Greatest Zombie Films

Greatest Zombie Films

1980 - 1984

Greatest Zombie Films
(chronological by time period and film title)
Introduction | 1930s-1950s | 1960s-1970s | 1980-1984 | 1985-1989
1990s | 2000-2006 | 2007-2009 | 2010s

Greatest Zombie Films: 1980 - 1984
(chronological by time period and film title)
Title Screen
Zombie Films

The Alien Dead (1980)
d. Fred Olen Ray, 74 minutes, Firdbird International Pictures

Tagline(s): "They're consuming every living creature in sight!", and "The Bodies Are Dead: The Remains Live On..."
Setting: Florida (Oviedo, Rock Spring and Orlando).
Story: The Griffiths, gator poachers, were on a rowboat in the swamps of Florida, near a small southern Florida town. While gator hunting, Mrs. Griffiths (Nancy Kranz) was grabbed or attacked by monsters, as reported by her grief stricken husband (Norman Riggins). Small town newspaper reporter Tom Corman (Raymond Roberts) investigated "strange things" with white-trash swamp girl Shawn Michaels (Linda Lewis), and after studying the mangled corpse, deduced that something beyond alligators was involved. Tom's inquisitive work led to a story about how a meteor (or aircraft) crashed and struck a houseboat of partying coeds. With its cargo of biological weapons, it caused the group of dead to become sluggish, reanimated zombie corpses (the "alien dead") who fed on swamp alligators - and then local citizens (with a requisite topless girl swimmer (Jocelyn Davies) and a wet-T-shirted female as some of the victims).
Notable: By legendary cult director Fred Olen Ray (his third listed film, but never released theatrically), shot on cheap film stock and then enlarged. The low-budget film's title was a combination of Alien (1979) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). With a simple plot, awful acting (including the last film appearance of legendary Buster Crabbe as haggard Sheriff Kowalski), and overripe dialogue ("That meteorite didn't kill those people, it turned them into a bunch of God-damned monsters!" and "She's deader than Mother's Day at an orphanage"). Two of the goriest scenes were the pitchforking, and a group-cannibalizing scene in the conclusion.

City of the Living Dead (1980, It.) (aka Paura nella città dei morti viventi, or The Gates of Hell)
d. Lucio Fulci, 93 minutes, Dania Film/Medusa Distribuzione/National Cinematografica

Tagline: "The Dead Shall Rise And Walk The Earth"
Setting: In NYC, and in the remote town of Dunwich in New England, around the time of All Saints' Day (All Hallows Eve)
Story: Father William Thomas' (Fabrizio Jovine) sacrilegious suicide by hanging in a graveyard, seen in a horrifying and ominous vision by psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl), occurred during a seance with medium Theresa (Adelaide Aste) in NYC. As a result, Mary seemed to collapse and fall dead from the traumatic and frightful precognition. During journalist Peter Bell's (Christopher George) visit to her gravesite, he realized she was still alive and freed her from her coffin with a pick axe. According to Theresa, the priest's death opened a gateway to Hell that would unleash hordes of hungry zombies on All Saints' Day. The setting shifted to the fictional town of Dunwich in New England, where there were inexplicable events: an abandoned house with an inflatable doll and a rotting baby corpse, and a bar with a shattered mirror and cracked wall. Later, a supernatural version of zombified Father Thomas murdered 19 year-old Emily Robbins (Antonella Interlenghi), the girlfriend of the town's therapist-psychiatrist Gerry (Carlo De Mejo). Two teenagers were also massacred: Rose Kelvin (Daniela Doria) vomited out her entire insides, and boyfriend Tommy Fisher (Michele Soavi) had his brain squeezed out of his head. Further living corpse sightings and violent deaths occurred. Mary and Peter journeyed to Dunwich to investigate with some of the townsfolk, including Gerry and his patient, painter-artist Sandra (Janet Agren), who was soon killed by an undead Emily who had risen up as a walking, deadly ghoul. In Father Thomas' family graveyard site on All Saints Day, they discovered an underground grotto. Peter was murdered by a zombified Sandra, before the others came face to face with an ethereal Father Thomas and his army of skeletal zombies. A wooden crucifix-cross was used to kill the evil priest, turning him and the undead back into dust. The dead were hopefully unable to fully rise from the Gates of Hell.
Notable: This was the first installment in Lucio Fulci's unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy, followed by The Beyond (1981, It.) (see below) and the cult, supernatural, haunted house horror film The House by the Cemetery (1981, It.). It featured very gory special effects by Franco Rufino (and two memorable death scenes, a power-drill to the head of a perverted sexual predator, and a woman vomiting up all of her intestines).

