From a heartbreaking father-daughter drama to a laugh-out-loud comedy, here are some of the indie zombie films that you shouldn’t skip.
Zombie films are our go-to film genre for when we just want to feel something intense: perhaps some action, jump-scares, or that satisfying, vicarious, and a bit sadistic feeling that we get from watching characters trying desperately to escape and survive. From tentpole movies like the Brad Pitt-starring World War Z and Netflix’s Army of the Dead to the 11-season spanning The Walking Dead, watching zombie flicks as a midnight (even daytime) habit is almost always satisfying.
Ironically, the undead somehow makes us feel alive. And while the Halloween season has passed us by, our spooky cravings continue. So, here are some of the underrated independent zombie films that you may not have heard of, but should watch next for your movie night.
28 DAYS LATER
Some say that Zack Snyder’s remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in 2004 signaled a new era for the zombie genre. But if you’ll look more closely and step a couple years back, you could say that it’s Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic 28 Days Later that truly reinvigorated the horror subgenre. First of all, while inspired by Romero’s (who’s deemed as the “father of the zombie film”) classics, the zombies in 28 Days Later are so intense they can literally outrun you. They are also highly attuned to their surroundings making them more intelligent than their other cinematic counterparts. Creepy right?
First premiered in 2002 in the UK, 28 Days Later follows Jim (Cillian Murphy) who wakes up from a coma almost a month after a highly infectious and aggression-inducing Rage Virus has ravaged the country. After journeying through the deserted city of London, Jim finds other survivors as they are caught in a desperate struggle to protect themselves and to finally find a cure. Written by Alex Garland (Men, Ex Machina), 28 Days Later went on to earn 10 times its humble budget, which undeniably made it a huge hit.
Twenty years later, the successful zombie movie now has a sequel (28 Weeks Later) and a comic books series. And in a recent interview with Murphy and Boyle celebrating 28 Days Later’s enduring influence after two decades, it seems that a third installment is cooking up. The hype is on!
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Another indie zombie film that has become a cult classic is Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Released in 2004, Shaun of the Dead further explores the malleability of the zombie genre, infusing it with romance and comedy. It follows the story of Jim (played by Simon Pegg who also co-wrote the film), whose dull and uneventful life revolves around his girlfriend, his mother, and more importantly, his favorite pub called the Winchester.
Jim’s world gets turned upside down after a zombie apocalypse has devoured London. Against all odds, Jim battles with the undead to save his love life and to become the unlikely hero of his friends. Shaun of the Dead is both a commercial and critical success, being dubbed as one of the best comedy movies of all time, winning awards from the British Independent Film awards, and getting nominations from the British Academy Film Awards. If you want to see zombies, laugh out loud, and witness part one of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, this one’s for you.
A zombie film that will surely tug at your heartstrings is Maggie. The debut feature from director Henry Hobson, Maggie tells the story of Wade (Arnold Shwarzenegger), a small-town farmer who chooses to take care of his infected daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) even amid the pressures from the authorities to put her in a quarantine facility.
A part of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, this post-apocalyptic thriller has received praise for the heart-rending performances of and the compelling father-daughter chemistry between Breslin and Shwarzenegger, who’s taken a break from his usual action movie roles. Ultimately, Maggie takes a refreshing look at the zombie genre in that it shows you what humanity means in the world that’s on the brink of collapse.
ZOMBADINGS 1: PATAYIN SA SHOKOT SI REMINGTON
Probably the best zombie movie in the Philippine film canon, Jade Castro’s highly successful indie Zombadings 1: Patayin Sa Shokot Si Remington packs a story that is profoundly funny and serves a biting critique of homophobia. It follows Remington (Martin Escudero), whose homophobic tendencies during his childhood leads him to a life-changing curse: On his 21st birthday, he will turn gay.
And turning gay he does as he’s caught between his struggles to sort out his feelings for Hannah (Lauren Young) whom he loves, his lusting desire for his best friend Jigs (Kerbie Zamora), all while escaping a sociopathic, gaydar-wielding gay killer on the loose. Zombadings (which you can stream on Netflix) has all of it: Roderick Paulate, gay zombies, a séance, a flying pink scarf, male go-go dancer ghosts, and closing-credits disco dancing.
LIFE AFTER BETH
What will you do if your departed loved ones come back from the grave? This is what Life After Beth, an American indie darling written and directed by Jeff Baena, hilariously plays with. The story centers on Zach (Dane Dehaan) who gets a second chance at love as he’s surprisingly reunited with her hitherto dead girlfriend Beth (played to perfection by Aubrey Plaza). Also starring John C. Reilley and Molley Shannon as Beth’s parents, and Anna Kendrick as Zach’s childhood friend Erica, this A24 film melds a zombie apocalypse with a love-triangle story which makes for an effective and irresistible zombie comedy.
Locally known as Les Affamés, this award-winning horror film may follow the veins of its former counterparts, but it nevertheless still gives a uniquely atmospheric experience that will make you shiver. Ravenous is a French-language Canadian zombie movie from Robin Aubert. It follows a small team of survivors in Quebec, Canada, trying to escape from infected inhabitants of a rural town. It’s filled with thrilling action, bloody gore, and weirdly creepy elements like a zombie herd ritual that will give you the goosies.
Before coming to Netflix, Ravenous was hailed as the Best Canadian Film at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, copped multiple nominations from Canadian Screen Awards, and received critical acclaim for its cinematic excellence and sociopolitical themes.
THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD
Watch a lone man miraculously survive a zombie apocalypse in The Night Eats the World, a French indie zombie film that sees the city of love, Paris, overrun with the undead. It follows Sam (played by Norwegian star Anders Danielsen-Lie), a musician who returns to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment to retrieve some possessions. With the depressing reality that his ex-lover now has a new boyfriend and is nonchalantly hosting a massive party, Sam eventually falls asleep amid the chaos.
What he wakes up to afterwards is for you to witness. Take note: The Night Eats The World is not full of action and gore which you’d usually expect from a typical zombie movie. Instead, it takes its time and delves into the psychological horror of living alone in a post-apocalyptic world that will remind you of, well, the recent lockdowns. Terrifying, isn’t it?
Continue Reading: 5 Psychological Horror Movies To Watch On Your Spooky Nights