"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Friday."
Zombie fans are in for a wild ride this weekend because—despite reports of reshoots and problems on the set—World War Z is an exciting summer surprise featuring relentless undead action. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. employee who crisscrosses the globe in an attempt to find a way to stop the zombie pandemic. Don't miss World War Z, which is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Casual zombie fans are already very familiar with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead series, Zack Snyder's kick-ass remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, and the hit TV series The Walking Dead, among other zombie classics. Instead, for your Weekend Rent we'd like to put the spotlight on three very different zombie flicks that are not as well-known.
The Serpent and the Rainbow
If you want to explore the origin of zombies, you have to travel to Haiti like the anthropologist played by Bill Pullman does in Wes Craven's 1988 horror movie and immerse yourself in the voodoo culture of the locals. The Serpent and the Rainbow is actually based on a true story about a pharmaceutical company's search for a "zombie powder" that renders people paralyzed and makes them appear dead. They are then buried and—when they powder wears off—they claw their way out of their graves and are considered zombies by their neighbors. The movie embellishes the true story, of course, with nightmarish visions and gory effects (i.e. Pullman gets a nail through his scrotum when he enrages a voodoo priest), but Craven also films real Haitian voodoo rituals as they are happening and sheds a little light on the closest thing we have to real-world zombies. The movie is available on DVD and various VOD services, including Netflix Watch Instantly.
This 1976 lost zombie gem isn't the only film about Nazi zombies out there, but it's one of the creepiest and the best. It seems that during World War II, the Nazi High Command ordered its scientists to create a top-secret race of indestructible zombie storm troopers—undead, unfeeling and unstoppable monsters known as the Death Corps. The Allies never captured a zombie from this SS unit, but somewhere off the coast of Florida they have survived. Fast-forward to the present and a tour boat carrying Brooke Adams, John Carradine and others gets marooned on tiny island where the Death Corps still roam, often emerging from dark pools and underwater since they have no need to breathe. Peter Cushing plays the only man living on the island, and the former Nazi officer is furious that his uninvited guests have stumbled upon his dark secret. Shock Waves is only available on DVD.
We're not sure why this well-shot zombie road movie by the Ford brothers didn't get more attention when it was released a few years back, but a sequel is currently in production. The Dead takes place in a war-torn Africa where the last evacuation flight has just crashed off the coast and American Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is the only survivor. Brian goes on the run in the hot and inhospitable landscape and encounters danger around every corner because the dead have returned to life and are attacking the living. He joins forces with Sergeant Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei), whose village has been torn apart by the undead. There are some truly terrifying scenes in The Dead, such as the one in which what seems like a slow-moving legless zombie on a beach starts scuttling quickly across the sand like a giant zom-crab when he smells living human flesh. The movie is available on DVD, Blu-ray and various VOD services.
Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy