In celebration of the DVD release of Exit Humanity (review here), the Civil War-themed zombie romp, we thought it would be a fine time to take a look back at some of the greatest zombie hordes throughout the history of the sub-genre.
As always, let’s start with some honorable mentions. The fact it’s Peter Jackson directed, and one of the goriest films of all time, means Dead Alive (aka Braindead) and its infected mob is certainly worthy of an honorable mention here. Also one of the unheralded all-time classics… and perhaps the zombie film with the greatest title ever…Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, directed by Bob Clark and featuring zombie Orville Dunworth and his undead friends, gets another nod. Also a big honorable mention to the underrated 2009 French film The Horde, which featured a very impressive group of hungry undead.
Now let’s get to the meat of the story *rimshot* …
“The Walking Dead” (2010 to present)
Inspired by the awesome comic, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has absolutely taken the world by storm. Destroying cable viewing records, “The Walking Dead” has gone from a six-episode experiment to one of the most popular shows on television. And much of it has to do with the amazing story behind our beloved survivors, but as much as we love the drama, the zombies regularly manage to steal the show.
With some of the most impressive make-up you’ll ever see, applied by some of the best artists in the business, the zombies in “The Walking Dead” are absolutely amazing. As for specific memorable hordes from the show, Sophia’s group emerging from Herschel’s barn was certainly one, as was the horde that followed the helicopter, and then ultimately Rick’s gunshot, to invade the farm and move our heroes on down the road at the end of Season 2. But the most iconic shot of the zombies thus far had to be the massive group that surrounded Rick in the tank at the end of the first episode of the show. As the group of undead got bigger and bigger around the stalled tank and Rick’s fallen horse, viewers got a clear picture as to just what a horrific situation the survivors were in.
Dead Snow (2009)
Perhaps the sleekest looking zombie horde award should go to the group from Dead Snow, the 2009 Norwegian zombie film featuring a group of Nazi zombies. Nazi zombies…now there is a butt-load of trouble.
Writer/director of Dead Snow Tommy Wirkolav, in search of something even more evil than a zombie, came up with the idea of Nazi zombies. Well, to be honest, he didn’t actually create the idea of Nazi zombies (that was taken care of 25 years ago with the film Shock Waves), but they were damn impressive looking.
28 Days Later (2002)
Danny Boyle’s film makes this list for one huge reason. And yes, you’re going to tell me the creatures in this film were not true undead, but rather infected by…I know, I know. But they’re damn close enough to be called zombies. And what did 28 Days Later introduce to the zombie world? Speed. Goddamn fast zombies!
Yes, the godfather of the modern zombie, George Romero, is adamant that zombies do not run. He’s got a great quote that goes something like: “Try running when you have the flu…you think you’re gonna run when you’re dead?” But adapting these zombie-like creatures to be fast as hell makes them that much scarier. The 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake followed suit with the speedy zombies (which must have really frosted Romero’s ass), leading to an entire new sub-genre within the zombie sub-genre itself. Fast zombies. Consider the bar raised.
Also known as Zombi 2 (Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was entitled Zombi in Italy, and this Italian film, directed by Lucio Fulci, was a sequel in title only; the films were completely unrelated). This zombie horde knew how to throw down, and the film contains some quite memorable and horrific scenes. (We don’t need to remind you of the Zombie vs. Shark encounter, I’m sure…or the impaled eyeball…yikes!)
The Zombie horde was incredibly ugly (with the iconic worm-eyed zombie leading the way) and incredibly violent, initially leading to all kinds of bannings, “X” ratings and other efforts to keep audiences from this masterpiece of the macabre. In the end the public’s insatiable bloodthirstiness won out, and Zombie is now deeply entrenched in the history books as one of the most impressive undead offerings to date.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Video (1983)
How can you leave the most popular zombie video of all time off this list? “Thriller” is the definition of iconic, and that horde had some moves! The “Thriller” video sold 9 million units and became the first music video ever inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.”
And what a pedigree this 13-minute short film has. (And don’t think any differently; that’s exactly what “Thriller” is. It’s not a music video; it’s a short film). It was directed by John Landis, who certainly knew a little something about werewolves. Zombies were just the next logical step. Legendary F/X artist Rick Baker assisted with the make-up, and the voice-over was done by horror hall of famer Vincent Price. The zombies looked incredible and were easily the most viewed gang of undead of all time. “Thriller” was nothing short of historic.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
“More brains!. Return of the Living Dead had perhaps the most star-studded zombie horde ever! Undead legends Tarman and Half-Corpse crawled right out of Return of the Living Dead and into our nightmares. Additionally, one of the most overlooked zombies ever, the little person zombie (a personal favorite), is in there as well, shuffling amongst the horde.
Return of the Living Dead marked the first instance where zombies were looking for braaaaains, instead of just any living body part they could get their hands on. Not that they were overly fussy, but they did prefer grey matter. Again we have incredible special effects, but in Return of the Living Dead everything was enhanced by a great sense of humor. Return of the Living Dead is a treasure to the horror genre.
Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985)
The three greatest zombie films of all time? Yes, arguably. George A. Romero at his finest, directing the films that would introduce the unsuspecting viewing audience to a world of reanimated, undead creatures whose only goal was to eat living humans. Inspired by Richard Matheson’s 1954 vampire novel I Am Legend, Romero single-handedly created a brand new monster.
And each of these three films are amazing in their own way. Night of the Living Dead is absolutely iconic. It started everything and spawned an entire sub-genre of horror that is flourishing like no other today. In Dawn of the Dead Romero was able to expand the production, resulting in a bigger and better story and many, many more ghouls to go around. And in Day of the Dead the humor and F/X took center stage. Howard Sherman’s portrayal of the zombie Bub was immensely funny and entertaining, and the F/X, most notably the mass zombie kills at the end of the film, were amazing with Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero doing the heavy lifting.
The zombie sub-genre of horror is basically still very young. If you consider Night of the Living Dead the birth of the modern zombie, then you’re talking about a creature that’s not even 45 years old yet. However, the zombie has come a long way in that time. Here’s hoping that Exit Humanity can follow in the footsteps of some of the great zombie hordes of the past.
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