE2 because…well, frankly it’s BORING! And just…terrible. Just, no. NO.)

Horror Classics Vol. 1: White Zombie

Commonly cited as the first zombie movie ever made, White Zombie stars the legendary Bela Lugosi as a voodoo master who controls his mindless zombies with his evil magic. A jealous man, refused by the object of his affection, turns to Bela Lugosi to turn his would be lover into a zombie to trick her fiance into thinking she’s dead, and then too win her love. This film is very…strange. Not really as ‘classic’ as Lugosi’s other films, but still a wonderful surreal movie, and a must for the mere fact that it is the first zombie film.


This little gem is hilarious. In an alternate world, the zombie apocalypse has occured and been beaten down, though the world has resultingly resorted to a 1950s Leave it to Beaver type of society. The cause of zombies here is radiation, that causes any deceased (as soon as they die) to reanimate as zombies–so every citizen must be closely monitored. What’s even better is that well-to-do families can afford to hve zombies as pets (domesticated by way of their brain controlling collars). This is really a story of a boy and his “dog”, except his dog Fido is really a zombie. I love this movie–it’s hilarious and completely fresh. It also stars Carrie Ann Moss (aka Trinity) in the lead role, which is always a plus.

Grindhouse Presents: Planet Terror

Oh, The Grindhouse! This film, along with Tarantino’s Death Proof, is so much fun–and it was a steal in the theater with the two films for the price of one. A deadly government gas leaks, turning people into bloodthirsty zombie-like creatures (although some folks are immune to the effects of the gas). Cherry Darling, aspiring stand up comedian who go-go dances by day, is played by the gorgeous Rose McGowan. This movie is a treat–hilarious, disgusting, thrilling, and sexy. A throwback, it’s exploitational and only in the best ways. Love it. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to get on board (and get Death Proof while your at it!)

Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Re-Animator

Since I’ve already written about these films, I’ll just give them another quick mention here. Essential.

The Remakes: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

These are both solid remakes–but only to watch after you’ve seen the originals. I’m a stickler about these things. The Night of the Living Dead remake has one huge script change that is all fine and good, but only if you’ve seen the original ending. Dawn of the Dead is loyal in themes and spirit, but introduces fast zombies. Still, I own both remakes, and they are great fun updates.

PHEW!!!! SO there you have it. Thea’s list of essentials. Later on, for zombie appreciation week, we’ll go more in depth with lesser known films, books, video games, etc–but for now, this will have to do.

Any other zombie favorites? Want to make a case for or against any of the works on the list? Let us know!

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  • Tasha
    October 30, 2008 at 3:09 am

    As someone who can’t do horror, I would have to go with Shaun of the dead 😀 It rocked!

  • Katiebabs a.k.a KB
    October 30, 2008 at 4:31 am

    28 Days Later scared the ever loving crap out of me. The first 5 minutes of that movie scarred me for life!
    You should add the new movie Quarintine that just came out last week. I heard it was pretty scary zombie wise.
    But no zombie movie will ever touch Night of the Living Dead. Can you believe it has been 40 years since it came out?

  • kmont
    October 30, 2008 at 4:45 am

    *I swear I’m not lazy!*

    Girl, no worries, I think we already knew that lol! Yall post every.day, sometimes more than once. We know you’re not lazy. 😀

    I find myself really, really loving the last Resident Evil movie. I can’t even remember the second one tho; I need to look that one up just to see why you say no to it. But I want to see the next one, I hope they do make it, with lots of Alice clones kicking ass. Whheeeeee!

    And I definitely want to see 28 Weeks later. I was OK w/it’s predecessor, but I haven’ had the zombie exposure that you’ve had. Just look atcha! You’re going to turn me into a horror fan!

  • Sweet
    October 30, 2008 at 5:03 am

    I’m seriously loving your posts. Its not everyday you find a blog where someone appreciates horror like you do. 🙂 I’ve got to say I love Bentley Little’s writing. I don’t think I’ve been disappointed yet by anything he’s written. After King he’s my go to guy for horror.

