Wild Zero (2000)
What do you get when you cross Night of the Living Dead with Rock ‘n’ Roll High School? You get one balls-out, crazy, in-your-face, badass, rock ‘n’ roll zombie flick! Wild Zero is the kind of movie where when the characters are kicking some zombie ass and the music is pumping, you want to start knocking shit over and punching people in the face – in a good way! This Japanese movie centers around Ace, the self-proclaimed biggest fan of Guitar Wolf, a Japanese rock ‘n’ roll band that oozes anarchy and coolness.
Guitar Wolf is actually a band in real life, and a great one at that, and the spirit of true rock ‘n’ roll lives through them and this movie. So Ace is on his way to approach Captain, the manager of the club where Guitar Wolf plays, and ask to perform in an effort to be like his heroes. He inadvertently walks into a standoff between Captain and Guitar Wolf when he overhears Captain say that rock ‘n’ roll is over and busts in to scream, “Rock ‘n’ Roll never dies!” This distracts Captain enough for Guitar Wolf to gain the upper hand (horrible pun that you’ll get when you see the scene). Guitar Wolf then makes Ace a blood brother and gives him a whistle to use when he’s in danger.
Ace definitely finds himself in danger – didn’t I mention there are zombies? It seems that aliens have invaded the planet and as a result, the dead have risen. So throughout the movie you’ve got Ace, his love interest Tobio (a whole crazy plot in and of itself), Guitar Wolf, and Captain, all running around trying not to get eaten by zombies. Guitar Wolf wins the award for best ways to kill zombies by using guitar picks like shurikens and a samurai sword hidden in a guitar. Captain wins the award for best wardrobe with his multiple wigs and outlandishly hideous hot pants. There’s tons of gore, an amazing soundtrack, and just crazy shit happening left and right. What more could you ask for? How about a drinking game?
That’s right – a drinking game. The DVD for Wild Zero gives you an option to play the drinking game with the movie. It will even show a beer mug on the screen to help you remember when to drink, which you do every time one of the following things happen:
- Someone drinks
- Someone combs their hair
- Fire shoots out of anything
- Anyone says “rock ‘n’ roll”
- Something explodes
- A zombie’s head pops
If that list isn’t the recipe for one kick-ass good time, I don’t know what is. This movie easily gets 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls from me. Check out the trailer for just a sample of the crazy good time that is Wild Zero:
[Rec] and [Rec] 2
[Rec] is a 2007 Spanish horror film co-written and co-directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza that received acclaim from most critics during its release. These are filmed in first person and add to the sense of claustrophobia and confusion, so it’s a lot more intense because you feel like you are there. What’s interesting about [Rec] is that all the acting was improv, so all the actors were kind of playing off each other which makes this film feel even more genuine.
[Rec] 2 is to [Rec] as Aliens is to Alien. It has a lot more action in it, but it is equally as good. There is never a dull moment in [Rec] 2. It is also a direct sequel to the first one which ends on a cliffhanger, so if you have invested the time with the first one, you might as well watch this one, too. I would consider it less of a sequel and more of a continuation of the first one which is what a sequel should be in my opinion. [Rec] 3 is supposed to come out soon, and I can’t wait for that.
And of course we somehow got the American rights to remake the movie and called it Quarantine. But you need to watch those with caution because we all know when we bastardize a great movie from another country we tend to lose something in the translation, so watch those Quarantine movies knowing the real version is this one. The first is a shot by shot remake of the first [Rec] movie while the second is just an offshoot and has nothing to do with [Rec] 2. I tried watching the second Quarantine movie after I saw it was on Netflix instant watch, but I couldn’t finish it. It takes place in an airport, people get trapped in there with zombies, and stuff happens related to zombies. It’s all cliché and boring.
In a world full of zombie movies that are themselves full of tired clichés, the [Rec] movies get it right because they take a different spin on the whole zombie approach and keep it all super tense. Both films get 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls from me. Hopefully [Rec] 3 finishes it all out with a bang.
Here is the trailer:
Zombi 2 (1979)
Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie, Island of the Living Dead, Zombie Island, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Woodoo) is, in my opinion, one of the most prolific zombie movies in the history of zombie movies. Arguably the best film that cult Italian director Lucio Fulci ever made was this low budget zombie flick, of course it was recreated to cash in on the success of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
Despite the film’s turbulent history with the censors, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 has consistently been renowned as a classic of the genre due to its out-of-this-world gore content and creative makeup effects from Giannetto DeRossi. This film is outrageously exploitative and that’s why it works for me.
