OUR FAVORITE MOVIES NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON MAJOR STREAMING OUTLETS
This week for our Stream Picks, we’re devouring movies featuring the undead much in the same regard that zombies have for people. We’re going to highlight some of the classics featuring everyone’s favorite iconic flesh eaters as well as some more overlooked and underrated offerings from throughout the last several decades. Without further ado, let’s shamble away! (or sprint, if you prefer the whole fast-twitch zombie thing.)
Night of the Living Dead – 1968
George Romero’s essential classic celebrates its 50th birthday this year – they’ve been coming to get Barbara for quite a while now. With this, an entire genre of horror was born and it established many of the ground rules by which countless works of fiction would use to paint their own portrayals of the ‘zombie’. In that sense, it’s every bit as important as Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. NOTLD has also aged remarkably well, thanks in part to a bleak ending that is still provocative by modern standards. Of course, it does have an unavoidable time capsule quality to it, but it more than earns its place as one of the all-time greats. (While neither the original Dawn of the Dead or the 2004 Land of the Dead are available to stream, you can currently catch the original 1985 Day of the Dead as a Shudder exclusive.)
Night of the Living Dead – 1990
Fun fact: neither George Romero nor the original’s producers knew that if the copyright information was excluded from a film, then it would enter the public domain by default. Ok, maybe that wasn’t so fun for them, but the distributors ripped off Romero anyway, so perhaps it was him that got the last laugh. Regardless, anyone can remake Night of the Living Dead and not owe a penny to anyone – as such, more than a dozen bastard remakes and sequels have been released, but this is the only one that is official and co-produced by Romero himself. This marked make-up FX maestro Tom Savini’s one and only feature directorial effort, which is unfortunate, because this is a very solid and often neglected remake that does enough of its own thing to feel worthwhile. Definitely a rewarding watch.
The Return of the Living Dead – 1985 (featured)
This irreverent and more comedic spiritual sequel to NOTLD has become something of a classic in its own way. Directed by Dan O’Bannon, best known as the screenwriter of the original Alien, ROTLD replaces the straight-faced seriousness and allegorical social themes of Romero’s Dead series with tongue-in-cheek zaniness while offering up buckets of grue and munched brains. This flick is definitely more concerned with having a good time in the way that was very distinctive to the 80’s.
Night of the Comet – 1984
Holy shit – did someone mention the 80’s? Because this frequently overlooked zombie gem is peak 80’s, with all its cheesy, big-haired, mall-culture, oblivious charm. It’s very much – VERY much – a product of its time, and that along with being light on the red stuff (this was one of the very first PG-13 movies ever released), Comet doesn’t get much attention in the zombie conversation, and maybe it doesn’t warrant it, because its value is more in nostalgia (doubly so, considering its strong callbacks to a 1950’s sci-fi vibe) and for being a rather good movie.
Return of the Living Dead 3 – 1993
Sure – could’ve listed this after its original, but couldn’t ruin a good 80’s segue like that. Anyway, this second sequel in the 5-film franchise takes a decidedly darker turn with this undead re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet, except if Juliet was revived as a zombie and took to self-mutilation with increasingly elaborate body modifications in an effort to stave off her cravings for human flesh. I bet ol’ Billy Shakespeare is kicking himself for not having thought of that first. With the violence more brutal and the subject matter more disturbing, ROTLD3 walks its own path with no apologies. While this version on Tubi TV is the heavily edited R-rated edition (and will be interrupted with ads), its proper unrated cut is only available to purchase on disc. Those are the breaks sometimes.
Zombie – 1979
City of the Living Dead – 1980
The Beyond – 1981
This was the Italian master of gore at the height of his career. Like many Italian films of the era, the storylines of these movies often wander off into dreamlike (or nightmarish) incoherence, but it only contributes to their memorable nature. Fulci’s intent was to make audiences squirm with the most ghastly images he could offer, and with this trio, we have eyeball impalements, faces melting in acid, an agonizingly slow head drilling, and, perhaps most notably, a woman vomiting out all her internal organs. Oh, and there’s zombies in them, even if, with the exception of the film named Zombie, they’re often more of an afterthought.
Cargo – 2018
Soon to be featured in a review here, the acclaimed Netflix exclusive Cargo is set in Australia, with a more parental focus on the zombie apocalypse. Martin ‘Bilbo Baggins’ Freeman stars as a man recently bitten in a desperate search for someone who will adopt his infant daughter. More of an introspective and emotionally driven film than most zombie offerings, this one is for people who want to see a compelling drama that just happens to feature the undead than those looking for a more direct experience, but the horror elements are certainly there.
Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead – 2014
While Scandinavian horror is often known for its desolate themes and deep explorations of profound personal matters, that’s not the case with this bat-shit, anything-goes, Nazi zombie splatter romp from Norway. It’s a sequel to the 2009 Dead Snow, but worry not, it didn’t exactly have the thickest of plots, so there’s not much to catch up on. Certainly not for the easily offended, the first film’s sole survivor has his arm replaced with that of the main super-zombie antagonist in an unlikely series of events. While it has a penchant for killing people he’d rather not be killing, it also possesses the magical power of raising the dead into loyal zombie followers. With his own army of Soviet POW corpses, he confronts the undead Nazi battalion for a final showdown. Filmed in both English and Norwegian, there’s also no subtitles for those who dislike them, and that’s fine because this isn’t a movie looking to be classed up with heavy reading.
28 Weeks Later – 2007
We’ll wrap this list up with one of the better horror sequels of all time. Grim and relentless, just like its predecessor (which is unfortunately not available to stream anywhere), 28 Weeks features the attempted repopulation of a London left devastated by the events of 28 Days. Of course, it’s going to go all bloody kinds of wrong and it makes a number of bold critiques about authoritarianism along the way. The story seems to suffer from a bad case of plot conveniences, but the visuals, atmosphere, acting, and excitement are all taken care of, leaving us wondering where 28 Months Later is.
- Last week, we covered the [REC] franchise which likewise deserves a spot here.
- The week before that, we featured Train to Busan in our global edition of Stream Picks, which certainly belongs on this list as well.
- And the week before that, we had World War Z on our Class of 2013 list, which is indeed a zombie movie. At least the big budget looks nice.