Anyone who knows me knows I love a good zombie flick – or a bad one. Which is odd really, considering I can’t handle most other kinds of horror. In any case, my interest in the undead has recently reanimated and I’ve been sampling a lot of the zombie media that Netflix has to offer. Some are really good, some are bad in a fun way, and some are just plain bad. Read on for some spoiler-free reviews!
Black Summer (2019)
When it first came out, Netflix kept advertising their new series called Black Summer, and after watching the trailer, I decided to give it a go. The first episode is fantastic, but unfortunately it’s all downhill from there. The show utilises a chapter-style structure, which works really well for introducing the characters (and subverting your expectations) in the first episode, but becomes kind of jarring and irritating as the series goes on. Beyond the first episode, it’s pretty unnecessary.
The pacing is also all over the place. In some episodes, a single problem takes the whole episode to solve, where other episodes are quite elaborate and could have used more of a foundation for the action that takes place – which is a nice way of saying it doesn’t make any damn sense (I’m looking at you, Episode Six). The episode lengths are also completely inconsistent – ranging from 20 to 44 minutes – which would be fine if the story takes all the time it needs (like Black Mirror does) but some episodes drag on, where others feel drastically too short (especially the finale, which is the shortest episode at only 20 minutes long).
Ultimately, the narrative payoff of Black Summer is unsatisfying, so it’s only really worth watching to the end if you’re a big zombie fan or if you just hate leaving things unfinished.
Train to Busan (2016)
Sadly, Train to Busan is no longer available on UK Netflix (I’m sure it was on there until a couple of months ago) but it is available in other regions so I’m still including it on this list! This Korean film follows a father and daughter fighting to survive (and save their relationship) during a zombie outbreak on a train.
The social commentary in this film is about as subtle as a brick through a window, but can get away with it because the zombie genre is built on overt social commentary (see the original Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Living Dead). Zombies frequently serve as a metaphor for something more, and this film is no exception.
The unique and claustrophobic train setting allows for some really interesting and scary scenes, while also giving you time to get to know (and love) a lot of the characters. Some of the characters make really poor but believable choices, and watching the MC realise and remedy his own mistakes is really quite wholesome and endearing. If there’s one message to take away from this film, it’s that people show who they really are when put in a life-or-death situation.
The Rezort (2015/2016)
The Rezort is a silly, cheesy, violent gore-fest. In a world recovering from a global zombie outbreak and subsequent war, The Rezort is a remote island where zombies are kept captive and can be shot at by guests looking for revenge or violence or release – for an extortionate fee.
The story is pretty basic and fun, nothing terribly impressive – but there is a pretty interesting twist near the end that gives the film a few narrative bonus points. This film isn’t life-changing, but it’s definitely entertaining and worth a watch if you’re a zombie fan with nothing better to do one evening.
The Cured (2017)
The Cured took me by surprise – I’d never heard of it, and only found it by searching for zombie films on Netflix – and it is phenomenal. It’s one of the best zombie films I’ve seen in a long time, and the fact that it’s so unheard of is absolutely criminal.
Set in Ireland in a post-zombie-outbreak world, the virus has now been cured but the former zombies can remember everything they did while infected. This film follows Senan, a cured zombie, and his reintegration into society as he struggles with the guilt of what he did.
When I saw that Ellen Page was in it, I was slightly concerned that she would be doing a cheesy fake accent, but I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard her using her own voice. The acting in this film is fantastic; the whole thing is extremely well-executed.
Since zombies are typically a mindless, unthinking mass of rotting flesh, this exploration of guilt and memory is so refreshingly unique. The only thing I’ve ever seen before that was remotely similar was BBC3’s In The Flesh (2013) a few years ago, which, despite its similarities in concept, is a very different story. Creating an original and enjoyable zombie film is quite a difficult achievement, and The Cured is that and then some.
Easily one of the best zombie stories I’ve seen in years, Kingdom is a Korean historical drama with the threat of the undead lurking in the background. I like to describe is as ‘like Game of Thrones but on a smaller scale and Korean’. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the story, but I highly recommend this fantastic show.
The quality of the writing, acting, and translation is phenomenal. Even if you’re not really interested in zombies or horror, this show has enough humour and political intrigue to keep anyone hooked – unless you don’t get on with reading subtitles.
I cannot overstate how good this show is. If you’re going to watch anything from this list, watch Kingdom.
I was excited to watch this one because it’s based on a brilliant 2013 short film of the same name that I first saw a few years ago. Starring Martin Freeman, this film is about a man and his baby searching for safety during a zombie outbreak in the Australian outback. Expanding on the original short film, this version adds in more characters and extends the family’s journey and backstory. Directed by the same people, there are a few ways it diverges from the original to keep it fresh, but there are a few little nods to the short film as well.
Martin Freeman delivers a stellar performance as always, and is joined by an equally talented cast. The only drawback for me was the original take on the zombie virus (something which is tricky to do well) – the zombies behave in a strange way that doesn’t seem terribly consistent or clear, which sometimes makes things frustratingly easy for the human characters. Apart from that, this is a great film made with the same spirit that made the original short film so memorable.
I was also excited to see that they’ve recently added The Girl With All the Gifts (2016) to Netflix, which I first watched a couple of years ago. This is another great film with a bit of a twist on your traditional zombies – definitely worth a watch, and I’ve got the book that it’s based on downloaded on my Kindle just waiting to be read.
If you’re looking for something more artsy and intellectual, The Night Eats the World (2018) and Ravenous (2017) might be your cup of tea. I watched these two back to back recently, and they are both quite clever but also a bit odd. They both have moments that had me saying ‘well that doesn’t make any sense’, but overall they are both good films that are enjoyable to watch.
Golshifteh Farahani’s performance in Night Eats the World really shines, plus the zombies in that film are eerily silent (rather than the screeching/hissing/moaning we’ve become accustomed to) which I loved. The zombies in Ravenous exhibit some very strange behaviour, which adds some extra intrigue to the story and sets it apart from your bog-standard zombie flick.
Hopefully these recommendations and reviews will be helpful for choosing your next film to watch or show to binge (Kingdom. It should be Kingdom). If you want any more zombie recommendations (I can offer many!) feel free to get in touch, either in the comments below or on Twitter or Instagram.