At the very least, the zombies won’t die in the movies. Zombies have long been a staple of the horror genre, creeping their way into our collective psyches and haunting our dreams.
We shouldn’t be shocked, though, that films keep coming up with new and terrifying ways to depict what seems like an insurmountable existential threat. Zombies are a harbinger of social decline and mass disaster, as their swarming multitudes overcome any remaining semblance of civilisation. Since the concepts of death and resurrection have been corrupted, the zombie apocalypse can be interpreted in a theological context. Zombies are nothing more than soulless, braindead consumers who are just another facet of the system that has us all as its slaves.
As a metaphor and as a horrifying concept, the zombie is both a powerful one and an evocative one at the same time. Netflix has a wide variety of zombie films to choose from—ranging from heartfelt dramas to action-packed epics—and this list of 11 shows that the wandering dead are here to stay is a good indication of how popular the genre is.
Cargo, Netflix’s zombie-infested apocalypse series, is set in Australia’s parched Outback, which provides as an unusually frightening backdrop.
Andy Rose (Martin Freeman, of “Sherlock” and the Hobbit trilogy) is at the heart of this softly philosophical story, which takes place in Australia’s zombie-infested interior with his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their infant daughter Rosie. “Cargo” begins with the trio aboard a houseboat, running low on supplies and unsure of where to go next, as they sail down the river. Unfortunately, Andy finds himself wandering the Outback with Rosie slung to his back as they try to find refuge from gangs of hungry brain-eaters. Thoomi (Simone Landers), a young Aboriginal lady, is hiding her infected father from the rest of her society, realizing that they plan to track down and exterminate all zombies. Her tale eventually overlaps with his.
From “Mad Max” and “Walkabout” to George Miller’s “Mad Max” to Nicolas Roeg’s “Walkabout,” the interior of Australia has inspired many a film masterpiece (the breakout star of which, Australian film icon David Gulpilil, makes a supporting appearance in “Cargo”).
The Outback’s boundless expanse evokes an elemental collision between civilization and savagery as human-sized tragedies play out against it. It’s an ideal setting for a story about a zombie outbreak that frequently places survivors in ethically problematic, potentially soul-corrupting circumstances.
2. Army of the Dead
Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” was one of the best modern zombie films before DC embraced his over-the-top approach to the superhero genre. It was a lean, mean, just-right reboot, infused with thematic undertones from George A. Romero’s original but more agile. This time around Snyder’s return to zombie horror is appropriately large-scale; the Vegas strip is transformed into an unholy cauldron of depravity.
This takeover is presented as a series of slow-motion tableaux in the opening credits sequence, which is Snyder’s specialty, as “Watchmen” fans will attest. Casino patrons hit the jackpot then get torn apart, an undead Elvis impersonator is crushed by an eiffel tower replica that collapses as the city descends into chaos. To Richard Cheese’s cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” the sequence establishes a tone of bitter, nihilistic irony preserved by the film’s heist storyline; this is the second time Cheese has covered Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” for Snyder.
The undead king and queen of Sin City’s ruins are the most dangerous threat to Dave Bautista’s haunted mercenary as he leads a team to steal $200 million from a casino’s basement, which the “Army of theDead” throws at him. In Snyder’s zombie epic, “Army of the Dead,” blood and gore abound on a grand scale, as only one of Hollywood’s most talented visual storytellers could pull off such a spectacle.
If you’re looking for a zombie thriller that evokes the claustrophobia and isolation of the COVID era, look no further. #Alive” by Cho Il-hyung will satisfy that craving. Oh Joon-wo (Yoo Ah-in, best known for his scene-stealing role in “Burning”) is holed up in his apartment as a mysterious infection ravages the outside world in this small-scale siege picture. It begins as a video game streamer named Joon-wo who, as his supplies begin to run low and his hopes for rescue begin to fade, tries to stay put.
It’s only when Joon-wo (Park Shin-hye), a mysterious and dry-witted woman, comes into contact with him that he gets his life back on track. What kind of life can either of these two survivors lead if the apartment complex is overrun by zombies?
While “#Alive” is a film about a global pandemic, it also examines the digitized, heavily commodified realities of millennial culture in South Korea as well. Yoo’s heartfelt, dedicated performance as the film’s protagonist makes it as much a character study as it is a horror-thriller. #Alive’s main appeal is in the low-key cleverness of its execution, which is accomplished by Cho, making his feature film debut, in the film’s heart-in-mouth sequence, and its use of technology feels integrated with the protagonist’s journey in ways spine-tingling and dramatically rewarding.
4. Ladronas de Almas
A group of insurgents in Mexico’s War for Independence set out in pursuit of gold in Juan Antonio de la Riva (Ladronas de Almas) (Soul Robbers). After discovering a seemingly defenseless Hacienda de Cordero (Agustin Cordero, Maria, Roberta, and Camila), the looters decide to take advantage of both the hacienda’s treasure and the hacienda’s beautiful, wheelchair-bound daughters. Indaleso (Harding Junior), the hacienda’s Haitian servant, is the only one who stands in their way.
