Brooks was kind enough to take some time to chat with me a few weeks ago while he was promoting the Starz Inside documentary, “Zombiemania,” which you can catch replays of this week (check your local listings for times). During the interview, I had to ask for a kickass zombie movies list to run with this week’s special Halloween coverage. Brooks was more than happy to oblige, and he delivered quite a list. The last one in particular blew my mind, and I welcome anyone who’s seen it to write in their reviews in the comments section below or @MTVMoviesBlog on Twitter.
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
Was there really any question that this would be the first one Brooks named? George A. Romero likes to say that his idea for a walking dead movie was “stolen” from “I Am Legend” author Richard Matheson, but most everyone else recognizes him as the progenitor of the zombie genre. Brooks isn’t the only guy out there writing zombie stories, but he’s easily one of the best. It’s only natural that he’d refer to this formative work as a must-watch Halloween scare flick.
“Dawn of the Dead” (1978)
More Romero. Naturally. I actually do enjoy the Zack Snyder-directed 2004 remake and its fast zombies. But the reason it works so well is because it’s impossible to top the original’s high-concept pitch: a bunch of people try to survive a zombie outbreak from within the confines of an American shopping mall. It’s brilliant and it’s still scary today, even with the zombie’s moving at a shamble’s pace.
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
The same year that the “Dawn” remake hit theaters, Edgar Wright’s and Simon Pegg’s fantastic zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” came along. It wasn’t the first horror/comedy out there, but it was a right good one and it gets some well-deserved praise from Brooks. It works so well because zombies are more of a backdrop; the story is really about a guy who wants to turn over a new leaf, get his girl back, patch things up with his family. In a post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled world.
“Zombi 2” (1979)
“Zombi 2” is an Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci. It isn’t actually a sequel, despite the fact that the title suggests otherwise. The story is set on a tropical island where a mad doctor works to cure an undead outbreak. I think I’ll let Brooks sum up exactly why you should see “Zombi 2”: “A zombie fights a shark. And that’s a real shark by the way. You’re gonna watch this and you’re gonna be like ’holy crap, that’s a real shark and some poor Italian stuntman wrestling it.'” There you have it folks. Move over “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus“… it’s Shark vs. Zombie time!
“Wild Zero” (2000)
Once again, Brooks really gets to the heart of why this movie needs to be seen. He says you’ll remember it forever after you see it. I say you’ll remember it forever after merely finding out what the plot it. Said Brooks: “It’s Japanese. It is about, as far as I can guess, aliens reanimate the dead to take over the world and the only thing that can stop them is a Japanese rockabilly band. When I saw this, the expression on my face must’ve been the expression [on the faces] of the first American Marines witnessing a banzai charge. When you see it, you will never forget it.”