When there is no more room in hell Zombie Jesus walks the earth.
So this time of year horror movie aficionados should start to think about how they are going to spend Zombie Jesus Day (aka Easter Sunday the day when God's only son rose from the grave and feasted on the brains of millions of Christians).
This year it falls on the 24th of April in case you need to mark your calendar( personal note, I will be sharing ZJD with my new daughter as she arrives within days of this day.)
Any self respecting gore hounds would plan a zombie movie marathon.
Now you can go with the classics and I'll go through them just in case you may not be familiar with them. For those who have I'll throw in a few extras that might enhance your lazy Sunday in front of the tv.
First and foremost, Night of the Living Dead. The classic, the original, the building block of the true zombie genre. This 1968 film made very cheaply by George A Romero ,the Godfather of the genre, and a few friends. Its importance is based not just on changing the "zombie" from a voodoo witchcraft mind slave into the undead that rose out of the ground. Also its lead role Ben played by Duane Jones which wasn't written for a black man to play gave the film an undertone of social commentary as a black man taking control and in charge of the rest of the white cast members.
Interesting to know that some of the flesh being devoured by the zombies was leftovers from a butcher shop, including pig intestines that some extras hoping for screen time chewed with zeal and yet most were left on the cutting room floor. Another factoid, George Romero's original script was called "Night of the Flesh Eaters" and the studio wanted it changed to what we know it as now, in doing so Romero and company forgot to copright the naming rights and now it is under public domain which is why there are so many versions of it on dvd.
I personally have a the dvd version that has been colorized( blasphemy in some NOTLD purist circles), the color gives the film an interesting look but the real reason I have this version is that the creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000 did a commentary track that includes many many Wisconsin jokes. I've seen the movie enough that the hilarious commentary enhances the viewing.
Second on my marathon list is Dawn of the Dead released in 1978, ten years after the original it takes place in the first weeks of the zombie apocalypse. Most of the action takes place in a mall, another social commentary, this time on our consumer culture. Zombies shuffling around the mall much like the living do on a daily basis.
This is the first time we get an onscreen glimpse of special effects master Tom Savini(Friday the 13th, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead) as a murdering biker gang that attacks the main characters held up in the upper areas of the mall.
In this film Dario Argento helped raise money for the film and provided most of the soundtrack, which he got the rights to release the European version of the film that cut out some of the most humorous parts and added a heavy metal soundtrack under the title Zombi.
If you are desperate you could throw in the stylized remake that includes "fast zombies" which is another huge point of contention between zombie purists.
Next on our list is the 1985 three-quel Day of the Dead. The most bleak of the series even with the Caribbean flavored soundtrack.
This film focuses on a group of scientists and military men stuck down in a bunker months after the initial attack. The hostilities between the two groups mount as the scientists are trying to find a cure as the main Doctor has been on experimenting on taming the zombies instead of looking for a cure. Commander Rhodes is losing patience with the lack of real progress as his units number dwindle. Its Romero talking about humans being their own worst enemies even in the face of an enemy that they should be rallying against.
The man who plays Rhodes had a small role in the beginning of Dawn of the Dead. Look in the beginning of Day of the Dead for a quick shot of a now infamous zombie known as "Dr. Tongue" for obvious reason. This film is the pinnacle of the zombie special effects in this series.
Land of the Dead is a 2005 entry into the Romero cannon(see follow-ups Diary of the Dead which is an updated retelling of the original outbreak as well as its direct descendant Survival of the Dead) In LOTD, Dennis Hopper plays up a villainous Donald Rumsfeld inspired role as the head of Fiddler's Green, the only safe place in the Three Rivers area, who has teams who roam the countryside doing the dirty work to bring in supplies. In this film the theme of zombies relearning takes a forefront where you have Big Daddy a Che Guevara type zombie that leads his dead friends into an all out assault on Fiddler's Green which he sees the teams of pillagers head back towards. This is Romero's first movie where he used CGI for some of the special effects and they look more fake than the squib packs and prosthetics that were traditionally used. Still a decent movie but its one of the weaker of the series.
Now onto some extra credit choices: first Braindead, also known in the U.S. as Dead Alive, Peter Jackson(Lord of the Rings) directs this story about Lionel who is a momma's boy who falls in love with a shopgirl and when his mother spies on his first date at the zoo, she gets bitten by an exotic rat monkey which kills her slowly and eventually brings her back to life everyone around Lionel ends up getting attacked by his zombie mother and they become zombies, so he does the only thing he can think of, lock them in the basement. When his leech of an Uncle comes calling he takes over the estate and throws a huge party for all his lowlife friends and in turn end up letting loose the basement dwellers turning everyone in the party into zombies culminating in one of the most imaginative uses of a lawnmower ever to grace the silver screen.
If you haven't seen it DO IT. Its a New Zealand kind of Evil Dead, humor and horror combining in a glorious orgy.
Then we have a mid 80's tongue in cheek classic The Return of the Living Dead where they function on the premise that the events of Night of the Living Dead actually happened and the army contained it and sealed the zombies in barrels and one just happens to be in a medical cadaver warehouse. It predictably gets opened and hijinx and hell follows. Its got boobs, blood and brains. What more do you need.
Finally on my list is Dellamorte Dellamore also known as Cemetery Man starring Rupert Everett as a live-in care taker of a cemetery where after a few days the dead come back to life and he is the man who ,along with his grunting dimwitted assistant, make them dead again. He falls for a grieving widow and after a great sex scene on the plot of her late husband she is attacked by one of the dead. He thinks she has died after the doctor cannot find a pulse so he waits for her to rise from the grave. Things go from bad to worse and along the way his assistant falls for a dead girl and keeps her head in his broken television. Its slightly more existential than most zombie fare which is surprising considering the genre. The end is confusing but it is a great great piece of zombie cinema.
I cold list tons of other films notably Re-Animator or The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, the lovely and brilliant Shaun of the Dead, Planet Terror (the first half of the Grindhouse double feature that was so deliciously gory and amazing), Slither (which is an alien/zombie movie) even some of the "fast zombie" movies 28 Days Later but I don't count fast zombies as real zombies because usually they are caused by a virus so that's man made whereas the slow zombies tends to be more mysterious as to the cause of the dead rising from the grave.
Did hell run out of room?
Is this God's wrath incarnate?
We don't know which makes it much more frightening.
Plus the obvious fact that a zombie in this since Night of the Living Dead focuses on corpses being reanimated and corpses would be constantly decomposing so unless it is a freshly dead zombie, it's ligaments and musculature would be rotting and falling apart. So after a couple of days with bacteria and insects gnawing away at them they would hardly be able to shuffle or walk much less run full speed after someone. I find the slow zombies overwhelming numbers is what makes them so terrifying.
So you have plenty of choices for your Zombie Jesus Day celebrations especially with the recent boom in movies and the tv series The Walking Dead.
Here is a bonus, enjoy a "Zombie" beverage along with your movies.
This is what you will need preferably in a Collins glass:
Maybe make a brain looking jello mold too. Get creative.
Enjoy your lazy zombie sunday this year and remember to "destroy the brain or sever the head".