These ladies, however, command an army of the dead, and the insurgents soon learn this, making an easy conquest into a harrowing war for survival. “Ladronas de Almas,” directed by Val Lewton for RKO Studios in the 1940s, is a sophisticated and energizing homage to Val Lewton’s subtle supernatural chillers of the era. The film’s use of evocative shadow play and De la Riva’s sleek camerawork lend an aura of lingering unease to the proceedings.
Even while stagey acting and special effects heighten the film’s melodramatic mood, the tale implies a lighthearted cross between “The Beguiled” and “I Walked with a Zombie.”.. Ultimately, “Ladronnas de Almas” feels like an extended episode of a forgotten Mexican soap opera, or an undiscovered relic from the country’s mid-20th century boom, when the likes ofFernando Méndez, Rafael Baledón, and Chano Urueta were ushering in a golden age of horror, inspired by both RKO’s black-and-white chillers and Hammer’s gorier gothics.
5. Kingdom: Ashin of the North
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” started the peak-TV zombie obsession, and Netflix’s “Kingdom” is one of the best shows to come out of it. A medieval Korean drama, “Kingdom,” centers on the efforts of Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Hi-hoon) to track down the source of an unnatural plague that is turning the dead bodies of his countrymen into reanimated corpses. It has all the palace intrigue of “Game of Thrones,” but none of the rushed later-season plotting.
Kingdom is an enormous new take on the zombie mythos, filled with powerful sword fighting, period-accurate clothing, and truly horrifying zombie action. These undead ravagers are nocturnal and move furiously fast to assault their prey. It’s even better than the feature-length spinoff “Kingdom: Ashin of the North,” which chronicles the story of a mystery woman Lee Chang meets at the end of season one.
This is a solo war epic and fascinating villain origin narrative about Ashin’s discovery of a resurrection flower that can bring the dead back to life as well as her systematic degradation as a second-class citizen in the borders of Joseon. “Ashin of the North” In order to avenge the death of her family, Ashin (played as a youngster by Kim Shi-a) learns the art of revenge, becoming a skilled archer and embarking on a journey that would change the kingdom for good.
6. Resident Evil: Extinction
Alice, Milla Jovovich’s kinetic action heroine, battles her way through the Mojave Desert to escape the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is the continental United States in the third “Resident Evil” chapter. She has her sights set on a secure refuge in Alaska, far away from the rest of the world. Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) follows Alice to Las Vegas, where he brings the zombies to her, forcing her to take on the wicked Umbrella Corporation in a counterattack. Alice is pitted against zombified canines (in an early sequence similar to “The Hills Have Eyes”) and savagely crow-like zombies (a twisted tribute to “The Birds”), as well as the obligatory armies of mutant, humanoid undead.
This list includes two entries from the “Resident Evil” series, which is the most overdue for a critical evaluation. Russell Mulcahy, who previously directed “Ricochet,” “Highlander,” and many ’80s music videos, returns to direct “Extinction,” which is one of only two entries in the series not handled by series creator Paul W.S. Anderson (who only authored the story this time around). As a contrast to Anderson’s previous “Resident Evil” flicks, “Extinction” takes place in a much larger, more ambitious setting, and it’s all the better for it.
‘ParaNorman’ is a Halloween classic thanks to Laika, the stop-motion studio behind ‘Missing Link’ and Kubo & the Two Strings.’ As in “Coraline,” Laika’s second film features a young child who begins to see dead people in the small hamlet of Blithe Hollow, which was inspired by old colonial towns like Salem, Massachusetts. To his credit, Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) hasn’t shied away from using this gift, and he and his late grandma (Elaine Stritch) have been close friends ever since. In the wake of a witch’s curse that allows the dead to rise and terrorize the community, Norman and his allies (who include his sister, voiced by Anna Kendrick, and a delightfully stupid jock played by Casey Affleck) are forced to intervene.
As “ParaNorman” makes its way through the town and into a dark forest, Laika’s handcrafted animation, overseen by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, grows increasingly more spectacular. The characters must deal with legions of the undead, along with a young witch (Jodelle Ferland) and an angry mob. Stop-motion animation at its best, “ParaNorman” is both funny and creepy at the same time. It’s scary enough to send kids running for cover, but not gory enough to ruin their wonder. Laika’s artists were most liberated to express themselves through the film’s diverse cast of macabre characters, which includes everything from slack-jawed zombies to ectoplasmic specters. “ParaNorman,” a love letter to classic monster flicks, is both clever and touching.
