Although I bow to Patrick’s Bromley’s superior skill at putting these marathons together, I thought it would be fun to program a little at-home Zombie Fest. Because I am the only one on the site who is retired, I resisted making it a full 60-hour, 30-film extrava-deadza. After two and a half days of these films, my readers would REALLY know how it feels to be a zombie.
Send the kids to grandma’s house! Silence your cellphone! You’re going to want to minimize distractions... to stay alive! Pop some corn! Dim the lights! Load your shotgun! Didn’t Uncle Ned pass away three years ago? What’s he doing in the corner?
Noon to 1:10pm White Zombie (1932, Victor Halperin)
This is the film that inspired George Romero’s remark that “zombies are the blue-collar monsters.” I agree that they’re the most working class of all the monsters—this film involves rich people enslaving the hoi polloi so they toil away for less than minimum wage. White Zombie is wonderful and very short; it is the perfect appetizer to the sumptuous meal of human flesh upon which we are about to dine. This film stars Bela Lugosi. You can spot sets and furniture from previous Universal horror films because the low-budget producers had no studio of their own and rented everything from Universal Studios. This film gave Rob Zombie a name for his famous band. Enough said?
1:20pm to 2:45pm Scooby Doo on Zombie Island (1998, Jim Stenstrum)
Time for a little Saturday morning cartoon action before things get all undeadly serious around here. I know this was not part of the original series; I know this is one of innumerable resuscitations released every couple of years. I know that Billy West voices Shaggy, instead of America’s Top Forty voice icon Casey Kasem. But this little made-for -TV gem is super fun, and also features Mark Hamill and Adrienne Barbeau in the voice cast. Those with sentimental affection for the original series can take solace in the fact that original cast member Frank Welker does indeed voice Fred. (Good God, the man has more than 850 film and TV voice-over credits!) This direct-to-video movie really divides Scooby fans; some love it, citing the bigger budget and genuine scares; and some hate it because it’s a little scary for small children and (SPOILER ALERT) the bad guy doesn’t turn out to be some asshole in a rubber mask. This is a zombie marathon, you know.
3:00pm to 4:45pm Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero)here. BTW: My original column on NotLD contains a link to the essay “Monster Fan 2000,” which, as a member of the F This Movie! community, you are required to read. The link is still live, unlike most of the characters in this film.
5:00pm to 6:45pm Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright)
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Edgar Wright’s crazy zombie film shows what a satisfying film you end up with when the filmmakers have honest love and affection for its subject matter. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have never been better. Some genuine tug-at-the-heart-strings moments. Great use of the Queen songs “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “You’re My Best Friend” (as well as perennial favorite “Ghost Town” by the Specials). In a genre that often has a problem with endings, this film really sticks the landing. “You have red on you.”
7:00pm to 9:15pm World War Z (Unrated Cut) (2013, Marc Forster)
9:30pm to 11:15pm The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988, Wes Craven)
Trust our man Wes Craven to make one of the most unsettling and scary zombie films ever. I can still remember how unnerved I was when I first saw this film on opening night 23 years ago... There is an extended sequence with Bill Pullman in a coffin that I still can’t shake. Do you think voodoo is keen? Do you like your zombies Haitian, just like the original White Zombie? This is the film for you.
11:30pm to 1:45am Dawn of the Dead (1978, George Romero)
NOTE: If you’re able, spin the new Second Sight 4K Blu-ray or standard Blu-ray restoration. They are gorgeous. You get to choose which of the various edits you want to watch; unlike Roger, who does not get to choose whether or not he comes back.
2:00am to 3:30am Dead Heat (1988, Mark Goldblatt)
After a disturbing and thought-provoking masterpiece, we take a break of sorts with this piece of government-issue cheese. A lot of fun if you’re in the right mood, this weird amalgam of zombie flick and buddy cop movie is all over the place. Treat Williams sells the shit out of the film’s dubious premise; partner Joe Piscopo is surprisingly inoffensive. I will admit that I programmed this particular film into this particular time slot knowing that some of my readers will sleep through it. Nighty night.
3:30am to 4:45am The Walking Dead (1936, Michael Curtiz)
5:00am to 6:15am I Walked with a Zombie (1943, Jacques Tourneur)
A terrific, atmospheric film and a great example of the Val Lewton “less is more” school of horror filmmaking. When we talk of Lewton’s RKO films, the discussion tends to focus on Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, and The Body Snatcher; I wish IWwaZ got a little more love. I still remember the first time I saw it—at a Lewton retrospective at the happiest place on Earth, Chicago’s Music Box Theater. The “walk through the cane fields” sequence can still give me chills. The plot here is clever and contains some nice twists and turns. Some critics have pointed out that this film seems, at times, to be an unofficial remake of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, only with more zombies.
6:30am to 8:15am One Cut of the Dead (2017, Shin’ichirô Ueda)
Back in 2019, I wrote, “Let me tell you, this is one of this year’s MUST WATCH horror films. The plot is simple: a film crew makes a zombie movie in an abandoned warehouse and is beset by real zombies. OR ARE THEY? Seemingly a one-extended-take, shot-on-video quickie from Japan, the film proceeds to open like a puzzle box, revealing layer after layer of the mayhem inherent in its creation.
“The small details here are so well observed that it becomes a remake of François Truffaut’s Day for Night, only with more zombies. One Cut of the Dead is so endlessly clever and has so much to say about any creative endeavor, it just knocked me on my intellectual ass. Be sure to stay through the credits to discover just how complicated the production actually was. ‘So… do you have any hobbies?’”
8:30am to 10:15am Return of the Living Dead (1985, Dan O’Bannon)
10:30am to 12:30pm Train to Busan (2016, Yeon Sang-ho)
POSTSCRIPT: Another 15 films that didn’t quite make the cut for this marathon, but could make up a second zombie marathon all their own: 28 Days Later (2002), Anna and the Apocalypse (2017), The Astro-Zombies (1968), Carnival of Souls (1962), Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Day of the Dead (1985), Demons (1985), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964), Last Man on Earth (1964), Maggie (2015), Night of the Living Dead (1990), Planet Terror (2007), Pontypool (2008), and Zombie Strippers (2008).