    I have to say I loved 28 Days Later, it was all about Jim for me. The first Resident Evil took me by surprise. I expected crap and got a wonderful film, adaptation of the video game. ( I mean that almost never happens)

    I’m soo looking forward to your next post so I can see if I’ve seen all the movies on your list.

  • meljean brook
    October 30, 2008 at 5:46 am

    I liked DAYS, although I did think it was derailed as soon as they went into the compound. I like what it was trying to do, but at that point I was like…what?

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed CELL. It had the Stephen King short-story feel, except it was long … and it was the only recent book of his that I’ve really enjoyed. DUMA KEY, LISEY’S STORY — meh (I finally finished DK, but I still haven’t gotten beyond page 100 or so of LS). Too wordy and meandering, and CELL got straight to the horror.

    Should I admit that Alice in Demon Bound is named Alice partially because of the RE movies? 😀

  • Thea
    October 30, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Tasha–Shaun of the Dead totally rocked :p I never write user reviews for movie sites (like yahoo or moviefone or whatever), but as soon as I got home from the theater I had to pimp the movie everywhere! I love that it’s on Comedy Central at least once a month too, it’s one of the when-I-see-it’s-on-I-have-to-watch-it movies (not that I don’t have the dvd…but it’s different when you find it on cable. It’s like your birthday or something. LOL!)

    Katie–Can I dare you to watch 28 Weeks Later? The opening sequence to that film gives me the goosebumps! It’s very, very good.

    But no zombie movie will ever touch Night of the Living Dead.

    And I saw Quarantine two weeks ago in the theater…felt sick with the jerky camera. Seriously, what is with this new handheld footage trend? I thought Quarantine was ok (that lead actress, the chick from The Exorcism of Emily Rose is pretty damn good)–but probably would have liked it a lot more had the movie been shot in the traditional way. They could have kept the same story (late night news team goes out on a call with the fire department) and just mixed footage from the news camera into a more traditional movie setup. Still it had some good scares…even if the characters were ridiculously stupid (“little girl! you have blood on your mouth! Come here, let me help you”~two seconds after little girl bites and attacks her mother).

    Word! When you talk about a film that has revolutionized–or really, created–a genre, Night of the Living Dead does it best.

    Kmont–Thank you! :p Halloween Week rocks, but it’s kicking my ass lol!

    I totally agree with you about RE3. I really liked RE1, but Extinction really, seriously kicked major ass. Oh and I loved that ending! You can see all the Umbrella folks shitting their pants–I want to see Alice and her ‘friends’ do some serious damage in the next film 🙂 I heart Mila Jovovich.

    Oh and dude you should definitely watch 28 Weeks Later, especially if you were non-plussed with the first film. Weeks is much better, in terms of special effects, scope, emotion, etc…at least in my opinion 😉

    You’re going to turn me into a horror fan!

    My work here is done. *rubs fingers together eeeeeevily*

    Sweet–Thank you!!! I’m blushing 🙂 I love Bentley Little too, his horror is so smart and well written. The Store is one of my favorite books! It’s a crime that Little isn’t talked about or read more.

    I did like Cilian Murphy in 28 Days Later–heck, I like him in any role! Totally with you on RE, it far and away exceeded my expectations (and continues to do so!). Speaking of videogame movies, have you ever seen/played the Silent Hill games? Those are my favorite survival-horror games, and the movie has definitely grown on me. I left the theater a bit disappointed, but the more times I watch it, the more I like it. It certainly captured the *feeling* of the games. (sorry, random!)

    Hopefully you’ll like the next lists (slasher films and international horror) just as much! 🙂

    Meljean–I think that’s where I was lost on 28 Days as well. Trying to do too much, IMO.

