Let’s get one thing straight, shall we? Before we go any further, I think it is very important for me to point out that I love zombies. I am a big fan of The Walking Dead- I love Rick, I hated Lori, and I can now only picture David Morissey in an eye patch in anything he does. But the movie industry in recent years has been packed full of zombie movies and it really is becoming a bit too much to bear. Whether it was needless (albeit decent) remakes such as Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead or zom-rom-coms such as Shaun of the Dead or Warm Bodies, it is fair to say that zombies are freaking everywhere. The zombie invasion has really already begun.
Luckily for us, there are enough movies out there that aren’t using zombies. And I don’t just mean the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, which has no need for zombies at all, but horror movies in general. We all love movie monsters, and hordes of them are even better, but below is a list of 10 movies that decided they didn’t need to use shambling undead corpses as their antagonists. And isn’t that refreshing?
Eight Legged Freaks
As if the title wasn’t already a big enough clue, Eight Legged Freaks is about spiders…lots and lots of them. And not just normal, easily-squishable-beneath-your-shoe spiders. These spiders are the size of cattle, sometimes bigger. Basically, it is a zombie movie, but the zombie are replaced by bloody massive vermin with fangs and far too many eyes. And far too many legs, for that matter.
It stars David Arquette, who you may remember for either the Scream movies or for being Courtney Cox’s spouse before it all went wrong between them, and he spends the majority of the movie running away from varying different sizes of spiders. It really isn’t that deep.
The movie wears its influences one of its eight sleeves, with the finale of the movie taking place in a mall where the survivors of the town are making a final stand against the spidery horde. What other movie features a group of survivors holed up in a mall? No, not Mall Rats…Dawn of the Dead, of course! And it isn’t just a coincidence- its a deliberate homage to the classic horror movie.
Its just a shame that the vast population of the world won’t watch it- there aren’t many spider fans out there!
If you’re not a huge fan of spiders, you’re in luck, because everybody loves dogs, right? Even if you prefer cats, you don’t exactly hate dogs, do you? Admit it.
The ‘dogs’ in question of this movie are werewolves, and they’re pretty annoyed at a bunch of soldiers on a routine training mission who have holed up in their house in a rural part of Scotland. Scotland already has enough horrors such as deep fried everything, Billy Connolly and bagpipes, so the last it needs is a werewolf infestation on top of the rest of it.
Shamelessly low budget, this Neil Marshall movie is famous for its classic depiction of werewolves. Even though its lack of budget is very, very noticeable at times, the movie makes up for it by creating a real sense of isolation and horror due to its sound and setting. Plus it features Sean Pertwee, who is always good value for money, and an unexpected cameo from Sean Pertwee’s guts when a werewolf rips him open. A truly beautiful scene.
So what similarities does this movie have to the zombie genre? A bunch of survivors holding out against numerable, monstrous enemies? Check. Some obligatory blood and guts? Check. Not to mention references to zombie fiction and the whole “getting bitten and you will turn” thing.
Continuing on the theme of ‘not-very-subtle titles’, Black Sheep is a zombie movie with precisely zero zombies in it. Instead, as you probably don’t need explained to you, it has a murderous flock of sheep in it. It was made by the New Zealand film board, which poses two questions? Firstly, since when did New Zealand have a film board? And secondly, why did they think the best way to get themselves noticed was to make a movie about farm animals with an unnatural blood-lust?
This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is probably for the best, what with it being about evil sheep. In typical black comedy fashion, it is full of gross out jokes, cardboard cut-out characters and animatronic sheep that are about as convincing as Simon Cowell’s smiles. You’re not supposed to think too deeply about it, though.
It really does seem that the film world is determined to make it impossible for us to trust any animal in the world any more.
I Am Legend
You may have heard some critics saying that this Will Smith movie has zombies in it, and they’re all wrong. Not only is the book of the same name written featuring vampires, but the creatures of the movie are susceptible to sunlight, much like…you know…vampires.
For any teenage girls reading this, please do not go into this movie expecting Edward Cullen and his sparkly brethren to go prancing about looking for women with no emotions, because the vampires in this movie are much more horrifying. They used to be humans and when a man-made virus adapted and spread, they were turned into the horrible creatures we see in this movie.
Will Smith’s character, Doctor Robert Neville, is the ‘last man on Earth’, apart from that he isn’t, but that’s enough spoilers for one article. His desperate search for a cure means he has to capture more and more of the ‘vampires’ in search for test subjects, which obviously puts him in direct conflict with the very creatures he is trying to avoid being killed by. This is a remake of ‘The Omega Man’ and ‘The Last Man on Earth’, both classic horror movies from back in the good old days, but it really does benefit from a fresh lick of paint and a decent special effects update.
So if you’re getting sick of zombies, but still want something a little ‘human’ then look no further than I Am Legend, which has vampires…that admittedly look a little like zombies.
Oh, come off it! You haven’t seem Gremlins? Seriously? Okay then…
For those five of you who have been living in a cave for the entirety of your life, Gremlins begin life in the movie as a cute little ball of fluff called a Mogwai (no, not the prog metal band). They’re pretty easy to look after, but if a mysterious Japanese stereotype character sells one to you, you better believe it when he tells you not to feed them at midnight or get them wet.
If this happens, they go from being cute to being the complete opposite, and you can be sure they’ll soon take over your city or small rural town. Gremlins isn’t quite as close to a zombie movie as some of the others on the list, but it still deals with unthinkable creatures taking over a town and forcing the humans to hole up or fight back for survival. Also, I’ve never known a zombie to be killed by being put in the microwave and fried to death, but I don’t claim to have watched every movie to have ever existed.
28 Days Later
No, this isn’t a cop out. Whilst many viewers may consider the ’28’ saga to be about zombies, the movies themselves go a long way to dispelling that theory, explaining that the ‘zombies’ are actually just normal people infected with a Rage virus, a particularly aggressive form of Rabies.
Make no mistake, this IS a zombie movie in the simplest sense of the word, but we aren’t dealing with re-animated corpses here. In a typical zombie movie, the black person always dies first, the pretty girl always screams and get bitten, and the zombies can only be killed by removal of the head or destruction of the brain. We aren’t dealing with that here. A shot to the chest will kill one of the infected just as easily as shooting them in the head. So in hindsight, this should make them easier to deal with, right? No. They aren’t dead, so they aren’t suffering the stiffness of rigor mortis, so they can move pretty sharpish. They full blown sprint for crying out loud, and it is terrifying. Imagine Usain Bolt running at you. Now imagine him running at you with his eyes bulging out of their sockets, blood round his mouth and spit pooling down his chin. Good luck sleeping tonight.
What we’re all dealing with in these movies is a much more believable situation. And with scientists predicting that rabies could evolve to the point where it can infect humans on a mass scale, each and every one of us should be a little tiny bit scared.
In both the George A Romero original, and the recent re-make, the Crazies are zombies that aren’t zombies because, instead of being dead, they are just people who went a bit insane by drinking the water from a river where a plane crashed that was carrying nuclear waste. Yeah…it doesn’t make much sense of me, either.
The problem this movie has is that the original concept is courtesy of George A. Romero, who is the man who created zombies as we know them with Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. He really isn’t comfortable with any movies that don’t feature zombies, which probably explains why he wrote this movie so that he could basically do it all again only with the fact that the zombies that act and walk like zombies aren’t zombies. Surprise.
Unlike zombies, though, the people can retain part of what made them human, meaning that they can speak a little and they can also remember how to drive vehicles (albeit terribly). This adds a little extra terror to the whole thing as you realise that it isn’t simply a case of hiding from them, because they probably know how to find you…eventually.
30 Days of Night
Back onto the vampire theme here, but this time it is a much bloodier and scary affair than I Am Legend, which wasn’t exactly tame in the first place. This movie is set in the town of Barrow which is so near to the North Pole that during the winter it has 30 days in a row of perpetual darkness, which makes it the perfect hunting ground for vampires. Inevitable, this happens, and vampires take over the small town, hunting down any and all humans for a feeding frenzy not seen since McDonalds first opened.
This puts an interesting twist on proceedings, as it adds a time limit to the whole affair. The vampires can only stay indefinitely, due to the fact that the sun will eventually rise and burn them all like marshmallows over a fire, only with more screaming involved, but the humans have got to find some way to hide and survive for 30 days without starving to death.
In the end, it is left to Josh Hartnett to save the day, because the film wasn’t made many years after Pearl Harbour and everybody loves a good looking hero.
Day Of The Triffids
Have you ever walked into your garden, looked at the plant and thought “that flower looks like it could brutally, violently murder me?” If the answer is yes, I am scared for your safety, and please immediately call the army, the navy or the A-Team. Or an Exorcist. In Day of the Triffids, though, the rather clunky 1960s movie based on the John Wyndham sci-fi novel, the plants can actually uproot themselves, ‘walk’ around, communicate and effectively annihilate humans. Admittedly, they are helped slightly by a meteor shower that makes all but a handful of the Earth’s population blind, but that is the terrifying thing about the story.
It is a ‘zombie’ film in that the humans are no longer the dominant force of the planet, and much like in a zombie movie, they are forced to scratch out an existence by whatever means is necessary, all the while having to watch out (if they have functioning eyes, of course) for killer plants.
On the face of it, killer plants is a pretty silly adversity, but the movie (and the book moreso) make it work by posing that question we’ve all considered from time to time: what if humanity wasn’t top dog anymore?
Village of the Damned
John Wyndham does it again- this is probably the one and only time that he will occupy the first and second place on any sort of leader board.
This time, though, he’s ditched plants, instead deciding (quite correctly) that children are much more terrifying. In Village of the Damned, a 1995 movie directed by horror icon John Carpenter and based on the book The Midwich Cuckoos by Mr Wyndham himself, 9 babies are born to ordinary mothers. However, these adorable children turn out to be the equivalent of the devil’s spawn, as they slowly develop white hair (that’s always a sign of trouble), glowing eyes and psychic powers. Eventually they use their powers to spread their terror across the town, turning other children to their ways and beginning a reign of brutality upon the village.
Frankly, I’m surprised it took the people of the village so long to work out the kids meant trouble. As soon as a child’s eye start glowing, no matter the colour, there should at least be some concern. When they start controlling others with their minds and being able to read your thoughts, it’s probably time to take a hike to another village.
What makes this number one? Well…it’s children! Demon children! Zombies are one thing, zombie children quite another, but children that can read your mind and have glowing eyes? That hits so many branches of horror that I’m not even sure I’ll feel okay making eye contact with anyone under the age of 18 any more.