It’s Halloween season, which means that people are firing up their search engines with searches for “the best horror movies” and “the best zombie movies,” among other things. Paste is naturally here to help, having just recently published our list of the 50 best zombie movies of all time, as well as our ranking of the 60 best horror movies you can watch on Netflix right now. Ah, but what of zombie movies on Netflix? That’s where this list comes in.
In short: It’s a mixed bag. It’s almost unfathomable that Netflix, the world’s most popular streaming service, doesn’t currently have access to a single zombie film by George A. Romero—including Day of the Dead, which they at least had through most of last year. They don’t even have the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, which is freely available in the public domain. It’s more or less inexcusable on their part.
This is not to say the Netflix library doesn’t have some classic zombie flicks, although if anything it leans toward modern indie undead-featuring films, which are likely cheaper to acquire. Regardless, here are the 10 best zombie movies films you can view on Netflix this Halloween season.
Director: Jordan Rubin
Look, if you don’t know before you ever hit “play” exactly what you should be expecting from Zombeavers, I’m not sure how much I can help you. It’s a film about toxic waste-spawned zombie beavers, people. It’s halfhearted as both a horror film and a comedy, with a preponderance of jokes that thud and just enough that will draw an ashamed chuckle. It feels like a throwback to the straight-to-VHS horror schlock of the ’80s and ’90s—simple, kitschy premise, plenty of gratuitous nudity, lots of attempts at humor. By the time people start turning into WERE-BEAVERS near the film’s end, you’ll have settled into a good groove of mocking its flaws and enjoying its alternating shamelessness and reverence for the genre—because at least they attempt some interesting practical effects. Good on you, Zombeavers. It’s trash, but a step above the bottom of the barrel. —Jim Vorel
9. Burying the Ex
Director: Joe Dante
It’s been a weird decade for Joe Dante. As a legend in the horror industry for films such as Gremlins and The Howling, and even The Burbs, seeing his name attached to a project always brings it at least a little bit of genre credibility. The films, though, have tended to be uneven—not quite the ugly territory that John Landis sunk into with his last few features, but not far enough away from it, either. Here, Dante gives us a zombie romantic comedy of sorts, although one that can’t quite match up to the likes of the surprisingly decent Warm Bodies. The likable Anton Yelchin (RIP) plays Max, a somewhat nebbish guy with a movie-style beautiful but possessive and controlling girlfriend who ends up being killed in an accident. The only problem—she doesn’t stay in her grave, and returns to his life as a fully sentient zombie just as he’s getting back on the dating market. Occasionally funny, it doesn’t do quite enough with its premise, but Yelchin is reason enough to watch. — J.V.
8. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
Director: Tommy Wirkola
The sequel to Dead Snow (and there’s a third coming, by the way), Red vs. Dead completely abandons the true horror elements of the first film in favor of straight-up camp and horror comedy, a shift that I always take as a sort of admission—“We can’t legitimately frighten you with this, so let’s make it funny instead.” The resulting film is fun and colorful, bringing back the nazi zombies of the first installment for mayhem that becomes more over the top and gory, in the style of say, Dead Alive/Braindead. The main character from the previous film has had a zombie arm stitched onto him, which grants him both super strength and the ability to raise his own zombie army of dead Russian soldiers, i.e. the “Red” of the title. It’s ridiculous and full of action, which is great, but is slowed down throughout by thudding comic relief characters who you’d rather see eaten than speaking more lines. But in terms of being a splatter spectacle? Both Dead Snow films are great at that. —J.V.
7. What We Become
Director: Bo Mikkelson
The thing that limits a film the likes of What We Become is its familiarity. It’s a tight-knit family drama zombie movie, following a single family unit as they experience the tropes we’ve seen in nearly every “serious” indie zombie film of the last 15 years. Even the title is taken directly from one of the trade paperbacks of The Walking Dead comic, and that comic’s modern, Romero-esque outlook feels like heavy inspiration for the film. It’s not to say that it isn’t effective … but it’s a question of what still remains to be said with a film about a small family trapped inside their home by zombies that hasn’t already been said. What We Become is well shot and handles its minimal story effectively, but it struggles somewhat to justify its own existence. The third act, thankfully, does ratchet up both the tension and action, paying off in some effective bloodletting that takes a bit too long to arrive. It’s a film that is very indicative of the state of modern indie zombie films, both in the U.S. and abroad—competent, fairly entertaining, but struggling for purpose. – J.V.
As we just said in the last entry, your taste in the V/H/S series will likely depend on which entry has your personal favorite segment, but the first two are relatively neck and neck. At the very least, this one contains what might be the single best segment in the entire series, Eduardo Sanchez’ “A Ride in the Park.” Without giving everything away, it involves bicyclists, zombies and helmet-mounted GoPro cameras, which help give us a perspective we’ve never really seen in horror while deftly avoiding the question of “Why would anyone be filming this?” There’s still some not-great segments—really the ideal V/H/S would be a compilation that takes only the best segments from each entry to create a really solid horror anthology. One has to wonder if Viral killed this series for good, or whether they’ll eventually act like it never happened and release a straight-up V/H/S 3. —J.V.
