45. Maggie (2015)
Director: Henry Hobson
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M. Griffin
An Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie movie? Just the mere idea of such a thing instantly brings to mind images of Arnie holding a giant machine gun and mowing down hordes of zombies – or tearing one’s head off while quipping, “Don’t get ahead of yourself!” However, this isn’t the ‘90s and Maggie is an entirely different kind of movie than Schwarzenegger’s filmography or, indeed, most zombie movies would suggest. No, this is a somber, stripped down story, in which Schwarzenegger stars as Wade, whose teenage daughter (the title character) has been bitten and is slowly undergoing an inevitable transformation.
In the third act of the film, the narrative reins are handed to Maggie exclusively, and the movie is all the better for it. As a girl with what’s essentially a terminal illness, the character’s just as affecting as Shailene Woodley in The Fault In Our Stars. In one scene, she impulsively cuts off a finger that has begun to rot, and it’s not the gore that does a number on you but the rage at her own body. In an even more wrenching scene, she goes on a date with some friends – everyone knows it will be the last time – and sits with an infected teenage boy who’s farther along than she is. The film becomes, briefly, a tragic romance, and it’s not just these two but also a whole way of life that seems to be rotting before our eyes.
44. The Dead (2010)
Directors: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Stars: Rob Freeman, Prince David Oseia, David Dontoh, Ben Crowe
The Dead is a refreshing tribute to the early Romero films, building suspense and atmosphere rather than implementing other well-worn tropes that we’ve grown so accustomed to. Set in an unnamed war-torn region of West Africa, the film begins with the zombie apocalypse already in full swing. The first zombie we meet is a definite throwback to the slow moving Romero breed. These are not infected people or fast moving CGI-ed creatures. They are good old-fashioned vacant-eyed, lumbering undead craving human flesh.
Even in the scenes without zombies, their presence is constantly felt. You’ll notice them in the background of shots, lingering off to the distance, hobbling slowly toward the camera. This sort of unnatural determination is part of what made slow paced zombies so creepy to begin with and The Dead understands this. A simple, straightforward zombie film, The Dead is exactly what purists of the genre should be looking out for.
43. Deadgirl (2008)
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel
Stars: Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Candice Accola, Eric Podnar, Jenny Spain
Certainly one of the more nontraditional zombie flicks on our list, Deadgirl is about a couple of marginalized teenage boys who uncover a female zombie tied up on a gurney deep within the bowels of an abandoned mental asylum. These boys decide that, hey, for a dead chick, you could worse, and so they take it upon themselves to get a little rapey. Everything that follows is quite grim, and the movie’s pessimistic nature has earned it a fair amount of criticism.
The film has been categorized as torture-porn, a rape flick, and a revenge film. But, when it really comes down to it, it isn’t any of these. It has far more depth and meaning than any Saw, Hostel, or Last House On The Left film ever did. The story really centers on values and choices, decisions that two young, sexually-pumped teenage boys must make in regards to what is right and wrong. It is a film about morals, coming of age, and making decisions that are very tough to make when one is uninformed and thinking with their “member” and not their brain.
42. Return Of The Living Dead III (1993)
Director: Brian Yuzna
Stars: Melinda Clarke, Kent McCord, James T. Callahan, Sarah Douglas, Abigail Lenz
Colonel Reynolds and his group of government scientists continue their work on re-animating the dead for military use. His son Curt and his girlfriend Julie use Dad’s security pass to sneak in and watch the proceedings. Later when the father and son have a disagreement, Curt and Julie take off on a motorcycle and Julie is killed in an accident. Grief-stricken, Curt takes her body to the lab and brings her back to life. As you could imagine, this might not have been a great idea.
After the juvenile Return Of The Living Dead 2 it was easy not to expect much from this sequel. Well, leave it to Brian Yuzna to pick up the franchise and stand it back on its two undead feet. Where the first film had a dark humorous tone, the second had childish sight gags, this one goes for straight up serious, and it works. It features some impressive effects, a great score by Barry Goldberg, and a nice twist on the typical zombie/human relationship. This is a familiar story told in inventive fashion, benefiting from a director willing to do a little something different.
41. The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings
In one of the more underappreciated films from the late-great Wes Craven, David Allen is an ethnobotanist who is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical corporation to investigate a powder drug used in Haitian voodoo rituals that turns people into zombies. Allen embarks in a violent and at times surreal journey to gain access to this drug, but what he discovers will change his life forever. He gets mixed up in a game where he is the pawn in the middle of voodoo priests, corrupt government officials and his own sanity. In the end, he must decipher what is science and what is black magic.
The Serpent And The Rainbow is one of those “based on a true story” horror films. This time, the source material is Wade Davis’ book The Serpent And The Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey Into The Secret Societies Of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, And Magic, which posited a scientific basis for the legend of the undead. And while we can’t speak on the vility of the book, we can definitely say that the film is quite disturbing indeed.