Finding a boat floating in the harbor, a pair of unsuspecting harbor patrol agents in New York are suddenly attacked by a ravenous zombie who comes through a locked door liked a rampaging rhino to overpower him. Bitten by the only apparent survivor on this yacht, one officer is forced to shoot the zombie passenger of the boat after several warnings to “Stop or I’ll shoot.”
The camera pans off to a NY skyline with ominous music playing after the officer shoots the zombie five times and the zombie ends up in the NY harbor.
The movie continues with a somewhat easily forgettable plot, but the thing that makes this movie so great are the special effects that we forget the cheesy plot. There are iconic scenes that differentiate this zombie movie from the rest of the pack, like the amazing shark vs. zombie fight (it was the ’70s and foreign so it was a real f’n shark!) that ends with, you guessed it: Shark 1, Zombie 0. The scene is amazingly fun to watch.
Oh and don’t get me started on the equally amazing and infamous “eyeball impalement” (a character is impaled through her eye) that was way ahead of its time in any horror movie. It makes me wince even thou I have seen it at least 50 times. This is a movie you have to watch with an open mind remembering it’s old, it’s Italian and it’s ultra low-budget, but this is why it worked for me in so many ways because of the classic zombie gore that was so way ahead of its time. Fulci’s Zombi 2 was banned in several countries, including Great Britain, which helped it to become part of zombie history over the years.
This was the bar back then and it was set high; find it on Netflix or rent it on DVD, but it’s a must-see for any true zombie fan. Definitely 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls for this one. Check out the trailer:
Black Sheep (2006)
The zombie film world is rife with dead or dying people running around terrorizing other people either attempting to eat their “BRAINS!!” or just eat the crap out of other living beings. George A. Romero, Sam Raimi, Danny Boyle and Lucio Fulci, and even Peter Jackson and Wes Craven, have all had their hands in reanimating the dead for the screen. However there is one area of zombie films that has been overlooked: Animals.
Black Sheep takes place in New Zealand where a farmer is trying to create the perfect breed of sheep through genetic engineering. One of the failures, a seemingly dead embryo in a glass tube, is stolen by a pair of activists. During the escape, the vial is broken open, and one of them is bitten by the embryo. This Embryo then infects an entire flock of sheep, which then begins to terrorize the local area.
Sounds campy? Well of course it is! Cheesy as hell? Damn right! Good fun? You bet-cha! Black Sheep is low budget and one laugh after another. What is funnier than an infected person not only turning into a blood-thirsty zombie, but also turning into a zombie-sheep-man? There is plenty of blood and gore to go around. There are comedic moments to enjoy. And of course there are moments in the movie where you will go “Ewe!” (LOL Sheep jokes… HA HA HA!) I give this feast 4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. It’s definitely worth a watch.
Check out the trailer for a “taste:”
Cemetery Man (1994)
In the spirit of full disclosure I have decided to come clean right off the bat: I have issues with zombies. Like, bordering on a phobia, so I tend to shy away from the genre in general. However, I also like to face my fears and overcome them. So it makes me very happy that there are filmmakers who like to exploit the absurdities of the zombie idea. Shaun of the Dead and Dead Snow were both essential to my “therapy,” and I love both of those films. But before either of these films were even a twinkle in their director’s eyes, there was Dellamorte Dellamore, or Cemetery Man to us English speakers.
Francesco Dellamorte, played by Rupert Everett, is a cemetery caretaker in a small Italian village. This cemetery, however, is special. For some undisclosed reason those who are buried there tend to reanimate within seven days of their death. Francesco’s job is not just to take care of the cemetery, it turns out. It is to protect the town from being overrun by the undead. But only he and his mentally-handicapped assistant, Gnaghi, seem to be aware that this is even happening. While the town continues to exist in glorious denial about the whole thing, Francesco and Gnaghi simply take it in stride. It’s just their job, they get paid to do it. This is how the movie opens. This is the normal world in which we find ourselves, which is one of the reasons I like this movie so much. It’s not a normal world into which, oh my god, ZOMBIES are suddenly here! What do we do? No no, zombies are the norm, so the question becomes, where do we go from here?
