Ready for a deep dive into horror? Each week, acclaimed director, writer and producer Eli Roth compiles a curated list of films that best exemplify horror’s various sub-genres. Whether you’re a new horror fan or a die-hard expert, “Eli Roth’s Deep Cuts” has a recommendation ready for you.
After providing a list of gems of the zombie genre, Eli Roth takes you deeper into the genre with these even more obscure zombie films from all over the world. Featuring movies with demonic zombie knights, undead hitmen, a teenage takeover of dystopian Los Angeles, Nazi zombies and more, horror fans are sure to find something new to add to their watch list. Then, check out this list of gruesome “deeper cuts” if you dare.
Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972, dir. Amando de Ossorio)
A group of vacationers near the border between Spain and Portugal are attacked by the ancient corpses of the demonic order of the Knights Templar. The zombies, or revenants, were blinded when birds pecked at their rotting corpses left hanging from the gallows, where they had been executed for their heresy. Which makes no sense at all, but then, neither does the idea of a zombie apocalypse.
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974, dir. Jorge Grau)
This Spanish-made zombie film (also known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) follows two hippies harassed by the police over murders actually committed by people turned into zombies by pesticides. The film’s U.S. release title, Don’t Open the Window, helped inspire Edgar Wright’s fake trailer, Don’t, in the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joint-directed film Grindhouse (2007).
Deathdream (1974, dir. Bob Clark)
Andy, an American soldier, returns home from the war in Vietnam, but it soon becomes clear to his family that he is not the same as when he left. Andy’s strange behavior makes his father, Charles, concerned. A series of mysterious murders, in which the victims have been drained of their blood, further raises Charles’ suspicions about his son. Could Andy be the killer? This film, also known as Dead of Night, was among the first that makeup effects legend Tom Savini worked on after he ended his tenure as a combat photographer in Vietnam.
Sugar Hill (1974, dir. Paul Maslansky)
A woman named Sugar Hill seeks out the assistance of a voodoo practitioner to unleash a horde of undead slaves to reap bloody vengeance against a gang that murdered her boyfriend. The film is a favorite among fans of the so-called “Blaxploitation” subgenre and is unique for its use of the classic voodoo zombies of the ’30s and ’40s. Like many Blaxploitation films, it contains potent commentary about racism and trauma. It’s surprisingly moving to watch Sugar team with her elder relatives and undead slaves to destroy evil racists. As Baron Samedi, the Lord of the Undead, Don Pedro Colley shines in a radical performance that seems largely improvised. (The character lures racist men to their death by imitating subjugated black stereotypes before revealing his power.)
Nightmare City (1980, dir. Umberto Lenzi)
In this Italian film, a nuclear disaster causes an outbreak of scabby faced zombies who aren’t shy about using weapons in their quest to get the blood that they need to survive. In particularly epic scenes, they attack a TV studio during a workout program and an amusement park. Nightmare City stands out as a particularly graphic exploitation film in a genre that is riddled with them. This is also thought to be the first film with “fast zombies” (or “the running infected,” if you’re a zombie nerd).
Dead & Buried (1981, dir. Gary Sherman)
The locals in a small New England town start murdering tourists, much to the consternation of the town sheriff. He uncovers a sinister plot involving zombies and a mad scientist, all leading toward a brutal twist ending. Part of the U.K.’s infamous “Video Nasties” list, the film was eventually acquitted of obscenity charges. Underrated horror director Gary Sherman emphasizes mood over gore, easing the film under one’s skin. The script was by Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett, the writing team behind Alien.
Sole Survivor (1984, dir. Thom Eberhardt)
Uninjured by a horrific plane crash that took the lives of everyone else onboard, Denise is filled with grief at the notion that she should have died too. It turns out that her impulse is right as Death is sending out zombies to claim her! The film is very similar, in premise at least, to the Final Destination franchise. However, it has a moody, lonely beauty reminiscent of Carnival of Souls (1962).
Night of the Comet (1984, dir. Thom Eberhardt)
The passing of a comet simultaneously turns some people to dust and others into zombies, leaving only those who happened to be in steel shelters unchanged. Night of the Comet follows two young women through their run-ins with zombies, gang members, and scientists in a dystopian downtown Los Angeles. Kelli Maroney’s character Samantha was one of Joss Whedon’s inspirations for Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993, dir. Brian Yuzna)
After Curt’s girlfriend, Julie, is killed in a motorcycle accident, he reanimates her corpse with a chemical from his father’s lab. Now it’s up to Curt to help keep his zombie girlfriend from scientists and gang members. The film was criticized for not being as humorous as its tongue-in-cheek predecessors, but it’s developed a cult following of people who consider it a great horror romance.
Resident Evil (2002, dir. Paul W. S. Anderson)
In this spin off from the popular video game franchise, Alice, along with a group of Special Forces soldiers, explores the underground offices of the Umbrella Corporation, whose facilities have been locked down after an unknown accident. It soon becomes apparent that the nefarious experiments going on at the secretive Umbrella Corp have turned its employees into zombies. The team must navigate through the facilities’ elaborate traps, while avoiding zombified employees, to get the antidote and contain the outbreak.
Pontypool (2008, dir. Bruce McDonald)
In this unique take on the zombie subgenre, the cast is confined inside of a radio station as the zombie outbreak is seemingly going on outside. Dripping in ambiguity, Pontypool will keep you guessing straight up to the end. Tony Burgess, the writer of the novel, based the story off of Orson Welles’ infamous radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds.
Dead Snow (2009, dir. Tommy Wirkola)
A group of medical students on a ski trip encounter cinema’s perfect cannon fodder: Nazi zombies! Director Tommy Wirkola wanted Old School cursed zombies to make it “like a ghost story mixed with Indiana Jones.”
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