5. Dead Snow
Director: Tommy Wirkola
You’d be surprised just how many nazi zombie movies there truly are out there—it’s a subtype of the zombie film that was first made in the ’70s with films like Shock Waves and has never stopped being made since, but the highest profile version from recent years was Dead Snow and its ridiculous sequel from last year, Red vs. Dead. The first Dead Snow, though no masterwork, is the better film because it at least partially tries to hit the horror audience instead of abandoning it for full-on horror-comedy camp. A group of students camp out in a remote, snowy cabin in Norway and unwittingly revive a regiment of Nazi zombies by appropriating their Nazi gold—pretty standard stuff for the genre. The attempts at humor and characterization are so-so, but the FX and action work are top-notch for an indie feature, with great costuming for the zombies and lots of explosive bloodletting. Go in with low expectations and just enjoy the blood ’n’ guts. —J.V.
4. The Horde
Directors: Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan
The Horde plays a bit like someone in France saw From Dusk Till Dawn and wondered what the format of that movie might be like with zombies instead of vampires. Like the Robert Rodriguez film, we get sucked into a tense crime story first, following a group of police officers as they storm a mostly abandoned apartment high-rise to take down a gang of drug dealers who killed one of their own. And then, 20 minutes in … a bunch of zombies arrive! You almost have to admire the total lack of foreshadowing—it’s a unique take on “the world has come to an end,” because in this story, the world comes to an end while the two sides (cops and drug dealers) are in the midst of a very pitched confrontation. They have no access to information on the wider world, and can only watch as Paris apparently tears itself apart. Naturally, the cops and robbers then need to team up in order to survive, in a strange mix of sadistic humor and emotional turmoil. As for the zombies, they actually look pretty awesome, although their abilities tend to vary wildly from scene to scene. An odd quirk: The zombies actually remove their own dead from the battlefield for reasons never fully explained, a trait I’ve never seen in another zombie movie. —J.V.
3. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
Director: Kiah Roche-Turner
It’s nearly impossible to discuss Wyrmwood without making the immediate and obvious Mad Max comparisons. Like George Miller’s seminal genre classic, this film arrives from a young Australian director with no shortage of style, but in addition to its car-focused post-apocalyptic leanings, the movie also features several other welcome twists on the zombie formula. You’d be forgiven for expecting yet another “gritty,” low-budget zombie film without any real ambition, but each minute propels Wyrmwood forward into unexpected territory, from the discovery that zombie blood can be used to power vehicles to the second-half revelations revolving around the character of Brooke and the development of latent psychic powers. The movie is many things at once: Scary without being dour, emotional without feeling pompous and gory without completely descending into the violent slapstick of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive or Bad Taste. It features surprisingly compelling characters and develops them without relying on exposition—Brooke becomes one of the biggest stars of the film despite being a bound and gagged captive for almost an hour. In general, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is the kind of genre idea that many directors could have tackled, but few could have pulled off so stylishly or entertainingly on this kind of budget. —J.V.
Director: Bruce McDonald
A quick plot summary of Pontypool makes it sound like just a rehash of Orson Welles’ 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast with zombies in the place of aliens, and although it’s certainly more than a little bit indebted to that work, that would be giving the film far too little credit. The movie instead draws thematic inspiration from the words of its radio broadcast and recasts the zombie disease as verbal, a product of mindless repetition and meaningless phrases in the English language. Pontypool’s clever script is superbly acted, and the film manages to take the zombie genre in a different direction without going the route of ironic deconstruction. In the end, they’re not truly “zombies,” but our insistence upon the term is part of the point the movie is trying to make. It’s a horror film where the horror is the shallowness of modern society. —S.G.
Director: Stuart Gordon
Ironically, the most entertaining take on H.P. Lovecraft is the least “Lovecrafty.” Stuart Gordon established himself as cinema’s leading Lovecraft adaptor with a juicy take on the story “Herbert West, Re-Animator,” about a student who concocts a disturbingly flawed means of reviving the dead. Re-Animator more closely resembles a zombie film than Lovecraft’s signature brand of occult sci-fi, but it boasts masterful suspense scenes, great jokes and Barbara Crampton as a smart, totally hot love interest. Jeffrey Combs is brilliant, establishing himself as the Anthony Perkins of his generation as West, a hilariously insolent and reckless genius whom he played in two Re-Animator sequels. The actor even played Lovecraft in the anthology film Necronomicon. The film is a near-perfect crystallization of best aspects of ’80s horror, from its delight in perversion to its awesome practical effects. —Curt Holman
Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor, and his DVD plan from Netflix remains firmly intact. You can follow him on Twitter. for more film content.