One of the most prevalent subgenres in horror is zombie cinema. You can’t throw a copy of the Necronomicom without hitting a zombie, preferably in the head. Even before George Romero turned Pittsburgh into the epicenter of the living dead uprising, these walking ghouls were turning up in scary stories and late night horror movies for generations. One diehard fan of midnight monster movies is Norman Babcock of the upcoming film ParaNorman. The good news for kids like Norman, and all us grownup(ish) fans of schlocky horror, is that there is plenty of off-the-wall zombie fare available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service. Grab the popcorn, the case of highly-caffeinated soda, and a sturdy baseball bat or sharp machete. Your midnight zomb-o-thon is ready to roll… or at least shamble slowly forward.
There is a formula to horror films that has existed pretty much since the genre was born. The formula tends to dictate that women are the principle prey for a male antagonist. Jake West’s zomedy Doghouse, takes this time-honored tradition and turns it soundly on its rotting ear. A group of sleazy gentlemen, looking for salacious thrills, venture to a nearby village said to be overwhelmingly female. As it turns out, the town is entirely populated by women… undead women. What ensues is a wacky fight for survival as these helpless men are torn apart by ravenous zom-femmes. The irony and the gore are well worth the price of admission.
The song “Supernatural Voodoo Woman” perfectly kicks off this blaxploitation horror oddity. When a local businessman is murdered by the mob for refusing to buy into their protection scheme, his fiancée makes a deal with a voodoo priest in order to harness the power of the undead. She uses her zombie legion to exact her revenge on those who killed her lover. As silly and reminiscent of its time as it is, Sugar Hill is a lot of fun and actually hits upon the voodoo origins of the walking dead. It’s also fun to see a version of the character Baron Samedi, the king of graveyards, that isn’t connected to the James Bond universe.
Sure, we run from zombies or perhaps take a shot at destroying their brains if we feel particularly bold, but why have we never considered the idea of keeping them as pets? Set in the 1950s, this 2006 comedy Fido supposes an alternate past in which humans fought a great war with the zombies only to eventually develop the technology to pacify them and keep them as pets. The movie is a fantastic horror spin on the culture of Cold War paranoia that pervaded 1950s society. One of the best gags in the film is the fact that children are taught riffle marksmanship as a school subject, shooting to the playground rhyme, “In the brain and not the chest, headshots are the very best.”
There’s only one thing worse than zombies: Nazi zombies. It’s not enough he wants to eat our brains, he’s a fascist too? This Norwegian horror flick follows a group of medical students vacationing at a cabin in the mountains. Unfortunately for them, the region harbors a dark past. During WWII, a group of occupying Nazis was chased into the wilderness by revolting villagers. The campers find themselves being pursued by the reanimated Third Reich. While Dead Snow also employs a fair bit of comedy, there is no mistaking its sinister tones. It’s gory, absurd, and everything zombie fans demand of their beloved subgenre.
It would in fact be criminal for your late-night zombie movie marathon to conclude without featuring at least one film from the master himself. Continuing with the expansion of his own landmark undead apocalypse, George Romero takes the struggle for survival to an island populated by feuding Irish immigrants. The theme of the living being just as dangerous as the living dead underscores every beat of his original trilogy and is alive and well here. There is also a certain quality to Survival of the Dead that makes it seem like a horror western despite its contemporary setting. If nothing else, watch the movie for the moaning zombie heads on spikes. Wouldn’t that have made Disney World’s Haunted Mansion more interesting?