OG Tough Guys andDumb But Cute Would-Be Thugs Fight the Undead
Movie / Outrbrea / Underrated
Cockneys vs. Zombies offers a truly ridiculous premise: a group of young Cockney toughs are simply trying to rob a bank, no big deal, when, bam, here comes the zombie apocalypse. They fight off the walkers with some understandable difficulty – I mean, there are not the sharpest bulbs in the basket -- but eventually, they get the job done – or they survive at least -- and somehow end up at an old folks’ home that’s populated by aging Cockney toughs from two generations back… and damn, can those old folks kick ass. It’s only a matter of minutes before the oldsters – the literal OG’s – are taking charge and beating back the horde of the hungry dead.
There’s absolutely no reason this should be as funny, engaging, and even exciting as it is. But it is. There’s a mad exuberance about old folks blasting away at the shamblers while the hapless younger generation barely keeps up. Much of it has to do with the performances of some great tough-type character actors from long ago – Alan Ford (who you will recognize immediately as playing the Cockney Tough guy since the 1960’s about 200 times -- Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, etc.) and Honor Blackman (yes, the GoldfingerBond Girl and The Avengers‘ Mrs. Peel before there was a Mrs. Peel), not to mention Harry Treadawayas the only young’un with half a brain. Treadaway went on to distinguish himself as Dr. Frankenstein inPenny Dreadful, as Brady Hartsfield inMr. Mercedes, and most recently as Narek in Picard.
You might have skipped this as another one of the Stripper vs. Zombies or Bigfoot vs Zombies low-budget throwaways, but in fact, this is a surprisingly well-made and just plain fun addition to your zombie collection. Or another great surprise for the zomfan who’s missed it for years.
Native Americans vs. Zombies in a Grim, Effective Film
Movie / Post-Apocalypse / Underrated
With so many low-budget zombie movies sneaking in through streaming services or film festivals, it’s easy to miss unexpected quality and creativity when it appears. Here’s an example.
Blood Quantum (sorry, kind of an awful and pretty much inexplicable name) has your standard virus-based flesh-eaters, and the opening scenes that establish it are deceptively familiar. But the truly intriguing part comes after a timeshift, as we focus on the stories that rotate around the effect of the zombie apocalypse on the First Nations and an already devastated Mi’kmaq reservation – a reservation that survives because Native Americans seem to be immune to the zombie virus, maybe because of their connection to the Earth itself.
Virtually all the principle players here are Native Americans, and many of them came from and went on to fascinating careers. Elle-Maija Tailfeathersis a multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer and director; her co-star Michael Greyeyes paid his zombie-dues in multiple episodes of Fear the Walking Dead,showed up after Blood Quantum, in the not-wonderful V Wars, and was excellent in the underrated mystery series Home Before Dark. He also has the dubious distinction of playing Rainbird in the otherwise awful remake if Firestarterin 2022. No George C. Scott, maybe, but at least the part was played, more than passably well, by an actual member of the First Nations as Stephen King meant it to be. The writer and director, Jeff Barnaby, is a member of the Mi’kmaq himself, and continues his work on projects based on the realities and fantasies of native Americans, past present and future.
It’s a bleak and brutal plot and worldview, but not without good reason, and probably one of the best – and most overlooked – ‘serious’ zombie movies of the decade.
Zombies Attack Walmart (or something worse!)
Movie / Dark Action Comedy / SlowZombies
Horror Comedy, the mother of all oxymorons, is very tough to do well… but that doesn’t keep filmmakers from trying. Over and over. And hey, it doesn’t have to beShaun of the Dead orTucker and Dale vs. Evil to be worth a look.
So where would we put Black Friday, a 2021 entry in the Comedy Horror Olympics that starts with the all-too-real horror of the ruthlessness, cruelty, and utter madness of shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, then postulates what happens when those shoppers go full-tilt zombie, thanks to some goo that looks like it came right out of The Stuff, a zombie-adjacent movie that we’ll talk about eventually.
Yeah, it’s funny. Not laugh-out-loud, roll-in-the-produce-aisle hilarious, but on the other hand it has Bruce Campbell – yeah, post-Ash, post-Burn Notice Bruce, at his 2021 doughy best, complete with a bushy mustache and a dickish attitude, teamed up/at odds with Devon Sawa, fresh out of the new Chucky series by way of Final Destination and Idle Hands, the last of which is another zombie-adjacent film we’ll have to cover.
There are some cool swipes at consumerism, corporate callousness, and the death of the American Dream throughout the surprisingly graphic all-night adventure, and though the ending gets a little too Ghostbusters(the first one, the good one) to work entirely well, but it’s a solid piece of comedy horror. It’s no Horrorstor, Grady Hendrix’s amazing book about a haunted/cursed IKEA that has no zombies, but you’ll like it anyway, and… hey! Bruce Campbell! Being a dick!
All Cheerleaders Die: A Darkly Comic, Bloody Revenge Flick with Smart Zombies
Not everybody loves this movie – you can look at the Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic numbers and see that – and part of its appeal is definitely just the name and notion. Come on: zombie cheerleaders? You have to love it. But we tend to agree with the WeGotThisCovered review, who called All Cheerleaders Die“mindless and contrived”, but also admitted it was a “witching, bitching good time.”
One interesting production point: The semi-legendary grim-and-bloody horror auteur Lucky McKee first made this movie in 2001 when he was fresh out of film school, and liked the idea so much he remade it in 2013. The first version was a pretty straightforward (and not terribly interesting) bloodfest; in the newer edition, there’s a whole team of cheerleaders killed by heartless football players who are brought back to life with Wiccan magic, and who work together to avenge their deaths by knocking off the jocks and their minions one by one. And yes, there’s a wide-open “The End??” ending that begs for a sequel that unfortunately has never shown up.
Wedecided to include it here, and give it a solid “Adequate” rating, partly for its sheer Australian exuberance, but mostly just for the idea itself… and if you happen to have a cheerleader-type in the fam, this could be a great little gift.