Hell of the Living Dead (1980, It./Sp.) (aka Virus - L'Inferno Dei Morti Viventi, or Night of the Zombies)
d. Bruno Mattei (credited as Vincent Dawn), 101 minutes, Beatrice Film/Films Dara

Tagline(s): "They Eat the Living," and "When the Creeping Dead Devour the Living Flesh."
Setting: Papua-New Guinea, and Barcelona, Spain.
Story: A top-secret Papua-New Guinea experimental chemical science lab, HOPE Center # 1, headed by Professor Barrett (Joaquin Blanco), was the site of an accident that first featured a reanimated rat. A dangerous chemical (coded as "Operation Sweet Death") was dispersed as a cloud of green smoke. The lab technicians and locals were turned into flesh-hungry zombies. Sexy Italian news reporter Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton) and her boyfriend cameraman Max (Gaby Renom) landed on the island to investigate, followed by a four-man team of trigger-happy commandos, led by Lt. Mike London (José Gras). The SWAT team had just killed a group of terrorists barricaded inside the American embassy in Barcelona, Spain. It was learned that the lab's flawed plan was to end world hunger by turning Third World populations into cannibals.
Notable: A low-budget, rip-off horror film and camp-cult favorite from Italy, part of a craze of similar films following Fulci's Zombie (1979, It.). Alternate titles included Zombie Creeping Flesh and Zombie Flesh Eaters 3. With mismatched footage, a recycled soundtrack, poor pacing, awful acting and dubbing, and a patchworked incoherent story. Included a nude scene of exhibitionist Margit Evelyn Newton in native paint interacting with the local New Guineans.

The Beyond (1981, It.) (aka ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, or Seven Doors of Death)
d. Lucio Fulci, 87/80 minutes, Fulvia Film

Tagline: "The seven dreaded gateways to hell are concealed in seven cursed places... And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth."
Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1927 (prologue), then about 50 years later
Story: An old, dilapidated Victorian, Louisiana hotel, the Seven Doors, was built over a "gateway to hell" - an underground entrance to the hellish underworld and its violent demonic forces. In the prologue set in 1927, Satanic warlock artist Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) tried to warn a lynch mob. He was chain-whipped and murdered - they crucified him and poured quicklime acid over his face, then walled him up in the hotel's basement. He placed a curse upon the hotel. Years later, the blonde proprietor of the hotel Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), who had inherited the hotel, experienced many horrific accidents among her renovation workers and friends (broken neck, gouged eyeballs, head melted in vat of acid, and ravenous flesh-eating tarantulas). Supernatural, murderous zombies had been unleashed. Liza was aided by a mysterious blind girl named Emily (Sarah Keller/Cinzia Monreale), and her own skeptical boyfriend, Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck). A full-scale zombie assault, supplemented by dog attacks and tarantulas, occurred by the film's pessimistic conclusion, when in a hospital, the couple were taken to Hell.

Notable: Similar in plot to director Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977), although a mostly plotless film with lots of atmosphere. A midnight-movie cult film. This was the second installment of Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell Trilogy, preceded by City of the Living Dead (1980), and followed by The House By the Cemetery (1981). A supernatural, gothic horror tale heavily censored during its initial release, for its gory special effects, and banned in Norway and West Germany. A heavily-edited version for US release was known as Seven Doors of Death.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981, It.) (aka Le Notti del Terrore, or The Zombie Dead)
d. Andrea Bianchi, 85 minutes, Esteban Cinematografica/

