30. [REC] 2 (2009)
Directors: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Stars: Jonathan Mellor, Oscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso
Rare are the horror sequels that live up to their originals, and even rarer are the horror films that improve on a second viewing, but [REC] 2 manages to be both. The first film made innovative use of first-person faux-documentary camerawork, following a TV presenter into the building as she investigates, and the sequel continues this style to great effect. We ride along looking through the helmet cameras of a four-man S.W.A.T. team tasked with escorting a senior “health” official into the building to investigate the outbreak. The outbreak of terrifying, duct-crawling hairless screeching child zombies.
[REC] 2 doesn’t quite match the first film’s gripping suspense, but it comes extremely close. Like the first film, the behavior, dictated by the camera, changes through the movie. We’re introduced to soldiers who are rather by-the-book and not particularly insubordinate. The ostensible commander insists on recording everything. But as the film progresses, a more human element of fear and frustration creeps in, and, with this, a very pleasing sense of revolt that is perhaps best signified by the liberal use of firearms. The mayhem, efficiently maintained for a just-right 84 minutes, makes [REC] 2 a must-see for horror fans.
29. Dead Snow (2009)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jenny Skavlan, Bjørn Sundquist
Dead Snow is about Nazi zombies, and has copious amounts of them. What more do you need to know? Okay, the actual plot of the film is set around a group of Norwegian medical students who go away for an Easter vacation in a cabin up in the mountains. Unfortunately, the area they are staying in was once used by the Nazis in the German occupation of Norway during World War II. The Germans raped and pillaged the locals and stole all their gold, until the locals chased the Germans up the mountains, where they supposedly froze to death. The medical students subsequently find a box of gold in their cabin, which had belonged to the Germans. As a result, zombie Germans come back to reclaim their riches, with deadly results.
The film takes a while to get going, but once it does it’s definitely worth the wait, with an epic battle between two guys wielding tools and a group of relentless Nazi zombies. Dead Snow is a nice little antidote to all these second world war dramas that claim to have a complex message, but are really star vehicles for egomaniac Hollywood stars.
28. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (2014)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas
Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead kicks off at pretty much the exact moment the first film ends. So after a brief re-cap of the original – in which a group of friends visited a remote cabin in the mountains, found Nazi gold, woke up Nazi zombies, and got killed in a variety of gory and hilarious ways – we are reintroduced to Martin, the sole survivor from the bloodbath. And his situation hasn’t improved.
Dead Snow 2 is indeed a sequel in every way imaginable. The rogue’s gallery of heroes and villains have doubled. The action is heavier. The stakes are higher. And the violence blows through the stratosphere. Seriously. Nobody’s safe in this film, from the handicapped to the elderly to even toddlers. Those with faint hearts might scowl at the gore, but they’d be missing the point – it’s supposed to be asinine. You shouldn’t be wincing; you should be laughing – Robert De Niro in Cape Fear-styled cackling, cigar and all. It’s impossible to take this movie seriously. Once again, it’s about Nazi zombies who, yes, eventually fight Russian zombies, if you were wondering about the equally ridiculous title.
27. World War Z (2013)
Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken
When the zombie movie as we know it first twitched into life, it was a niche concern, with budgets to match. An invasion of a farmhouse was fine, a city block just about doable, but anything bigger had to be relayed via a flickering TV or solemn radio transmission. Flash forward several decades and you have World War Z: a huge-budget summer release, starring one of Hollywood’s biggest and handsomest names, that sets out to actually show a worldwide assault by the undead.
Adapted by a small army of screenwriters from the bestselling novel by Max (son of Mel) Brooks, the pic mostly abandons its source material’s choral “oral history” structure. And despite a PG-13 rating that hamstrings some of its most visceral moments, World War Z establishes a strong mood of dread and terror from its very beginning to its climax. The film turns the prospect of the end of the world into something tumultuous and horrifying and, at the same time, quite exciting.
26. Pontypool (2008)
Director: Bruce McDonald
Stars: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak
To summarize this movie in one or two sentences wouldn’t begin to do it justice. However, that is what we’ve been doing up to this point, so it’s only fair to give this movie similar treatment. Pontypool takes place over a single day in a small town in Ontario. More specifically, it takes place in a radio station, where a DJ, the station manager, and an assistant end up reporting on and ultimately fighting off a “zombie” apocalypse. The word zombie is in quotations because these are not your typical zombies, nor is this your typical zombie film, and that’s what makes it so great.
Pontypool isn’t just an effective piece of fright, but also an honest to goodness original idea that combines science-fiction with linguistic theory and old-school paranoia. Alarmingly intelligent and deeply disorienting, Pontypool plays as a radically different film upon subsequent viewings, its metaphor-filled dialogue seeming to shift and alter in meaning with every scene. This is the zombie apocalypse as you have never seen or heard it before.