With this weekend's release of Land of the Dead, George A. Romero's long-awaited zombie film, perhaps you're looking to enliven your viewing habits with some down and dirty undead gems. Here are some flesh-eating selections that are worth checking out if the classics are all rented.
NIGHT OF THE COMET Valley girls navigate a post-catastrophe wasteland where videogames, the mall, and Mary Woronov still abide even as flesh-eaters roam the streets. Great performances from leads Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney.
NIGHT OF THE CREEPS "The good news isyour dates are here. The bad news isthey're dead!" Alien mayhem plus frat pranks equal exploding heads all over Fraternity Row. Lots of fun for genre enthusiasts and people who just want to see zombies fucking up a sorority house.
DISMEMBERMENT, ITALIAN STYLE
ZOMBIE/ZOMBI 2 Meet the splattery stylings of Lucio Fulci in this self-styled sequel to Romero's Dawn of The Dead. Not only does it give us Olga Karlatos (Prince's mother from Purple Rain) meeting a particularly gruesome end, it offers the definitive answer to that age-old question: "If the Living Dead fought Jaws, who would win?"
ZEDER/REVENGE OF THE DEAD Despite a weak-ass dub, this (dare I say it) austere effort is what Pet Sematary would be if it were a Paul Auster novel. A writer discovers a secret message in his typewriter ribbon, and proceeds to find one of several "K-Zones" where the dead do not remain that way. Restrained,and not too gory, this is still worth checking out.
EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD If you can't go without either Italo zombie splatterfests or sketchy European hardcore, have at this barrel-scraper from legendary schlockmeister Joe D'Amato. With Emannuelle Nera herself, Laura Gemser, who provides the only note of class.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD You can't go wrong with this British import, which is funny, moving, and exquisitely assembled, yet slings intestines with the best of them. Watch for cameos by this film's Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in Land of the Dead (hint: photo op).
THE SIMPSONS' TREEHOUSE OF HORROR III Available on the Season Four Box Set, this episode features "Dial 'Z' for Zombies," when Bart and Lisa inadvertently raise the dead. The good news is, the car's okay.
STACY Why do Japanese schoolgirls reduce so many men to quivering fools? In this instance, it has something to do with their shredding talons and voracious appetite for the flesh of the living. You'll never look at a ko-gal the same way again.
WILD ZERO Rock band versus zombies versus aliens, with the fate of the world in the balance. As the poster promises, Melvin Van Peebles-style, "Shock and chaossssss!" Highly recommended, especially to those who prefer their gender dysphoria with exploding heads. R.I.P., Bass Wolf.
VERSUS If you find yourself in Portal #444 (the resurrection forest), be sure to have ammo and the will to use it, because the dead are coming after you. Good to know. It's splatter city in this formless import, which provides a hefty percentage of mayhem to elapsed time; enjoy it.
THE CHILDREN It seems that cloud of radioactive gas had a horrifying side effect on the children of Ravensback. Now their touch can kill and they desire only destructiona good excuse for grownups to run around cutting off the zombie kinder's hands. Atmospheric, kinda.
LIFEFORCE Technically, creatures that ransack London all frothing at the mouth and looking for victims are vampires rather than zombiesor maybe just members of Oasisbut only semantics separate the two in this messterpiece from Tobe "Chain Saw, bitches!" Hooper. Sexy naked aliens drain the life from earthlings and create a horde of the undead. Somehow Patrick Stewart hemorrhages a voluptuous Mathilda May out his nose. Four stars.
GORY GORY HALLELUJAH As Professor Farnsworth would say, "Great zombie Jesus!" This apocaplyptic Christian musical finds four individuals, having auditioned for the lead in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, trapped in the midst of a showdown between capitalism, fake righteousness, voodoo and common decency. Like nothing you've seen in quite some time, except for real life.
SHOCK WAVES A pleasure cruise turns ugly when tourists find an island inhabited by an old Nazi scientist (Peter Cushing). That should be problematic enough, but it turns out that the seas surrounding the island are infested with altered Nazi troopers who are foul-tempered and über-ready to slash and kill. This is one of the first appearances of the "fast zombie" archetype; it's worth seeing for its pervasive atmosphere of '70s dread and the involvement of Watkins Film School editing divinity Denine Rowan.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS John Carpenter's last great movie, this has the liquid incarnation of Satan's son taking over the bodies of grad students and threatening to unmake the universe. Again, not a by-the-numbers zombie flicbut if you wanted by-the-numbers, you wouldn't give a damn what we recommended. So luxuriate in the weird vibe of 1987, if only for the last hurrah of the porn mustache on regular folk.