Tagline: "When the Moon Turns Red the Dead Shall Rise."
Setting: Italian mansion in Frascati.
Story: Bearded Professor Ayres (Renato Barbieri), studying ancient Etruscan magical practices, unsealed an ancient tomb-crypt and released a curse on a magical scroll. Voodoo-animated skeletal corpses emerged and quickly devoured him. A jet-set, upper-class group of party-going couples which were staying nearby at Ayres' posh country-villa became the next victims, as the slow-moving zombies besieged the mansion and munched on everyone, after they had entertained themselves with sexual escapades. The guests were: (1) Evelyn (Mariangela Giordano) and husband George (Roberto Caporali) with their mentally-challenged, creepy 13-year-old son Michael (adult midget Peter Bark) who lusted after his mother, (2) Mark (Gianluigi Chirizzi) and Janet (Karin Well), and (3) Leslie (Antonietta Antinori) and James (Simone Mattioli). After the hordes of zombies had consumed all of the guests, the film ended with a title screen (with spelling errors): "The Profecy (sic) of the Black Spider" - "The earth shall tremble...graves shall open... they shall come among the living as messengers of death and there shall be the nigths (sic) of terror...."
Notable: Another of the many grindhouse, depraved, low-budget gory variants of the Romero zombie films, from Italy. Memorable for a bizarre zombie breast-feeding murder scene in which Evelyn urged her zombified son Michael to bite her nipple: "Feed on my breast! You always liked that!"

Dead & Buried (1981)
d. Gary Sherman, 94 minutes, AVCO Embassy Pictures

Tagline: "It will take your breath away... all of it."
Setting: Potters Bluff, Rhode Island, a New England coastal town.
Story: It was ultimately revealed that the townsfolk of Potters Bluff were 'undead' zombies that were committing a rash of murders. They had been revived by the town's insane Coroner William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson), who had been experimenting on 'reanimating' the dead. Newly-deceased victims (many of whom were strangers passing through town), such as burn victim 'Freddie' (or George LeMoyne (Christopher Allport)) in the film's opening, were often recycled and still alive (but with new personalities or occupations) after being horribly murdered. The final twists were that the town sheriff's naive schoolteacher wife Janet (Melody Anderson) was Dobbs' first 'undead' subject. Janet's husband Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) was also one of the 'Living Dead.' He had been stabbed in the back by his 'undead' wife just before the events of the film.
Notable: The favorite cult film had an intelligent script written by the creators of Alien (1979), Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. It was similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Night of the Living Dead (1968).

The Evil Dead (1981)
d. Sam Raimi, 85 minutes, Renaissance Pictures, New Line Cinema

Tagline: "The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Terror."
Setting: Remote and isolated cabin.
Story: Five Michigan State University students in their 20s, who were spending a weekend retreat in a rented, remote cabin in the Michigan (or Tennessee?) mountains, inadvertently unleashed (or raised from the dead) dormant, demonic evil spirits from the ominous surrounding forest. With the discovery of a tape recording of potent incantations left by a professor who once lived there, and an accidental recitation of spells from a mysterious ancient Sumerian Book of the Dead known as the Necronomicon - they called up murderous spirits. After being raped by tree branches in a horrific scene, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) was transformed into a demon zombie (known as a Deadite or Shemp) with a greyish white face and superhuman strength. The next to be possessed was Ash William's (B movie icon Bruce Campbell) sister Shelly (Sarah York). Scotty (Hal Delrich) died from massive injuries inflicted by trees when he tried to walk out of the area, while the next victim was Ash's girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker). Cheryl (who had escaped from the cellar) continued to attack Ash as well as a zombified Scotty, whose eyeballs had to be gouged out. Only Ash escaped being violently possessed by 'evil dead' forces by film's end.
Notable: Writer/director Sam Raimi's debut film was the ultimate "cabin in the woods" story about demonic forces in the woods (not really reanimated dead zombies). The hyper-kinetic film had very little dialogue, plot and character development, but incredible POV tracking shots. Followed by two sequels: Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992). Notable for the infamous (and gratuitous) misogynistic predatory tree rape scene. The Evil Dead was remade as Evil Dead (2013), the debut feature film of director Fede Alvarez.

