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May 8, 2017

Five of the best comic zombie movies

('Zombieland' Official Facebook Page)

(‘Zombieland’ Official Facebook Page)

Movies that attempt to make viewers scream and laugh rarely seem to do well. Few filmmakers have been successful at synthesizing horror and comedy into a single dynamic entity that doesn’t rely on overbearing amounts of crude humor to cover up their lack of originality. Comic zombie movies may prove to be the most underrated genre of all time due to their limited success in infusing humor into a post-apocalyptic setting.

However, beneath the wreckage of an infected film genre remain a few exceptional survivors.

“Zombieland”  

“Zombieland” embodies the true spirit of a comedic zombie movie by incorporating the irony of finding comic relief within a society ravaged by death. The story stars Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who finds himself an unlikely survivor given the opportunity to live out a hero complex only previously recognized through Xbox.

The offbeat monologue, unlikely partnership of painfully adolescent Eisenberg and gun-toting Woody Harrelson and wondrously random yet satisfying appearance of Bill Murray put “Zombieland” at the top of the list. Abigail Breslin delivers a great performance as the only child character while delivering some of the crudest lines of the film. An ingeniously developed ensemble makes the viewer question whether the real danger resides in the hordes of brain-hungry zombies or the terrifying idiosyncrasies of the remaining human survivors.

“Dead Snow”

“Dead Snow” chronicles the fate of a group of friends whose trip to a lodge in the mountains quickly turns bloody when they accidentally awaken the fallen army of zombified Nazis.

While the film’s plot is action-packed in a constant stream of near-death experiences and limited dialogue, sudden spurts of humor through its soundtrack and story set it apart from its competition. The Norwegian film offers a tasteful distribution of blood and guts that highlights some especially ingenious methods of injury, including a ball-of-yarn style unraveling of small intestines snagged by a tree branch.

“Shaun of the Dead”

“Shaun of the Dead” combines British stereotypes with a zombie-infected setting to create a comic masterpiece. Shaun (Simon Pegg) along with his best friend, mother, drunken stepfather, ex-girlfriend and hipster rival become entrapped in an English pub by a zombie mob, resulting in a hilariously bungled attempt at survival. Penelope Wilton delivers an especially memorable performance as Shaun’s mother by nailing the transformation from a soft-spoken British woman to a killer member of the undead.

“Warm Bodies”

“Warm Bodies” is the edgy paranormal romance that “Twilight” failed to be. Set in the abandoned airport of a post-zombie apocalypse, “Warm Bodies” tells the endearing love story of R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who saves the life of human named Julie (Teresa Palmer). After eating the brain of Julie’s boyfriend, R becomes her protector from an army of hypothalamus-hungry creatures. The two quickly develop a relationship through an awkward exchange of grunts, stunted communication and an imploding sexual tension between living and dead.

Unlike most of the movies in its genre, the film develops the unique concept of reversing the zombie infection through love and willpower, opening the floor for philosophical debate on what really makes us human.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” retells Jane Austen’s classic novel with guest appearances from the living dead. The film finds its humor intrinsically as the search for a husband continues throughout the apocalypse. The zombie war is thus woven in effortlessly allowing the plot to unfold in full with a few added dramatic elements. Comic justice is delivered as 18th century high-society women with weapons stuffed into their corsages pause to eliminate a zombie infestation from the ballroom.

Lucy Matzilevich can be reached at lmatzilevich@umass.edu.

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