When you’re putting together a list of the biggest taboos in Western culture, death itself might not make the cut. But it should: North Americans and Europeans are chronically averse to facing death. We believe if we follow the right workout regimen, eat enough kale, and take the right expensive supplements we may just live forever. “Go long” is the mantra of our youth-obsessed culture. So the intrigue of zombie movies is that this genre forces us to confront death face-to-face. Or rather, death confronts us, looking to scoop out our brains and have us join its ranks.
Sometimes, zombies can bear larger metaphors on their disintegrating shoulders — for our increasingly wired yet increasingly isolated post-internet world, say, as in “Shaun of the Dead.” But sometimes, as in the film that inaugurated the modern vision of the undead, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” zombies are just zombies: walking corpses who shuffle around and remind us that, even if we’re never somehow reanimated, we’re actually going to look like this when we’re in the ground someday. How’s that for an endorsement of cremation?
Before you suddenly rush to make your funeral plans, give a close read to this: IndieWire’s ranked picks for the greatest zombie films ever made. If you’re looking for Halloween costume Ideas, expect to find a few ghoulish options here.