Night of the Zombies (1981) (aka Gamma 693, and Night of the Wehrmacht, and Night of the Zombies II)
d. Joel Reed, 88 minutes, N.M.D. Film Distributing Company

Tagline(s): "No one can survive this outpost from hell," and "They're eating their way to power."
Setting: Over 30 years after WWII, in the Alps of Bavaria, Germany.
Story: A US battalion and Nazi SS German soldier "zombies" who were wounded (or deserted) in World War II (and now missing) had their lives extended after being exposed to a top-secret experimental gas (to heal the wounded), known as Gamma 693. To remain half-dead zombies intent on world domination, the blue-faced, reanimated soldiers had to feast on human flesh, or receive doses of the gas (now depleted). After rumors of the mysterious appearance of the still-missing soldiers, the CIA dispatched agent Nick Monroe (porn actor Jamie Gillis) to Bavaria to find the still-soldiering American battalion and misplaced canisters of Gamma 693, accompanied by chemical weapons scientist/expert Dr. Clarence Proud (Ryan Hilliard) and his niece Susan (Samantha Grey). It was discovered that the soldiers were zombified and alive, and still fighting the war. Nick masqueraded as a zombie and infiltrated the hideout of the undead.
Notable: The last film of writer/director Joel Reed, probably not strictly classified as a zombie movie. A low-budget, cheap horror film thriller, it was first released as Gamma 693, then Night of the Wehrmacht Zombies or Night of the Zombies II. It attempted to falsely advertise itself as the sequel to director Bruno Mattei's film Night of the Zombies (1980) (aka Hell of the Living Dead).

Zombie Lake (1981, Fr./Sp.) (aka Le Lac Des Morts Vivants, or Le Lac Des Zombies, or Lake of the Living Dead)
d. Jean Rollin (credited to J.A. Lazer), 90 minutes, Eurociné/J.E. Films (Julian Esteban Films)

Tagline(s): "If You Think the Nazis Have Gone Under, YOU'RE DEAD WRONG," and "How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?", and "God help us if they rise again!", and "They're WAITING For YOU... Just BENEATH THE SURFACE."
Setting: France in the 1950s.
Story: A French lake ("lake of the damned") held the bodies of undead Nazi soldiers ambushed by the French Resistance - corpses were dumped there by Allied forces at the end of WWII (seen in flashback). The lake was once used for ritualistic Satanic black masses held at the lake in the Middle Ages. Those who chose to swim in the town's lake, usually naked, were attacked by green-skinned, helmeted, uniformed Nazi zombies. The village's mayor (Howard Vernon) was disturbed by the news of the first victim, a skinny-dipping female (Yvonne Dany). Pre-teen Helena (Anouchka) surmised that the main blonde zombie (Pierre-Marie Escourrou) was her protective dead soldier father, who had trysted in town with a French woman before his death.
Notable: Considered one of the worst B-films ever made, with almost constant full-frontal female nudity. The sexploitation film opened with a skinny-dip scene in the lake, and soon after, an entire uninhibited girls basketball (or volleyball?) team went swimming in the infested lake. The screenplay was written by Julian Esteban under the name Julius Valery and producer Marius Lesoeur under the name A.L. Mariaux. The originally-slated director Jesus Franco later directed his own Nazi-zombie flick, Oasis of the Living Dead (1982, Fr./Sp.).

Creepshow (1982)
d. George A. Romero, 120 minutes, Creepshow Films Inc./Laurel Entertainment Inc./Warner Bros.

Tagline(s): "The Most Fun You'll Ever Have... BEING SCARED!" and "Five Jolting Tales of Horror!"
Setting (1): Pennsylvania
Story (1): "Father's Day" - The wealthy Grantham family annually gathered together for the 7th year to honor deceased, miserly, 94 year-old patriarch Nathan Grantham (John Amplas). The attendees included his two daughters: mentally-ill 'Aunt' Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors) and 'Aunt' Sylvia Grantham (Carrie Nye) and Sylvia's family: Richard Grantham (Warner Shook), Cass Blaine (Elizabeth Regan), and Cass' new husband Hank Blaine (Ed Harris). A macabre story was told about how jealous Nathan in the past had Bedelia's lover murdered in a hunting 'accident.' She took revenge, struck him on the head with a marble ashtray, and killed him on Father's Day. This year, as Bedelia sat on Nathan's grave at the family estate, Nathan's zombified corpse (Jon Lormer) emerged and strangled her and then sought revenge against the others. Hank was crushed by a gravestone, housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Nann Mogg) was killed, and Sylvia's head was twisted off her body. Cass and Richard were shocked by the sight of zombie Nathan carrying Sylvia's head on a platter in the shape of a Father's Day cake decorated with candles ("It's Father's Day. And I got my cake. Happy Father's Day! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.").

