By Aaron Sagers, Nowal Massari
In the new Brad Pitt movie “World War Z” the zombies attack like a swarm of angry, infected bees. They can function independently from the collective organism but are most frequently seen operating as a fast-moving horde in order to find new hosts and spread their virus. But while visually arresting within the film, zed-heads will be left asking: Where is the walking dead clown, little girl or mechanic?
A staple of the genre has been the spotlighted ghoul that has its moment to shine – and bite – as a Very Important Zombie. So even though “WWZ” movie zombies are different than what we normally see, there are individual zombies that leave a mark either because of their shocking reveal, memorable personality or just because of their novelty. This is a list sure to stir up debate, so let’s dig in to the best of movie VIZs:
11. Ed (Nick Frost)
“Shaun of the Dead”
Flatulent, video game loving man-child Ed is the absolute definition of what a sidekick should be. When Shaun wants to mourn the end of his relationship with (ex) girlfriend Liz, Ed takes him to the Winchester for a few pints and a laugh. Naturally, when the zombie horde overtakes London, they fight side-by-side, shovel-by-cricket bat until the very end.
Just like all good sidekicks, when the time comes, they become a hero and sacrifice themselves for their loved ones. Ed receives a fatal bite in the final showdown at the Winchester, despite Shaun’s attempts to save him. Even as he sits there bleeding to death, Ed makes sure that they share one last laugh by ripping a righteously foul fart.
But did we really expect Shaun to leave Ed in that basement? Well, yes; we all did. However, when you find your soul mate, you’ll do anything to keep them with you. Even if that means you have to chain them up in a garden shed and spray their decaying body with Febreeze to enjoy a few rounds of your favorite video game.
10. Bub (Sherman Howard)
“Day of the Dead” (1985)
In George A. Romero’s third zombie movie, the undead have officially taken over the Earth, but Dr. Logan (not-so-affectionately dubbed Frankenstein) believes they have the capacity to learn and become gentle creatures. Throughout the movie we see the good Doc interacting with his prize "student" Bub. His cognitive abilities are astounding, for an undead guy, and he even seems to have limited memories of when he was alive. The rest of the camp don't share in Dr. Logan's enthusiasm for these heightened abilities, as they still appear to be mindless, unfeeling eating machines.
When Dr. Logan is killed, Bub's grief is palpable, so much so that he seeks vengeance against the man who murdered his mentor. After a nice chase scene, Bub raises a gun with a cold sneer on his face and shoots Cpt. Rhodes, the man responsible for his loss. He then shuffles off, smirking, as he leaves the man to get ripped apart alive by of his hungry, unlearned brethren.
Bub is particularly noteworthy within the genre for being an early ZWP, which would go on to influence other shambling characters, including Romero’s own Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) from “Land of the Dead.”
9. Clown Zombie (Derek Graf)
First off it should be noted that the creatures in “Zombieland” aren’t resurrected dead zombies (aka the Romero or “modern” zombie, to borrow from the Zombie Research Society’s definition). The creators of the film have said as much, and that they are more of the “28 Days Later” infected ilk.
Still, “Zombieland” gives us a list of rules to follow should WWZ break out, and does a great job of making us laugh. It also reminds the audience that zombies are terrifying, but you know what’s more terrifying? Clown zombies!
As the movie draws to a close, protagonist Columbus is forced to become the hero he repeatedly said he wouldn't be and must face off with a creature ripped from the nightmares of a damaged psyche: A physically imposing Clown Zombie wearing polka-dotted bowtie, mismatched clothes, skull-cap with tufts of green hair framing a bloody, beaten, chalk-white face. And we mustn’t ever forget that red rubber nose and mouth full of blackened teeth.
This guy earns a spot on the VIZ list for becoming immediately memorable by preying on popular fears.
8. The First/Graveyard Zombie (Bill Hinzman)
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
During their annual pilgrimage to visit their father’s grave Johnny begins teasing his sister Barbra about her childhood fear of the cemetery. An opportunity to really scare her (“They’re coming to get you, Barbra”) arises when they notice a man shuffling between the head stones.
At first sight, you don’t think much of this stranger. Maybe he’s there to pay his respects, much like them, but he then violently attacks Barbra without any provocation. After watching this crazed madman kill her brother, she gathers her wits and escapes.
We’ve seen many incarnations of zombies since this film, but Hinzman is iconic and set the pace as the first of the modern zombies to shamble across our screens and into our nightmares. It should be noted, however, that Hinzman moved slowly, with bursts of quick movement, and used a rock as a tool to break Barbra’s car window.
7. Send More Paramedics Zombie (John Durbin)
“The Return of the Living Dead”
Although some zombie purists loathe “Return” as zombie schlock, the totally awesome ’80s movie gives us a few new insights into the inner workings of zombie science. Here we learn that a bite from a zombie is not necessarily infectious or fatal, as the chemical Trioxin is responsible for reanimating the dead and turning the living.
Admittedly the most recognized ghoul from “Return” is Tarman (who gave us the “braiiins” of the zombie genre), but let's take a moment to appreciate the zany ambulance zombies. When a group of unwitting paramedics wander into a situation they don’t understand, they’re overrun by the undead and a brain-eating binge begins.
After an emergency dispatcher comes through the radio to check the status of our dearly departed EMTs, one of the fiends rises from his share of the goods, takes the radio in his hand and utters one of the most hilarious gag lines in zombie movie history: “Send. More. Paramedics.”
We already knew that zombies could speak from a conversation earlier in the film, however we haven't seen any use their verbal skills and sense of humor to manipulate the living into becoming their next fix.
