Back in 1932, the very first zombie movie was created. White Zombie starred horror icon Bela Lugosi and it subsequently gave birth to a genre. Of course, back then zombies were voodoo-controlled living people in a trance-like state rather than the flesh-eating undead we have come to know today.
Since their inception into different forms of media, the standoff between the living and the dead has become commonplace. More often than not, the former ends up being the victor using guns, sharp weapons and even household items – their ultimate win showcased through some epic slow-mo scene. This list, in no particular order, looks at the opposite side of that. Let’s side with the walking corpses this time, shall we? Here are ten scenes where the undead get the upper hand, be it through a single bite that causes a death, right through to a horde devouring the living. Sure, many of these zombies and up being slaughtered anyway, but they go down swinging! Heads up, there are spoilers in store for some of the titles, and yes, there will be blood.
‘SHAUN OF THE DEAD’ (2004) – David!
Edgar Wright delivered this love letter to horror movies and brought with it something new. He seamlessly merged the zombie movie with dry British humour to tremendous effect. After successfully rescuing his mother, ex-girlfriend and her friends, Shaun and his buds have taken refuge at the local pub to stay safe from the horde of zombies outside. After a tense moment with uptight David, the whole group goes silent. David is leaning against a window, ready to apologise to Shaun, but that won’t happen. He’s suddenly pulled out through the window and the undead start to dismember and devour him right in front of Shaun and co. The group desperately try to hold onto him… but are left holding his legs.
‘WARM BODIES’ (2013) – Nice watch
By all accounts this zombie- romance movie should not have worked. Based on Isaac Marion’s 2010 book (loosely based off Romeo and Juliet, which is further referenced in these character names), it tells the story of R, a zombie that seems to have some grasp on what is going on around him. One day R and a small group of zombies are on the hunt for humans when he notices Julie (see?) and immediately falls in love with her. He is quickly distracted by a bullet that has been fired by Julie’s boyfriend, Perry. Poor Perry. R knocks him down and admires his watch as he chomps down on his arm before beating Perry to death and feasting on his brains. It’s at this point where the zombie movie genre got another angle; eating brains gives a zombie some sort of semblance of humanity, as well as the victims’ memories.
‘LAND OF THE DEAD’ (2004) – BBQ
After 30 years away from the genre, the godfather of zombie movies, George A. Romero, returned for his 4th entry in his “Of the Dead“ franchise. Even with more studio interference than he would have liked, he still delivered a fine addition to the series. Set many years after the world has been overrun by zombies, it shows us zombies slightly evolving, learning basic functions like using weapons to wound or killing the living first to make them easier to eat. Towards the end of the film, main antagonist Kaufman is trying to escape the invading zombies when he is trapped in his car by zombie leader Big Daddy. Big Daddy douses the car in gasoline and then walks away, and as Kaufman tries to find the car keys and escape, he is pinned down by another zombie. Big Daddy returns, this time holding a flaming gas canister…
‘THE HORDE’ (2009) – Last Stand
As many zombie cinephiles will know, it’s not just Americans that can make and intense horror action thriller. Enter this French ‘cops vs. gang members’ thriller with the undead thrown in. Set in a derelict block of units, it follows an undercover raid that goes wrong and ends up with cops being killed and a couple taken captive. Soon after, the titular horde start to make their appearance known and cops and gang are reluctantly forced to band together in order to survive. Nearing the climax of the film, they realise if they are all going to make it, one of them will have to draw the horde away and sacrifice themselves. Cue the slow-mo scene where one man takes on as many as he can before being overwhelmed. To his credit, he lasts longer than you would expect…
‘THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD’ (1985) – Brains!
The second of the “living dead” movies of 1985 was this meta look into the zombie film. Set in a world where the events of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead actually happened, but a sequel didn’t, the story follows two late night workers who mistakenly open a barrel that has a corpse in it along with a gas that reanimates the dead. Well, the corpse rises just as one of the worker’s girlfriends shows up looking for him. She manages to get into a closet, which allows enough time for her friends to track her screams and come to her aid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end too well for the newly arrived heroes as the zombie sees them and gleefully calls for brains before chowing down on the skull of one of them, eating it like Koboyashi.
‘NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’ (1990) – Dinner with Daughter
Well-renowned make up effects artist Tom Savini penned this remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic for his cinema directorial debut. Essentially a straight remake rather than an adaptation or reboot assured this film would not be hated by Romero fans. It centres on a group of survivors holed up in a farm house trying to survive. Among the survivors is a couple with a daughter who has fallen ill due to a zombie bite. Through the course of the film, arguments rise over whether or not to barricade themselves in the cellar or fortify the house. Eventually, the husband sends his wife down to the cellar to check on their daughter, only to discover she has turned. The daughter bites into her neck and then the camera moves to a trowel as blood squirts onto it. It’s a nice little nod to the original, where the daughter kills the mother with the trowel rather than biting her.
‘V\H\S 2’ (2013) – GoPro zombie
The V\H\S horror anthology series was a welcomed change to the found footage horror genre. With varying subject matter covering vampires, cults and even demons, it was good at giving the first-person perspective without hammering it over our heads. In this particular story, we follow a man as he straps on his GoPro and decides to go for a bike ride on a bike trail. He comes across a woman who seems to have been attacked. As he tries to calm her down, she ends up attacking and biting him. He scurries away and ends up passing out, only to reanimate as two other cyclists come to his aid. Before long he and the other zombies he has turned come across a children’s birthday party where… you know. Having a GoPro-strapped zombie is an interesting concept – and it proves to be quite fun, too.
Now, we did want to include more of the GoPro zombie doing his thing, but the best we could find is this latter stage of the sequence. Still, you get the idea…
‘TRAIN TO BUSAN’ (2016) – Sacrifice
One of the best zombie films to come out in the last decade is this South Korean gem Train to Busan. If you haven’t seen it, we suggest skipping this little summary and scene as it’s a pretty big spoiler. Having the bulk of the narrative set on a train gave the a real claustrophobic feel and a level of tension that’s been unmatched in the genre for quite some time. We follow Seok-Woo, who is trying to get his daughter back home to his ex-wife due to his hectic work schedule. Throughout the film it is evident that he is a selfish person, only looking out for his own interests and not caring for his fellow man. Of course, during the course of the movie, he becomes less and less selfish and starts thinking about the other survivors. Right near the end of the film, he has finally gotten himself, his daughter and a random survivor to safety on another train when he’s confronted by the film’s antagonist: a rich businessman who is even worse that Seok-Woo when it comes to not considering others – and who’s now infected. In order to save his daughter, Seok-Woo must make the ultimate sacrifice and let the zombie bite him. Emotionally speaking, it is easily the most gut-wrenching scene on this entire list. This is a film that needs to be seen by everyone.
‘DAWN OF THE DEAD’ (2004) – Breakfast in Bed
Audaciously remaking the beloved Dawn of the Dead was always going to be a big task for whoever took it on. Zack Snyder was brave enough to accept the challenge and in doing so introduced the most terrifying zombie put to screen: the sprinting zombie. Unlike most of the horror on this list that takes place towards the end of the film, this one kicks the movie into gear. We meet our nurse protagonist at her workplace and follow her little suburban home, where she lives with her partner. The next day, her partner is awoken by a friendly neighbourhood girl wandering into their bedroom. Unfortunately, this toddler is now a zombie, and proceeds to rip into his throat. He dies, only to reanimate mere seconds later…