On Tuesday, October 14th, Titan Books is releasing an updated and revised version of Jamie Russell’s Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema, and in honor of the occasion, he’s written a guest blog for us entitled “The Weirding Dead – Top 10 Strangest Zombie Movies.”
Check it out, and then add your own entries below.
The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci’s gory, surreal and silly zombie masterpiece is a Marmite movie. Like the classic British spread, you either love it or hate it. But whichever side you’re on, it’s impossible to deny its weirdness. Set in Louisiana, its Southern Gothic zombie apocalypse unfolds with Lovecraftian menace before literally falling apart in a jumble of demented editing, ropey SFX sequences (tarantulas eating eyeballs!) and portentous cod-philosophical muttering. Fulci cobbled it together cheaply – even hiring winos off the streets to play zombies. For me, no matter how silly it gets, it retains a nightmarish terror that’s borderline avant garde. It unfolds in a surreal universe where the logic of time and space has collapsed and the dead shuffle with incomprehensible menace. Not everyone saw it that way. Actor David Warbeck was particularly unimpressed – check out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot in the hospital lift where he jokingly reloads his revolver by trying to insert a bullet down the barrel!
One of my favourite zombie movies of the last decade, Pontypool only features one zombie… Inspired by Orson Welles’ infamous, 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Pontypool also draws on William S. Burroughs and Roland Barthes. It pivots on a bonkers premise: The English language contains a virus that’s suddenly turning people into zombie-like chatterers. Unable to find meaning in words, the infected start spouting random gibberish, before biting the lips off their victims. Reporting on the chaos unfolding off-screen is Stephen McHattie’s cynical shock jock DJ, who slowly realises that the death of words = the death of the self. A horror movie full of creeping dread and incredible weirdness, Pontypool delivers a semiotic apocalypse of nonsense/no-sense – a tale of linguistics and the living dead that will leave you feeling truly scared… scarred… scored… scorched. Rightly described by New York Times Magazine as “the Finnegan’s Wake of zombie movies.”