6. The Baby
“Dawn of the Dead” (2004)
Taking refuge in a shopping mall with a group of survivors, love birds Andre and Luda manage to maintain normalcy by setting up their new home and preparing for the arrival of their first child. They joke and argue over baby names like any other expectant couple and it appears that nothing will bring them down -- not even the bite on Luda's arm.
On what should have been one of the happiest days of his life, poor Andre has to watch his sick wife die while in labor with what should have been a beautiful light in this dark new world. As he says goodbye to her, he realizes the labor hasn't ended and his baby is still on the way, so perhaps all hope isn't lost for him. His beloved then reanimates as a vicious monster, but at this point Andre has lost his entire mind and doesn't seem to mind.
Some of the survivors run into the room to check on everyone after hearing gunshots. Andre, Luda and survivor Norma are all very much dead, but what's happened to the baby? They check in a swaddled bundle and, to everyone's horror, we discover that she was born infected. Once she opens her cold, dead eyes and lets out that eerie banshee squeal, Ana raises a gun and ends the terror before it can get any worse.
Along with “28 Days Later,” Zack Snyder’s “Dawn” remake gave the world running zombies, but the Zombie Baby plays into very real-world fears of childbirth and parenting, and is notable for frankly being so effed-up.
5. Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody)
Take the wretched social climbing attitude of Joan Crawford, mix it with the domineering cruelty of Mrs. Norma Bates and you've got Wellington, New Zealand's own Vera Cosgrove.
This meddlesome mother can't stand the thought of her son Lionel leaving her for a shopkeeper’s daughter, so naturally she decides to intervene on his date with young Paquita at the zoo. Her plans backfire when she is viciously attacked by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey.
Extremely worried about his mother, Lionel rushes her home to tend to her wounds. But once settled at home, she shows no signs of recovering any time in the near future -- not that that keeps her from being as heinous as always. In fact, the sicker she becomes, the nastier her attitude is. At one point she becomes so enraged with Lionel for calling a nurse into their home, she straight up crushes the poor nurses head with her bare hands!
Despite Lionel's best efforts to keep his zombified mother under control, the audience knows his milquetoast personality is no match for Vera. The woman was horrible when she was alive and not much changes after she turns into a zombie. The only difference now is she can enjoy ripping people apart, quite literally, as she turns the neighborhood into a Home Owners Association from Hell.
4. Standartenfuhrer Herzog (Ørjan Gamst)
A group of Norwegian med students decide to spend their Easter holiday in a cabin in the snowy mountains of Norway for some skiing and general debauchery. What could possibly go wrong here?
The gang is forewarned about a local legend involving Nazis who terrorized and looted locals during World War II. When the townsfolk rebelled, the remaining soldiers retreated to the mountains, where they presumably froze. All is well and good until the character Erland finds some of the Nazi loot, and raises the ire of undead-in-charge Herzog.
Herzog leads his army of Nazi Zombies in a battle against the students to reclaim their lost gold, and to generally just shed blood. Since Nazis are even more monstrous than zombies, adding the re-animated corpse factor made Herzog the ultimate unrelatable villain.
Also, as opposed to mindless plague zombies, Herzog and crew’s zombification appear to be the result of a curse and supernatural elements.
3. Fido (Billy Connolly)
A boy’s best friend is his zombie, right? In this alternate timeline, 1950s America has survived a zombie war and domesticated the remaining zombies through corporate-made Zomcom collars that control their desire to eat.
Things seem to be moving along swimmingly until the collar of Fido -- a middle-aged man who died of myocardial infarction and re-animated to become the butler and pet of the Robinson family – gets a little bitey when his collar malfunctions. Though he does chew through some bullies and a neighbor, Fido never fails to protect his little boy owner Timmy.
Before Bill Murray made zombifying cool among the Hollywood set in “Zombieland,” Scottish comedian Billy Connolly lived it up as an undead creature with a rotten heart of gold. A comedy with horror elements, “Fido” gave us a zombie character to love and root for.
2. Shark Zombie (Ramon Bravo)
“Zombi 2” brings us the story of a group of strangers who journey to a tropical island in search of a woman’s missing father. When they arrive they meet a doctor who is researching both the cause of and cure for the recent outbreak of the island’s dead coming back to life and attacking the living.
Of course Lucio Fulci’s 1979 Italian cult classic, “Zombi 2” has long graced many top zombie film lists for numerous reasons. The gore alone was enough to turn Fulci into a horror icon. While most people prefer to discuss the horrifyingly disgusting moment when a zombie impales a woman's eye on an over-sized splinter, the zombie-vs- shark scene is iconic and worthy of a Syfy movie all its own.
The two-minute sequence is entirely shot underwater and is unique in the fact that it’s strictly action-based, using no scare tactics in the process. Honestly, seeing that zombies function just as they do on land while underwater, is pretty terrifying. While both vicious man-eating beasts initially attack the same topless scuba diver, they soon turn on each other. Bites are exchanged (with the zombie even losing an arm), but in the end, both creatures skulk away and no clear victor is named.
1. Inspector Daniel Clay (Tor Johnson)
“Plan 9 From Outer Space”
Aliens kickstart zombie activity in this Ed Wood movie when they resurrect the dead after mankind starts to create a doomsday device. Naturally the extraterrestrials can’t get the attention of human governments, so the only solution is cause chaos using these ghouls.
Caught up in the mix is Inspector Clay, just a cop investigating a suspicious death, who is killed and zombified by the aliens of Space Station 7 as part of their “Plan 9.” Clay becomes the musclebound puppet of the aliens for a while, used for kidnapping and general mayhem before he is allowed to decompose naturally.
This honorable mention VIZ is largely for Tor Johnson, the Swedish wrestler who brought the giant zombie to life ... and then death, and life again. Although “Plan 9” is considered the worst movie ever made, Johnson gave us a memorable deadly undead brute.