Run for your life folks, zombies are everywhere.
It’s Halloween night, and if you haven’t made your costume yet, take a cue from some chilling foreign zombie flicks and you’ll be the undead life of the party.
The American zombie scene has been saturated with zombie flicks that just look, and bite, the same. Sure, classics and smash hits like “Dawn of the Dead,” “Zombieland” and “The Walking Dead” are fantastic.
But I’ve seen close to 100 zombie movies and am what some might call a zombie nut. I am always looking for a film that can take the genre to the next level.
Since George A. Romero, my personal hero, brought “Night of the Living Dead” to the masses in 1968, his ghoulish formula has been copied, recycled and mashed up ever since. So much so that just about any red-blooded American can tell you that it takes a headshot to kill one and a zombie bite means you’re a goner.
I started venturing outside the realm of movies made stateside and looking at how filmmakers around the world are spinning the zombie yarn.
In doing so, I found two little gems of face-eating destruction; “Pontypool” and “Helldriver.”
“Pontypool,” released in 2008, comes from our not-so-distant neighbors to the north in Canada.
It kicks off with our main man, radio host Grant Mazzy, driving to work on a very dark stretch of road in a blizzard.
At the station, Mazzy receives reports about possible riot activity in the town of Pontypool.
People take over the town in huge swarms, eating any fresh flesh they can grab and obsessively repeating the last thing they heard over and over and over again.
So what does this Canadian flick offer that is new to the genre?
The humans turned zombies are reduced to a base repeating radio signal that is searching for brains and blood.
It quickly becomes apparent that the virus is being transmitted through spoken language, which puts a radio host in a pretty pickle.
How do you warn the town of its own impending doom without spreading the very thing that is causing the damage?
Pontypool puts a totally new spin on communicable diseases by hampering our very ability to communicate with others.
In most American films, you can be a survivor as long as you stay bite-free. But no talking? I’d be goner in seconds.
It’s the type of narrative bite that gives “Pontypool” a tangible dark and ominous feel.
Without even realizing it, you feel as if you’re stuck there with them in that radio station basement just waiting for word of what’s happening.
Before you know the walls are closing in and there’s no way to call for help.
I really dig this twisted new modus operandi that “Pontypool” brings to the bountiful buffet of the zombie genre.
For the next stop on this zombie world tour, I took a jump across the Pacific to the realm of gore, absurdity and all things camp.
I believe that if “Helldriver” were a baby, it would be the Japanese love child of Kill Bill and Evil Dead.
This movie is everything that fans of campy horror, chainsaws, and massive arterial spray have been longing for.
Our heroine, Kika, is born into a dystopian Japan, where a wall divides a side of the country overrun with zombies.
As a teenager, Kika’s heart is ripped out by her homicidal mother, who steals it and is then possessed by an alien starfish that turns her into the queen of the zombies.
Bear with me folks, because it only gets better!
She is outfitted with a heart/motor thingy that powers a chainsaw sword and joins a group of zombie hunters to go looking for the queen
From here on out, it’s complete bloody carnage.
Japanese director, Yoshihiro Nishimura, is known for his outlandish special effects and twisted imagery in his films and “Helldriver” is no exception.
This film is made for folks who are willing to follow Nishimura into a silly, twisted universe that he has created just for you and me.
I mean, where else can you find a zombie driving a car made out of body parts, severed arms wielding chainsaws and an airplane made out of zombies?
Just when the American zombie scene became repetitive in the 80’s, the Japanese era was just beginning to bloom.
Filmmakers like Nishimura are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to creating new ways to thrill your senses with horror.
“Helldriver” in particular operates in an almost dream like state where logic was left at the door.
If you think you’re ready for the journey, “Helldriver” will take you to crazy, outlandish depths of funny and scary that you never thought possible.
If you’re a fellow zombie snob who’s hungry for more, here’s a few more trailers from around the globe worth sinking your teeth into.
“Tokyo Zombie” (Japan, available on Hulu)
“Mutants” (France, available on Netflix)
“Rammbock” (Germany, available on Netflix)