In the wake of Halloween, the ghosts, goblins, and witches may have returned to the netherworlds from whence they came, but since there’s no more room in Hell, the dead still walk the earth!
Because zombies have become a sort of ubiquitous motif in horror cinema, it’s easy to forget the zombie sub-genre's deep political roots. Director George Romero didn’t invent zombies, but his groundbreaking film Night of the Living Dead is often credited for creating most of the tropes that would be repeated in subsequent horror films. Romero’s speculative sci-fi story somewhat accidentally became an allegory about race relations in America when the director decided to cast a Black man as the protagonist — thus changing the cultural context of the events depicted in the frightening film. Suddenly, the final scene in which the movie’s hero is shot by a roving gang of hunters took on a much different meaning. Romero would continue exploring anti-capitalist and subversive themes in the film’s follow-up, Dawn of the Dead, which depicted a suburban mall's invasion by hordes of festering corpses. The zombies there were supposed to represent the mindless consumerism, which he saw driving American culture in the late ’70s.
Since the ’70s, horror filmmakers have used zombies to convey a plethora of political messages — but zombies have since somewhat lost their teeth. Movies like Warm Bodies or Life After Beth and TV series like The Walking Dead have rendered the critical component of zombie film somewhat obsolete: Nowadays, zombies are often used as material for saccharine twee musings or another meaningless image in banal action sequences.
Although Netflix’s horror selection has significantly declined in quality in recent memory (especially now that Shudder has been gaining traction amongst horror die-hards), there’s still a handful of hidden gems tucked away in their spookiest sections. Here’s five can’t-miss zombie movies ranging from politically incisive to absurdly campy to family-friendly.
(Warning: some spoilers throughout)