I'm not going to be persnickety here and make overly-anal distinctions between zombies and the living dead. For our purposes zombies and the living dead will be used generically and interchangeably. But what we will be doing is examining ten movies that on the surface seem to be zombie movies, but with further examination aren't zombie movies at all. Here we go...
1) The Serpent and the Rainbow
Why it's not a zombie movie? Says right there on the movie poster. They're not dead. never were. What it is is a fascinating, and true story about the work of ethnobotanist Wade Davis in Haiti. Throw in a little voodoo and a a tetrodotoxin with mind-altering properties and you have a heady brew that can simulate what looks like death and ultimate resurrection. The Serpent and the Rainbow is a great zombie film directed by Wes Craven. Highly recommended.
2) Night of the Creeps
Why it's not a zombie movie? The "zombies" are more just containers for alien slugs. It's a quibble, yes, but I think a valid one. This a movie about alien brain parasites, not zombies. However....
Thrill me. Tom Atkins is the man. The Fog, Halloween 3, Creepshow, Escape From New York. One of the best horror movies of the entire decade of the 80's, but slightly NOT a zombie movie.
3) 28 Days Later
Why it's not a zombie movie? They're not dead. They have the Rage virus. I'm a shambler zombie movie guy myself, but this is still a good movie. Not a zombie movie, but a good movie.
4) The Last Man on Earth/The Omega Man
Why it's not a zombie movie? Another case where they're not dead. They also feed on plasma, not bodies or brains, which makes them more vampiric. One of my all time favorite movies. But not a zombie movie.
Just wanted to sneak a photo of these two nasties in here.
5) The Crazies
Why it's not a zombie movie. After the accidental release of a experimental biological weapon in a small town people go crazy and become violent, but they aren't dead. Another metaphor for mass hysteria and one of George Romero's most unusual films.
Why it's not a zombie movie? Says why right on the movie poster. They're not human, and as the scientist in Dawn of the Dead is so clear in explaining, "Cannibalism involves an intra-species phenomenon."
Why it's not a zombie movie? Virused, but not dead. In this very unlikely, but fascinating movie based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything, by Anthony Burgess, it is human language that is a virus that transforms people into violent crazies. The movie, though not directly based on Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, is a homage to the power of words themselves to cause mass hysteria. A movie I absolutely think is a credit to the genre, but not a zombie movie.
Why it's not a zombie movie? Because it's not a movie. I wish it were. Because it would be one of the great zombie movies of all time.
8) Night of the Comet
Why it's not a zombie movie. In the case of those who have been mutated by the comet, they aren't dead, and in the case of the ghoulish scientists who want to use the healthy living's blood to cure themselves, they're not dead, either. It's a magnificent movie. Another one of the best horror movies of the 80's, but not exactly a zombie movie.
9) The Signal
Why it's not a zombie movie. Like Pontypool, people are driven violently insane by a signal broadcast through electronic devices, but they're not dead.
10) The Children
Why it's not a zombie movie. Once again, not dead, never dead, just sugared-up and too close to a nuclear reactor. Sounds exactly like my youth, but you didn't catch me eating people. You didn't catch me, at least. I'll wager 90% of you haven't seen this one and if low, low budget horror movies aren't your thing, skip it, but if you like weird gems of movies this might be for you.
So, there you have it. Ten zombie movies that aren't really zombie movies at all. Do you have any movies to add to the list, or would you like to add something to or debate any of these entries?
While you're here, check out these zombie blogs
The tale of The Zombie, Mutant Banana