Well, I’ll tell you a little but not too much because there is a a Twilight Zone-style twist to this that Rod Serling would be proud of and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. But I will tell you this…the movie is not really about zombies. It’s about Francesco, his desperate attempt to find love and his complete inability to keep it. And in proper Italian form this is where the surrealism starts. He falls in love three times with three different women who all look exactly the same (and are all played by Italian model Anna Falchi). The first is at a funeral mourning her much older and recently deceased husband. SPOILERS: They do it on his grave, he comes back to life and bites her. I’m sure you can guess what happens next, sort of. The second is the new mayor’s secretary, but she has a phobia and says she can only love an impotent man. So he goes to the doctor and gets a shot that makes him impotent. But then she gets raped by the mayor and discovers that she likes sex after all. And third, he finds a seemingly perfect college girl that says she loves him but it turns out she’s a prostitute so he burns her in her bed with a space heater.
WHAT?! Yeah, it’s like that. Sorry, didn’t I mention this was a comedy? But wait, there’s more! Francesco’s mentally-handicapped assistant (excellently played by François Hadji-Lazaro) falls in love with the head of the reanimated corpse of the mayor’s daughter and they have an adorable little romance. And the grim reaper visits Francesco to tell him to stop killing the dead because, as he says, “they belong to me.” He convinces him it may be better to just kill the living instead, to which Francesco replies he can no longer tell the difference between the living and the dead. There are lots of wonderfully philosophical lines like that delivered by Rupert’s exceptionally dour and lackadaisical Francesco. He reminds me a bit of post-hypnosis Ron Livingston in Office Space sans tie and up about a carton of Italian cigarettes.
There is really no way to make this movie make sense without seeing it (and even then, maybe not so much). But it’s wonderful and surreal, a little weird, and very, very Italian. In fact the director, Michele Soavi, collaborated on many films with famed horror director Dario Argento (and was also assistant director to Terry Gilliam on a few projects). So the fact that this movie is also beautifully shot should not surprise anyone. There were even a few shots that seemed, to me at least, to be channeling Stanley Kubrick. But I digress.
A few last bits of trivia before I go. Dellamorte Dellamore was loosely based on a 1991 novel written by Tiziano Sclavi, who is most well known for the comic Dylan Dog (published in English by Dark Horse). Dellamorte’s character shows up several times in the comic series and is kind-of the alter-ego of the main character. Also, the gate of the cemetery reads “RESVRRECTVRIS,” which means “They will resurrect” in English (thank you Wikipedia!). It all kind-of makes sense now…okay, not really. I give the film 4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. Now go watch it! Here’s the trailer to further convince you:
Dead Snow (2009)
Serious zombie films and zombie drama like The Walking Dead never work for me. I feel that the inherent sillyness of the genre requires some crazy or humorous element to make it work. Dead Snow is a Norwegian horror-comedy that pulls off a perfect combination of humor and gory action to make for a great zombie movie. The story revolves around a group of Norwegian medical students that go up to a cabin in the mountains for their Easter vacation. A mysterious guy knocks on their door and warns them of the area’s history. During the German occupation of the area, the stationed Germans, headed by SS Colonel Herzog, wreaked havoc on a nearby town, abusing the locals and stealing their gold and valuables. Near the end of the war the townspeople snapped and fought back, chasing the Germans into the mountains. Since then, there has been an evil presence in the area, the man warns. The students laugh it off, of course, but before too long, nasty stuff starts to happen. They find the gold and accidentally unleash the wrath of hordes of undead Nazis.
The first half of the film is set in and around the cabin and pretty much follows the standard “dumb young people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into” narrative. After the first few victims get picked off in the dark, the group realizes what’s going on and starts fighting back. This is when the real fun starts. The second half of the movie consists of the surviving students facing off against Herzog and his soldiers in broad daylight with an array of weapons ranging from simple garden tools to a snowmobile-mounted machine gun. This results in severed limbs, people suspended from entrails, and gallons and gallons of blood being spilt. Lots of crazy over-the-top fun.
I have to admit I’m not the biggest zombie-movie expert, but when I think zombie movie, I think abandoned shopping mall or some dark and creepy forest, not the bright-white snowy mountains of Norway. That’s one of the main reasons I really like Dead Snow; the setting is unique, and the contrast between the purity of the scenery and the bloody mayhem taking place just works really well. The other reason is the fact that we’re dealing with Nazi-zombies. The cursed Nazi gold element kind of reminded me of Nazi-occultism themed video games and movies like Wolfenstein and Indiana Jones. I always loved that stuff, so to see it done in such an original way in a zombie film was a lot of fun. I give it 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Just a word of warning: make sure you see the original Norwegian language version, not the bad English dub.
Check out the trailer: