Zombies have long fascinated audiences, particularly after the George Romero mythology. Nowhere else could one imagine grotesque cannibalism and sharp social commentary sharing the same screen. It cemented the lore as a perpetually enduring staple of horror. So, even after an entire decade, a sequel to Zombieland is still highly anticipated. Horror comedies thrive by their creativity and comprehensive understanding. They often play to the audience’s familiarity by cleverly subverting it. Zombieland certainly excelled in that regard, even in such a populated genre. So, it can be equally fun and interesting to reflect on similar films or crucial influences. Here are some essentials to get in the mood for the upcoming, long-awaited Double Tap.
At first, this may seem like an unusual choice. However, Romero himself dipped into found footage, and it’s easy to forget that Zombieland opens with that style. A zombie proceeds to pick its teeth directly into the camera. Found footage hasn’t exactly dissipated altogether, so it’s ideal to revisit the best — REC. Although it’s a foreign film, which may not be for everyone, the premise is too gripping to ignore. The claustrophobia of the quarantine, and the stunning performances, are more infectious than the rabid enemies. It’s such a visually arresting movie, one hardly needs to understand the language to appreciate the enthusiastic artistry.
9 28 Days Later
This was an overwhelmingly influential aside for the genre, whose "zombies" are hotly contested. But either way, 28 Days Later's story established countless tropes and horrific situations that have been emulated to no end — to the point that revisiting the film will almost feel redundant, if only because of its extensive impact. For example, the entire stint with the military speaks volumes. Director Danny Boyle’s camerawork is stylized with such skill, it doesn’t break the audience’s immersion. The performances are convincing, and the gore hasn’t lost its edge over the years. This is a cornerstone of the genre, despite the debated nature of its outbreak.
8 Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Of course, we wouldn’t be anywhere without Night of the Living Dead, Romero’s deliberately black-and-white masterpiece. As the origin for modern zombie films, it’s totally unavoidable, although it lacks the comedy we’ll see with the upcoming Zombieland sequel. Night of the Living Dead is a thematically substantial outing, with social undertones and incredible drama. However, it’s also enormously entertaining, and the special effects have dated surprisingly well. The iconic rules, intense survival situations, and smart screenplay keep the film timeless. It’s hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t already seen the film, but it’s always fun to revisit. Far beyond homage, its DNA is a crucial ingredient for any modern zombie film.
7 Dead Snow
This foreign film includes some conventional young people partying in a remote location. Also, the English dubbing is pretty rough, so it’s ideal to use subtitles, which isn’t for everyone. However, the film is occasionally self-aware, thanks to the inclusion of a so-called film nerd. It’s a casual pardon for the playful fun it allows with various horror tropes. The sense of humor can feel pretty unique, thanks to its foreign source. And it absolutely makes the most of its snowy setting, carefully imbued with interesting lore. The gore is definitely satisfying— the movie actually leans further into outright horror instead of comedy. But it still ultimately aims to entertain, and predominantly succeeds.
6 Dead Alive
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings fans may not be too interested in this wacky, bloody comedy. One would be hard-pressed to find anything quite like it, with such an emphasis on the bizarre. The protagonist spends the majority of the film hoping to conceal the zombie outbreak his mother is spreading. It’s a very dark comedy, including more blood than any Peter Jackson fan could dream of. From beginning to end, Dead Alive revels in the unexpected. So, it’s hardly a parody or spoof, although it’s certainly a zombie movie. Likewise, Zombieland entertains some pretty morbid jokes — such as the memorable Bill Murray cameo. But any fans craving a similar originality will be pleased.
5 Night Of The Creeps
This is something of an underrated cult classic, wherein zombies are caused by alien parasites. Night of the Creeps was written and directed by Fred Dekker, who made a big impact despite very little Hollywood involvement. Sure, he’s one of the screenwriters of The Predator, which didn’t please many. But he definitely knows how to have deranged fun, and in this case, it absolutely fits. Night of the Creeps is distinctly of its time, but that only lends to its charm. However, with the film beginning in the fifties, Dekker clearly signals what homage he’ll be indulging in throughout. It’s a fun, brisk film that perfectly balances schlocky sci-fi and zombie horror.
4 Planet Terror
This is much more than a zombie film, as seen through the prism of the exploitation genre. This half of Grindhouse features a truly surprising cast, even including Michael Biehn as the sheriff. It’s an unabashedly graphic movie, casually balancing extreme gore and jokes with ease. In fact, it leans so hard into every form of excess, it’s even more fun than its influences. The unbridled enthusiasm is truly inviting. There’s a laid-back silliness throughout the film, with snappy dialogue that would please any Tarantino fan. Sure, it’s far more vulgar, and has fewer jokes per minute than Zombieland. However, it definitely shares the same spirit of playfulness.
3 Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
All due respect to the remake, which is plenty fun in its own right, but the original already covered everything...and then some. Dawn of the Dead even dared to discuss abortion, which remains a controversial topic even today. Romero also freely throws in subdued commentary about racism, and blatantly criticizes commercialism. Essentially, he doubled down on his first groundbreaking zombie movie with an equally important sequel that’s even more dense. However, this one also had a sense of humor, to counter some of the tragedy and bleakness in the apocalypse. As such, this makes it a perfect appetizer for Zombieland, with its realism and fascinating interplay among the protagonists.
2 The Return Of The Living Dead
This outrageous movie could entertain any zombie fan, directly referencing Romero and delivering frequent laughs. Again, anything but a parody, the film simply has a great time relishing in the innate absurdity of the genre. Still, it does subvert a few expectations now and then. The Return of the Living Dead is written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, who famously authored Alien. But this is hardly as serious, with speaking zombies and winking homage. However, it also introduces both swift zombies, and the appeal of brains. The punk culture is a unique angle for the genre, and the effects are slimy fun.
1 Shaun Of The Dead
The only comparable zombie comedy to Zombieland, and in its own way, even superior. There’s an incredible sense of verve, as director Edgar Wright wields slapstick and genuine drama alike. Shaun of the Dead somehow musters an equal share of zombie fun and character development, via genuine romance and friendship. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost certainly have a palpable chemistry that fuels the screen. But Shaun's relationship with Liz is equally believable and engaging. Ultimately, the apocalypse allows Shaun to step up, and Liz to prefer the simple life. The story is nothing short of genius, perfectly blending social commentary with a nearly unrivaled variety of comedy. It boasts everything from physical gags and visual cues, to hilarious shifts in context. This is a perfect movie any time.