8. Resident Evil: Afterlife
Paul W.S. Anderson returns to direct the fourth film in the series, a direct sequel to “Extinction” and the first installment in the genre to incorporate slow motion and 3D. “Afterlife” isn’t just a tacked-on sequel; it breathes new life into the “Resident Evil” franchise, kicking off a new trilogy while utilizing the stereoscopic format to immerse viewers virtually within Anderson’s frame. Many films were rushed into 3D post-production in the decade after “Afterlife,” but that wasn’t Anderson’s style. He purposefully shot the movie using an elaborate camera gear that allowed him to capture every detail of the enormous tunnel system, elevator shaft, and wide landscape in the picture.
With the tactical efficiency of a game piece navigating a lethal board, Alice (Milla Jovovich) races across the zombie-infested setpieces of the “Resident Evil” films. “Afterlife” continues this trend, with Alice scurrying across the charred remains of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles before meeting Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the horrific head of the Umbrella Corporation.
Aside from the spectacular opening raid on Umbrella Tokyo’s headquarters, Anderson pulls off some of the strongest action sequences ever, including the climactic showdown with Wesker, which features a memorable beat involving shattering glass, Alice’s high kick, and a mutant zombie dog. If you want to see Anderson’s direction at its most visceral, look no farther than the film’s bathroom brawl, in which Alice and Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield face off against a hulking Axeman.
Recent buzz in the genre has been generated by Canadian zombie thrillers such as “Blood Quantum” by Jeff Barnaby (available on Shudder) and “Pontypool” by Bruce McDonald (available on Shudder) (available on Sling). “Ravenous,” a theoretically daring and tonally assured zombie-apocalypse thriller from Robin Aubert, is one of Netflix’s best offerings. It follows a gang of eccentric Quebecois as they flee the undead hordes in a once-bucolic rural area.
It takes “Ravenous” an hour to unwind as a succession of interconnected vignettes, as various survivor characters wander aimlessly amid the ruins of society in the hope that they might stumble upon a possible refuge. An elderly guy (Luc Proulx) lost in the woods mourns the sick relatives he shot. A businesswoman (Brigitte Poupart) in a nearby community unleashes her inner slayer. The accordion-wielding young woman (Monia Chokri) makes her way through the landscape with a resolute attitude. As the story progresses, a ragtag group of individuals (headed by Marc-André Grondin) forms, with the self-styled hero leading them to a final stand on a distant farmstead.
With its strange elements, such as the zombies stacking furniture high, Audrey’s zombie apocalypse vision is eerie, sad, and rewardingly meditative. These undead may still have part of their humanity left in them. Is it possible that these massive piles serve as a testament to what they once were? Robert Bresson’s film is as much influenced by the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Robert Bresson as it is by George A. Romero’s politically charged and dramatically potent horror picture “Night of the Living Dead.”
10. It Comes At Night
When Trey Edward Shults first came to prominence with his agonizing family portrait “Krisha,” he quickly established himself as one of the most respected chroniclers of such situations. Even after all these years, “It Comes to Night” is one of the most powerful horror films of recent years because it grafts the bitter reality of strained family ties onto a post-apocalyptic premise.
The Edgerton family (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) flee to a secluded cabin in the woods after a deadly sickness has spread throughout the globe. Fear has seeped into this family structure, with Paul holding dictatorial dominance over their new normal in order to keep everyone safe. In order to save the lives of Will (Christopher Abbott) and his family, Sarah persuades Paul to spare his life. However, after Paul reluctantly accepts the presence of Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and their young son Andrew to reside with them, Travis develops a bond with Kim that worries Paul.
Paul’s paranoia motivates “It Comes at Night,” as Shults transforms the interior of this imagined refuge into a waking nightmare. Dead-eyed, black-bile spewing zombies and the deep-seated horror of a family turning on itself all contribute to the film’s inexorable and immovable suspense.
Atlantics is a haunting ghost story that eludes comprehension even as it stays on the imagination. Further the fact that MatiDiop is a French-Senegalese filmmaker only enhances the film’s lyrical tone. It’s a hauntingly compelling piece by a formidable artist that blends class satire with doomed romance, magical realism, and images of astounding beauty.
Ada (Mama Sané) is engaged to Omar (Babacar Sylla), a wealthy suitor, but remains infatuated with Souleiman (Ibrahim Traoré), a construction worker owed four months’ wages by his unscrupulous boss (Diankou Sembene). Souleiman embarks on a journey across the North Atlantic, one of many refugees escaping Dakar’s coastal metropolis in search of a better future. Tragically, his boat capsizes, leaving him and his fellow passengers dead. A fire at Ada’s wedding and an unknown sickness spread over Dakar, and Ada’s grieving takes on supernatural dimensions as she mourns the loss of Souleiman.
In order to give “Atlantics” its fullest potential, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the film aims to bring back the idea of the zombie as a symbol of the African diaspora. Diop’s film reclaims all the legend of corpses deprived of their souls and destined to roam the land, transforming the undead into avatars of justice and exacting a supernatural reckoning on those who once drove them into the sea.
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