Setting (2): Comfort Point (Berkeley Township), New Jersey
Story (2): "Something to Tide You Over" - Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) was lured to the beach house of wealthy techno-nerd Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen), who thought handsome rival Harry was having an affair with his unfaithful young wife Becky (Gaylen Ross). After forcing Harry, at gunpoint, to climb in a sandy hole, Harry was buried up to his neck - and about to be drowned in the high-tide. As Harry was covered up by water, he was forced to watch a live, closed-circuit TV videotaping of Becky, also buried up to her neck and about to drown in another location. Later that night, Vickers was dragged by the angry, watery, seaweed-covered zombie corpses of Harry (and Becky) to the beach and set up to die the same way.
Notable: This was a multi-story (five) anthology, directed by Zombie Horror Master George A. Romero, with a script by another horror master, novelist Stephen King. The first and third stories, "Father's Day" and "Something to Tide You Over," were zombie-related. In the film's prologue, "Creepshow" was a horror comic book being read by young son Billy (Joe King) with a disapproving, tyrannical, alcoholic, abusive father Stan (Tom Atkins). Each of the comic-book stories on the page came alive.

Night of the Comet (1984)
d. Thom Eberhardt, 95 minutes, Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Tagline: "It was the last thing on earth they ever expected."
Setting: Deserted Los Angeles in Southern California, about two weeks before Christmas
Story: Deadly dust, the main after-effect of the tail of a comet, vaporized all human beings on Earth (or transformed them into zombies), but left everything else intact. Two tough-minded heroines, both Valley Girl sisters: 18-year-old Regina "Reggie" Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) and 16-year-old Samantha "Sam" Belmont (Kelli Maroney), were both miraculously saved from the catastrophic event, shielded by being inside steel-lined or metal enclosures during the comet's passing. Another survivor was Hispanic Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran). They went on a massive shopping spree, although were attacked by zombified stockboys. An underground desert bunker also held two mad, think-tank scientists: Dr. Carter (Geoffrey Lewis) and Audrey White (Mary Woronov), who had been partially-exposed and were dying, due to problems with their bunker's ventilation system. The government scientists were searching for fresh blood to survive and save themselves from becoming zombies by harvesting untainted blood from healthy survivors. The teens struggled to save themselves and other survivors from being processed.
Notable: One of the first PG-13 films. Originally titled: "Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies." The plot of this satirical, sci-fi disaster comedy of 50's sci-fi/zombie movies was borrowed from one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger stories, titled: "The Poison Belt" (1913), about the passage of Halley's Comet in 1910.

Zombie Island Massacre (1984)
d. John N. Carter, 95 minutes, Troma Entertainment

Tagline(s): "HAVE A FUN-FILLED VACATION! Toe-Tapping Machete Head Dances! Glamourous Zombie-Style Cosmetic Surgery! Fabulous Air-Conditioned Tiger Pits!" and "A Caribbean Vacation to Die For."
Setting: Caribbean island of San Marie.
Story: A group of American tourists on vacation at a Caribbean resort went on a tour-excursion to the island of San Marie, to watch a live-voodoo ceremony in the jungle, performed with lamb's blood to resurrect a corpse. Among the tourists were middle-aged, balding Joe (Ian McMillan) with his blonde, voluptuous wife Sandy (Rita Jenrette). With their tour bus disabled and their driver and guide gone, the group became stranded, and took refuge by walking to an abandoned mansion. They were killed off one-by-one - supposedly by voodoo practitioners or zombies. The film's twist was that the slashers/killers (often costumed in grassy weeds) were drug traffickers searching for cash and wrapped cocaine bags in a wooden case. Ludicrous death scenes included head-beating, drowning, strangulation, a bamboo booby trap, decapitation, impalement by a spear, and head-slashing with a hurled machete.
Notable: A low-budget, awful cult-horror entry in the zombie sub-genre from Troma, with the most misleading zombie film title of all time. It was a Friday the 13th styled slasher film with a minimal amount of zombies (only during the fake voodoo ritual). Famous for starring Rita Jenrette, the estranged wife of famed US Congressman John Jenrette (from South Carolina who was convicted in the Abscam case) in her debut feature film role - she showed off her large breasts in a few instances (a shower and two love scenes). Earlier, Jenrette made headlines as a semi-nude Playboy model (April 1981) (and again in May 1984) - labeled as: "the sex pot of Washington's Capitol Hill set."

Previous Page Next Page