Reel Zombies

This is your zombie on braaaaaains….

Martina Marosi

 

In under 36 hours, the undead shall walk the earth. It’s a nightmare come to life; one that’s been dutifully studied with grotesque fascination through the occult power of the camp classic aesthetic since the dawn of Atomic-Age paranoia. Be the torn flannel shirts, brightly dyed corn syrup or goopy prop intestinal tracts, the oft-schlocky viscera of zombie flicks reanimate the black and white nature of life and death while giving horrified fans some nice gray matter to really chew on.

It could be “Zombie Cop,” “War of the Zombies,” “Zombie Bloodbath I, II and/or III” or simply “Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!” but with the 8th Zombie Pub Crawl lurking just around the corner, Minneapolitans must hole up, school up and arm themselves with a full arsenal of movies that’ll light the gin-soaked kerchief in that molotov cocktail once the fateful day rears its ugly and partially dismembered head.

 

“Night of the Living Dead”

1968

Directed by George A. Romero

Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman

When it comes to zombie flicks, “Night of the Living Dead” is 101-level material. If Romero can be considered the Walt Disney of zombies, his debut feature “Night of the Living Dead” is “the one that started it all.” When Barbra (O’Dea) goes to pay her respects to her deceased father at a rural cemetery — only to bear witness to the uprising of reanimated corpses quickly overtake the town’s desolate landscape — she is quickly rescued by Ben (Jones), appearing just in the nick of time to whisk away the hysterical Barbra to the cellar of an old farmhouse with a few other lost souls looking to take shelter while the zombie storm blows over. When out-of-town radio dispatches soon reveal that the phenomenon is anything but isolated, the night — as it were — is out of their hands. In all, the film is a classic touchstone replete with shadowy scenes, gruesome imagery, psychological horror and ominously stumbling zombies with limply extended arms.

“Pet Sematary”

1989

Directed by Mary Lambert

Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby

Poor, poor Louis Creed (Midkiff) just can’t catch a break. After the loss of a beloved pet and a young son, the mystical Micmac Indian burial ground lures Creed with its promises of reanimating the corpses of any bodies buried within its depths. Micmac is the territory where Creed’s hubris runs wild, even with the presence of a Cassandra-like figure and resident old-coot Jud Crandall (Gwynne), whose foreboding advice goes unheeded. Though the cemetery is reserved for pets, its powers prove too promising for the weak-willed Creed to resist — and with disastrous results. Based on a Stephen King novel, the story hinges on the transformative power of the burial, which revives corpses but in an unfamiliar and evil form. What’s not to love about zombie cats?

 

“Re-Animator”

1985

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton

This camp-sterpiece throws together cheap gore with even cheaper laughs in its retelling of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name. Wayward medical student Herbert West (Combs) becomes drunk with power when he manages to reanimate his deceased cat with a glowing serum, and it isn’t long before this Victor Frankenstein-like protagonist is using the “reagent,” as it’s called, as the solution to that pesky, heretofore insurmountable, trifling matter of death. Joining forces with fellow medical student Dan Cain (Abbott), West doesn’t take his time before he starts reanimating corpses left and right in this even more modern Prometheus that revamps the old parable with rampaging corpses, lobotomies, decapitated bodies in sexually compromised positions and a cute cat named Rufus.
 

“The Evil Dead” I and II

1981 and 1987, respectively

Directed by Sam Raimi

Starring Bruce Campbell

The ’80s were a real comeback decade for the undead. Two-bit black and white romps like “[Blank] of the [blank]” revamps or the late ’50’s “I Eat Your Skin” got revisited and fleshed out — so to speak — with over-the-top visual effects and frenetic humor. “Evil Dead” — and its eerily similar sequel that reruns the storyline of its predecessor, albeit with periodic flourishes — is no exception. The pair follows college student Ash Williams (Campbell, with a resolve almost as steely as his jaw) when he and a few friends travel deep into the woods for a few nights’ stay in a secluded cabin. When the group stumbles upon the Sumerian “Book of the Dead” and inadvertently summon demons who possess everyone in the group except for Ash, only a sawed-off shotgun, hand-turned-chainsaw and a voyage to the brink of madness will show how the protagonist chooses to depose and dispose of his now-undead friends.