“The Battery” (2012)
Jeremy Gardner’s “The Battery” is about as unassuming as a horror film can get — a lo-fi, decidedly bro-centric entry to the genre that stars Gardner and Adam Cronheim as ex-baseball players whose lives have been uprooted by the inconvenience of a zombie apocalypse. Set against the backdrop of rural New England and featuring hordes of surprisingly persistent undead, Ben (Gardner) and Mickey (Cronheim) bump heads as they attempt to survive in an increasingly unfriendly world. But when their nomadic lifestyle is interrupted by a mysterious voice on a walkie-talkie, Mickey and Ben’s journey takes a dark turn as the two find themselves trapped inside of their car, surrounded on all sides by the deadly creatures. Rumored to be made for an astonishingly low $6,000, Gardner’s tense direction and healthy doses of humor make this film a claustrophobic zombie movie with some surprisingly effective scares.
Though Ryuhei Kitamura’s recent English-language outings have been largely lackluster horrors (“The Midnight Meat Train,” “No One Lives”), he originally hit it big with “Versus,” an intense and promising feature debut. An out of control mashup of video game aesthetics, samurai films and biker culture, “Versus” is a delightfully chaotic twist on the zombie genre. Among the film’s delirious push of action lies the breathtaking sparring between a convict, a Yakuza gang and sinister zombies whose dark leader is attempting to open the portal to hell. Tackling the genre with a no-holds-barred approach to martial arts action and gutsy zombie comedy, “Versus” is a wildly imaginative film whose careful balance of action, gore and humor result in a wildly unique conception of what a zombie film can be.
“Dead Alive” (1992)
Before Peter Jackson’s name was synonymous with the immense “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, he was relishing the over the top horror of genre comedies like “Bad Taste” and “Braindead.” “Dead Alive” is Jackson’s third film and the first to play with the kind of blind confidence of an established director. Slapped with an “R” rating by the MPAA for “an abundance of outrageous gore,” “Dead Alive” is known as one of the goriest films in existence. In fact, the film’s splatter count has even been heralded by famous gore-hound Eli Roth as one of the only films that ever satisfied his blood lust. After his mother falls dead from a monkey bite, Lionel (Timothy Balme) must battle her resurrected body along with a multitude of other zombies in order to stop the spread of the disease. So over the top as to run comfortably in the vein of comedy, Jackson’s inventive and ever-shocking spin on the genre is a worthwhile venture for anyone looking for a little destruction.
If you prefer your zombie films with a little bit of Aussie flair and a fair amount of fun, look no further than Kiah and Tristan Roach-Turner’s “Wyrmwood.” More action than horror, this outback zombie film has more than a few wicked little tricks up its sleeve. Set in the midst of a zombie outbreak, the film follows Barry (Jay Gallagher) and his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey), whose separate lives are drawn back together amidst the chaos. But when Brooke is kidnapped for a government-commissioned experiment, the two must fight to find one another (and stay alive) before the world reaches its end. Carrying heavy markers of Edgar Wright and George Miller, “Wyrmwood” makes for a crowd-pleasing action flick in a neat zombified package.
“Dead Snow” (2009)
Just six years after making waves at Sundance, Tommy Wirkola’s “Dead Snow” has already established itself as a cult classic. Carving out a name for itself with its idiosyncratic twist on the classic horror setup and some of the most unforgettable zombies ever conceived, “Dead Snow” stretches the classic cabin in the woods setting to its most surprising extreme. Described by Wirkola as “a ghost story meets Indiana Jones,” “Dead Snow” pits vacationing medical students against Nazi zombies with handsomely gory results. And with the unforgettable finale, where chainsaws and sledgehammers fly as freely as newly severed limbs, it’s clear that “Dead Snow” is a smart and ridiculously fun zombie film with plenty of guts.
“American Zombie” (2007)
Set in an alternate dystopic future in which the zombie apocalypse has come and gone (think post-“Shawn of the Dead”), Grace Lee’s “American Zombie” follows the plight of the now socially aware zombie citizen as they fight for national recognition as real people. A horror mockumentary, the film follows two documentarians (Lee and John Soloman) as they attempt to integrate themselves into the lives of their zombie subjects. But what is initially a well-meaning doc to show zombies as they really are, the filmmakers find themselves slowly pushed away as we discover that the subculture may not be as human as it seems. A tongue-in-cheek post-apocalypse vision, “American Zombie” is a criminally underseen zombie film.
“Planet Terror” (2007)
Originally part of the “Grindhouse” double feature alongside Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” is a bloody face of a zombie film, whose satisfying kills and quirky sensibilities coalesce into the gritty absurd. Starring Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez and Josh Brolin, “Planet Terror” pits gutsy ex-stripper Cherry Darling (McGowan) and her mysterious boyfriend (Rodriguez) against some grotesque, chemically-tweaked walking dead. Relentlessly devoted to its grindhouse aesthetic, Rodriguez plays with synch sound and uses a faux “missing reel” to remove a portion of the second act that he’d call the “most predictable and boring.” With enough gross-outs to go around and an undeniable sense of style, “Planet Terror’s” gleeful tastelessness packs nearly as much kick as McGowan’s machine gun leg.
A strangely heartwarming take on a genre usually defined by frigidity is Andrew Currie’s 2006 film “Fido,” a period zombie film set in an alternate conception of the ’50s where zombies can be removed of their desire for flesh and used as docile servants. In the idyllic town of Willard live the Robinsons, a wholesome family whose usually well-behaved family assistant kills a neighbor during a glitch in his system. Largely notable due to its rich concept and charming sense of zombie history, “Fido” is a strangely Sirkian conception of the undead, with an often sick sense of humor that helps to prove the zombie film might have some life left in it yet.