Zombies are everywhere these days (not literally… put the cricket bat down), with the horror genre seeing an explosion of brain-consuming hordes across all sorts of creative media. Be it comic books, TV series or the good old horror film, zombies seem destined to walk the Earth forever. (Or at least for the foreseeable future!) So with that in mind, I present to you my Top 5 Horror Film Zombies.
5 – Bub the Zombie (Day of the Dead 1985)
Day of the Dead is one of those sequels that always seems to descend into mindless army led violence. And when there are arseholes with guns involved, you know it’s not going to end well. Day of the Dead is no exception, and by the time the bullets fly, you’re actually cheering for the zombies to get some army cranium.
Deep underground, Dr Logan is experimenting with zombies in order to reverse the pandemic that has swept the Earth. Base commander Captain Rhodes is not impressed with having to baby sit a bunch of civilians, nor is he impressed that Dr Logan is using the bodies of his fallen soldiers to feed to the zombies he has captive. Queue all hell breaking loose, as the shuffling dead take over the base.
Bub is one of the zombie experiments, though he is more like a very clever pet. Let’s say a hamster. Bub shows genuine respect and even affection for his ‘father’ Dr Logan, and when he is killed by Captain Rhodes, Bub finds this incredibly impolite and chooses to display his displeasure in the strongest terms possible. No, he doesn’t do what I’d do and write a formal letter, but he does regain enough memory to remember how to shoot. He incapacitates Captain Rhodes while saluting him as a pack of zombies tear him apart. At ease!
4 – The Crypt Keeper (Tales from the Crypt 1989 – 1996)
“Well hello boils and ghouls!” What can I say about the Crypt Keeper? Perfectly voiced by Jon Kassir through films, TV shows and even several cartoon series, number 4 on our list is a wisecracking, pun loving zombie puppet! And who doesn’t love one of those? Even though we are never quite sure whether he wants to have us for dinner…or have US for dinner!
I can still remember all those years ago as a young lad, the first time I watched Tales from the Crypt (not to be confused with the Amicus production of the same name.) The thrill of the POV sweep of the very creepy mansion, before descending into the crypt, where finally the Crypt Keeper bursts forth from his coffin with one Hell of a laugh. Although it wasn’t my first introduction to horror, it was one of the most memorable.
In many ways the actual stories presented in Tales from the Crypt, were secondary to the opening and closing scenes with the Crypt Keeper. Apart from a couple of notable exceptions, it’s all the work of Jon Kassir that sticks in my mind as fond memories, rather than the bulk of the show. The Crypt Keeper is hideously produced and would be at home in any zombie film if it wasn’t for the fact that he is also very funny. Funny in a naughty kind of way of course, like a guilty pleasure. You shouldn’t enjoy seeing a man’s head squeezed in a vice and then the puppet drinking the forthcoming brain goo… but hey, it is your old pal the Crypt Keeper!
3 – Arthur Grimsdyke (Tales from the Crypt 1972)
Ahh poor old Arthur Grimsdyke. Brilliantly portrayed via the acting genius of Peter Cushing, it’s a testament to his acting ability that we can scarcely believe that this is the same man who, in the classic Hammer 1958 Dracula, destroyed the deliciously menacing Christopher Lee by opening some curtains (no really).
Here, in arguably the best Amicus portmanteau horror collection, Cushing plays the quiet, well-meaning and elderly Arthur Grimsdyke. As a widower and nearing retirement, Grimsdyke likes nothing more than caring for his dogs and making toys for the local children. This is much to the announce of local snobs Edward Elliott and his wicked son James, who see this gentle dustman as a blight on their pristine neighbourhood.
A smear campaign set against him sees Grimsdyke lose everything, culminating in him taking his own life after a particularly nasty tirade of valentine’s cards. 1 year later and Grimsdyke is back for revenge in the form of one hell of a scary zombie. We only see him briefly in this form, but when he rises from the grave with a Michael Myers style ‘sit up’, we are chilled! Grimsdyke appears in James’ study slapping a decrepit hand down on the desk, before revealing a face with two black hollow eyes and teeth a dentist could retire on. Grimsdyke is terrifying.
As an aside, watch for Edward’s reaction when he finds the body of his murdered son the next morning. He looks like he has lost his keys rather than stumbled on a murder scene!
2 – Henrietta Knowby (The Evil Dead II Dead by Dawn 1987)
Henrietta Knowby is without doubt one of the scariest zombies my poor innocent eyes have ever seen. She is only pipped to the top post because of my almost obsessive love of my number 1. First things first – yes — technically Henrietta is not a zombie. She is a deadite. There are no zombies in Sam Raimi’s awesome Evil Dead franchise, but hey… they are pretty similar!
Sweet Henrietta was turned into the evil dead when her husband read from the Necronomicon. Who thought something bad would happen from reading an ancient book bound in human flesh and written in blood? Henrietta was buried in the fruit cellar under the cabin, and there she lay dormant until she is awakened by a recording of the spells from the book of the dead.
When Ash is locked in the cellar, Henrietta bursts through the soft earth floor and says the line that still gives me chills today; “Someone’s in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soooul!” This whole scene is terrifying, and when she is crawling towards Ash telling him to “come to sweet Henrietta”, it fuelled my nightmares for weeks. Which of course I LOVED!
Henrietta Knowby is simply disgusting! Whether in her ‘old witch form’ in the cellar, or that weird long neck demon chicken thing she turns into (I just can’t even explain…), she is absolutely hideous and well deserving of our number 2 spot.
1 – Tarman (Return of the Living Dead 1985)
For me, Tarman is the personification of everything a Zombie should be. He is absolutely horrendous to look at, very, very scary, and thanks to actor Allan Trautman he has the best, most deathly zombie movements imaginable.
I have to confess I became a little bit obsessed with Tarman. I can remember many years ago seeing a documentary looking at the best horror zombies (not as good as this list obviously). I only caught some of it and it just happened to be halfway through Tarman’s segment. I was mesmerized, and incredibly frustrated at not knowing where this creature had come from. It was a long time after that I found he was from shock horror comedy, Return of the Living Dead.
When a canister of Trioxin (zombie making chemical of course) is smashed, the petrified zombie inside is released, but not before the substance melts his flesh into the black goo of the Tarman we know and love. Tarman spends most of the film in a basement, until poor naive Tina goes down there and arouses him (hehe arouse!) with her fresh brains. Now here is where Tarman differs from so many other zombies. When Tina hides in a locker, Tarman has the intelligence left to work out how to break in using a chain and pulley system. Luckily (or unfortunately depending on whose side you’re on) Tina’s friends come and rescue her, but not before Tarman gets to chop down on some delicious brains.
If you haven’t seen Return of the Living Dead, it is a must on any zombie fan’s list. There are lots of memorable walking dead in this film, but Tarman tops the lot; for his grotesque original appearance, eerie voice and stiff unnatural looking movements. Truly the stuff of nightmares!
Now all together… “More Braaaiiins!…”
Article by Christopher Stagg (@CW_Stagg) www.cwstagg.com
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