    Now that you mention it…I think Cell is the last King book I’ve really loved too. Although, I’m not sure if Everything’s Eventual came out before or after it…I’m still struggling through Duma Key and haven’t even picked up Lisey’s Story yet. Although, I am looking forward to his new anthology, even if only one of the stories (“N.”) is new. I liked the webisodes for N. and haven’t yet read many of the shorts in there, so…worth it for me 🙂

    And Alice is named for RE Alice!? Awesome! 🙂

  • Mark
    October 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you!!!

    RE2 was an abomination. I was so irritated by the extreme closeup-in lieu of special effects. Not cool and actually very light on zombie. Lame.

    You’ve hit all my favorites.

    Monster Island by David Wellington is something you should pick up. I just read Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which is a beautifully written zombie YA that doesn’t shy away from the gore. Loved it. There are a ton of new zombie books coming out in March.


  • sybil
    October 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Love horror movies and TSaTR still tops my list.

    all in all I am not much on Zombies, Night of the Living Dead still amuses me to death (the first one) cuz they never seem to move and take FOREVER to get to the house

    ADORE Night of the Comet, if you want something for Halloween but aren’t into horror movies this would be a great choice. Sez me 😉

    awesome week and omg long ass posts you go with your badself

  • Sweet
    October 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm


    I was also disappointed the first time I saw Silent Hill. I think they captured the eerie, creepy, something is around the corner and its going to try and kill me feel of the game. What I disliked was the storyline itself. It was just off to me. The more I watch it, I do appreciate the overall feel and look of the movie. Even though the storyline isn’t so hot. It really looks good. I also liked that they used sounds directly from the game.

    Hopefully you’ll like the next lists (slasher films and international horror) just as much! 🙂
    Ohhh, slasher flicks my first love.
    I’m looking forward to it 🙂

  • Heather
    October 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    So glad you mentioned Zombi2 (I admit I scrolled down before reading to see if it was there, lol!). Fantastic work in that film. The scene with the eye? Priceless.

    I've only read the first volume of The Walking Dead but I really enjoyed it. At some point I'm going to continue that series.

    Although I never played Resident Evil, I used to watch my husband play since it was so much like a movie. I haven't seen the films but I doubt they are scarier than the games. Loved the games–so atmospheric & gory.

    I still need to see Grindhouse, but methinks it'll make a great double feature with Night of the Comet. Thanks for the rec!

  • Thea
    October 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Mark–ugh, I am so with you on RE2. What was that? I walked out of the theater in a state of shocked disgust. Thanks for the Monster Island rec! I’ve seen the cover before in the store, but haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I’ll definitely pick it up 🙂 (I already have Happy Hour of the Damned sitting impatiently for me on the bookshelf at home!) Thanks for stopping by!

    Sybil–Thank you! And I heart Night of the Comet. It’s funny, you know that last scene in an empty LA? I swear that’s what Century City buisiness park looks like on the regular during the weekend (I think that’s where they filmed that scene)–every time I’m there on a Saturday, I can’t help but get slightly creeped out. In a good way.

    Sweet–oh I love the score, and I’m so glad they used the game’s music. The storyline was very close to the first game, but I would much rather they had used the second game (Restless Dreams)–my absolute fave 🙂

    Slasher flicks are on tomorrow! I didn’t get around to the international horror list though…saving it for next year, let’s say (i just ran out of time, really. Sigh.)

    Heather–oh yes, the eye scene! Eeeee! Love it. That and the Zombie vs. Shark fight *bowsdown* Love it. Zombi totally rocks my socks. I definitely recommend the first few vols of The Walking Dead–the recent issues are kinda…redundant though 🙁 Still, the early books are amazing. RE, both games and movies kick ass! I can’t wait for the next game. RE4 was amazing.

    Oooh, and let me know what you think of Grindhouse! I actually preferred Tarantino’s Death Proof (which is weird because I went in solely because of Rodriguez’s entry), but Planet Terror kicks all ass. I love Rose McGowan. I can’t wait to see what you think 🙂

  • Curtissot
    April 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm


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